INTERVIEW: Spot – Sounds Of Two Eyes Opening [January 2015]

By Glen Bushell

If you were to pull out your favourite LP’s from legendary punk label SST Records you will notice the name SpotĀ appearing in the credits of most of them. Wether it was the volatile hardcore of Black Flag’s debut album ‘Damaged’, or the shredding alt-punk of ‘Zen Arcade’ by Husker Du – to name but a few – Ā Spot was involved in making these into the iconic classics they are today as SST’s in-house producer/engineer. Ā As well as this, he also has a keen eye for photography and has recently released the fantastic book ‘Sounds Of Two Eyes Opening’ in which you can see the world through Spot’s camera lens, capturing moments spanning the late 60’s to early 80’s from Southern California’s Skate, Surf, Roller, and Punk scenes. We recently had a chance to catch up with Spot to talk about how the book came together.

PT: The new book ā€˜Sounds of Two Eyes Openingā€™ looks great. How did the idea of putting the book together come about?

Spot: I’d been working on organising text and photos for some kind of book, not knowing what the result would be. It was obvious I had way too much material for just one book, so when the opportunity of doing a photo book came up I went with it. I knew it would pass muster. Ryan Richardson took the first active interest in what I had, and he did the first “non” half-assed organisation of the images. He presented them to Johan Kugelberg and the green light came on.

PT: Did the finished product fit the vision you had for the project?

Spot: Not really.

PT: As I understand it, you opted to have no captions with the photographs in the book. What was the reason behind this?

Spot: No, I wanted to have a lot more text. MY original vision was to group the photos around descriptive anchors of text but the editors (primarily Johan) felt strongly about not “cluttering” the pages with words. We butted heads on it awhile but I finally agreed. Ultimately, it was about the images and giving them the chance to stand on their own without any pre-defined context.

PT: The images in the book really seem to have captured the zeitgeist of the era. Was that the intention when you were taking them originally?

Spot: Well, you got yer zeit and you got yer geist. Then there’s the gestalt dinner parties and the hegemony picnics. All my dictionaries have given me great joy on cold nights but if it was up to me, I’d just ask Emily Brewster what it all means. I’m sure her answer would be a lot more interesting and erudite. But seriously… I never thought about it. There were pictures to be taken and I took em. No grand agenda.

PT: What attracted you to the art of photography originally?

Spot: That’s hard to say. It was something that I liked. Those old, primitive box cameras were really “magic.” Back in the 50s and 60s black & white film had highly developed (no pun) emulsion/chemical formulas that were extremely versatile. Colour hadn’t progressed to near that level and tended to look unnatural.

PT: Did you have a favourite band of the time to photograph?

Spot: Nope.

PT: Are there any moments you were unable to capture or you missed?

Spot: Of course. It’s the great misgiving of all humanity. If you had asked me 25-30 years ago I could have told you what those moments were.

PT: Are you currently working any projects right now, either in photography or music?

Spot: Yes. Always. But you’ll have to wait till they’re done before I talk about them.

PT: Finally, you had a hand in some of the most influential punk rock records to come out on SST. What were your favourite records to work on?

Spot: My all time fave is probably The Dicks ‘Kill From The Heart’ album. Absolutely nothing phoney or bullshit about either the band or the recording. The runner-ups are probably the first St. Vitus album and Kamikaze Refrigerators ‘Happy Thoughts’. These are the ones I can still listen to on a regular day and enjoy, and not think about the techniques, deadlines, arguments or lack of sleep.

You can pick up ‘Sounds Of Two Eyes Opening’ now from Sinecure Books.

Try these three interviews

Interview: Greywind [Reading 2016]

Interview: Arcane Roots [Reading 2016]

Interview: Trash Boat [Reading 2016]