Some people are born to be a star, Ben Thatcher, drummer of Brighton's Royal Blood is one of those people. Not only is he cool and talented, he is also a kind soul who despite the soaring global success of the band, has managed to keep his feet firmly on the ground.
I couldn't do the beat it project without attempting to get Ben onboard, so after many e mails and letters being sent, I was put in touch with his publicity assistant, (thanks to Brian Bumberry, legend). I was notified that the drummer was keen to get involved with the beat it fundraiser, providing his schedule could accommodate it. What an amazing drummer to add to the beat it project team!
Could I meet him at the O2 Leicester? . Just let me think about that for a moment ....... YES, always say yes when Ben Thatcher asks this question. Fifteen minutes was the given timescale, which is generous for a photo shoot of this kind. I could take some formal portraits then some at the kit. This sounded very promising.
So, a time was arranged and preparations began. Equipment lists, lighting tests, general panic. I would also need an assistant which came in the form of my husband, the inspiration for beat it, and my cousin's hubbie Graham who happens to live in Leicester, and has also unfortunately been affected by testicular cancer. As Graham knows the mean streets of Leicester well, he was drafted in as the designated driver/roadie.
Nerves always kick in before a shoot like this, when all kinds of disaster scenarios play through your head, such as equipment failure, making a fool of yourself in front of the subject, arriving late, the list goes on! but you have to try and keep things in perspective and expect the unexpected. You can be prepared to a certain degree, but in a situation like this you have to go with the flow and work with what you have, trusting your instincts as a photographer and making decisions on the fly.
Pulling up outside the venue, the hardcore fans were already queuing outside for the best view of the band. Watching us drag cases, light stands and a large kick drum head through security and straight into the backstage area really puzzled them! As we were ushered into the catering section, my first thought was, I am starving and could really go to town on the buffet. But I resisted. Music began to filter through from the main auditorium, sound check was under way and it sounded AMAZING!
Bear in mind this is my music of choice for the journey to work, music that brightens up the drudgery of sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. Music that makes you feel alive. And here we were, 3 people, the sound guys, and a couple of other people on stage, watching Royal Blood sound check. It made me feel really emotional. To think I had come this far, and created this opportunity with the project was a big deal.
When I got myself together and remembered I should probably be setting up equipment, it became apparent that the house lights would not be coming on for some time. Setting up lights in the pitch black is certainly a challenge!. Graham the roadie became my lighting engineer, and shone his i-phone torch for me. I was so glad I had assistants with me, just sharing the load of heavy equipment was an absolute blessing, as well as having people to take BTS images of the shoot.
I had just finished setting up, when Ben appeared as if by magic, and shook my hand, immediately putting me at ease.
I explained what I was hoping to do and invited him to take his place beneath the lights. He was very relaxed and happy to take direction which was great. After signing a drum head for the auction, we made our way to the stage to take some pics at the RB drumkit.
And what a stunning kit it is!!. We took some action shots, Ben played some cool drum fills. And we were done. Or at least Ben was, I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to get on that kit. If you don't ask you don't get. "Can I have a bash on your kit"? "yeah go for it ". I could not believe this was happening.
As I began to play, I imagined the auditorium full of people coming to watch Royal Blood, and I was the stand-in as Ben was suddenly struck down with man flu, my dream was interrupted when "excuse me.... can you stop for a minute... we're doing an interview", said Mike Kerr, singer of Royal Blood. I apologised and stepped away from the kit. Ben looked over and said "you were really getting in the zone then weren't you?". Yep.
What a great experience. Ben was a total star, and I am so grateful to him for supporting men being treated at the Christie. And not many drummers of his level allow other people to touch their kit. So thanks again Mike and Ben, and sorry for interrupting the interview.
Big thanks to Brian, Murray, and the RB backstage crew for being so helpful.