After a perfectly sunny & early morning start, I recently arrived for a day's shoot at a glorious 20 room Edwardian manor house set in deep, dark West Sussex. The house is home to Curtis Schwartz's recording studio and the shoot was to capture Mitch Dalton & The Studio Kings in all their glory for an up and coming album release; both for formal album cover artwork and informally for a media friendly press package. Mitch Dalton & The Studio Kings are a true 'super group' but not in a household name kind of way, as these guys normally play for and with other world renowned artists.
The 'Kings creator and writer is one of the most revered session guitarists in the business. For 35 years, Mitch has played with the best - from Herbie Hancock and Ella Fitzgerald, to Peggy Lee, Abdullah Ibrahim, Wayne Shorter and Melody Gardot. He's also featured on a diverse and long list of film soundtracks from Twilight, Chicago and Fantastic Mr Fox to the last 5 James Bond films!
The 3 other Studio Kings are just as mighty; on keyboards (and arranger par excellence) is David Arch, the musical director of Strictly Come Dancing and featured pianist on The King's Speech. On Bass duty is the funkateer Steve Pearce, who has accompanied an endless roll call of artists from Madonna, Van Morrison and Joss Stone to Take That, Stevie Wonder and George Michael. And finally, in the drummer's hotseat is Ian Thomas, first-call choice of Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Sting, Mark Knopfler and Jeff Beck. Serious dudes.
The album cover is a highly stylised take on early 1960's album artwork normally showing groups' members posing in various ways to simulate a recording session. Suited up and using a windowed studio acoustic panel, I photographed the Studio Kings as a group and then on an individual basis.
I love shooting on location, as one has to think a little out of the box because locations rarely offer the convenience of photography studio. In preparation, I took a couple of 100x75mm softboxes, a beauty dish and a range of grids and reflectors to control the light (to be honest this mixed combo travels really easily and copes with most small group situations).
Upon arrival, it was immediately clear that the kitsch orange velour curtains hanging in one of the recording rooms would work as the back drop. Couple this with some re-positioning of the studio's heavy duty acoustic screens and hey presto, a perfectly framed series of portraits was up for grabs!
The only 2 tricky obstacles was firstly to shield all other stray light sources around the studio (mixture of day and various artificial light) and then to get one of the softbox's positioned high enough so not to reflect on the pane of glass that I was shooting through. Normally a purpose built photography studio has high enough ceilings but the restrains of an Edwardian manor house presented a tuff challenge to get the softbox jammed high enough 'into' the ceiling void. Success prevailed.
After several hours of recording time (whereby I shot some candid images of their 'album in progress') all 4 'Kings donned their attire and stepped into the booth.
You'll see the formal results once the album's release is confirmed and promotion starts.