|Anton Fier, Toronto, April 1987|
I'd interviewed Fier on the phone for Nerve a year previous, after the release of Visions of Excess, the second album by his Golden Palominos supergroup. He was in a poor mood when he picked up the phone, and my own nervousness did me no favours when I asked him if he saw himself as having a career like drummer/bandleader (and renowned tough guy) Buddy Rich, I'd said Buddy Miles instead.
He immediately took offense and asked if I thought he was going to do prison time for drugs. I backpedaled fiercely and managed (barely) to salvage the interview, but it wasn't a shining moment for either of us. In retrospect it was a lousy question regardless of what Buddy I was talking about; a few more like this and I'd start thinking I was probably a better photographer than rock critic.
Which begs the question of just what I thought I was doing when I asked for a re-match with Fier, in person, when he brought the Palominos to town a year later on their Blast of Silence tour.
|Anton Fier, Toronto, April 1987|
I recall that Fier was staying at a hotel not far from my roach trap apartment in Boystown, just next to Maple Leaf Gardens, then still a hockey arena and major concert venue. His room was small and remarkably bare, and I shot him with the same set-up I'd used for John Cale a few months earlier - my Mamiya C330 cradled in one hand, a bare flash in the other.
I'd been doing this long enough to know what it could produce, and that when it worked it produced a simple, dramatic portrait lighting that evoked (starkly) the Hollywood glamour portraits I loved so much. I printed the Fier shot for Nerve's cover with a lot more contrast, but revisiting the shoot for scanning today, I like a version that pulled out more of a range of grays and preserved some skin tone and texture.
The top picture captures a bit of the confrontational nature of Fier, though to be fair our second interview went much better than the first, though he was as blunt as ever. Onstage later that night, however, he beamed from behind his drum kit for most of the show, which probably only proved that he'd rather be playing that enduring more press. I can't say I blamed him.
Fier is one of those drummers who actually deserves the adjective "powerhouse," and a recording of that show captures that well, I think. He'd go on to make several other Golden Palominos records, each one a virtually standalone project, different from the others in mood and sound.
Nerve covered bands like Fier's Golden Palominos for obvious reasons: Visions of Excess, with its guest vocals by Michael Stipe, Fred Frith and John Lydon, was an obvious product of the whole skronk/indie/post-punk world we covered, while the band that toured Blast of Silence covered a whole lot of musical bases.
I'd end up getting into bassist Matthew Sweet's work a lot later in the '90s, and guitarists Jody Harris and Peter Blegvad were already in my record collection, but the real draw for me was Bernie Worrell on the organ, just a couple of years from his time as an adjunct member of the Talking Heads. Worrell was, of course, a keystone member of the Parliament-Funkadelic collective and my real reason for spending my day with the Palominos and risking a second bout with Fier. I'd even manage to sneak a (very brief) portrait session with Worrell, but more about that later.