May 25, 1991
Clash Of The Titans Tour
Pacific Amphitheatre : Costa Mesa
In the spring of ‘91, Slayer was the biggest “underground” metal band in the world, and they were recording shows for their double live CD, Decade of Aggression. They were at the top of their game in every way, tearing through Southern California on The Clash of the Titans tour, which consisted of Megadeth, Anthrax and newcomers Alice In Chains. This shot is from The Pacific Amphitheatre, an 8500 capacity outdoor venue that was lit up like a war zone that night. Four or five fires were burning violently around the lawn, each surrounded by twisting, silhouetted bodies that danced maniacally in the night. There was something primitive, tribal and even sacrificial going on as Slayer and this incredible collection of metal megabands brought their evil into town
I had just started to get in tight with the Slayer camp and this was the first time I was allowed to shoot their entire set. (Photographers usually only get to shoot the first couple of songs and are then booted out of the photo pit.) This was an important point in my career in terms of credibility, and I remember being so nervous and excited that my hands were sweating as the lights went down and the intro to Hell Awaits rang out. But the raw fury of the music instantly burned off any nerves I had, and I started snapping. Slayer had really stepped it up with their light show on this tour, lots of reds, and lots of silhouettes. It looked really cool, but it was a pain to shoot.
I really wanted to capture the dark, sinister feel that the lights created during certain songs. Again, keep in mind that only film cameras existed then, there was no way for me to take a look and see if my aperture and shutter speed readings were accurate…you either know what you are doing or you don’t…it was all manual back then. I really feel that I did a great job of capturing the essence of Slayer that night – lots of reds, lots of blues, lots of silhouettes, many powerful shots were captured that evening. It was all knowing when to open and close the aperture and occasionally ramping the shutter up or down as needed.
Going into this show, the band and management knew my work by now and they thought I would be the perfect guy to get the shots that were needed for the booklet that was to be included in this double CD package…about 30 or so of my photos ended up in the book. Still, I was disappointed to learn that another photographer was getting the cover shot. Later on, when the CD was released, I was stunned to see that the cover of the CD looked very much like a shot that I would have taken – I can recognize my photos in a heartbeat. But the photo credits in the CD’s liner notes gave the CD cover credit shot to another photographer, and listed my contribution as “other photos.” This really threw me off.
I went tearing through my files and dug the original slide out of the hundreds that I shot that night. When I realized that they had used my shot on the cover but didn’t credit me, I was so shocked and pissed off I swear I almost made myself pass out. This was a major screw-up on the record label’s part, major! But when I remembered that just a few years earlier I was sneaking my camera into Slayer shows, that seemed to calm me. Now, here I was in my early 20’s, doing the cover shot for one of their most important CDs. I felt like I was really making something of myself.
Different color passes were used that night, some colors more important than others. I can’t remember what each color meant. But what I liked was that Slayer added a code on all of my passes which was the secret code that alerted security that I was shooting the entire set. The code that Slayer gave me that night was 666. Take a look.
Photographed behind the crooked cross with an old Canon F1 camera and a cheap, no name 28-80mm lens and a cheap, no name 70-200mm lens. Shot on Kodak Ektachrome film.