Reverand Horton Heat at House of Blues, Sunset.
Mörat is a photographer based in West Hollywood, California. His photography work has been published in Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Playboy, Bizarre, and Maxim, among many other publications. He has shot everyone from Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer, to The Prodigy. His Muse and wife also happens to be Masuimi Max.
Danny Stygion: You started writing for Kerrang! Magazine in 1989. How did you become involved with Kerrang! Magazine?
Mörat: That happened by accident really. I was a motorcycle messenger at the time and I met their designer, this wonderful lunatic called Krusher, at a Motorhead show in London. We ended up drinking together a lot, or drinking a lot together, and I'd pop by their office to say hi to him whenever I was passing. Obviously the subject must have got around to writing at some point and I ended up reviewing a lot of the shows that no one else wanted to go to, like GBH and Bad Brains, all the sort of shows I was going to anyway, and I couldn't believe someone was going to pay me for it. I really had no idea what I was doing, there was no thought at all of it turning into a career, although writing was the only thing I was any good at in school.
Danny Stygion: How did you end up doing photography?
Mörat: That was another accident. I was fairly well established as a writer by '93 and I got sent on the road in Holland with one of my favourite bands, Poison Idea. Because the band were all completely out of control, drug guzzling maniacs, none of the photographers at Kerrang! wanted anything to do with it, so I got sent off, literally, with a disposable camera, to cover it. The photos were terrible, but they ran them anyway because it was a good story and I suppose it rekindled my interest in photography. I'd always been interested in photography before that, but I couldn't really afford it and never had anything better than the most basic camera.
AC/DC at The Forum, Los Angeles.
Danny Stygion: What was your first photo shoot assignment?
Mörat: Technically that would be the Poison Idea thing, but that wasn't so much a shoot as a bunch of drunks who happened to have a camera between them. I hate to say it, but I honestly can't remember the first shoot. I think Kerrang! were a bit surprised when I started taking it seriously. Obviously they weren't giving me any photo jobs based on the Poison Idea feature, but I had a lot of friends in bands so I shot all the live shows and Kerrang! ended up using some of the pictures. It was a while before they actually commissioned anything, I definitely had to prove myself first even though they were running my pictures almost from the start. I do remember that the first time I shot in a studio was with Rancid in Germany. The record company had hired this studio with all this fancy lighting and I turned most of it off because I didn't know how it worked. They were a little offended when I started unpacking my own lights, but it turned out to be a good thing. It's a lot easier to work with equipment that you're familiar with and I've seen several photographers who were completely baffled by hired lighting. I'll bring my own lights even if it's a total pain in the arse and then I can always use the rented stuff as filler.
Danny Stygion: Who was the coolest rock star or band you were able to photograph?
Mörat: That would have to be Lemmy, but I've known him since I was a teenager so I'm biased, although he is very photogenic because he has great charisma. Al Jourgensen was fun to shoot. He's another one with a lot of charisma and he was wasted on red wine and telling all these great stories. There's a few people that I've interviewed dozens of times, like Chris Cornell, and never had the chance to shoot, but I've been very lucky and crossed most of them off my wishlist, sometimes several times. Iggy Pop is still on the wishlist.
Lemmy at home - Los Angeles.
Danny Stygion: What type of camera and lighting equipment do you use?
Mörat: Canon bodies with odds and sods that I've bought or replaced along the way. It's like Frankenstien. I tend to use things until the die.
Danny Stygion: Live concert photography can be very tricky and difficult, especially with no flash allowed. What settings do you typically use when doing concert photography?
Mörat: Yes, it's really annoying, especially since most of the time the band don't care if you use flash, they just want to look good. The first time I was confronted with the no flash rule I only had 400 iso film and I didn't know about pushing film so I tried to concentrate on the stage lighting. I was shooting bands that I liked so I knew all the songs and which parts were going to be brighter than others. It's still the best way to get around the problem, but it's nonsense that it's there in the first place. Oh, the flashing lights might hurt the artist: you're on a fucking stage! It's only three songs and no one else goes to work and gets told they can't use half their tools. Unfortunately it's usually parroted at you by a bouncer who doesn't know whether it applies to that particular band or not. You have to pay attention to the lighting at all shows, though, and all venues are different whether you're using flash or not. Did that neatly avoid the question? I had to learn by trial and error.
Al Jourgensen/Ministry - Sunset Marquis, Los Angeles.
Danny Stygion: You state on your web site that you "still have no idea how to do photoshop". Is this a deliberate choice or you just haven't gotten around to learning?
Mörat: I don't really have any interest in it and it still seems like cheating, or if not cheating, then not really photography. I know some people are calling themselves digital artists or whatever, which is fair enough, there is a great art to it, but it's not really capturing anything. People can be fascinating enough or a good enough subject that they don't need to be digitally improved. I think photoshop also gives a lot of people unrealistic expectations of how they think they should look. They all want to be flawless and no one is. Plus it allows anyone to think they're a model and you'll get 'models' showing up who look nothing like their pictures and then expecting to be photoshopped. I don't think I'd have the patience for it anyway, but, saying that, I'm a complete luddite and I'd probably like it if I tried it. I wouldn't move over from film to digital until I absolutely had to.
Danny Stygion: Were you involved in the pinup and fetish photography scene before you met and later married Masuimi Max?
Mörat: No, not at all. I'd shot a few girls for tattoo magazines and a few for people to paint from, but apart from that it was all bands. It was a totally different style of photography and I had to adjust quite a lot, especially since I wasn't shooting much at the time. I enjoy it now, but it wasn't something I was doing before we met.
Masuimi Max - Los Angeles.
Danny Stygion: How did you two meet?
Mörat: In a bar called the Burgundy Room in Hollywood. Masuimi used to hit on me and I thought she had a boyfriend so I'd walk off and go and get drunk. Then one day her friend told me she was single and I went straight to see her. Something obviously clicked because we got married after two weeks, barely knowing each other, and then went to England on honeymoon and got thrown into each others worlds. It was very True Romance, but we've met quite a few other people who married quickly and stayed together. Our friends were actually betting on us not lasting more than six months, but it's been nearly six years now.
Danny Stygion: How often do you and Masuimi shoot?
Mörat: That varies depending on what else is going on and the locations or outfits that are available. We work well together though so if we've got a good location we can get eight or nine sets done in a day. When I started shooting bands sometimes you'd get five or ten minutes with them in a cramped dressing room so I learned to work fast and that stayed with me. Neither of us like to waste time at shoots, mostly because we're excited to work together and we want to get as much done as possible. If we're home we shoot at least once a week, often more.
Masuimi Max - West Hollywood (Necklace by Touch of Death).
Danny Stygion: It appears that you travel a lot. What has been the most interesting place you've visited?
Mörat: I love Australia. I even thought about moving there before I came to LA, but it's too far away and even the plants will try to kill you if you stand still for long enough. It's a fascinating and beautiful country though and I'd love to go back. The thing is, I like different places for different things. France has awesome roads and 24 hour bike races, Berlin has great bars and architecture. I think Japan was probably the most interesting because it was so alien and so familiar at the same time. I got followed around like the pied piper by all these little punk rockers. I like places that stay open late.
Danny Stygion: How was your "Sex, Thugs & Rock n' Roll" Gallery?
Mörat: It was great! I'd never done anything like that before so I had no idea what to expect and it was a bit surreal seeing it all together, but it went really well. I'd liked to have put more of the old rock stuff in there but so much of it has been lost because it was film and I moved a lot. I'm still finding some of it though and we'll be doing another gallery showing at some point so it might go in that, if not I'll have shot more than enough new stuff. There wasn't a shortage of pictures. The funny thing was that when I had to fill out all the cards, in the bit where it said 'artist', I was putting Slayer, Ministry, Motorhead, and the guy who ran the place was like, "no, you're the artist."
Josh Bradford/Revolting Cocks - House of Blues, Sunset
Danny Stygion: What's coming up for you in the future?
Mörat: Music-wise I've got Ministry and Devildriver coming up, but that part of the calendar tends to fill up as gigs are announced. We're going to Download festival in England in June, but so far I've declined any work from that so we can have fun. You can get great shots at those big festivals but working them can be a pain in the arse, especially if you really want to see certain bands. Masuimi's calendar fills up a lot earlier than mine because she sometimes gets booked six months or a year in advance, so I know we're going to Phoenix, France and Calgary, but the rest of the time we never know, which is fun. We've recently been away long enough to miss home, but I'm sure we'll get itchy feet again soon. Neither of us like doing any one thing for too long. I've almost finished writing my first book and I'm constantly writing and shooting for magazines so I'm pretty busy when I want to be.
Danny Stygion: What would you like to incorporate into future photo shoots or projects?
Mörat: More locations! I love the desert and never seem to get out there enough. I'm also going to be doing some travel writing so it seems obvious to take a few pictures while I'm at it. Actual photoshoot ideas take a while to come into being sometimes, but we've got some very cool ideas lined up.
Wednesday 13 at The Burgundy Room, Hollywood.
Danny Stygion: Thanks for doing the interview.
Mörat: No problem. Thank you.
Check out Morat on ModelMayhem
Check out Morat on Facebook
Masuimi Max: www.iamtrouble.com