I had to get into my dad’s old email account to get into my old email account so I could get into my MySpace account. But it was a lot of work for good reason — for this photograph of Mineral’s Christopher Simpson, snapped December 6, 2007 at The Beat Kitchen in Chicago. Today, several hours ago, mumblings of something new from Mineral started popping up on the band’s official website. That the band has properties, such as a non-Wordpress website with a custom URL, and branded social media accounts, says enough. The “new” logo for the group? Says a little more.
More on this photo. It was taken around 2 a.m. Simpson had just performed a set with his group from Austin, TX, Zookeeper, a band that never really built the same traction as his other two (The Gloria Record being the middle child). I had just interviewed him for the website I wrote for at the time — I was 20 years old and pitching to media for interviews, photo shoots, everything… I impress myself when I look back at it. More impressive was that this was my first interview for those guys, and I felt I had a lot to prove for some reason. Which of course means everything leading up to this moment featured here is more emotional and more difficult than it ever needs to be.
The show was a weekday show, in the middle of the week, in the first week of December, which typically is a snowbound, if not blizzard-y nightmare for northern Illinois. I was stuck at Northern Illinois, some 70 miles from where I needed to be. Thankfully, a Greyhound station was at the local fast food joint, so I was able to skip class just as the big flakes started to fall, around 1. (I went to class, told my Spanish professor I was leaving, and I left. That’s just the way Derek does things.) Less thankfully, the snow falling impeded my travel time greatly, and my bus was delayed three or four hours. I didn’t get on the road till 8, and that’s when the show was supposed to start. I got off at 9:30, looked around at the TV and saw that Omaha mall shooting (which felt eerie to see something so big on the news at a time my mind as sponge-like and absorbing everything to be played back as a memory), then hopped in a cab to the venue. I got there at 10, and you know what? I was among the first ones there, if not the first. I was early.
Turns out, weather works both ways, and all the bands were stuck. I got to chill, though I was more anxious than anything, since I had my interview ready and my photos to take. I was so primed for this, too. I had to get up front and center, I had to hear certain songs, I had to have my way for this. Control freak logic or perfectionist fringe, I don’t know, but I wanted to prove myself. After the first few bands file in, I helped set up the merch tables, because why not. Bands got to go on and there were maybe 30 people in that room, some from as far as Milwaukee — which, in blizzard terms, is like a four-hour drive. Good on them.
I was so nervous waiting for the band to get there. Minutes ticked past, and eventually, midnight hit. Still nothing. They were on their way, management said. They’d be here and they’d play for us. They didn’t have to. They shouldn’t have. But they did anyway. Simpson and his bandmates walked in around 12:30 in the morning and immediately started playing. Just came in through the side doors and started right into their first song. From there, for the next 70 minutes or so, I was in a fog. Their performance amazed me. There was this aura surrounding the band the entire time, and I was just so into every song, even if I sort of wish they were different songs. Somehow, for some reason, just seeing the same guy was enough.
The band got off around 1:30, maybe 1:45, and I felt like my interview would either be cut short or cut altogether. Maybe I’d get a photo of him in, and package that with the pictures I took while they were on stage, along with the set list. But Simpson said nuts to that, and he insisted we sit down and run through all the questions I had typed out, including the embarrassing questions fans aren’t supposed to ask but do when their idols tell them to. It was a cute, fun 25-minute interview, and he was so spirited, so funny, so full of life and character. What got me, though, was how professional he was. The venue kept nudging me to wrap things up, to push my underage self out the door, but Simpson kept me close and backed off anybody who got near, telling them he was doing an interview or that he was busy. For some dumb 20-year-old kid, this is nuts. But then, there’s this photo.
I’ve never been much a photographer, so I was elated when I bought my first digital SLR in 2007, prior to a family trip to San Francisco. It was (and is) a Canon Rebel with a stock lens, but it got the job done at the time. Most of the concert photos I took during this time didn’t look very good at all, at least compared to what I can turn now, with better lenses and more experience. I felt bad asking Simpson to pose for a photo, too, like, who was I? Was it my place to do that, as a kid with a recorder? But again, he insisted. His girlfriend, or maybe his female friend, she was there with him and she was just having fun the whole time. She egged him on and he was doing little poses for her, trying to make her laugh. All the while focusing on the task at hand. Granted, he was drunk by this point, and was just having fun, and he got kind of huggy and grabby toward the end of the picture-taking experience, but for some reason, I was cool with it. Guy was just wasted on life and it happened to coincide with the time I needed to interview him and photograph him.
I sound like a goon even posting this, but the material he gave me was fucking phenomenal. Hell of a way to start my rock journalist career, but more than that, it was a very emotional moment for me, personally. It was the one time he had played Chicago in a decade, and I still had a strange attachment to that genre of music he helped define. Seeing him, photographing him, talking to him, experiencing a moment with him, being somebody to him that is worthy of his respect — enough so to use that photo I took of him, with full credit — means the world to me. That is what I strive for in life. And Chris Simpson helped me understand that.
For further evidence of my goon status, here’s a picture of me, wearing a Mineral shirt, standing next to the guy from Mineral at that show. I still have the shirt.