Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans, where we meet the people in the local music scene that you don't see on stages.
Scotty Mankoff can be a bit menacing to witness at a live music show, with his hulking frame draped in black clothing, a flowing, curly mane of long dark hair and an array of camera bags lumbered on the back of his shoulders.
Over time, and in the process of taking the time to interact with the concert crowds, he acquired the handle of "Crazy Picture Guy." The name stuck, and, eventually, it became his company letterhead. Mankoff's interests have since sprouted interesting branches. He's shot numerable national touring acts, and his snap of Robert De Niro made it on the cover of the AFI International Film Festival magazine in 2008.
Unlike some music photogs in Dallas, this one immerses himself in the crowd a good bit -- and we like that. Maybe Mankoff doesn't get the photo pass hookup as much as some of the other shutterbugs do. Or maybe his camera eye just has a little bit more of a people-person element to it. Regardless, Mankoff's story is yet another of a Dallas music enthusiast who simply found himself defaulting into an industry role due to his passion for the arts.
And that story, especially here at Local Music 'Mericans, never gets old. You'll see what we mean after you hit the jump.
A crazy picture guy has got to have some crazy band-adventure stories. I understand a significant one for you was your adventures with Devo.
I met Devo's art manager, Michael Pilmer, at an art gallery in Deep Ellum thanks to Mark Roberts and David Marrett. Soon after, I got an email asking me to shoot Devo in Dallas, complete with press and photo credentials. Being in the green room with Devo singer Mark Mothersbaugh was cool. He's very creative. I've always loved Devo. I also drove some of the band members to the hotel, and then to the after-party. I'm a photographer and chauffeur to the stars! One of them asked me why I wasn't in L.A. I said "Big fish, little pond!" I told them I just love Deep Ellum. I also shot Pantera at The Basement on a VHS video camera back in the late 1980s. Unfortunately, I lost that VHS tape somewhere in time.
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Where did you pick up your education in the visual arts, and at what point did it turn in a live music direction?
I've been playing in bands since high school. My childhood friends think of me as a guitar player, not a photographer. Photography kicked in later because it was easier to be a one-man band that just has to show up and press a button. Nothing to remember except where you're going. Mostly, I learn by doing, y'know? On-the-job experience. I do have a high school and college education, but I don't remember much of those either. I have never taken a single photography course, yet I have taken a lot of pictures and learned a lot over the years. I picked up tips from friends and mentors along the way, like fellow artists Frank Campagna, Richard Ross, Tyson Summers, Guy Reynolds, Milton Adams, John "Doc" Strange, George Wada and Donny Ray Ford, to name just a few, and many others I didn't mention who've helped me along the way. I thank them all.
Without looking, how many bands can you name (local or otherwise, starving or famous) that you have photographed in action?
Spector 45, Boys Named Sue, The O's, Rose County Fair, STEW!, Ghoultown, Rhett Miller, The Old 97's, Tim Delaughter, The Polyphonic Spree, Brave Combo, Donny Ray Ford, Barry Kooda, The Cartwrights, Eleven Hundred Springs, Tejas Brothers, The Happy Bullets, Bowling For Soup, Romp Almighty, Cas Haley, Kenny Withrow, Forgottten Space, Josh Alan Friedman, The Farstar, The Razorblade Dolls, Loaded Moses, Neverset, Calling All War, Rahim Quazi, Marren Morris, J.D. Whittenburg, The Uncontrollable Urge, David Garza, The Hochimen, Salim Nourallah, Chris Holt, Queen For A Day, Robert Gomez, Colin Boyd, The Drams, Radiant, Erykah Badu, Sara Hickman, Sarah Jaffe, The BAcksliders, The Mumbles, Pelican Skeleton, Hellyeah, Funland, Will Smith, Centro-matic, Bugs Henderson, Todd Rundgren, Devo, Les Claypool, Paul Reed Smith, The Black Angels, Super Furry Animals, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Rob Zombie, JFA, US Bombs, Queensryche, and Dweezil Zappa. Oh, and Jewel!
You cheated, didn't you?
There was no way I could remember them all! I had to go back to my Myspace page to help me remember some of these!
Was there a particular period when your photo activity in Deep Ellum was at a zenith of sorts?
I shot most local bands that played in Deep Ellum from 2007 to 2009, and many national acts as well. I've written hundreds of articles, and provided photos for magazines, newspapers, blogs, websites, etc. I was just doing my best to document the scene while I was active in it, and promoting all the bands I loved, and supporting my friends in the local music scene.
Do you have a secret stash of rather controversial photos of local scene folks -- musicians or otherwise -- in compromising positions?
I can't answer that on the grounds that I may incriminate myself! That being said, what do you think? Really. Try to use your imagination here. Because you wouldn't believe some of the things I've seen.
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What evil force led you in the direction of rock 'n' roll and the arts? A concert? A song? A particular record?
My parents and grandparents exposed me to music and the arts at an early age. My influences include The Ramones, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Black Sabbath, Randy Rhoades with Ozzy, Van Halen (and Hagar), Pink Floyd, Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and all the music I've ever heard and continue to hear, with a heavy preference for classic rock. The first live concert my parents ever took me to was Harry Chapin in New Jersey in the mid-1970s when I was around 6 or 7 years old. I started learning how to play guitar shortly after that. I have been playing ever since. I also got my first camera around the same time.
You'd think that your photo skills alone would be enough to impress the local music scenesters. But I'll bet your taste in and collection of classic cars doesn't hurt either...
You get to a certain point in life when you've tried it all and you know what you like. Music, comedy, art, cars, photography -- there are many other things, but you get my drift. I say live it up, my friends, while you still can. Enjoy the people and things that you love.
My guess is that you've really been able to take advantage of social media, with pics making for such cool online content.
Social media has transformed the way pictures are shared. I used to post them on Myspace but they didn't have enough room for all the pics I took. Plus, people weren't really on the Myspace bandwagon. Many people used to say to me that they joined Myspace just to see my pictures. Now I don't even use Myspace anymore, like so many others. Today, most people want them on Facebook so they can tag their favorite pics. I still have my own websites and update them with new events and pics now and then. Most people thought I was paid well and make money with my photography, writing and music, but I haven't really gotten there yet, so I stopped. Except for rare occasions or when I get the "uncontrollable urge." Devo reference!
If money was no object, how would you grow and exploit your life of music, visual arts, and classic cars to an ultimate level?
I'd spend the rest of my life traveling to the best vacation destinations and historical landmarks in the world, and live on room service with one very special girl. I'd be like Wyatt Earp on the cutting edge of digital technology. My cameras would be my guns, and there would be an acoustic guitar strapped to my back.