Paper Nova’s Christiana Wu sat down with Mark from Eclectic Arts to get an update on what’s been going on in the world of EA!
CW: Hi Mark. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Now that Eclectic Arts is six years in the making, how would you describe the evolution of content over the last few years?
EA: Howdy! Thank you for the interview opportunity. I always enjoy talking about my work.
The evolution of content for Eclectic Arts has been rather organic I’d say. I have always been mindful of not pigeonholing EA into a specific corner over the years. Lately, as in the last year or so, there have been tremendous opportunities in the music review/photography realm. Outside of a few exceptions, EA has been focusing on expanding and improving our concert coverage here in Seattle, WA.
CW: It’s great that you cover a variety of content. Which pigeonholes would you say you were trying to avoid?
EA: I wanted EA to reflect my own open mindedness toward the arts. I used to read fanzines from the underground - predominately metal ‘zines. As much as I love metal, I didn't want to get stuck where that's all I was known for. Ditto interviewing adult artists (I did two interviews over the years) - I didn't want to be known as just "that" guy. I want to try to strike a balance between music, film, and other areas of interest. And within those areas, keep things as open as possible within reason.
I know a lot of photographers seem to work in one main genre and will venture out into other genres based on paying clients or their own personal interest. I want to continually strive to cover as many different things of interest as possible with EA.
CW: You’ve been averaging about three posts a month since 2016. Would you like to cover more events, and if so, what kind?
EA: If I had my way, I would be writing a few blog posts a week. But, due to a day job that cramps my style, I posts new entries when I can – and usually tied into a concert review. I miss the entries where I was writing more about what was going on at the time, answering readers’ questions, and such. If I can get back to that, I certainly will.
CW: If you don't mind me asking, what is your day job?
EA: I work as a manager at a local private high tech college. I've been there just over two years now. It's quite different than the EA work that I do but there is some crossover.
CW: What set of events in the past year have stood out to you and why?
EA: Oh wow – that’s a tough one. Off the top of my head would be covering the Guns N’ Roses gig at Century Link Field last August. A band that I got interested in before they blew up in the 80’s. A big name summer concert tour. A gig that seemed out of reach (in terms of getting credentials) but that’s never stopped me in the past. So, getting credentialed for that show was amazing. And the show was amazing to boot!
Babymetal would be in there as well. I had checked in with their PR person for like a 6 month period of time trying to get an interview and/or credentials to cover the show. While the interview didn’t happen, coverage did! And it was also a great experience!
Meeting and interviewing Vienna Teng again last July also stands out. Mainly because she has left the music industry in many ways to focus on her other career. So, the opportunity was a rare one as her musical future is definitely up in the air.
I was also fortunate to get turned on to a lot of new bands that I never would have otherwise if it wasn’t for EA.
CW: Those are some awesome musical artists. So what shows do you have coming up that you're just as excited about?
EA: When I get an opportunity to cover a band, I'm either excited or really excited (laughs). Even when it's a band I don't know too well, I always enjoy the live experience and can't think of the last show I saw where I was disappointed.
I love it when I get to cover a band more than once, where some of the band members recognize me. Having said that, getting to cover a "big" band for the first time is always a big deal to me.
Of the shows coming up, there are several that I put in for but nothing is confirmed so I'd rather not say as they may or may not happen. Depending on when this interview sees print, I am always excited to see Delain as I've seen them every year since 2013.
I will be seeing U2 for the umpteenth time but this is not EA related. I will be going as a fan. I don’t cover concerts or anything else that I go to as a fan - anyone can do that. Those types of so-called "media" are all over YouTube. I only publish reviews and such of artists where I've been officially credentialed by the management, publicist, and/or the band themselves.
CW: Are there any genres of music you don't typically review? And why is that?
EA: I have yet to review a hip-hop or rap show. I'm not much of a fan of the genre but that wouldn't prevent me from covering a show. Right artist at the right venue and I'd be happy to be there in the pit.
CW: What audience demographic do you think you’re currently reaching?
EA: It’s interesting – the demographics question. When the magazine started out, I was reaching mainly 20-30 year olds. Currently it’s more of 15-40 – we’ve widened the exposure. Some of this is due to the artists we’ve been covering, some of it is due to a larger social media presence than in the past.
I would hope in the future we continue to build upon those demographics.
CW: Who else do you hope will read your blog?
EA: In a perfect world, people that approach the arts like I do would be reading the blog, and telling their friends. I know many artistic minded people like a lot of different things like myself. I firmly believe that I am not alone in appreciating a local band, an underground band, a big time mainstream band, and a band that’s been around the block several times. Let alone all the other non-music artists out there that EA covers. Life’s too short to be closed minded about the arts.
CW: So you've done interviews with Jeff Bridges and Olivia Newton-John, some big names in the film industry. You also mentioned that a dream interview would be with Sly Stallone. How do you go about scoring an interview with such high-profile talent?
EA: Clarification - I didn't get the opportunity to properly interview Olivia Newton-John. I did get to go backstage (downstage as the dressing rooms were below the venue) after her performance and chat with her directly thanks to her publicist but that was more of a special opportunity to speak with her. There were only select friends and family down there - and me with my assistant.
The big names are basically impossible to land interviews with for someone of my reach. There are opportunities where said star may be coming to town for a film festival, promoting a book, or something similar. Outside of that, it's really pure luck tracking down the right folks representing a high caliber star. And even if you do manage to find the right person, that doesn't mean they're going to give you the time of day. It's really a crapshoot.
I mentioned this in another interview but finding the right contact is the first step toward landing a high profile artist. Most of their information is not available publicly or if it is, it's some common generic email or phone number.
If I wanted to pursue Hollywood more seriously, I would need to do more interviews with up and coming stars or similar folks to build up that portion of my resume. I would also need to see if I can get onto a few filming sets to really legitimize my work that much more.
CW: What camera gear do you sport during interviews?
EA: Right now the gear used for photography is Nikon - including the lenses. For video interviews I’m using a Zoom video camera with an external mic. As with everything I do, I always looking to improve which means this gear will be upgraded as funds permit.
CW: What's the next item on your equipment list that you want to get?
EA: I just ordered a new DSLR body that should be here next week. Now that I've been doing event photography for a year or so, I have a good idea what I need and my gear is holding me back. So is a lack of funds (laughs).
A better computer set up for editing my work as well. I'm really piece mealing my equipment right now which is not ideal at all. I'm doing the best I can with what I got.
CW: Can you tell me more about what’s it like to work in a photography pit at a sold-out show?
EA: I’ll tell you I’m still figuring out the photo pit at shows. I remember roughly a year ago, the first time I was in a pit, I felt extremely out of place. For starters, I didn’t have any decent gear. The band that you’re a fan of (hopefully) is taking the stage directly in front of you which is exciting and distracting. The fans are cheering and going nuts behind you. And then there are the other photographers in the pit, many of whom are seasoned professionals.
In addition, you have a job to do in three songs (industry standard). So, you capture what you can in those first three songs and then that’s it. Some of the club shows you can shoot the entire set if you like but for the bigger shows, it’s three and done.
I’ve found that everyone is mindful of each other when you’re in the pit. We stay out of each other’s way. You wait a few seconds if someone is trying to get their shot. You move and don’t stay in one area preventing others from getting that particular shot (like in front of the singer for example).
Photo pits are very much a case of the more you do it, the better you’ll get. I’m finally getting some images I would put in my portfolio – after a year’s time with substandard equipment.
I’ve encountered some fans that want you out of the pit – basically because you’re in their way and they feel we, as photographers, aren’t necessarily fans. I think every photographer I’ve met is always mindful to duck, move, and not block a fans sightline as much as possible. Sometimes it can’t be helped but we don’t stay there for 15 minutes, it’s more like 5 seconds.
Some fans have been very cool – especially if they keep seeing you at the shows around town they’ll start to recognize you. I’m not hard to spot (laughs).
There are still many venues around the area that I would like to shoot at that I haven’t so far – Key Arena, Tacoma Dome, etc. Soon. Soon those will be checked off the list.
CW: Have you had any interesting encounters with fans, other photographers, or security?
EA: You know I can't really think of anything that stands out. The photographers are either social or they keep to themselves. I haven't met anyone that was off putting (knock on wood). Security have never been an issue. They know you're there to do a job just like they are. If you talk to people like people, that helps for sure. I've been to all of these venues enough as a fan that some of the folks working them already know me. Fans are just like me. Every now and then you'll get a hardcore fan in the front that wants you out of the pit because you're in their sight line or they're a bit peeved that they waited for hours to get a primo spot in the front only to have a photographer walk past them and go into the photo pit. But, even that hasn't been anything major. Just folks that want to enjoy the show unobstructed. All of the photographers I've seen, or at least most, are really mindful of where they are when they're shooting, if they're blocking someone's view, etc. We all move quite a bit in the pit, for our own sakes to take turns in different areas of the stage, and so the fans can enjoy the show. Many fans are cool and since I'm a fan (like most of the photographers), we all can talk shop and geek out about the band we're seeing that night. I've given picks that landed in the pit to fans in the front as I know they'd appreciate them.
I've had some rude fans at shows where there is no photo pit (El Corazon mainly). Somewhere along the line, a generational shift happened where people standing on the floor assume that when they leave their spot, it will be waiting for them when they come back from the bathroom, bar, or merch. stand.
I'm an old fuck. I remember you staked your claim on the floor. You hit the head before you entered the floor, as you knew you weren't coming back out AND getting your spot back. Certain types of music I get it - more mellow music I have no issue with this new concept of "saving someone's spot". But for hard rock/metal/punk etc - forget it. You leave? Your spot is gone. Sorry pal. I've been standing for hours and if you think I'm just going to give you your spot back in the front because your bladder was full, think again. That's just my mentality. A pet peeve if you will.
Oh - I should also mention the hipsters that think they can bring their drink with them and cut into the front of the crowd before the headliner comes on (I’ve seen this at the Crocodile more than anywhere else) - fuck you. This is actually worse as they weren't even standing on the concrete floor for hours. They show up later into the evening and think they can snag a prime spot up front because they're cool or hip. Fuck you. Take your ass to the side or back of the venue.
CW: What do you think EA has in store for the future?
EA: The future. I told myself that this year, 2017, I was going to do my best to bring some balance back to EA. As much as I love the concert coverage and learning to improve as an event photographer, I really want to get back to the interviews like I had done in the past.
Also, spreading the coverage to more than just music. So far, I’ve chipped away at this goal meaning I covered some concerts of musicians that are also actors (or vice versa).
I’m hoping to add to my interviews this year with an actor or two. I’ve also dabbled with the idea of interviewing a brewery again. But, what I plan and what actually happens are two different things (laughs).
CW: Thanks Mark for sharing your EA experiences with me!
EA: Thank you for the opportunity. I appreciate it!
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