Danny Clinch has taken countless photos of musicians over the past three decades, so picking 16 images to represent his entire career was no easy task. "I thought to myself, 'Who do I have relationships with and who do I love musically?'" says Clinch. "I tried to mix young, old, men and women. I love shooting live shows, but I avoided live shots here. These photographs offer a little inside look that a lot of people don't get to see."
"That stands out as one of my favorite photographs," Clinch reveals. "I got an assignment to shoot Johnny Cash for this guitar magazine. I went there and did portraits of him for the cover. It went really well and he was very sweet and kind. I said to him, 'Mr. Cash, would you mind me hanging around before you go on?' This was before a show at Westbury Music Fair in Long Island. He was like, 'Yeah, do whatever you want.' He was waiting in the hallway while the announcer was prepping the fans. I picked this photo over the portrait because I'm really a fan of capturing a real moment."
"I shot this at a Howard Johnson's in New York City," Clinch recalls. "I really wanted to capture him smiling. I thought I could coax him into that moment, but when he came downstairs he was kind of tired and had just gotten up from a nap. He said he had a big lunch of pasta. I don't know why I remember that. He was super mellow and kind of tired. I said, 'Just pick the guitar up and get close to it.' He closed his eyes and I went for that moment.
"My assistant at the time was this girl named Hannah. She's real sweet and cute. After the shoot was over I put my camera down and we were thanking him. He was laughing and smiling and flirting with Hannah. I said to him, 'Mr. King, where was that big smile when I was trying to get those photos?' He said, 'Well, son, you never asked.' I learned a lesson from that. I come from the school of the document and I don't want to force people to do something. I want things to happen naturally, as best as I can. But sometimes you just have to ask."
"This was around Christmas or New Years in 1996," Clinch says. "I was hanging out with Radiohead around New York. The band had come to town for something, but they weren't on tour. They were doing Christmas shopping and stuff with their girls. Raygun wanted them on the cover, but the band wasn't interested in doing much. Thom looked at me and said, 'What do you think Danny? Should we do it?' I encouraged them. Thom said, 'We'll do it, but Danny has to take the pictures.'
"We were hanging around 6th Avenue, downtown. I had them all on this bench and I really liked that wall. I had Thom standing on the bench and I was like, 'What if you put your arms off and started to fall and I get down really low?' He just jumped off the bench. I asked him to do it one more time. There's basically two frames, but in the other one Johnny's face is covered by Thom's foot. That was it. It was really a one-off."
"That was doing the Hard Knock Life tour in 2000," Clinch remembers. "I was on the set where they were filming bumpers and trailers for the tour. It was down at a bar on Spring Street. He and the people on the tour, Method Man and whatnot, were all hanging out and shooting pool. He showed up with a bunch of cigars and they were all hanging out there. I was just in the right spot at the right time."
"I got a chance to photograph Bob Dylan in 1999," Clinch reveals. "It was kind of a dream come true. I didn't even think he'd show up, I just didn't believe it. I was really prepared and I booked this place called the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. That's not only where the Rat Pack played all the time in the Coconut Grove room, but Robert Kennedy was assassinated in the kitchen there. It was really cool because there's a lot of different styles and locations. I thought, 'If I have Bob Dylan, I want to make the most of it.'
"Little did I realize, he'd be so enthralled by the fact that all that history had happened there. We wandered all around this hotel and got a history lesson by the guy that was our host. Dylan was completely into it, so he stuck around for a really long time.
"On the way over to the shoot I get a call from his publicist and he said, 'Bob wants to know if you are familiar with Litle Walter.' I said, 'Yeah, I'm a big fan of Little Walter. I play harmonica myself.' He says, 'There's a famous photo of him on one of his records and he's holding the harmonica and it's Hollywood lighting.' I said, 'Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. In fact, I have that CD here at the shoot.' He was like, 'Oh, great.' They show up and Bob's psyched that I knew what he was talking about. When I was waiting for them to arrive, I set up this old school, Hollywood-style lighting. He pulls out this old chromatic harmonica, which was really beautiful. I then proceeded to shoot in that style.
"They've been using this photo on all the posters they have at all the Dylan shows. This photo has been reproduced, like, a million times. Since 1999, they've used others there and again, but this has been the staple and I'm super proud of that. From that shoot I had stuff in Love and Theft and some of the singles. Talk about an honor of placement for your photography, to have pictures in a Bob Dylan record."
"I shot that photograph for Entertainment Weekly," Clinch says. "They said to Patti Smith, 'We'd like to go record shopping with you to one of those used record shops downtown. We'll cover the costs and then we'll interview you and shoot some photos.' I'm a big Patti Smith fan and I was very nervous about her coming and meeting her for some reason.
"She was a little bit late and I was hanging out down in this basement at Subterranean Records. I went outside to wait since I had nervous energy and I was pacing around. I looked down the street and I could see Patti walking down the street. I quickly was like, 'Oh my God, the light's beautiful and the wind is blowing.' I stopped her before she went down and introduced herself and said, 'This light is so beautiful. If I could just get a quick photograph of you before you go downstairs, that would be great.' As I started taking the photos, the wind came out and started blowing her hair around. I grabbed a couple of frames and there it was."
"That photograph was taken in Nashville right when Neil did the Heart of Gold film there with Jonathan Demme. It was amazing," Clinch says. "This is on the steps of the Ryman and Neil was playing a guitar that was owned by Hank Williams."
"I was shooting some publicity for Pearl Jam and we were kicking around Seattle," Clinch says. "I think it was a great moment because the band is often seen as such a serious bunch of guys. The fact is, they are five guys who are almost always having a great time. I just think this shows their camaraderie. I just felt it was different to show them all smiling and having a good time."
"Tom Waits is one of of my all-time favorites and he is a great collaborator," Clinch says. "He always brings something to the table and he's always given the shoot a lot of thought. We were out in Northern California and he had me meet him at this side-of-the-road flea market/dive bar type of place. It was fantastic. He showed up with a truckload of old speakers and radios and anything that had a speaker, cassette decks and boom boxes. We spent the morning drinking coffee and putting this together into what looked like a big sound system of sorts that only Tom Waits can play through.
"We started shooting pictures and he said to me, 'Ah man, it's too bad nobody has a video camera. This would be a great place to do a video.' I said, 'Well, I've got my 35mm Nikon here. I'll put the thing on Motor Drive. We'll play the tune and you can rock out and we'll cut something together. It's gonna be fucked up and rough and tumble.' He was like, 'Great.' This is a still from the video called 'Lie to Me.'"
"I was shooting Kanye for XXL and we were at the Brooklyn Museum," Clinch recalls. "We were outside and it was during the summer. This class, it looked like a school trip or a summer camp trip with teenagers, came walking by. They were all completely just blown away that Kanye was there. All the kids were laughing and taking pictures of him. I ended up doing a portrait of them all together, but at the end of the day I felt this photograph was a really great moment. I thought it had a lot of great energy and it shows the excitement that someone like Kanye can bring out in people. The woman's face is just amazing. She's looking back at her friends like, 'Can you believe this?'"
"This was around the time Bruce recorded Magic in 2007," Clinch says. "During the making of The Rising and Magic, I went down to Southern Tracks where [producer] Brendan O'Brien worked all the time. I went down to Atlanta and hung out while they were recording and captured some of the process and then did some portraits of Bruce and the band for publicity and packaging. Brendan had this really cool old Airstream camper out in the back parking lot. It was his chill zone where he could get away and have some down time out of the studio where nobody could bother him. It had a really great surface to it and I loved it. I wound up doing a portrait of everybody in the band there. This was the one I did of Bruce.
"I'll tell you something about this photo: If you put this photo and any of the other Bruce Springsteen photos I've taken, five or 10, and hand them to a woman, they'll pick this one every time as their favorite. I don't know why, but that's the truth."
"I just love Lucinda Williams. She is one of my favorite people," Clinch gushes. "She's super cool and she's one of those people that does things in their own way. I just admire that so much. We've done quite a few photo sessions together. This one for was for her Little Honey record in 2008. I rented this old car for this one. I love cars and motorcycles. They're great props and it gives people something to do, keeps them comfortable. Lucinda is photogenic, though she doesn't believe it. She just gets nervous doing photo shoots. We get along real well and I keep a sort of relaxed set. This was in downtown Los Angeles."
"The Black Keys were shot for a little magazine called Rolling Stone," Clinch jokes. "They wanted me to go down to Akron. This is right before the band left for Nashville. I went out to Dan's studio and we hung out there for quite some time waiting for Pat. He showed up and the plan was to do something in the studio and go out and get some lunch in town. They were saying, 'You guys just follow me.' Pat was following in his car. They get out and Dan's in an SUV and we're jumping in our minivan and Pat jumps into this little MG. I'm like, 'Wait a minute. Dan, you guys need to ride together in that car.' They did and I followed them in my minivan hanging out the side door, shooting them as we drove to lunch."
"This is at rehearsals for The Wall," Clinch explains. "I was shooting him for Rolling Stone. They sent me out to rehearsals in Long Island and then production rehearsals at the Meadowlands. We went out there and they said, 'OK, Roger is really busy. We can give you couple of minutes at the most to shoot a portrait.' I kind of picked a spot with the inflatable in the back. I waited and waited and waited. He literally sat there long enough to be like, 'OK, we're good.' I shot the shit of that, as fast as I could. I think it's a classic considering what he's done and where he's taken The Wall."
"I really like this photo," Clinch says. "For me, it's a great example of what life experiences I get out of photography being a big music fan. These guys trust me to be back there. I'm not always trying to chat everyone up. I try to be invisible and feel the vibe. I think anyone that sees this photograph and is a fan of music, and especially the Foo Fighters, they'd give their left arm to be there while they're working on a tune and figuring out the set list."
"This is 1993," Clinch remembers. "Rolling Stone calls and gives me this photo shoot. I was told it was going to run a quarter page. It was one of my first RS assignments and in my mind I said, 'I'm going to shoot this as a Rolling Stone cover in my mind.' I was just dreaming.
"Tupac showed up and was very cool. I've done a lot of hip-hop. A lot of the musicians would come with sometimes 20 people, but at least five or six people would come to your studio and make themselves comfortable. Tupac showed up with one guy and they came up to my studio. He was really professional and he was very excited to be photographed for Rolling Stone. He understood the magnitude of that since it's not just a hip-hop magazine. It's the gold standard. He was really into it.
"At one point he was changing up his clothes so we'd have some options. I saw his tattoos and said, 'Hey, can I get a couple without your shirt on?' He said, 'Sure.' I shot a couple like that. The shoot wasn't really that long. I felt like we got it. We shot there and on the roof of my studio. Then three years later, the inevitable happened and it actually ran on the cover of Rolling Stone.