HEY DICK, oops!...I mean MICK! OVER HERE!
A personal brush with stardom as reminisced by Dave Bellard
Over the course of the few years I've been interviewing and photographing bands, I've run into a few primadonnas here and there. Some bands don't want to talk about certain subjects (absolutely understandable), some try to play silly verbal games with you, some even get outright snippy in the course of an interview or photoshoot. To an extent, this behavior is acceptable and in some ways expected of musicians and artists in general. I did a photoshoot with critic's darlings Tortoise on their 1996 tour and was quite put off by the arrogant John McEntire and the snot-nosed punk Jon Herndon, a complete contrast to the other downright amiable members of the band. Michael Gira and Jarboe of Swans fame both had to cancel a photoshoot minutes after I arrived, though both sincerely apologized and gave me some free swag to help ease the pain. Probably the most laughable photo incident was Lady Miss Kier flipping me the bird while shooting at space cadet Farrell's ENIT Festival (where I was personal guests of Meat Beat Manifesto). I guess I had forgotten how big of a star she was, and certainly among MBM, Love & Rockets, Porno For Pyros, and The Orb, she was the one getting the most attention. Snort. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to sound like I'm crying the blues here about rock stars; Quite the contrary, almost everyone I've photographed or interviewed has been amazing conversationalists and I've stayed in touch with many different bands, even became friends with some of my heroes through this hobby. All of this is just setting you up for perhaps the worst tantrum I've ever encountered from any band or individual...
I spoke to Mick Harris by phone twice early in 1998, right before he was to come over for the Pigface/Invisible records tour in the Spring. I've always considered him a great musician, from his minimalist, dub sonics on Scorn records to his various collaborations - Materia, Quoit, Painkiller, etc. Shit, I even have Napalm Death's Scum because him and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh) were in the band then. Anyway, I was interviewing him regarding the double disc release of the Possible Records back catalog, being that Possible Records was his brainchild. We had good conversations and I had a lot of material to work with for the article, which was to be run in the San Francisco glossy XLR8R. If you've never seen it, it's one of the best electronic magazines in the U.S., focusing mostly on the dance/trance/rave scene and music. Lately they have been showcasing more esoteric electronica, but at the time they had little interest in Invisible Records mostly "Industrial" output. XLR8R editor "Amazing" Andrew Rawnsley was into the idea of a Scorn/Mick Harris article and agreed to 1,000 words plus photos. This was a godsend for Invisible, whose publicist Amy Gorman had been bugging me (and I'm sure XLR8R) to get someone in that mag.
I told Mick Harris what mag the article was going to run in and suggested that when they came through town, we could do a quick photo shoot for the mag right at the venue. Nothing big, just some candid shots, whatever. He said no problem and I told him I would arrange the whole thing with Amy and we would be set. The Cleveland date was a month away, so I set up a time with Amy Gorman for that date and figured we were square. So I wrote the article and sat back for a while. When the tour came to town, I arrived at the venue at 6:15pm for the 6:30 photoshoot. Inside I ran into Lee Frasier (from Sheep On Drugs) who was on the tour with his side project Bagman. Sheep On Drugs had used photos I did of them as the artwork for their remix CD Never Mind The Methadone, and we were backslapping each other for a few minutes. He told me Mick was on one of the tour buses, so I moseyed on out. I then ran into Gus from Test Dept. (I recognized him from a photoshoot I did with them on the same tour as Sheep On Drugs), and we went on the bus together. He went into the back room to tell Mick I was there. Meanwhile, Amy Gorman, the publicist was not on the tour due to an already overcrowded and overbooked tour, so I was in the dark as to who was handling the scheduling during the tour. Mick walks out from the back with this puzzled smile on his face. If you've never seen him, he's a short squirt, about 5' 3" or 5' 4", he's got a shaved head and a goatee. He looks like a teenage raver to be honest, but that's besides the case. Anyway, I think he thought he should know me because the look on his face said "Do I know you", but I shook his hand and told him that I was here for the photoshoot for XLR8R. Immediately, his face turns sour and he says "WHAT?!". I then tell him that Gorman had set it up with me and it was for the 2 page article. He then throws a tantrum that I have honestly never seen paralleled in my life. "NO! I'm not standing around for any FUCKING photos! I'm sick of this FUCKING SHIT!" he starts ranting in his cockney accent, "I'm absolutely fed up with this shit!". Now I'm standing about two feet from the raving lunatic. Gus is sitting down on a couch with a look of utter astonishment on his face. Some girl on another couch who was lying down peacefully when we walked on now had a blanket pulled over her head, either in disgust or fear of the limey leprechaun shouting in the walkway at the confused photographer. He repeated a couple more times about how sick he was of the "fucking shit" and how he was "not 'aving any more photos taken", and I was pretty pissed now. It was obvious he knew nothing about a planned photoshoot because of poor publicity planning, but who the fuck was this little geek to yell at me? He then said "You go set up your cameras and you can take ONE PICTURE, okay mate?" at which point I walked a step closer to him and said "Nah, I don't want to take any FUCKING PICTURES of you. There's not going to be a FUCKING ARTICLE to print". He looked at me for one second, then huffed off to the back room of the bus again. Gus looked at me and said "What the fuck was that all about?" and I said I had no idea, but I speculated that he must still be in an uproar from the death of Princess Diana at the hands of the paparazzi, hence his spitting vehemence for cameramen. Well, I sat down and was talking to him and one of the Pigface members about the press and how I couldn't believe he had that many people bugging him for pictures or whatever, which the guys said no one on the tour had been in any photo sessions, let alone Mick Harris. I walked off the bus and was about two seconds from leaving all together when Martin Atkins called my name.
I love Martin Atkins and I've done a lot of photo work for his label as well as many articles on his roster of electronic musicians. I proceeded to tell him exactly what happened on the bus moments earlier and that I was going to trash the article and go home. I told Martin that I don't put up with that shit from anyone, let alone some punk beatmaker who's lucky one person wants to do a photoshoot with him for a color spread in a nationwide magazine. Martin was apologizing profusely, which I told him was not necessary from him. Martin has always been the friendliest, most accommodating person I have met in the music business. I told Martin I would stay for the show and do some live pics of Pigface (since I had to meet my girlfriend for the show anyway at 8:00pm). With some time to kill, I got Gus from Test Dept. and we walked down a couple of doors to some cheesy, boat-pirate-sea faring themed bar and drank and bullshitted until it was time to meet my girlfriend. He related to me that Mick Harris had been a primadonna for most of the tour (a story later confirmed with Martin and others). In addition to general snootiness, he told me about one time when they stopped for gas or something and he told one of the crew roadies to go in and "fetch him some pancakes" because he didn't feel like getting out of bed. I laughed and we continued talking about Test Dept. and the scene in the U.K.
EPILOGUE: I called Amy Gorman the next day at the Invisible offices in Chicago to tell her what had happened, but she wasn't there so I relayed the story to then-intern Gnat (now publicist). I asked Gnat to tell Gorman I needed to talk to her about this and some other things. I never got a phone call from Gorman, so a month later I figured "Fuck 'em". I only do this shit as a hobby anyway, so one less label to deal with is fine with me. About a month and a half later, I get this giant package from Invisible with signed posters from Martin and all kinds of free booty. I was placated and immediately called Gorman and Dave Baker for a big old love fest reunion. Gorman told me that Martin and Dave had to have a sit down talk with the camera shy Napoleon because apparently he didn't understand that what's good for the label (press in big mags) is good for the artists (even Scorn), and sent a visibly contrite Harris back across the pond to rain soaked Britain. So what's the moral of this story. If you're a journalist, don't take shit from no one, especially pixie-sized limeys whose music is fast becoming a parody of itself. Don't let any fucking artist treat you with anything less than respect. They need the press. Journalists, (at least halfway competent ones) on the other hand, can write fucking movie reviews or take pictures of homeless people for gallery shows.