Section TOOL


Sean Murphy, March 2016
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Not only Sean is very talented in what he does, but he's also a very nice guy, both not necessarily going hand in hand. So have a look at his website, where you'll see great photos of famous bands, for advertising or about everyday life.

Salival : Thanks again for answering this interview. First, can you please introduce yourself?
Sean Murphy :
Hey, there. I went to school in Boston in 1993 and soon after moved to San Francisco where the magazine Surface gave me my start in celebrity and music. I was shooting my childhood idols like Nina Hagen, Peter Murphy, Tears for Fears, etc. I moved to Los Angeles and shit took off. Twenty years later, things are busier than ever.

How did you know Maynard?
I met Maynard around 1998 when I did an article on him for the fashion magazine Sportswear International. I had a friend that worked for the magazine, and we made up a story around Maynard so we could shoot him. Myself, the art director for the magazine and Frank Zappa's son, Ahmet Zappa, drove to Vegas to meet him. The night before, Ahmet and I had an idea to make a "chest bomb" for Maynard to wear. We thought it would be funny if we shot him with it in front of the Hard Rock Hotel. My first impression was that he was shorter than I imagined he would be and he was very intelligent. He was also up for anything, which is not always the case with rock stars. He is very comfortable with himself and doesn't mind doing shit that might make him look fucked up.


Yet you had to convince Billy in order to shoot APC, right? What did he exactly want?
Maynard called me up for the APC shoot a time after, and had me come to the studio to meet with the band and talk about a shoot. I was't quite the style that Billy had in mind, but somehow I was able to convince him that I understood what he was going for and could do the job. He wanted a very moody, creative feel to the album.

Can you describe the shooting for Mer de Noms? What was your idea for that and the first album's promo?
I am not sure how we came up with the concepts for Mer de Noms. the idea was that we would shoot in Maynard's loft, which was located just in front of the Tool rehearsal space. I put together some photo murals as backdrops, and thought that it would be cool to do some multiple exposures and just play around to see what happened. I was trying to quit drinking at the time and fell off the wagon on the shoot. Everyone was pretty loose. In retrospect, it was one of the shoots that I felt regret. I wish I was more on my game that night. The end result was good, but it didn't feel good.

The band seemed very united and having a good time together. What was your feeling about the band, and each one of them?
I already knew Josh Freese from other bands he had played with. Super rad guy and really makes things fun. Paz was a lot of fun and super sexy. Billy and Troy were kind of quiet and mellow. Maynard was a gracious host, and always one of my favorite people to shoot.

What was your impression of the Tool rehearsal space, the 'sanctuary' for many fans?
The Tool rehearsal space was bad ass. After we finished our APC shoot, we went to the back to hang out with a couple of the guys from Tool in the rehearsal space. I was taking snap shots of Danny's drum kit, and he and I got into a bit of a fight. He asked me for the film out of my camera, and I ripped it out and threw it at him. I was drunk, so my memory is a little blurry, but I am pretty sure he was about to fuck me up.

Some years later, you did some promo with APC again.
The next time I shot APC, there was a different line up and I was pretty excited. So much talent. We shot at a sound stage, and things were a little more "straight forward". Not the same loose party atmosphere as the previous shoot, but we still had a great time and made some great images. I got to watch them rehearse for their upcoming tour, and it was mind blowing. One of my top experiences for sure.


But you also did some photos of Maynard with unusual outfits?
I have done many shoots with Maynard. It usually went like he would call me and say "It's time for a shoot. I want to be a cowboy." or a pimp, etc. I would go on Craigslist, get some transexuals and book a location and shit would get weird. He is hands down the raddest guy to take pictures of.

Do you have good stories from your rock vault?
The stories I have from the mid-90's to around 2005 are fucking endless. I could and probably will write a book down the road. I have a storage unit filled with hundreds and hundreds of skeletons. What a great time in my life. I still shoot music frequently. We just shot the new Weezer album, which will be released on April 1st. They are another of my all time favorites.

You did many great works in different areas; what do you prefer?
Life is a long journey, and I honestly just like to wake up every day and experience new shit. Meeting new people and seeing new places. That said, I love shooting advertising and travel. I do a lot of underwater and surf photography. To be honest, music just became less interesting to shoot. Basically, I just love to shoot: Maynard, the drunk living in a sober living house, or a paddle board adventure through the Everglades. I am a photographer, and I am really fucking lucky. That's it.