Behind the music -- Danny Clinch catches Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, and Thom Yorke napping and writing

Danny Clinch has shot seemingly every musician under the sun, from Jay-Z to Bruce Springsteen. The photographer gives us a guided tour through his very rockin’ archives.

Seattle, 1997
Thom was crashed out in the back of the bus with his backpack and guitar while Radiohead were on tour in the Pacific Northwest. He had played for, like, an hour before this nap and I was just cruising along for the ride. The band’s guitarist Jonny Greenwood and I really connected on a love of the blues, and there were a couple of occasions where the band would come to my loft in New York City and we’d sit around and jam. Thom would play guitar and sing, I would play harmonica, and Jonny would bang on a little keyboard that I got for five bucks at a flea market.

New York City, 2007
I was shooting a six-page cover story on Jay-Z. It was one of the few jobs that I shot digitally, and so I have the time code — 12 minutes from the minute he walked in to the last shot. I photographed him through the shape of the microphone spit guard. We took the screen out and just hung some microphones up, and the picture looks like a classic Blue Note Records album cover.

Seattle, 2006
I was shooting a video with Pearl Jam for the single ”World Wide Suicide” and there was downtime, so Ed asked me to come to the studio; the band was wrapping up for the night and he wanted to play the record for me. He cued up the first song and then stopped it and asked me to wait a minute. Then he gathers all these handwritten lyrics and puts the stack in front of me and says, ”Now we can listen.” And I’m thinking, Eddie Vedder wrote these songs with a pen and paper! It’s cool to be Danny Clinch right now.

Los Angeles, 2005
This was at the music prom, also known as the Grammys, when they won for Van Lear Rose. I took the awards away from them so I could get this picture. Jack was really sweet and respectful of her, he helped her sit down, and I could tell he was honored to work with her. She was also lovely, until I called her Tammy Wynette.

Minneapolis, 2005
Bruce was by himself backstage before a show, and we were hanging out while he was writing a set list. I have one of those open relationships with him where he’ll give me the nod that it’s okay to take a picture and capture a great moment. He likes to take photos too. I went to one of his wife Patti Scialfa’s shows where Bruce was playing harmonica in her band. And at one point he pulled out his camera and was going around shooting pictures of the band and I was like, ”Uh, dude, come on, you know?”

Nashville, 2005
I was supposed to get an hour with him at his hotel while he was working on Jonathan Demme’s film Heart of Gold. Then I was told I was only going to get a half hour. So I looked in the want ads and found a black 1948 Cadillac for sale and talked the owner into bringing it over to the hotel. I told Neil my plan to drive over to the Ryman Auditorium, which was about six blocks away. Neil’s tour manager asked if we could skip the ride because they were running behind schedule. Neil looked at him and said, ”Eric, we’re driving the car.”

New York City, 2003
I had just finished a shoot with him at his place and he was going off to the recording studio, and as he hailed a cab everything was tumbling and falling off of him as he tried to hold on to his four-track recorder thing. So rather than help him, I took photos.

Los Angeles, 2006
Like the Jack and Loretta one, I took this at the Grammys. Of course, I photograph everyone with their Grammy because the Grammy police are there. Then, at the end, if the person’s got enough time, I try to get a portrait of them without the Grammy. The thing I remember, and I think I’m being truthful about this, is that Beyoncé came back and her publicist told me ”she doesn’t really want to do anything else — but she wants to have her picture taken by you.” I tried to keep it really simple and elegant. She is as beautiful and cool a person as you will find.

— Danny Clinch (as told to Michele Romero)