this is part of a photo series i’ve been working on since 2011. it is a collection of photographs of badass women involved in metal, hardcore and the borderline metal/punk/avant-garde worlds. these are the people who make up the music scene. these are my friends.
What was your first metal experience?
Amy Mills: The way I came around to finding out about metal is pretty weird, and would probably make sense knowing my background in general. I grew up playing classical trumpet, and that was literally the only music I listened to throughout high school (except for an Offspring CD or Smashmouth CD).
After high school I went to Boston Conservatory for trumpet, and branched off to listening to more contemporary classical composers (Ligeti, Reich, Glass, etc etc), but the heavy music world was still foreign. Sometime after leaving the conservatory and going to Mass Art for photography, I discovered John Zorn’s music. I was struck most by his Naked City project, which opened the door for me to explore hardcore bands like Napalm Death. Soon after that my friends who were attending the nearby New England Conservatory introduced me to the underground metal scene in New York, and I eventually got around to exploring most areas of the metal world.
How did you transition from studying classical trumpet to photography?
AM: I basically realized that there wasn’t much of a job market or future career for me as a classical trumpet player. If my teacher at the conservatory couldn’t get into the BSO (who he subbed with regularily) then what chance did I stand. I had been in love with photography since high school. While at the conservatory I took the 20×24 polaroid course at Mass Art, and soon after made the decision to transfer to Mass. Art.
At what point did you become a guitar addict? You showed me one you’re currently building. What’s your goal with that guitar?
AM: I’m not sure “addict” would be the word I would use, but I’ve always had a fascination with collecting things. Books, records, cameras, etc. I find the guitar to be one of the more fascinating instruments, both from a design perspective, and a historical perspective. It’s one of the few instruments that has had such an immense amount of variations in design, approach, and sound. It’s a bit staggering to think about how many different ideas have gone into guitar design. As an instrument it’s completely changed so many different styles of music throughout history, in almost every culture. The electric guitar explosion of the 1960s is incredibly fascinating. I’m particularly obsessed with Burns guitars, made by Jim Burns in the early 1960s in England. They aren’t as well known in the US, but were considered to be the equivalent to Fender in England at the time.
Brass instruments have a similar history, but not quite the same impact culturally. In terms of experimentation with design concepts, it has almost the same amount of variations as the guitar world does. I think I was drawn to guitar due to these similarities. In fact, the same could be said for cameras.
The guitar I’m building is actually just parts from two wrecked guitars. I got the body for free from on of my favorite guitar shops, and the neck and electronics were given to me by my good friend Robbie. I decided to combine them into a working guitar, and so far it’s been a very successful project.
What albums/bands have you been listening to lately? Can you listen to music at work?
AM: Lately I’ve been listening to:
- Blackstar – David Bowie
- Ben Monder – Flux
- Jeff Buckley – Grace
- Nick Drake – all the albums
- Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of the Great Highway
I can listen to music at work, but a lot of the time i’m busy out in the studios, so music is generally only on when I’m at my computer.
You’re a major Swans fan, right? What’s your favorite era and/or albums?
AM: As far as Swans goes, my favorite album is definitely Soundtracks for the Blind. Other than that I’m a fan of pretty much all of it, generally gravitating to the very first few albums, and the most recent 2.