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Interview – Kane Hibberd (aka Kanye Lens), Official Soundwave Festival Photographer – January 2013

| 4 February 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Kane Hibberd has every Australian rock photographer’s dream job:  travelling under his alter-ego Kanye Lens, he is the official photographer for the Soundwave Festival juggernaut, which means he has the ultimate access to artists and crowd at every single Soundwave Festival.

He’s collected the best images of the tens of thousands he has shot over the past five years, and is publishing them in a deluxe book – KANYE LENS VS SOUNDWAVE, Volume 1.

I caught up with him to talk about how the 600 or so images in the book made the cut, his experiences out there on the coalface, and a few tips for amateur photographers wanting to break into the business.

Kanye Lens aka Kane Hibbert

100%: Okay then mate. So, thanks very much for your time today. I appreciate that.

Thank you.

100%: What can you tell us about the book  Kanye Lens versus Soundwave?

Right, I have been travelling with Soundwave since 2008, so that’s when they decided to make it a national tour, so I was lucky enough to get a call off saying hey do you want to come, and I thought you know, this is my chance to be part of something bigger. So I jumped on, and like, right from the word go in 2008 I thought I would LOVE to do a book. I’ve always dreamed of doing something like a Big Day Out book, having a collection of photos over a period of time. So yeah, from 2008 obviously Soundwave grew and grew, and at the end of 2012, at the end of the festival, I thought ooh, it’s coming up to five years, should I do a book? And in my mind I always thought if you’re going to do a book it has to be over a long period of time. But I sort of decided that I have so much content over the last five years, I’ll never be able to put all that in a book, so I thought well, let’s do it now. So it’s basically just a collection of Soundwave – not just about the bands, but the whole approach of Soundwave as a festival that people have learned to love over the period of five years.

100%: You must have taken of tens and tens of thousands of shots over the five years of Soundwave. What is it about the 600 odd images in the book which really stood out for you enough to want to publish them?

Like I said before, I was trying to tell a story. It’s this holistic approach to what Soundwave is. So, it was very difficult. I suppose I tried to pick images that I thought were really strong images, so it wasn’t because you know, Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden was in it, or that some other famous person was in it, it’s more about just visually great photos that help tell this story of Soundwave. Even people who don’t like Soundwave at all, or don’t understand what heavy metal music is about, can view the book and go ‘wow, this is amazing, I can understand why people love it.’ I wanted to give them a sense of what it’s all about.

100%: Did you have any issues about being asked not to use any particular images?

I did. I approached the bands to try and get… you know, I wanted everyone’s involvement in it. So I didn’t just want to put together a book of all these bands – I wanted to get their input to say hey, do you like this photo or do you like that photo? So 99% were all cool and the photos were good, but there were a couple I had to re-jig for different reasons, and once they explained the reason why they didn’t like a photo I could sort of understand that, so I just swapped it with another one and it was fine.

100%: I guess that’s the advantage of having been the official photographer, you have that official capacity and assumedly a good working relationship with all these artists.

Well, that’s right. Obviously the first people I approached were the people behind Soundwave Festival itself. Without their blessing I couldn’t have done it. So once they were on board, and I mean they… I’d been talking about doing a book for years, so they were stoked to be able to help spread the Soundwave legend and story, so once I had approval by them it was just a matter of trying to get in touch with all the artists, which took a fair while…

100%: I bet. As Soundwave’s grown over these five years has your style changed?

Maybe a little bit. The first year it was all about ‘I’m going to shoot every single band’ and I would run myself ragged trying to do it, whether it was shooting from one side of a band and then trying to run to shoot another band. So I tried to do that so I could shoot all the bands a couple of times as well. I think what changed a little bit was trying to relax a bit more and [realise] it’s almost physically impossible to shoot every band. There are just too many of them and I have other things that I have to run around and do, different shoots and things like that. Now I try and shoot a band’s entire set, and I won’t get to every band but I choose the bands which I think are the ones to shoot. I also have other photographers running around and shooting and stuff. So everyone still gets to see every band. And from that I try to shoot the whole set and that way if something great happens I know I’ll get it. I keep my ear to the ground during the festival and hear what people are saying, talk to the crew and they’ll tell me who the bands to check out are.  If it wasn’t on my list I make sure I go and check out what’s happening over there.  And also, working with the Soundwave team I have people texting me saying you’ve got to get over here because someone’s doing this. Like when Jake from Strung Out got married on stage I had people texting me: ‘get over here, he’s getting married on stage – by Greg from Bad Religion!’ . I have the hook ups in that sense too, I suppose.

100%: I was going to ask; do you go into a festival with a checklist of the shots you’re looking for, or do you prefer to operate on feel and instinct and stuff?

Not really a checklist. I know for the festival, they want to see some nice big ambient scenes, crowd shots and things, so I’m always looking out for a good position and a good angle to get the ‘size of the festival’ photo. But yeah, picture wise not really. I mean you get a sense of during the festival there will be a photo, you know, someone will do something and I’ll be shooting their set and if I miss it, it’s like oh no, now I’ve got to try and get that, see if they do that again. It’s more I suppose over the course of the first two festivals I get a sort of mental checklist going, alright, got to go and try and get that photo, this band has a really nuts crowd so I better come back and get them. I suppose it forms over time but I don’t necessarily have a checklist saying right, I want to get this guy jumping off this or whatever. When you start thinking like that you become boring. You’d just be ticking boxes!

100%: Being the festival’s official photographer you have a pretty unique angle on things, both literally as well as artistically. You’re able to get shots from the stage that offer that really unique angle. Are most bands cool with you being in “their space”?

It depends. I would never shoot bands side of stage without asking. To me that’s a respect thing. I don’t want to shoot someone if they don’t want to be shot like that, so I always liaise with the tour manager and just introduce myself or introduce myself to the band and say hey, I’m the official photographer, do you mind if I take some side of stage stuff. For the bigger bands obviously that becomes a bit harder because you’ve got to go through management. Different bands are different things. Some people don’t care, other people you have to go through a more official capacity.

Kanye Lens vs Soundwave cover

100%: But you don’t want to end up getting tossed head first off the stage, do you?

No, not all, and you know, it’s not about me taking the photos; it’s about an artist performing in their space to a crowd. So it’s their decision and hopefully over the course of the festival they may change that. And that happened with Limp Bizkit last year. They weren’t having any photographers and then they found out about me and we had a conversation and they were fine with it.

100%: So being the official photographer you’ve obviously got a huge responsibility at such a large event like this. Do you get to enjoy the show still or is it kind of a stressed work environment for you?

It’s more my personality than the job itself, but I sort of take it quite seriously and I want to get the best possible pictures I can. I do put a lot of pressure on myself and I do get a little bit stressed, especially for the first 2 festivals. But by the time you’re getting to Adelaide and Perth I’m starting to relax a little bit because I sort of know what I’ve got and hopefully I’m nailing everything and I’m getting the pictures that I’m happy with. On long days I generally just don’t watch too many bands because by the end of the day I have to get going and start editing whereas if I was out watching a band, that’s another hour and a half that I’m not going to get any sleep.

100%: Sure. So what’s the Holy Grail for you? When you’re out there in the sun, you’re surrounded by thousands of people, they’re getting high on the music, some of them getting drunk, some of them are hooking up with chicks and boys, and getting sun burned and all that; what’s the Holy Grail for you to capture?

Just moments. Just hoping to be in the right place at the right time where someone does something, whether it’s someone jumping up and crowd surfing, or it’s a band doing something, or it’s… just someone having a moment in the crowd. I’ve got someone… ummm – I can’t think of a particular  photo in that book, but – oh yeah, there is one, there’s a guy in the front row of Iron Maiden, and just the way the lighting has come down and he’s really into the music and the way the lighting was just falling on him in that, you can’t stage that, it just happened. It’s just moments. Moments that probably won’t happen again.

100%: Awesome. What advice can you offer to photographers who are just starting out?

It’s a very, very tough [business]… its relatively easy to get photographs – just go to your local shows and start taking photos and then once you’ve got something to show you can start approaching the online websites and things like that. It’s actually quite easy to get access to a photo pass, but to make a career out of it, to make money to pay your rent, that’s the tough one because there’s just not that many paid positions around. If it’s something you really want to do and you’re really passionate, you’re more passionate than the guy you’re shooting next to in the pit, then you will eventually get there. But in the meantime don’t put all your eggs into one basket of live music photography. You’re going to need to spread your risk out and make some money doing some other things. Do some band portraiture or shoot some weddings on the side and do your live music thing… it’s really tough to get into. And Australia is just so small in live music, you know, we’re just small. It’s not like America where there’s more, not just more people but more opportunities and bigger budgets and bigger bands.

100%: Sure. Sounds like good advice. What is it that makes Soundwave the best festival in Australia?

The fans. Heavy music fans, whether its rock or metal or hardcore, they’re so passionate about the bands and their music. It’s not really… they consider music their whole life so it’s not that thing where you go to some of the other festivals and a band will be big one year and then never heard of again.  It’s just the passion. Metal fans will just keep coming back and keep supporting their favourite bands, and those bands have long careers and it’s the community that surrounds it. So as long as Soundwave fans keep supporting the bands and the bands keep coming out, then Soundwave will keep going.

100%: So does a great show musically necessarily mean a great show to shoot?

No. I mean… after I’ve gone and shot someone’s set, if you ask me ‘how were they?’ musically I couldn’t tell you.  Well… I might get a sense of how the crowd was responding, but I’m just thinking visually when I’m shooting. So as long as they’re jumping around and I’m getting great photos, that to me is a great show. But whether they played well, sung well, played a good set, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.

100%: If you could magically go back in time and shoot anyone in history, who would you choose?

Oh I’d love to be around Nirvana when they were doing Bleach, and when they released Nevermind. Still playing those small shows where crowd surfing was new. I can just imagine the photos you could get.

100%: The images I’ve seen from that period are just nihilistic and insane.

There’s a photo that’s in the Bleach artwork and its Kurt throwing himself into the drum kit. The energy in those shows would have been incredible. It was something a lot of people had never seen before.   That would have been exciting to photo.

100%: Absolutely.  Where did your professional name, Kanye Lens, where did that come from?

That was just a joke years and years ago I was doing some touring with the Getaway Plan and their guitarist, Clint Splattering, was messing around and he just came up with this ‘Kanye Lens’ tag and I don’t even remember what context he was saying it, but he sort of said it and it stuck. So yeah, it just stuck in the music photography community so after a while I just thought that’s kind of cool I’m sort of into it, so I started using it.

100%: Cool. So finally mate, what for you is the meaning of life?

Meaning of life? Jeez, that’s an easy one.

100%: Yeah, we’re pretty simplistic at 100% Rock Magazine.

I think the meaning of life is doing something you love. Whether you get paid for it or you don’t, you have to do something with your life. Sometimes you might have to do things that you don’t enjoy, like your day job, but as long as you have a passion that gets you through that day job so you can go out and do something else, whatever it is, then that’s the meaning of life. You have to enjoy it. And find something that makes you enjoy the day.

100%: Awesome mate. Good luck with the book and I’m sure we’ll see you wandering around looking through the lens at Soundwave in Perth.

No worries, thank you very much for the interview.

100%: Cheers buddy.

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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