About Last Night: Brad Elterman Book Launch
When I arrived at Milk Studios LA to interview Brad Elterman, I found him doing what he does best: photographing rock n’ rollers. Even though it was right before the launch of Brad’s latest book, No Dogs On Beach, he was shooting pics of The Buttertones, a Los Angeles-based, 60’s influenced pysch-surf-post-punk ensemble.
It was safe to say the post-shoot, book launch event was a total success. The vibe was cool and laid-back, and the place was crawling with beautiful people, young models and up-and-coming musicians. It was a veritable rock n’ roll party. Old rock classics floated through the night sky, as attendees like Arvida Byström, the members of Cherry Glazerr, and model Bradley Soileau drank Stellas and Peronis and danced like there was no tomorrow. It felt like everyone was welcome. Outside of the cavernous building entrance, which felt like home last night, there was an In-N-Out truck taking orders and delivering the tasty burgers that make the California based fast food chain the stuff of legends.
Projected over the foyer were some of the photographs in Brad’s book, a book filled with honest portraits of rock n’ roll icons like Joan Jett. “A real muse,” said Elterman of the ex-Runaway. “She was incredibly charismatic — she had this walk and strut about her — and she had longevity.”
Also in the book you can see cozy glimpses of classic stars, like Bob Dylan, Blondie, Matt Dillon, Olivia Newton-John, and new musicians, like Cherry Glazerr, Tyler the Creator, and Brooke Candy. “I enjoy their music and they kind of get a kick about what I did back in the day,” explained Elterman. “What was Joan Jett like? Did you really photograph Bryan Ferry that one time and what was that all about? So I thrive on that. I love telling the stories ‘til I’m blue in the face.” In between photographs of musicians, there are also photographs of beautiful women like Chelsea Schuchman, a model, actress, friend and Brad’s current muse.
Brad’s book feels more like a ‘zine than a coffee table book, with a glossy paperback cover featuring the French musician Soko in a candid moment standing in a street in LA. That is the magical thing about Brad’s photographs; they are “the private backstage moments” of rock ‘n’ roll idols. The behind-the-scenes snapshots make the stars accessible to the fans, showing a side of them that they had not seen before. Rising to fame in the late 70s music scene, Brad pioneered a new style of music photography. He was among the first to take casual looking photographs of the biggest names in rock n’ roll; snapping pictures of big stars backstage, on the road, lounging in motels, at parties and never having any of it seem posed. It feels like he was just a guy taking photographs of his friends; except his friends were stars like David Bowie.
“These young cool bands keep me alive, they keep me going,” said Brad about the new and current musicians he has been able to keep photographing after all these years. Even at his own event he can’t stop praising his musician friends. About The Buttertones, he says “ not only does this band have great music, and are incredibly stylish, their music is very unique… they could be in a David Lynch soundtrack. I say that with sincerity.”
At 9:00 pm, The Buttertones come out on stage and play for the crowd. The set is filled with young rock ‘n’ roll vitality, although their sound is nothing but seasoned and mature. Filled with incredible riffs and melodic changes, their hooks are driven by Richard’s deep vocals, Cobi’s strange and unique drum bits, Dakota on guitar and Sean on a psychedelic bass, with clips of London’s fun-loving sax. And the crowd goes wild. It sounds like what an acid-head greaser would be into. At one point every band member thanks Brad for the opportunity, and you can tell they have a really great connection. “Look at that guy. He is beautiful,” a band member said while pointing at Brad. “Brad has done us well, he has really, really done so much for us, with no reason to.” And you can sense the earnest appreciation in their voice.
Brad was beaming as he watched from the front row. Even at his own event he never put down his camera, so filled with energy he spent all night running around, saying hello, and making introductions. “It’s a bit surreal, I have to take pictures for Purple Diary, I have to, it’s a mission!” He says in between laughter, “I am having the time of my life.” At the end of the night Clementine Creevy from Cherry Glazerr referred to Brad as “the sage of rock ‘n’ roll,” and it’s hard to disagree.
Photos by Brad Elterman, Eddie Chacon, and Adam Kryzer
Watch out for The Buttertones new self-released LP American Brunch coming out this month, and be sure to buy Brad’s book, published by Bywater Bros. Editions and Smoke Room.