Neil Krug Interview

Neil Krug is a rare photographer among the Flickr set.  Once you've seen one of his photos, you recognize others floating around tagless on the net.  This is not because they are one in the same.  Krug's images are vast in their subject matter, angles, proportions, and lighting.  Something about the color, the feel, the aura of the image elicits the thought, "That has to be a Neil Krug." 

Krug's work with images has taken on several forms.  Photography, print work for the cover of Ladytron's album "Gravity the Seducer," and the photo art book Pulp In collaboration with model Joni Harbeck.  Recently, Krug has taken his eye from folk subjects (Devendra Banhart and Sea Wolf) to help evolving groups, like The Horrors, recreate their image in reflection of their new music. - Jocelyn

 Jocelyn : When I think of photos of the Horrors and Ladytron, stark imagery based on black and white color schemes comes to mind.  Yet, I think the Horrors music has evolved into something beyond their Halloween-sound beginnings.  Did your approach to photographing them in such warm, soft texture stem from their music's evolution?

Neil Krug: When I first heard "Skying" I knew I wanted to approach shooting them completely differently from how they had been photographed before, which the band wanted as well.  It's not something that was discussed; it just happened naturally.  Rhys and Faris emailed me a bunch of reference imagery prior to the shoot, and from those images I gathered that they wanted something aesthetically technicolor-like and dramatic.  
With regard to Ladytron, I can see why listeners picture their music in black & white spaces but for me it's consistently had the opposite effect. I always imagine surreal colorful landscapes and allegorical compositions rather than the other.  The artwork I produced for their upcoming record, "Gravity the Seducer", is probably the best example of me marrying the cinematic sounds on that record to the visions I have when I hear the music.  I am incredibly proud of how that project turned out.

J: Is working with musicians a collaborative process when making images?

NK: It absolutely is, which I prefer.  I don't mind blindly shooting or generating images to how I see the work fitting contextually within a record, but it let's me relax when a band can brief me on what they have in mind or relatively expect from the artwork.

J: Are you a listener of the bands you photograph, and does it affect they way you approach a shoot?

NK: I kind of have to be or I don't want to do the project to begin with.  That's not always the case because there are occasions when my agency will send me a link of something that I've never heard before and I'm onboard if I like it.  For the last few projects I've been an active listener of the bands so both projects were approached based on their work.

J: One thing I really like about the My Chemical Romance shoot is that there is darkness, yet warm textures.  When I looked at those images the first time I thought, "Yeah, Neil Krug took these, no one else."  How did that collaboration come about?

NK: That project was a year in the making.  MCR's art director had reached out towards the end of 2009 about producing artwork for their upcoming record which didn't have a schedule because the band was still recording the album.  About 8 months went by and I assumed they had found someone else to do the project due to the silence.  Soon after this I found out the band had scrapped their record and redone the entire thing with a new concept in mind for the direction of the artwork. 
In the summer of 2010 I met with Gerard at his studio in LA and was mind blown when he started showing me sketches of the various characters he had come up with for the "Danger Days" record.  He and I have similar aesthetic influences so putting the characters to film was fairly straight forward since we both speak the same language.  I approached that shoot like I was a cinematographer shooting a psychedelic western with Gerard and band posed like anti-heroes in the desert. I'll never forget the puzzled look on my assistant's face when he showed up stoned the day before the shoot and had a look at the shot list.  He flipped through the document and went "what the fuck are Draculoids?"

J: There's one image of Gerard that's all black and electric blue.  Did that happen naturally with the stage lighting, or did you edit some kind of effects onto the image?

NK: It's just one of those happy accidents.

J: Is your approach to shooting a live show different from a photo shoot?

NK: It's not something I really think about to be honest.  I just move about until I find what works.