Today, I'm chatting with Duane himself about his career in photography, starting up the show, the fun he's had so far doing it and more -- all in time before his show returns tonight. (Photos by Richard Meade, Logan Sorenson and Mike Jones.)
Gavin: Hey there, Paul. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Paul: I'm a Utah native, diehard fan of the band Rush, father of two amazing daughters, and everything you'd love and hate about a Leo. I just want to be like Bill Hicks when I grow up. And Louis C.K. And Tylder Durden from Fight Club. And Maynard James Keenan. And Richard Avedon. And Geddy Lee. And Mr. Rogers.
Gavin: What got you interested photography early on, and what were some early influences on you?
Paul: "Reading" Playboy magazine in the closet of my room when I was a kid was probably the first time I had the epiphany, "There are guys who get paid to take pictures like this!" Life is never the same once you realize that it's possible to get paid to just be awesome. Same thing happened with music. What most people don't know about me is that music is my first love in life. I played in orchestras, jazz bands, brass quintets, and lots of rock bands as a kid and in my 20s. In a nutshell, I gave up music in order to keep my now-ex-wife from freaking out. My wife at the time couldn't deal with me being gone to rehearsal and gigs all the time. I sold a bunch of music gear and bought a camera , thinking that would be a nice creative outlet that I could indulge in without the logistical implications of being in a working band. Moral of the story: If she won't help carry your amp to the gig, she's not the girl for you. Early influences were guys like Arny Freytag, Stephan Wayda (the two principle photographers for Playboy), and the great rock photographers, like Jim Marshal, Anton Corbin and Ross Halfin.
Gavin: How did that branch out into entertainment in general, and what inspired you to start covering it?
Paul: If I couldn't be on stage making music myself, photographing those who are was a very close second. I love great music and I love creating images of it being made. Photographing a musician in the throes of creating the sounds in his/her head can be a very intimate thing. It's almost like watching someone have sex. Creation is a sacred process. One day, I just got the idea that photographing bands would be kickass. I just started shooting the bands that lived near me in Logan. Those shoots went really well, and soon I had the balls to ask a few concert promoters if I could shoot some of their shows. The Kollective was the first to say, "Yes." On that first shoot for them, I was shooting Story Of The Year, and got, aside from some cool concert photos, a picture of the guitarist wagging his penis at the drummer; a real Kodak moment.
Gavin: You went to Utah State University and studied psychology. Did you branch out into the arts or journalism while you were there?
Paul: I was on track for a career in academia in the psychology world. My time was very filled up with my wife, two daughters and the research I was conducting. Photography was nothing more than a fun hobby on the side that I made a few bucks from here and there. The human condition has always been supremely fascinating to me – thus the psychology studies, thus the philosophy minor, thus my interest in photographing people and thus my interest in journalism. Though I love the work of great outdoor photographers, like Ansel Adams, I really don't give a shit about photographing waterfalls or wild animals.
Gavin: What influenced you to start up your own photography studio, and what made you decide to stay in Utah to do that?
Paul: During my time in the psychology department, I had a major crisis of faith in which I started questioning everything I thought that I "knew" as a faithful Latter-day Saint. My wife threatened to divorce me if I continued questioning the church. I took a semester off from school to sort things out in my head and heart. During this break, I was approached by master photographer Steve MacKley about becoming a partner in his prestigious studio. He'd been watching me progress as a photographer and thought I was up to the task. I accepted his invitation and began my formal career as a professional photographer. After a few years, my style was evolving in a way that wasn't 100% congruent with our studio's brand, and I knew I had ambitions that were far outside the scope of our studio, so I set out on my own. By this time, my wife had divorced me. The only reason I have stayed in Utah is to be near my two daughters while they grow up.
Gavin: What's it been like for you working the SLC beat for local groups and local publications, as well as running your own studio as a freelance photographer?
Paul: One of the things I love about covering assignments for local publications is that I get put in situations I normally wouldn't think to put myself in, and I often make amazing discoveries. For instance, a few months ago I was covering a show for SLUG Magazine. One of the opening bands -- Gold Fields -- blew my mind and has since become one of my favorites. I never would have discovered them were it not for the concert-review assignment. Running my own studio has been interesting – I've gone through phases over the last 11 years, from having a wedding and family-portrait focus to boudoir and nude photography to commercial, editorial and journalism.
Gavin: What kind of equipment do you prefer to use, and why?
Paul: A camera is a light tight box with a lens attached to it. That being said, I have used both Canon and Nikon gear in my work over the years. I prefer Nikon, simply because I am accustomed to the control layout. The Nikon camera bodies feel like an extension of my body and brain. People will argue all day long about whether Nikon or Canon is better, but that's really a bullshit argument. Camera manufacturers will go out of business unless they convince you that your art will suck without having the latest, greatest gear. Artistic vision and mastery of the fundamentals of photography will trump gear every time.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up an interview show, and why did you choose to name it after yourself?
Paul: There was a chapter of my life where I was doing both photography AND working for the US Postal Service as a letter carrier. Working for the USPS is incredibly mind numbing. The only way I could stay sane was to feed my brain with podcasts all day long. I survived on a steady diet of Adam Carolla, Marc Maron, Joe Rogan, Radiolab, TED Talks, etc. I came to have a profound admiration for the work of Carolla and Maron, specifically. You can only listen to your heroes for so long before you start imitating them. In 2011 I made the decision that I was going to try stand up comedy. After many months of having my ass handed to me on stage, I realized that comedy is one of the most powerful, revelatory art forms in the world. When I do photography sessions, I naturally "interview" people as a way to get them to relax and reveal their true selves to the camera. I had an idea to create something in the media – a magazine, a blog, a podcast, or maybe even a show of sorts that would merge all of my natural fascinations: learning about people, making beautiful images, music, comedy, and complaining about the government. I figured I'd wait 5-7 more years until I had become good – or at least ceased to suck – at any of those things, before I'd really give the idea of a show any serious consideration. One night I was at a party; Kevin Snow from Metro asked me if I'd be interested in producing and open mic comedy night for them. The thought of an open mic sounded boring. I was just drunk enough to unsheathe this idea that I thought would incubate another half decade. I told him about the idea, and he loved it. Jeff Hacker, the manager of Metro Bar, was immensely supportive and encouraging. I got to work on the show and 33 days later, I was on stage with Rocky Anderson doing my first show. I named it after myself because I could not think of anything else to name it, and aside from being afraid of looking really pretentious, I couldn't think of any good reasons NOT to use my own name for the show.
Gavin: What made you decide to hold it at bars and music venues rather than find a theater or other venue?
Paul: The first two shows were at Metro Bar -- I love the staff and crowd at Metro; they are like a second family to me. I knew that if I was going to do this show, I was going to do it as big as I possibly could. This meant filming the show for webcast at some point in the future. The future showed up after two shows, much to my surprise. Filming and producing a show for broadcast is a huge undertaking and I knew I needed a different facility to achieve my vision. I reached out to various theaters and venues in town. Some never replied to my queries, some were insanely expensive. The Complex is a great facility with an excellent staff that have been a perfect match for what I'm trying to accomplish.
Gavin: Additionally, where did the idea come from to have a house band playing the show than having a specific musical host for every show?
Paul: It's probably the same reason I don't have a girlfriend or a dog: I'm afraid of commitment. I want to try ALL of the great bands in Utah, not be married to just one. Either that, or I was a polygamist in a past life and I haven't quite given up my poly way of thinking about the world. But seriously, I try to think about the show from the perspective of the audience member. Everything about the show is for them. As an audience member, I would find it more entertaining to hear a different band on each show as the house band, rather than hearing the same one each time.
Gavin: What was it like putting together the first show, and what was the response from the crowd?
Paul: It's been both the easiest thing I've ever done and maybe the hardest thing I've ever done. I grossly underestimated how much time it would take to prepare each show. I spend an insane amount of time putting these shows together – and yet, it feels like the most natural thing in the world for me to do. Prospective guests have been really positive about the invitations I've extended. I am getting a lot of people saying YES to me. The first show was fantastic; I had about 120 people in the audience and people seemed to really enjoy the experience.
Gavin: How do you go about choosing the bands and the guests for each program?
Paul: My goal is to bring in someone who a lot of people know, and someone who not many people know but SHOULD because of their brilliance. I try to pair up guests who would be interesting combinations. Interesting people also tend to be very busy, so their availability plays heavily into my scheduling. I'm quite a music snob. First and foremost, I have to really like the band. I have to be able to look people in the eyes and be genuinely excited about who's coming on the show. I have a list of bands I want on the show. I invite them. If they write back, they get on the show. If they don't, or are really slow to correspond, I don't bother with them.
Gavin: Right now, you're doing the shows monthly. Are there any plans to expand the schedule, or are you going to stick with this format for a while?
Paul: Yes. There are plans currently underway to expand in some ways that include webcasting, podcasting, and TV broadcasting. Other than that, I can't talk too specifically about those plans until they are more concrete.
Gavin: You've got a new show coming up on June 19. Tell us about this one and what people can expect.
Paul: The June 19 show features Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley, fashion designer Danny Nappi, the models of Niya Model Management and stand-up comedian Melissa Merlot. Our featured band is Folk Hogan. If you've never seen Folk Hogan play, do yourself a favor and come. It's like Irish drinking music meets Van Halen -- ridiculously fun. SkullCandy Headphones will be sponsoring this show, and we've got some great SkullCandy gear to give away. We will also be rolling out a contest in regard to our show's signature cocktail featuring Five Wives Vodka, one of the show's sponsors.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and the show over the rest of the year?
Paul: You'll be seeing a Mormon sexologist, Doug Fabrizio from Radio West, Sister Dottie Dixon, Kurt Bestor and a lot of other really fantastic music this year on the show. We are preparing to film the show for webcast and broadcast, as well.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Paul: Most don't realize that The Complex is a hive of comedy activity. They have a weekly comedy show called Comedy Roadkill that is raw, dark, uncensored and all kinds of brilliant -- 8 p.m. every Tuesday. They also have an assortment of other local and nationally famous comedians producing shows there on a regular basis; it's a great spot. Otherwise, go to my website to connect with all aspects of the show: show tickets, product giveaways, contests, photos, videos, newsletter, social media, and the cure for cancer is embedded in there somewhere. Go get it.
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