A fellow Queens, NY native, MArk X Miller is a photographer/musician who has been part of the hardcore scene since the '90s. Currently fronting the band Black X, MArk has also been keeping busy with HMNI Fanzine Podcast, a show where he interviews key figures from the Buffalo underground scene. The podcast's name comes from Hello My Name Is, a zine he did back in the '90s. He's in the process of digitizing every issue of the zine, so stay tuned for that.
Today, I'm chatting with MArk as part of the site's Photographer Spotlight series.
Where were you born and raised, and where are you based these days?
I was born in Flushing, Queens, NY. Right now, I live in Buffalo, NY. I came here for college and never left.
What came first, your love for music, or your love for photography?
My love for music. I've been through a few different phases. My love for popular music in the '80s, then my late '80s hip-hop phase then my "alternative" phase. Hardcore is my last "phase." When I first heard it, it truly spoke to me and has been speaking to me for the last 20 some odd years. I discovered photography after I got into hardcore. I guess I saw some kids with cameras at shows and felt inspired to shoot. I used disposables for a while then bought a Minolta Freedom Zoom point and shoot right before I went to the More Than Music fest in 1995. I didn't get a whole lot of pictures of the bands that weekend it seemed like I was more concerned with shooting pics of the new friends I was making than the bands, but I still enjoyed the time and the memories.
How did you discover hardcore?
I discovered hardcore through my best friend in High school. His brother played bass in Citizens Arrest. We didn't really talk much about hardcore and I don't think he was into it, but it definitely planted a seed in me. The fire was lit though a bunch of people I actually met in college. I was into alternative and industrial music at the time I met some dudes at this punk house in buffalo called "Headquarters." Those guys hooked me up with a lot of stuff, and they were more into "old school" fast stuff. There was this dude, Ken Schardt, who was into a lot of that stuff, but he was also into post-hardcore and emo, as it existed back then, and he showed me there was more to it than the old school.
Who were some of the photographers you looked up to during your formative years? Were there any music-related photographers you followed?
Theres only one photographer I admire and follow and that's Glen E. Friedman. I was never really a fan of photography at large, but Glen was shooting most of the things I was interested in, so I naturally gravitated towards his work.
What is your camera and post set up?
I shoot Canon. I have a 5D3 right now and I have the normal stuff like the 16-35 24-70 70-200. I shoot weddings so that probably the main reason I have all the equipment. When I shoot shows I mainly is the 16-35 and the 24-70 because I'm usually right up close near the stage.
Who are some of your favorite bands to shoot?
Today? Definitely Terror. Few bands bring it live like they do. A lot of shows are boring these days and don't have a lot of crowd movement and participation but Terror shows definitely do. There's a band from here that just broke up called Gas Chamber. They were always a treat to shoot because of their sheer intensity. They were one of the most unique hardcore bands of the last few years.
If you could go back in time, who are some bands that you would have loved to shoot?
Of course Minor Threat, and I never got to shoot Fugazi, even though I saw them live. I wish I could have shot the Youth of Today lineup that was Ray, Porcell, Craig Ahead, Mike Judge, and Richie Birkenhead.
What are the toughest aspects to shooting hardcore shows?
The toughest aspect of shooting hardcore is basically being amongst a rowdy crowd shooting with very expensive equipment. Sometimes I'm on stage but on the floor has always been the best vantage point for me.
Tell me about some bands that we should all be on the lookout for.
My band, Black X [laughs]. For real though, I love Fury, but they're a known commodity at this point. There's a new up and coming edge band from here in Buffalo called Clear Focus that young energetic and edge...they're great kids to boot.
Who are some modern-day photographers that you admire?
I don't follow too many photographers. I mean, I see their work, but admiration is a whole different animal. One photographer who existed back in the day, but is still chugging along, is Greg Straight Edge. he taught me a whole lot about photography back in the day and still continues to influence me. He doesn't shoot a whole lot of shows these days but he actually serving a higher purpose now. He's trying to build a farm sanctuary in Black Mountain, NC, and he's been rescuing all kinds of animals as long as I've known him. He captures a lot of that work with his camera these days. I admire him for photography and for the fact that he's doing a lot of the stuff people talked about back then then quickly forgot about.
If you had to pick one of your photos that best encapsulates why you love shooting hardcore bands, which one would it by and why?
There's a picture of this Buffalo band Plagued With Rage that I love. It's the signer and guitar player jumping in unison and it captures—in my humble opinion—the spirit, energy and passion of hardcore all in one picture. It's funny that I now play in band called Black X with the two people in that picture.