Monday, June 25, 2012


Lovely Whittier, CA
On the 4th of December 2009, I hosted a last minute shoot for ‘Barred For Life’ in Manchester UK (see Stewart’s prior post for the summery). I followed the project online, reading this very travel blog you are reading now - and as the tour unfolded beyond Manchester, into Europe and the New Year – Stewart and I kept in regular contact via email. To cut a long-winded story short,

Stewart asked…

 “I’m going to Los Angeles this summer to conduct a series of interviews – why don’t you get yourself a plane ticket and get out here?”.

I did just that and here is what happened...

I left Manchester Airport for a connecting flight at Heathrow (LONDON) bound for LAX (LOS ANGELES). This was the first time I’ve covered serious mileage on my own before - I was excited but admittedly, I was pretty fucking nervous, too. It had been awhile since I saw Stewart, my life was in a state of dis-harmony and I thought ‘fuck it’ this is going to be a story no matter what happens or how broke I am...I should do this because it will be the silver lining on a shitty couple of months… I may never get asked to do something so cool again…

So I got to Heathrow, I wandered around – and it’s kind of like a scaled down, actually, NO, it is pretty much like a full shopping precinct within an airport. I’ve never witnessed anything like it - it’s so fucking unnecessary. Who would visit an apple shop and buy a macbook or an ipad on a whim before boarding a trans-wherever flight?
I had about two hours to kill before boarding time so I headed straight for the bar to pound a couple of beers - hoping it would take some sting out of the waiting around. I watched whoever it was playing that day in the World Cup propped up against the bar staring at the TV.
Finally my gate opens, I stroll up with my boarding pass and passport then I’m stumped with the question;

“Where will you be staying for the duration of your trip Sir?” the gate lady asked.

“Somewhere in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Whittier if my memory serves me correctly?” I flatly respond.

Basically, due to the tightening of homeland security in the US since the events of September 11th, you now have to provide the accommodating airline with the FULL ADDRESS of where you are staying. Something I didn’t have. As far as I was concerned, I was just going to get picked up at the other end and taken to wherever I was staying.

I missed the flight as a result and had to wake up numerous people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean trying to find out this shred of information that I COULD have probably made up – but wasn’t going to risk it just to be received in the US of A and sent right back to the UK, which I have heard had happened to people in the past.  Off to a flying start. At this point I’d been in two airports for about 8 hours. Without smoking, and I’d not even left British soil; excellent.

I finally got the address, boarded the plane, found my seat and started to tinker with the on-flight entertainment. A very attractive Californian lady sat next to me and we talked for the majority of the flight. She looked just like one of those ladies from ‘Desperate Housewives’ all teeth and cheekbones with a healthy complexion. We shared anecdotes of airport hell and a bottle of wine. She asked me for my reason for my visit and I told her about the book. I asked the same – it turned out she was a real published author who had been in London writing a novel about a young girl coming of age. She was real fun to talk to, we laughed at the crummy movies and I remember envying the fact that she was petite enough that she could sit cross legged comfortably in her seat but I can’t remember her name.

Adieu, adieu…

We touched down in Los Angeles 16 hours later. At this point I had been travelling for around 24 hours and I was delirious from air conditioning, lack of sleep, too much booze and no cigarettes. I said my ‘good byes’ to the author lady as she sailed through passport control and I stood with the cattle through immigration, knee deep in sniffer dogs and police security types.

Robbo and Phil
There’s something about airports in foreign countries that put me on edge; a feeling like I’m in possession of something I shouldn’t or an unexplained guilt - I always feel like I’m going to get put back on the plane home any minute. I went through all the ridiculous questioning and iris scans and headed for baggage claim. I grabbed my bag, fished out my tobacco and began to roll a cigarette, just as I was finishing the roll – random John Law pulled me to one side and asked me what I was doing ‘just then’. Rolling tobacco is somewhat of a rarity in Los Angeles it seems and a filter tip may as well have come from Mars. I had to explain it’s purpose about three times and he still disappeared with my passport and tossed my luggage. He let me go when he was content I was not a terrorist armed with underwear, a few gift 7 inches and filter tips. Anyway, Stewart was hanging around to greet me and off we drove into the City Of Angels.

Stewart informed me of a rough plan for the week and we took a detour en route to where we would be staying, as he wanted to show me the Pacific Ocean - a fine introduction to the start of my trip. We parked up in a sleepy town of Hermosa Beach. As far as I know, Hermosa Beach is where it all began for Black Flag, as in where it all started.  We walked a small strip of bars and restaurants, which is known as ‘The Strand’ as in from the song ‘Wasted’ (“I was a surfer, I had a skateboard, I was so heavy man, I lived on THE STRAND”). It sounds pathetic, but this trip was blowing my mind already, I walked out along the pier to the very end, stared at the murky waters, marvelled at the clear evening sky and it sunk in… I was actually out here doing this awesome thing.
We drove out to the house we were to stay for the duration of our trip - Whittier, which is a suburb South East of Los Angeles. Our hosts Philip and Robbo greeted us as we arrived, we ate, drank and then I crashed out.

Edward Colver
The next day we had an interview scheduled with the legendary Edward Colver at his home. Edward is primarily an artist, sculptor, photographer and back-in-the-hey-day an avid attendee of LA’s punk scene. He was the careful eye behind the lens of pretty much EVERY memorable image you have seen from that period. The man was there documenting punk rock shows all over LA five nights a week for five years and responsible for creating the iconic ‘Damaged’ album cover amongst countless other recognisable album covers, photo sessions and artworks from that time.

Edward saw it all and was cool enough to let us into his home and recount his tales of Black Flag and punk from that time.  The things that stick out in my mind from that interview the most was Edward’s eclectic garden with carefully hidden artworks in and around plant and rock formations. We sat on his porch for a while, smoked sweet smelling clove cigarettes and he told us the history of his home. He brought out his book ‘Blight At The End Of The Funnel’ and I browsed his impressive pictures and the varied roster of artists who he has worked with in his career. We were invited in and I was astounded with the various belongings inside. Edward’s other life long interest is in antique furniture and his collection is truly astounding.

We set up our equipment, interviewed and photographed Edward (complete with his talking parrot Zeus) for about an hour, he recounted the process of setting up the ‘Damaged’ cover shoot, memories of the LA punk scene, the ever increasing LAPD presence and more interestingly, what it felt like to be insider – watching how it all manifested into something so different then how it started out and ultimately his exit, his step away, when he realised he no longer wanted to be a part of it.  Edward took us through the back of his home to his outhouse where he has what only I could call ‘a museum of all things weird and wonderful'. I was totally awestruck. The icing on the cake was Edward’s business card that he gave me as we left…a ‘deepest sympathy’ card with his phone number on the reverse. This pretty much sums up Edward. A total gentleman with a wry sense of humour.

After we had parted company with Mr. Colver, we headed out to West Hollywood or ‘Westwood’ to shoot a Mother and Son who had identical ‘Bars’ and also the Minor Threat ‘Sheep’ jumping over said set of ‘Bars’. We had a little time to kill before the interview so I headed towards the numerous record shops that Hollywood Boulevard, Melrose and the surrounding area has to offer. I had a lengthy chat with the quintessential LA punk store - 'Headline Records’ owner Jean-Luc and hung out at Immaculate Tattoos on Melrose where our host Philip works. At this point I should probably note that Philip apprenticed under Rick Spellman (the guy who gave Henry Rollins his ‘Angry Sun Face’ and ‘Search and Destroy’ tattoos) who also is featured in Barred For Life.
Finally we head to the shoot just as the sun is setting, set up, get the interview underway and chit-chat until it’s time to head back. I barely remember much of the evening after the excitement of the day and general jet lag kicking in hard. We pit stopped at what was to be our regular morning breakfast ritual, an authentic Mexicali burrito joint called ‘Burrito Track’ and bed down for the evening with a full stomach and my head swimming with punk rock stories. This was only day number two… be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment