This would be no ordinary drum clinic. 2 world class drumming heroes would be attending, putting on a drum extravaganza for all of Stoke-On Trent to see !!. This could be be my one and only chance of photographing Chad Smith, drummer of Red Hot Chili Peppers and all round legend.
Chad, along with Steve White was probably the first drummer who ignited the spark of my love of drums. Listening to Blood Sugar Sex Magik, at the age of 14 totally blew my mind.
In Hindsight, my lack of understanding of how the music industry/band PR works, was in my favour. I was blissfully unaware of how difficult it might be to organise 5 minutes in the presence of an A list drummer!
The organiser of the clinic, Dean was very positive about the beat it project and initially seemed happy to accommodate my request to photograph Chad, which was great news.
Who else could I mither with details of this project? The legendary Steve White.
I will always be thankful to Steve, I wrote him a letter at the age of 14 to tell him I wanted to be a drummer, he sent some sticks and a hand written letter, never been happier!
Steve agreed to have a portrait taken of himself but couldn't speak for Chad. Fair enough. Meanwhile , Dean had been bombarded with people asking him to get Chad to sign various items during the drum clinic, 'Can you get Chad to sign my brother's mate's vinyl collection....' you get the picture.
The e mail came crashing into my inbox on a Monday morning. It was the organiser Dean, he was really sorry but they would no longer be able to accommodate my request, as there were too many other requests for him to fulfil. If I wanted to do it, I would need to contact Chad's people to arrange.
My heart sank. I had already booked a day off work, payed for a hotel room, hired equipment, SOLD MY SOUL TO SATAN!
You can find any information you want if you trawl the web long enough. Fact. I found some contacts at Chad's PR team BB Gun , based in the US. A begging letter was composed, I pressed the send button, et voila. This was a long shot.
The next day, I pensively scanned my e mails. NO WAY! My gratuitous begging e mail had found its way to Chad's personal PA . Sweet Jesus!! Chad had agreed to have a portrait taken. If I could set up half an hour before the start of the show , he would be happy to do it.
In that one e mail , everything changed. It restored some faith that I wasn't wasting my time on the project after all. Cue the Lip chewing, nail biting anxiety, and questions running through my head.
What if he decides not to do it, will he have a kit set up, which hat will he be wearing ..... ??
The day finally arrived. December 13th 2016. Lucky number 13.
I kissed my loved ones farewell, and set off in my Mazda2 packed to the rafters with camera gear, a kick drum skin, some sticks, and a sharpie pen.
Pulling into the hotel car park, the enormity of what was going to happen suddenly hit me.
In a cold sweat I rang my other half , telling him I couldn't do it.
In the words of Ron Burgundy, this was kind of a big deal!. Don't be ridiculous, get in there and just do it. I pulled myself together and took a deep breath.
Just at that moment, an animated figure appeared at the fire exit door. It was Chad. Now I had to somehow drag my gear past him without tripping over myself. I opted for dragging the gear past him, whilst going red and smiling like an idiot.
I finally found Dean , the organiser of the shindig. It was great to finally put a face to a name. In mid conversation, he suddenly shouted Chad over to meet me, and the rest went into slo-mo. As he approached and put his hand out , I gripped it as tightly as possible and shook vigorously (nobody likes a limp handshake)
The shaking carried on for quite some time, and in my best confident voice, I described the Beat It Project and explained he would be having a portrait taken, the lights will be set up ready, we can do some quick shots and finished. Ok fine said Chad. Great! (he obviously didn't get the original memo). So off i went to feel anxious for a few hours, and find somewhere to set my gear up. After heaving a tonne of equipment up 2 flights of stairs, into a lift and up a mountain (it felt that far) I found the room.
The lovely people at Fat Pigeon Films were also there, setting up equipment for an interview. Chad and Steve would be interviewed in one corner, I would set up in the other.
As the interview came to a close, Chad looked over, gestured to the lights and looked bemused.
It's for the photo shoot I said, grabbing his arm and dragging him into position. I had forgotten how tall he was (6'3) , as I adjusted the lights and turned around to start shooting, he had stuck a piece of black masking tape over his eyes. Go with the flow I thought....
Can you scream at the camera ???.............F@%CK YOU!!!! came the very loud reply
Chad was a total professional, playing up to the camera and giving me exactly what I needed for the project. After all, he didn't have to do it. For that, I will always be grateful.
Feeling elated and very proud of myself, I skipped off to the bar for a beer or 12.
Whilst sat contemplating the day, a bang on the back of my chair startled me, and I turned around to see Mr Smith. Armed with Dutch courage, I said come here you! and hugged him in an extremely awkward manner. He looked at me and said quietly 'the word out on the street, is that you blagged your way in... that's cool' . And with that he was gone. What an amazing day.
Special thanks to Brian Bumberry @ BB gun and Laura for helping make it happen.