Tour is a strong word for 4 days away I grant you, but if I don’t use strong words to try and look cool then I’m out the game. Not a chance my natural good looks, wit and charm are going to cast that particular illusion.

Anyway, self-deprecation and procrastination aside, I went on what we’ll call a tour for the first time in November with who I feel I can legitimately call my bros in Swallows. The fine gentleman in the band were kind enough to invite me along to take photos and video of the tour. I guess they were just used to playing with my lens in their faces by this point and it’d throw them off if that wasn’t the case. So naturally I took up the offer with a tremendously enthusiastic, “Sure, why not?”

I’m a photographer in so much as I have a camera and people are lucky enough to let me take photos of them and I often get something in return for my work. For my money, that’s the definition of success as a photographer.

That said, 2015 brought me a bit more than I had before: it let me shoot a music festival and tour for the first time ever. I literally got to use a hobby that’s become a ferociously burning passion to travel the country. That’s ludicrous. And so awesome I don’t even have the words.

So here’s a selection of some of my favorite photographs I’ve taken this year a little bit about them, for photo geeks and non-geeks alike.

I’d also like to take this time to thank everyone who’s supported me in anyway, or given me any opportunity, to take photographs in 2015. You’ve been instrumental in what I’m calling “my success.” If you’d like to help me do the same in the coming year I’ll probably buy you a drink or something.

If you’re so inclined you can follow me on social:

Facebook: /GingerSnapsScotland

Instagram: @gingersnapsscotland

Twitter: @CalumMcMillan2 

This is the really rewarding aspect of what I do.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love taking photographs of shows. It’s a privilege and so much fun. But getting invited in to help document the creative process and getting an insight that process…that’s the kind of photography that I find really compelling.

Swallows were kind enough to invite me along to the studio for a couple of days while they worked on the six tracks for their new EP: “Haunted”. Here’s a lot of photos and some thoughts about the time I spent with the band.

Recently I saw a pretty interesting BBC4 documentary  called “Whatever Happened to Rock ‘n’ Roll?” hosted by Lauren Laverene. She quizzed a few musicians on whether they thought rock music was dead. Unsurprisingly, the old out of touch men ( in this case Dr John Cooper Clarke and Eric Burdon) said that it was. Because it wasn’t how they remembered it.

The sole female member of the panel, Jehnny Beth, of the wonderful Savages, pointed out that it isn’t. It’s just that music is different, the social landscape is different, the technological experience is totally different. It’s just different.

Death may well be a change, but to change is not to die.

I’m bored. Bored with the kind of studied apathy that’s cool. You don’t give a fuck. Well done. You’re so edgy bro, I’ll need to be careful that I don’t cut myself.

I wish. What I’d give for artists to deliver a sense of urgency, danger and poignancy than was tangible. Instead, and I should say this mostly applies to the kind of music I’m involved in i.e. heavy and alternative music, I’m greeted with practiced stage moves, party boy attitudes, casual misogyny, a total lack of imagination and a sneering at anything that expresses an opinion. As much as I listen to music, watch TV and read for pleasure I also want to be challenged. I want to be exposed to new ideas, question my own preconceptions and be challenged. I want to be confronted.

If that’s not available though I’ll settle for a good one liner.

Shows are possibly the best part of being in a band. The logistics of show is possibly the worst part of being a band. Swallows were due to start an 8 day tour last week. Following a disastrous series of events, that will probably happen to every band at some pint that cut to 5, then 3 and then ultimately 2. That being the case, how much could the band expect of a Glasgow show on a rainy and freezing weekday night in March?

As it happened though, it might just have been the best show the band have ever played. So swings and roundabouts and all that. Though, disappointingly they never did follow through on that Busted cover they kept announcing before every song. I feel betrayed.

Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan
Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan

Possibly the band’s frenetic live show in Nice ‘n’ Sleazys was fuelled by the frustraion of their continually collapsing plans, or possibly it was just the happiest of accidents. I’m not sure it really matters. For an intense half hour to 40 mins Swallows turned a small basement in the city centre of Glasgow into one of those shows we’re all told exist in the sacred halls of underground alternative music, but that don’t actually come around all that often.

Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan
Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan

The harsh reality of most shows is thus: most people there are genuinely really into the music, but beyond the heartfelt cheers at the end of songs, they’re unlikely to get more involved. It’s unimaginable difficult to break that uncertain and self-concious wall between crowd and artist when you’re still this deep underground. Which is why you’re probably just as well just throwing yourself over it and into the crowd.

Crowd surfing in a venue as tight as this isn’t easy. It says a lot about the commitment of this band, and of this crowd, that it happened more than once on Thursday night.

Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan
Swallows // photograph by Calum McMillan

If all small shows by underground band’s were like this then bands would always be playing to packed sweat boxes instead of their significant others, the sound guy and the bar staff. On the other hand, if every gig was like this then we wouldn’t really understand just how good this gig was.

The underground, particularly in Scotland, is full of incredibly talented artists playing shows, releasing records and haphazardly touring every night of the week. Most of those shows are great and a handful are like this. You should try and go to more of them.

Because if you keep missing shows like this you’re absolutely missing out. And if you missed this show because you were at the money grabbing, choreographed and totally banal bullshit of McBusted you should just feel ashamed. Charlie Simpson isn’t even in that band, and he had the best hair anyway.

\\click images for full screen slide show//

This has taken forever. But it’s been well worth the wait.

I hung about with Swallows in the studio pointing my camera at them when they recorded this track and it’s great to finally see it released. “Hangman” is a storming track, which I think, finally shows just how good the bands song-writing chops are, and proves that they’re not just about throwing shapes on stage.

That said, they do throw some formidable shapes.

So I’m trying my hardest to fine tune this whole blog thing and make it a bit more interesting and direct. There’s a million and one sites delivering reviews and news so there’s no point trying to compete with them particularly.

So I decided I’d try and bring in the photo thing a bit more because, well there’s slightly less people doing that. So I’m hoping to do more photo based posts, features, ideas the lot. Still bang about records here and there as well, but mainly try and cover interesting arts through something at least vaguely photographic.

So (because apparently starting paragraphs with so is also a new thing) I thought I’d start by sharing some of my favourite photos I’ve taken of vocalists in the last year or so and explain what about the vocalists, or the picture, I find so compelling.