Legendary rock photographer Mark "Weissguy" Weiss has seen and done it all in a career that has now spanned over 40 years. From skipping his high school prom to go shoot the mighty Led Zeppelin, hitching a ride with Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Skid Row, and Ozzy to the Moscow Music Peace Festival and even being the guy called on to take photos for the legendary Hear n Aid sessions, Mark has done and seen it all.
We had the opportunity to talk with Mark about his amazing new book "The Decade That Rocked" and discuss what it was like working and hanging with so many incredible artists over the years.
HBH: First off the new book is amazing! There are so many iconic shots. I believe I had half of these pictures hanging on my walls at some point throughout my youth. Tell us about the book and how you got started shooting bands.
Mark: The book represents my life work from 1974 when I got my first camera to 1990 where I cap it. I still photograph a lot of these bands, other bands too but I felt that decade established me as a photographer and I felt there was a good body of work there, and it kinda shows the visual history of those times. It's almost like a history book visually. It helps show that decade to a generation who are just learning about them. A lot of fans that are into that music really have no idea what went on, they see photos splashing here and there all over the internet but they don't have a comprehensive, they can't have a comprehensive take on it because it's all over the place.
So if you look at my book it starts in 1980 really the early years are 1974-80s Peter Frampton, Kiss, Aerosmith it shows how I got to where I am. The book is really about that decade. If you go year by year it will really show these new people on how the image developed and the stories behind them and the album covers that definitely shaped the decade.
HBH: You did the album cover shoot for one of the most iconic album covers of the 80's Twisted Sisters "Stay Hungry". In the book, you talk about how the original concept was a bit different from what we ended up with.
Mark: It's funny how things work out, and they don't work out in that case they didn't work out. The set I built wasn't big enough to hold ten people, and I had a certain budget and we didn't have photoshop where we could move things around after we got it and make it appear something. After you got the photo you had to deal with it. The idea for the original cover was to have the band that was the back cover which was them in street clothes in this dingy hideaway, and then have the band in full costume looking over them. They actually released an album called "Still Hungry" like one of thier anniversary and they actually put it together as it should've been because now there's photoshop and it's a lot easier. It doesn't look as good and wasn't really executed great. It looked like what it should've looked like and what we designed it to, but if you look at the original cover and the "Still hungry" cover what it was intended to be it doesn't really compete with that one image of Dee with the bone. That one photo was the iconic image.
HBH: Touching on some of the crazier photos, that I'm sure almost everyone reading this has seen at one point or another. Ozzy in drag with members of Motley Crue from the "Bark at the Moon" - "Shout at the Devil" tour. Ozzy has some of craziest moments in the book. When shooting him is he pretty much just up for anything?
Mark: Yeah, pretty much. After I put him in the tutu, well he put himself in the tutu as a joke. Months before that we had done a cover for Faces called Diary of a Madhouse wife. A take-off of "Diary of a Madman". We did that cover of him in curlers, and there are pictures in the book of him ironing Amy it was a whole set up. So when that tour started with Motley Crue opening up, I brought the issue with me and you can see in the book one photo of Tommy Aldrige holding that magazine and Ozzy sitting there in drag. How that happened was I was on the Motley Crue tour bus and Tommy Lee was putting one of his trophies away from the night before. They had this like trophy case where they put all the lingerie or whatever was leftover from any of the girls from the night before. I came up with the idea, I asked could borrow some of that? He looked at me like huh …ok. I told him I had an idea to do something with Ozzy. Ozzy just put it on and Vince and Tommy came over to watch and I told them to come on over and I'll take a few photos. And both of those made it into the book, the back cover is Ozzy and Tommy and there's one of Ozzy holding up Vince. We just kept doing fun stuff like that. Another one was the Easter Bunny outfit and I did this one shot of him and a Ziggy doll with a knife through his head and blood coming out. I always like to use props and do things and not with just him, but with other people but he took to it a lot more.
HBH: Yeah, it seems like his photos he's all in and had no worries in the world.
HBH: One of the biggest events for the metal community in the 80's was the Moscow Music Peace Festival. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Mark: Well, that was a no brainer you know, I was working with Doc Mcghee, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue all those guys were my buddies. Doc is the one that asked me to go. We had gone a year before when it was in the wintertime when we first met so I documented that. When it finally came off we knew it was gonna be huge and I just had to be there. I was the official photographer. I went on the plane with them, was at rehearsals, soundcheck, I could pretty much go anywhere and grab the images I needed.
HBH: What were some of the differences from being in Russia at the time compared to how things were in America?
Mark: It was fine nothing crazy, some of the hotels were kind of third-world they weren't great. It was one big party. It was supposed to be about being sober but that didn't happen.
HBH: So Motley were the only ones sober at the time?
Mark: Yeah, they were at the front of the plane and everyone else was getting crazy and they were the only ones that were kinda sober.
HBH: Your wedding party had a lot to do with Sebastian Bach ending up Skid Row?
Mark: Yeah, well I had invited a lot of people to my wedding and I had shot Madam X a few months earlier, and I had my secretary invite them. I didn't think they would show up, but they came. They stayed over for a couple of nights and we ended up hanging out for a few days before the wedding and got to know each other. At the end of the wedding Sebastian and Zakk Wylde went on stage , who I had introduced to Ozzy a few months earlier. So Zakk and his girlfriend, now wife Barbranne came to the wedding and all us long hairs hung out. At the end of the evening they went up on stage and used the wedding bands gear and started jamming a few songs. They did "Bang Your Head" with Kevin DuBrow. I just saw a video of it, I'm probably gonna post it this weekend for the first time of Sebastian, Zakk, Kevin and Madam X playing at my wedding.
HBH: Wow, I've never seen that.
Mark: Yeah, nobody has. It's been thirty-plus years and I just transferred that over. I have that live stream Saturday so you can tune in and see that. Zakk gonna be on with a lot of other people.
So back to Sebastian he played at the wedding and Jon Bon Jovi's parents were there and he was talking with them and the best man at my wedding Dave Fell was friends with Snake from Skid Row, and Snake used to come to the photoshoots that I did with Jon so Dave just put them all together and they exchanged tapes and the rest is kind of history.
HBH: On working with Quiet Riot during the "Metal Health" years and the famous graffiti shots of the band.
Mark: In 1983 I shot them at the US Festival, I didn't really know anything about them but I liked them and they had just started taking off. Then they played Madison Square Garden I think they opened up for Black Sabbath and I arranged a photoshoot because they were really starting to take off. It was in October I believe. Frankie had this idea to do this shoot with painting the background in all this graffiti "Bang Your Head" and all that. They needed a single sleeve so we kinda came up with that and they used it as their single sleeve, posters, promo, and all that. The record company wanted the band to have an identity because up until then it was just that mask on the cover, so that photo really help give them an identity. And then we became best friends anytime I went to L.A. and he was on tour, he would give me keys to his mansion and I would stay there and do whatever I wanted. When he was home we would hang out and on the road, we would hang out. I just kept getting them in different magazines. Obviously, if you look at some of the pictures Kevin really let his guard down to me.
HBH: I remember when that issue came out with Kevin on the cover tied upped and gaged.
Mark: Yeah, because a lot of people didn't like him, because he had a big mouth but he just likes to speak his mind you know. Whenever I went to L.A. my friends and other bands would ask me where I was staying? I would say at Kevin DuBrow's house and they would look at me like I was from Mars. I'd be like dude, I like him. And they would be like yeah, but tell him to shut the fuck up. But that was just the way he was whether he had a big hit or he didn't. He just couldn't stop talking.
HBH: You also shot the cover of Cinderella's "Night Songs". We have a mutual friend who wanted to know what you meant by shooting day for night? Can you explain what you do?
Mark: Yeah, well basically it's daylight. I wanted to do it in daylight because it's easier and I just didn't want to do it at night. You have more control during the day and it's called "Night Songs" so it had to look like it was at night. If the background is bright and it's light outside the flash throws so much light out that it makes the background go darker, it's like ten times stronger depending on how you set the settings. It's much stronger then the light in the back so if the front is stronger the back is gonna go dark. So that's where I shoot. I don't even remember saying that, but he said that in an interview and I thought that was funny.
HBH: We covered a ton of topics that we didn't get a chance to include in this interview. Keep an eye out for part two of the Mark Weiss interview where we talk about Hear n Aid, Dio, Badlands and more. Thanks for your time Mark and good luck with "The Decade That Rocked".
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Saturday May 30th 7pmEST. Watch here on Saturday.