INTERVIEW: Music Photographer Dan “Future Breed” Gonyea

Ever wondered about the photographers that take the photos of your favorite bands? If you live in New England you might know of a music publicity site called “Future Breed” founded by concert photographer Dan Gonyea. Gonyea, a student at Northeastern University, has freelanced to many magazines and newspapers (think The Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, AMP, and National Geographic) and covered a ridiculous 157 shows in 2009 alone. Wondering how he does it? Yeah, us too.

Interview and photo by Victoria Morse

It’s pretty difficult to click through more than a couple MySpace pages of New England bands and kids without finding a Future Breed photo. What were your intentions when you first started the site?

DAN: Originally Future Breed started as “Punk Underground,” and the site was meant to be a concert listings place much like PunkDates.com was in the late 90s/early 2000s. Another huge influence was the Just Another Scene site that had a lot of NH punk shows around then. I used to visit those sites all the time, but they didn’t have the really underground shows in my home area, just all the bigger shows at The Palladium, ICC, Avalon, Axis, and Middle East. I missed some really good shows up in NH (for example, Blood For Blood / DrugxTest @ The Bombshelter) so out of frustration, I made this site and searched out all the venues shows and posted them on there for people to find.

As I started going to shows a lot, I reviewed the concerts, hoping to give some exposure to the opening bands and have people check them out. By the time I got around to photography, I already had a decent following on my site, plus I had a big forum with all the local kids in my area shit-talking each other. I changed the site to be called Future Breed around the same time I started doing photography a lot more, and I deleted the message board around the same time as well.

Is it ever frustrating that people might know you more as Future Breed than Dan?

DAN: Naw I’ve gotten used to it after a while. It got weird to me at first, and I took offense when people couldn’t remember my name. I realized that as I grew up, I really didn’t have a nickname other than “Danny” so having a nickname now is a cool thing to me. The problem with the name “Future Breed” is that a lot of people start thinking that the site is more than one person (HOW CAN ONE KID COVER ALL THOSE SHOWS?!?!) so they ask me if I work FOR Future Breed. No, I am Future Breed, that is all. I am the only person who will ever be associated with my site. If you call me Dan though, you get brownie points.

How old were you when you were first starting to go to shows and taking pictures? Did the people close to you support it?

DAN: The first concert I shot was on my 15th birthday. My peers were all psyched for me getting more in-depth into it around 2005, and I would bring kids to shows and get them into bands they never heard of before. My parents on the other hand were supportive about me doing something positive and artistic but worried about the ramifications of such a move. They didn’t want me to lose focus of my career goal and go to an art school instead of a computer engineering type school I had wanted to go to my whole life. They also didn’t understand the subcultures of music that I was covering, especially from the perspective that the concerts they had been to were all seated and very much the antithesis of the rowdy, often violent concerts I had been to.

I remember going to Converge at the Tiger’s Den in Brockton, and they dropped me off for it because they had stuff to do on the south shore. When they picked me up after the show, they looked out the window and saw a kid getting stomped into the pavement repeatedly by a group of kids with a pool of blood around him and blood all over his sweatshirt. They left the area shaking, but I assured them it was related to the bar, not the show. I’ve had injuries from shows, and my camera gear has received many beatings from wild stage and crowd antics, but that never deterred me personally from the kind of music that I love. In some sort of way, I’m almost disappointed at shows when I’m not thrown around a little bit at this point.

What initially interested you about concert photography? What keeps you interested now?

DAN: I fell into concert photography without intention really. I wanted to go to a show at the Bombshelter on my birthday to see a friend’s band, and he said they couldn’t get me in without me doing something like photos so I just snagged a camera and shot it for the hell of it. The pictures came out TERRIBLE, but I enjoyed shooting a lot and wanted to see if I could make pics come out a little better if I kept at it. Even now I still have that spark of excitement and interest in photography, plus I half-respect what kind of photos I’m doing now. I have a lot of room for improvement so I have that drive still to develop my style, plus doing all this photography has allowed me to travel with bands, see areas I’ve never seen before, hear some amazing new bands…. I would be a fool to turn my back on a hobby that has shaped who I am so much over the last five years.

First camera?

DAN: The first few shows I shot were actually on disposable Kodaks in 2003-2004. Late 2004 I got a hold of a Nikon E5000, which was one of the more expensive, SLR-ish cameras in the Coolpix series which was popular then (and I guess still kicking around now). My first real DSLR was the Nikon D50, and my first film SLR was a Nikon N70.

Why Nikon and not Canon?

DAN: I guess it came down to the ease of starting at first. My mother was into photography for a long time and dabbled with film. She ended up handing me a camera and a 50 mm f/1.8 and told me to have fun shooting. That kind of step-up in help in the beginning made it financially feasible for me to be able to go to a lot of those early shows before I started getting passes from bands. At this point, I’m still not entirely impressed with what I see coming out of Canon for cameras. Maybe they’ll blow me away one day and cause me to switch, but I don’t anticipate it any time soon.

The archives on your site date back to 2003. Did you cover shows any shows prior? What was your first?

DAN: The Vans Warped Tour 2003 was the first show I ever brought a camera to and shot. It was also the first show I reviewed. A lot of the earlier shows on my site listed in archives were ones that I did reviews for before I really got into photography. I did go to shows earlier than Warped 2003: Reel Big Fish / Grade / Homegrown in Quebec City, Zenflower / Hostage ATM in my hometown, a couple Battle of the Bands type things in the area of my hometown, etc.

How do you manage to sometimes do multiple shows a week as a college student with a full course load? Is it ever difficult?

DAN: Time management is key. Being able to work under pressure is also key. I have quite a few gray hairs showing up on my head so I suppose I may be a little more stressed than I should be at my age, but that’s fine with me. I find time for everything, plan my schedule for school very carefully to accommodate other activities I want to do, and still have time for friends, family, girls, whatever. The time leading up to midterm and final exams are particularly difficult for me and often result in all-nighters after shows just to study for the exam coming up. I’ve had a few times where I had to cancel out on shows because of the workload, but that situation comes.

At first you used to do mostly photos but occasionally readers can find a new interview up on the site. Why did you start interviewing bands?

DAN: I actually did interviews before I ever started photography, but I put it on hold for a long time as I was getting busy with high school and photos. I picked it back up around early 2005 when AMP Magazine wanted me to start contributing for them. They wanted me to do photos, but the kind of bands that I covered didn’t have a lot of media presence so they wanted me to write the articles about the bands as well. They really pushed me back into doing interviews again, which I really enjoy doing. That being said, I’m probably sitting on 20-25 interviews that haven’t been typed up right now, and I’m sure kids are itching to read some of these. I’ve got some good ones up my sleeve.

What show meant the most for you to be at? Why?

DAN: This answer is actually going to be three shows bundled into one package. In December 2008, there was a huge buzz going on at the time for Last Lights. I had covered the singer Dom’s old band Eva Braun (Apparitions) at Northeastern University a few years before and really wanted to go out and see those guys. I missed their ICC show with Trapped Under Ice so I decided to make a weekend out of Last Lights. They had a show with Four Year Strong at BU, then a couple days later a show in JP at the Midway Café with Refuse Resist. A lot of my friends were going to the Midway show so I went to the BU show alone. Seemed most kids had done the same, the show was rather sparsely attended. Last Lights got on, and I was moved. Never have I felt so energized and wanting to participate in the crowd for a band. I haven’t moshed or anything in a few years due to a disease that I have so I usually just stay out of harm’s way for my own sake. For Last Lights, I immediately moved into the crowd and shot in the crowd, really getting into it through the whole set. It was quick, and then the set was over. Immediately my friend Chris comes over and says he’s never felt like that for a band before. I see Kris Mission, and he goes, “that band is the next Suicide File or American Nightmare. That was awesome.”

Fast forward a few hours, and Dom is in an ambulance. The next day, I get a text: “The singer from Last Lights is dead.” It hit me hard as it hit many others all for different reasons, but that show remains in my memory as incredibly important to me. After his death, the guys in Last Lights held two benefit shows for Dom’s family. The first show had a lot of great Worcester locals that I thought were great, plus it was the last Verse show before they announced they were breaking up. Youth Attack did a surprise set at the show, which was great. The last show was the final Last Lights show with their friend from Eva Braun / God & Country doing vocals. That evening was perfect. To anyone who went to the show, you know how special of an evening that was. Not many shows could mean more to me than that last show given all the circumstances and support which brought everyone there and through those hard times. Can’t believe it’s been over a year now since Dom passed. Rest in peace Dominic Mallary.

If you could create the perfect show to go shoot of bands who are on hiatus or don’t tour anymore what would it be?

DAN: I kick myself every day for missing the Blood For Blood show at the Bombshelter so I’d love to see them. Snapcase and Kid Dynamite are two of my favorite bands of all time so I want to see them do reunions again. Marathon was a very important band to me, and I was glad to see them once…. Well, I’ll just put together a crazy bill here:

Blood For Blood / Slapshot / Kid Dynamite / Snapcase / Boy Sets Fire / The Trouble / Zegota / Marathon

What’s a fun fact about you? What do you do in your free time?

DAN: I’m a computer programmer for a career, not a photographer. A lot of people think I go to school for photography, but I’ve actually never taken a class in photo at all. School, work, and concerts takes up a lot of my time, but I enjoy playing Nintendo Wii, mostly for the old SNES and NES games you can do on Virtual Console. I work on my site a lot doing database work and constantly shifting the backend to support the traffic that I get. I really need to apply some of that spare time towards CD reviews…. I have a HUGE case of promo cds just waiting. I also love going downtown, walking around the city, and traveling a lot.

HQ: FUTURE-BREED.COM

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