There is something so god damn special about looking at old Rock 'n' Roll and punk photography. Seeing the live and raw energy on stage, we could only dream of catching a show like that. In Kevin Salk's case, he was lucky enough to grow up in the 80's in LA's South Bay with a thirst for punk and a camera in his hand. Some of these bands have come and gone but will always be blasted till the end.
Kevin captured a bunch of music defining bands that were doing things for the first time, they changed music history. To see that and be apart of that chaos is something any young punk wishes. I spoke to Kevin and wanted to know a bunch of questions. I had to hold back on asking about all the intricate Henry Rollins details and how Minor Threat’s - First Two Seven Inches sounded live, but I kept my cool and kept it simple. Enjoy!
Hey Kevin thanks for doing this, for the people who don't know you and how you wound up with these rad photographs in punk history, can you tell us about yourself?
I am 55 years old and I was born, raised and currently live in Manhattan Beach, CA with my girlfriend and our 8 month old pug, Whiskey. I have two young adult daughters. I am an avid cyclist. I train 5 days a week and race when there is a racing season. I also love to cook.
What was it like being apart of arguably the best era in punk and seeing those shows live?
In hindsight, I was very fortunate to be a teenager with cool parents who let me go to shows…most of the time. I was able to see many amazing bands and go to these great clubs and be part of history. I was a skinny kid who was scared at times going to shows because of the violence and the intensity of the slam pit. When the violence started I tended to walk the other direction…luckily I had big friends. The thing I loved the most was the intimacy of the clubs. Being right next the stage was very unique and made the experience that much better. You could feel the music, the intensity and able to really watch the band play. Even now I much prefer a small club to a big venue.
When did the camera become apart of you and how did people react to photos being taken at a gig back then?
I am not really sure why I started to bring a camera. I did collect flyers and records so that might of been part of it. I started with a point and click then got a real one for my birthday. The one thing the camera did help was getting access to being on the stage to take photos.
What was the most memorable show you have been too and why?
The one show I remember is the Misfits at Bob’s Place in Watts. This was gang territory and I thought to myself, “why would they do a show in South Central LA?” There were gang bangers on angel dust with guns. Just remember leaving being terrified that we would get shot. I remember more going to our friends car and getting the hell out of there.
Another memory is actually very vividly was when Black Flag played at the Whiskey a Go Go on Sunset Blvd. DOA was the opening band. Back then they would have two shows…a 7pm and a 9 or 10pm show. We drove up with a friend to go to the later show and there were a huge number of punks waiting to go in. The next thing we know is that it started to rain beer bottles. They had cancelled the later show because there were so many fights during the first show. Mixing punks, a cancelled gig, and beer bottles was a bad combo. There were probably 40 cop cars on Sunset Blvd and they closed the street. It made the 11pm news. In hindsight, I wish we went to the early show!
You seem to capture the high energy of the live shows so well, what was your technique?
I didn’t have one. I was not a photographer, I was just a kid with a camera. I just shot pictures and hoped for the best. It was cool developing them in my bathroom and seeing the finished product.
Any crazy stories from one?
I think every show was crazy. I think a story that isn’t really crazy but is kinda funny is the ones I took of Henry Rollins in front of SST HQ in Redondo Beach. I lived not too far from there and I would drive but and wait for someone to come out. I think I bullshitted my way to get in. I don’t know how I convinced Henry to let me take pictures of him. I was very intimidated.
Can you share a photograph and tell us the story behind it?
This is the one from the Misfits show. At the Misfits show in Goleta was able to be back stage where I was able to take one of my favorite pictures of Doyle's tattoo. I kind of remember going up to Doyle who was 6’2 and about 220 lbs of muscle. I asked if I could take a close up on his tattoo. I was terrified but I got the shot.
Are you still shooting these days? What are your thoughts on punk music today?
I primarily use my iPhone for taking pictures at bike races or of my dog or kids. I do want to start to shoot more with a real camera but not sure what I want to take. I would love to shoot Pennywise when they are rehearsing. Unfortunately that won’t be happening for a while.
I am a big fan of Pennywise. I have known Jimmy and Fletcher since high school. They are really the only “new’ punk rock band I listen to. I am not the biggest fan of the newer bands. There was nothing like music from the early 80’s. I do love the fact that bands that I grew up with are making a come back. They are making great music. Also my youngest daughter is starting to enjoy some of the bands that I listened to.
For the tech heads what camera did you use?
Give us 3 things you love?
My daughters, my girlfriend, and my bike. A 4th and 5th would be cooking and wine.
Give us 3 things you hate?
Politics, Donald Trump, and unkind people. I also hate the University of Alabama because my oldest daughter went to Auburn…War Eagle!
Give us your top 3 records?
Metallica “Hard Wired to Self Destruct”
Slipknot “We Are Not Your Kind”
Pennywise “Never Gonna Die”
I listen to metal and punk rock when I am training on my bike.
Thank you again for this interview. This is a very exciting time.