L.A.-based photographer Dan Monick has a busy schedule. He is constantly capturing the moment. He spent fourteen years touring and photographing Atmosphere and the Rhymesayers crew. Resulting in Se7en Years with Atmosphere and Rhymesayers; a collection of raw yet genuine photographs of underground hip hop’s favorite personalities. Fortunately, Dan agreed to let us pick his brain and revealed his inspirations, the tunes on his playlist, and life changing moments.
What are your earliest memories of getting involved in art/music/photography?
With music, it was hearing “Dreamweaver” [by Gary Wright] on the radio when I was a kid. I used to try and stay up every night until I heard it. It was the first song I heard that had an emotional impact on me. It always amazed me how a bunch of sounds in a certain order can have such an immense affect on a persons emotions. “Dreamweaver” was the first song that did this to me.
For photography, it was discovering Nan Goldin’s The Ballad Of Sexual Dependency in the Walker Art Center’s bookstore when I was eighteen, while working as busboy in the gallery cafeteria. I used to sneak down to spy on the woman who worked the register because I thought she was cute. I found this book one day and everything changed. I started sneaking downstairs during my shifts to look at the book.
Where do you draw inspiration?
When I started, I just shot what I saw. But these days I spend way too much time in front of a computer screen, so in turn I have become completely addicted to collecting photo books. David Armstong’s Night and Day just came out and is absolutely amazing.
Has being behind the camera changed your “perspective” on how you hear music?
No. I was a musician before I was a photographer. Music has a huge energy for me that is all its own. It is too big to ever get fucked with.
Do you have a playlist that gets you in your shooting mood?
Constantly evolving, but right now heavy on The Kills, Lou Reed, and Robyn.
What is your favorite story behind a photograph in your book Se7en Years with Atmosphere and Rhymesayers?
I always loved the fact that Eyedea and Abilities‘ first press shots were taken in the back of Mikey’s [Eyedea] friend’s car, because we were locked out of my house. We were doing a shoot for their record on New Years Day 2001. It was freezing and we went outside to do some shots. As we decided to go back in, I realized I had locked us out. I called my girlfriend, who had a spare set, so while we were waiting, we hopped into Mikey’s car. It was taking a minute, so I figured I’d just start shooting. They got stressed because they always wanted Mikey on the left and Max [DJ Abilities] on the right, to go in the same sequence as their name. We shot a few frames and then just hung out and waited. Of course that became the press shot.
During your time with the Rhymesayers crew, what moment or event stands out most vividly in your mind?
Walking across the street with Sean [Slug] towards First Avenue for the homecoming show of the Ford Tour. It was crazy: huge line, totally sold out, the kids who saw him were totally freaking out. It hadn’t been like that before. They had been on tour playing to a few hundred people on a good night and then they came home to 1200 kids just stoked. The energy was amazing. It’s the only time I’ve ever been in a moment where you physically felt the change. It was definitely a shift in momentum.
Rhymesayers seems to be made up of many interesting characters. Can you tell us a funny story or anecdote?
Anything I am of liberty or want to tell is in the book. They are an amazing group of people and I have a huge respect and gratitude for the amount of access and support they have given me over the years.
“The core crew of Rhymesayers is the hardest working group of individuals I have ever met“
Your photography has had a great influence on the image of Rhymesayers. But how has their music influenced you and your photography?
I find it very flattering to think my aesthetic has affected them visually as a whole and definitely think that is an arguable statement as they have worked some amazing visual artists over the years. Kai Benson for example, who co-designed and did all the interviews in the book, has done some amazing work with them.
One way it has affected me is that I wound up working with a lot of hip hop artists because of my association with Rhymesayers. Seeing as I come from a pretty rock and indie rock background, it was always amazing to wind up in some of the situations I did. The way it affected me the most though was through their work ethic and diligence. Those guys do not sleep; maybe a little bit now, but still the core crew of Rhymesayers is the hardest working group of individuals I have ever met.
Any valuable lessons learned from the artists you toured with?
The game Cee-Lo can be brutally addictive.
What is your favorite song released by Rhymesayers?
There are songs I love by everybody on the label, but I always go back to “Modern Mans Hustle” [by Atmosphere]. I’m sure there will be a headshake or two when some folks read that choice, but what are you gonna do?
All photos courtesy of Dan Monick © 2012.