James Villa Might be Dallas' Most Passionate Photographer, and He's Starting a Publication

Showing up to see a starving local rock band from the neighborhood is a nice gesture within itself, but to show up ready to work...for free...well, that's support worth noting here. The DFW rock scene, specifically, has been pretty lucky to have James Villa showing up the last 12 years. Villa is one of those supportive photogs who hauls his camera gear onto his shoulders, culled with his own hard-earned money and methods, lumbers it into the show and shoots bands he likes. While most of us are trying to lighten our load before heading into the club (nobody likes to have a lot of crap weighing down their jean pockets, it seems), people like Villa lug gear in and help expose local music, pro bono, through their own unique camera eye. He shoots national acts as well, and rock/metal fans should stop by his website to see what is some really nice work (we especially recommend his black & white shots). Villa, however, seems to have a significant gift at capturing moments of emotion in some of our local rock musicians. Those who aren't too cool to let it show, anyway.

I like your work. Who are some DFW artists youve shot the most? Thank you. I appreciate that. Some of my favorites include The Feds, Serosia, The Suicide Hook, Drowning Pool, Fair To Midland, The House Harkonnen, Messer, and any band Ross Rubio is currently playing in.

Was photography your first choice for direction in the music world?
I've always had a need or a passion I guess to create of be a part of the music industry. I actually wanted to be a radio DJ but I've always hated my voice. I tried singing but could never find my range, so there went that idea.

Hating your voice is practically a pre-requisite for radio work! So, where were you when you got bitten by the "shutter" bug? I went to a Marilyn Manson concert maybe 13 years ago, snuck in a camera and got this huge rush. It was euphoric to shoot the show. I felt like everything I shot spoke to me and told a story, I really hated seeing people eating nachos and talking, basically not even paying attention to the band.

It was at that time that I thought, "I want to do this. I want to show everyone the experience...what you miss when you're not paying attention." Oh and I never did develop those Manson shots.

Do you play any instruments at all? Ever tried? 
I can tune a guitar and play a few bits and pieces of songs. Other than that, no.

Was there a family member that was pivotal to you becoming interested in the music world?
 My mother was a great inspiration in my life. She alway taught me the value of hard work and doing right by the people that help you. Her words "when you work hard people will always see what's in your heart." I believe that. Musically there were so many bands that shaped my youth. Whitesnake, Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple, STYX, KISS, Tom Petty, this list goes on.

What about school experiences? Any music ties there? Not really, I grew up in El Paso! Not exactly the mecca of music.

Local favorite photographers? There's a few I really like. Trey Campbell, Paul Aguilar, and Mike Brooks. They all have a style all their own. It's not the same stuff over and over again. Great guys as well.

Local music all-time faves? Artists, shows, songs, or all. As many as you like. The Feds. I owe everything I am to the Feds. That band took me under their wing and pretty much let do anything I wanted.

I hear you're working on starting up a publication of your own. Or, involved in a startup. True? What can you tell us? I love rumors. I've recently joined forces with what I consider some pretty talented friends and am hoping to launch something that caters to local bands and national acts. The driving force behind my decision was to somehow expose local bands on a national level. Through my photos and some creative writing. I felt it was something the local scene needed. I've been a big supporter since I moved to Dallas back in 2000. Right now there's a tentative launch date of July 1st for the print edition.

I'd love to sit down and talk to you about it right before then.

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