Musicians are barely getting a slice of music industry revenue, largely eating off of live performances instead. For ’Tour Tales,’ we dig into the rider requests, delayed shows, diligent preparation, and future of touring by talking with the multitude of people that move behind the scenes. Record executives, photographers, tour managers, artists, and more all break down what goes into touring and why it’s still so vital to the livelihood of your favorite artists. What happens on tour stays on ‘Tour Tales.’
Twenty-five-year-old photographer Jordan “Wozy” Wozniak was Machine Gun Kelly’s photographer for three years and captured enough antics for a lifetime. He learned quickly that when you’re trying to capture a moment in the rapper’s life, that moment can go from 0 to 100 in an instant.
“He licked some fire onstage. They had rehearsals before for safety precautions. I don’t think anybody knew he was going to go up and lick the flames,” Wozy told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” Machine Gun Kelly’s photographer talks about the artist’s career, trying to shoot photos in a mosh pit, and how Coronavirus affected his business. Check out the interview below!
How did you first link up with Machine Gun Kelly?
I met him back in 2017. He needed somebody for a radio show down in the San Diego area. It was the first day his album Bloom dropped, so one of my buddies contacted me and asked if I wanted to link with him that day. I’m from Indiana, [Kelly] is from Ohio, so obviously there’s a midwest connection. So, I went ahead and did the radio show with him. He came out of his house with this big bouquet of flowers and said, “Get ready to take a photo of me.” I took a photo of him, he ended up liking it, and from there on, we had a radio show the next day which I linked with him on... After that, he asked me if I wanted to shoot a music video the next weekend in Vegas. From there, my life changed in three weekends.
What was the first tour you shot him on?
The first tour was really a festival run we did over in Europe. I was with him in Europe for six months and basically the whole summer. We came back home for a month or two and then went back over for his “27 Tour,” which was for his Bloom album.
What do you know now about photographing MGK onstage that you didn’t know before?
Always be ready (laughs). I’ve done hundreds of shows with him, so now I have a general idea of these things he does on each song. He’ll throw a curveball every now and then. He’ll jump in the crowd or climb or something. He may smoke a joint and do something crazy with it. You have to always be ready for a curveball based on whatever mood he’s feeling at that time. I also had to learn photo and video at the same time. Now, I’ll be shooting video and photo at the same time to make sure I capture everything.
Did I see MGK lick fire in one of your photos?
Yeah, there are these girls called the Psycho Dolls in Warsaw, Poland. Both times we went to Europe, they came out. There are these girls who are fire spinners and twirlers. He pushed it to the limit and let them do their thing. He licked some fire onstage. They had rehearsals before for safety precautions. I don’t think anybody knew he was going to go up and lick the flames (laughs). You just have to be at the right place, right time and know his movements. That was actually my last tour with him, so at that point, we were very in sync.
MGK shows are very energetic. What are his rehearsals like?
From when I first started to now, the production in his rehearsals alone has got bigger. The first tour had a couple of set pieces and a flower microphone. From there, it evolved into a snake microphone and LED screens on the stage. On the last tour, he was coming through an elevator. Basically, the rehearsals have his setlist and they would go through where he’d be at certain times and what songs he’ll be playing guitar.
Does he have a say in the photos you shoot?
He definitely has a preference for what he likes. He loves when he can see the sweat dripping down his face; the emotion. He loves up-close photos. That’s something I learned when I started with him. I take photos my way, and figured pretty quickly what he likes and doesn’t like. He’d definitely give me feedback.
What are some surprising things you’ve had to do in order to get photos at a show?
There were a lot of moments where I’ve had to run from point A to point B pretty quickly. One in particular that sticks out is when he would jump in the crowd and perform one of his songs. He would basically mosh pit with them. One day, I decided I would jump in with him. Once I got in the crowd, and everyone was pushing me around, I decided this wasn’t a good idea. So, I immediately had to push through the entire crowd, run through the backstage, get on the stage, and still get the shot. I’ve had to jump off speakers and chase him around.
What was the most memorable fan reaction you’ve shot?
In Brixton, we were supposed to go on tour with Linkin Park and it was right after Chester Bennington died. Machine Gun Kelly did a “Numb” cover on the Europe tour. He was in the front, right next to the crowd, and every person was crying with their hands out.
You two have some cool moments together. Didn’t you climb the Great Wall of China with him?
Yeah, that was pretty fun. We did an Asia run and we were in China. We had an opportunity on an off-day to take a trip to the Great Wall. That’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. We did it and it was pretty awesome. We were only there for an hour, but it was cool. We got to take a ski lift up to the wall and took these little slide things down to the bottom. Then, we had to drive back to make our flight (laughs). We’ve had a lot of close calls.
What is his personality like?
It’s different every day. With tours, you’re traveling so much that it can be that some days, you’re excited and happy, and other days we may be a little quieter. For the most part, he’s the one always trying to cause the fun. He gets bored, so he likes to mess with people, especially his drummer. He’d jump out and scare him, throw water bottles...
Who are some people you’ve seen show love to MGK?
Pete Davidson is like one of his best friends. Ryan Sheckler has come through a lot. There have been athletes like Patrick Mahomes. It varies.
How has Coronavirus affected you photographing live shows?
I’ve sort of stepped away from the tour life and dove more into the music video realm. It’s affected me in the sense that record labels are sort of shutting down. There may not be shows, but there really isn’t a place for me to create. It’s affecting everyone in the music industry.