Interview with photographer and musician Danny Clinch - one of the premiere artists of the music scene

"Good Blues is a feeling. Happy or sad, it gets right to the soul of the matter and can help someone share their good times and or heart aches. Or to just get loose and forget about everything that weighs you down."

Danny Clinch: Lens & Blues Notes

Danny Clinch has established himself as one of the premiere photographers of the popular music scene. He has photographed a wide range of artists, from Johnny Cash to Tupac Shakur, from Bjork to Bruce Springsteen. His work has appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair, Spin, Rolling Stone, GQ, Esquire, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine, and his photographs have appeared on hundreds of album covers.

Clinch has presented his work in numerous galleries and published two books: Discovery Inn (1998) and When the Iron Bird Flies (2000). Advertising clients include John Varvatos, Ray-Ban, Jeep, NASCAR, to name a few. As a director, Clinch has received 2 Grammy Award nominations: in 2005 for Bruce Springsteen’s “Devils and Dust” and in 2009 for John Mayer’s “Where The Light Is.” He has also directed music videos for Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, Pearl Jam, John Legend, Mellissa Etheridge, Foo Fighters and Dave Matthews, among others.

"I’m all about the feel, and the tone. Improvisation and spontaneity are important to me in my music and photography."

Other music documentaries and concert films directed by Clinch include 2007′s “Immagine in Cornice,” following Pearl Jam through their Italy tour, 2006′s “Skin & Bones” featuring the Foo Fighters, and several films from the Bonnaroo music festival. In 2011 he completed “Live From Preservation Hall: A Louisiana Fairytale,” a film that documents the collaboration between My Morning Jacket and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the band’s historic New Orleans concert hall.

Three on the Tree Productions is a grammy-nominated, New York City-based boutique film company founded by renowned music photographer Danny Clinch, in 2003. Since then, we’ve completed a number of EPKs, music videos, concert films, and documentaries. We’ve established a broad talent pool of creative friends; producers, cinematographers, and editors who share in the their enthusiasm for imagery, music, and stories. Danny also plays harmonica with The Tangiers Blues Band.

Interview by Michael Limnios     Photos by © Danny Clinch

What has been the relationship between music and image in your life and art?

I am a big fan of both of course. I love the photograph as a document also. Capturing history in photographs of people I admire is a passion of mine.  I play harmonica in the Tangiers Blues Band so, being a musician myself only adds to my love of both.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you

Good Blues is a feeling. Happy or sad, it gets right to the soul of the matter and can help someone share their good times and or heart aches. Or to just get loose and forget about everything that weighs you down.

"I would want to be in Chicago in the 60’s /70’s hanging at Theresa’s and Checkerboard Lounge with Muddy, Little Walter, Jr Wells, Buddy Guy, Howlin Wolf, Sonny Boy, and I would be sittin at the bar with Charlie Musselwhite and Paul Butterfield, talking some bullshit, having a laugh, and trying to blend in." Tom Waits, Photo by © Danny Clinch 

When was your first desire to become involved in the Blues? What made you fall in love with the harmonica?

My grandfather played a little and I got one when I was young. But I only got turned on to the blues from a friend when I was in my 20’s. But I had always loved blues based rock n roll.

How do you describe and what characterize Danny Clinch’s artistic philosophy… and sound?

I’m all about the feel, and the tone. Improvisation and spontaneity are important to me in my music and photography.

Which shootings have been the most important experiences for you? Which memory makes you smile?

I cannot possibly name them all, but since we’re talking about the blues I will tell this story.

I was shooting BB King and he was tired from touring and (although I got what has become one of my favorite photos), I was looking to get him smiling, but I couldn’t get him to respond to any of my joking around and he was very serious. After the session, I said Mr. King I sure was hoping to get a photo of you smiling. He looked at me and said, well why didn’t you ask?

Are there any memories from Keith Richards, Gregg Allman and Willie Nelson which you’d like to share with us?

Well, I asked Keith to play along to some of his old records on a small record player. That was a real treat!

I once took a ride with Gregg Allman and we talked about the blues and how he and Duane had become interested in playing music. We were stuck in the car for a long time and I was thinking how lucky I am.

I once beat Willie in a game of pool and I said ‘’Willie, my friends are never gonna believe I beat you in a game of pool‘’ and he said ‘’well, I sure as hell ain’t gonna tell them! ‘’

"I love the photograph as a document also. Capturing history in photographs of people I admire is a passion of mine." Keith Richards, Photo by © Danny Clinch 

Who was the most gifted front the lens? What was the strangest request where someone asked?

Keith Richards is a rock n roll photographer’s dream character.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

My personal taste is in musicianship and real instruments. I am not anti-electronic because I feel that good music is simply, good music, no matter how it’s made. Things run in cycles, and I’m glad real musicianship is making a comeback at this part of the cycle.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Bring back John Lennon and Stevie Ray Vaughn… Ok that’s 2 things… Ok and Bob Marley… 3 things!!

Which were the highlights from BB King, Tom Waits, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash's photo shootings?

Going to the county fair with Tom Waits was fantastic and surreal.

Jerry Lee was calling ME Killer!

Johnny Cash was a straight up country gentleman.

"My personal taste is in musicianship and real instruments. I am not anti-electronic because I feel that good music is simply, good music, no matter how it’s made. Things run in cycles, and I’m glad real musicianship is making a comeback at this part of the cycle." B.B. King, Photo by © Danny Clinch 

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music world and circuits?

I’m always laughing; it’s the best form of therapy. Brittany from the Alabama Shakes has recently blown my mind with her emotional, don’t hold back anything, style of singing. Literally brings tears to my eyes when I see her in concert.

Where would you really wanna go via a time machine and what memorabilia (records, photos etc.) would you put in?

Musically speaking, I would want to be in Chicago in the 60’s /70’s hanging at Theresa’s and Checkerboard Lounge with Muddy, Little Walter,  Jr Wells, Buddy Guy, Howlin Wolf, Sonny Boy, and I would be sittin at the bar with Charlie Musselwhite and Paul Butterfield, talking some bullshit, having a laugh, and trying to blend in. And I would be showing em all how I could listen to all their records AND make phone calls from this little device called an iphone.

Danny Clinch Photography - Home

Willie Nelson, Photo by © Danny Clinch 

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