stark, bollock naked- Frazer King charm the world
stark, bollock naked- Frazer King charm the world

LTW! Boss John Robb grew up on the same road in Blackpool as Ian Tilton and they knew each other from their mid teens so it makes sense to interview the key photographer from the Madchester era here…

The pictures of Ian Tilton range from Sonic Youth touring Russia to the latest Janice Graham Band single “Murder” and many many more; they’re everywhere and both recognised and respected by so many, especially his work with The Stone Roses.

Ian’s enthusiasm and quest for something different and interesting can be seen in his vast back catalogue which he’s built up over the years, so it was a real treat having him go through some of his un-seen work, past & present… from backstage at Blackpool with Ian Brown to early Oasis gig shots in 94…

Ian Curtis

Ian Curtis grave by Ian Tilton
Ian Curtis grave by Ian Tilton

This has actually been used before on a poster for some thing, but they used the portrait format photo and everyone’s seen that, but the landscape shot I think is a better photograph by a long way because it captures everything, it shows all the dead flowers, the cenotaph in the back ground where Ian was cremated and I really like the fact its next to some one else’s stone, its not isolated, ok the guy next to him is anonymous; well half anonymous, we know its Walter, but its so poignant…. especially as the stone the other side of Ian is blank – but to me when I look at this it makes me realise “were all gonna go there one day”, you know.

I think the original was given away in the NME years ago and the portrait format suits the posters and T-shirts better I suppose, but I really like this photo and the format more. I’ve suggested this photo for use on T-shirts/posters but they’ve never really shown much interest, so I’m gonna print a few up for me and my girlfriend, plus my son and his mates.

The other thing about it is that this memorial was stolen and was replaced with another but the type-face is totally different and I think not as good, the quality isn’t as good and not in the same Gothic type face seen in the picture. This isn’t where Ian is buried. Ian was cremated and I don’t know where his ashes where scattered because that’s some thing private to his family, but I really like this image.

The day I shot this Ian’s wife Debbie Curtis was there as well, as was his daughter Natalie who is a photographer her self; a very talented one at that, so after this we met up to take some portraits of them both near Macclesfield and I remember Natalie had a Oasis t-shirt on who I’d recently photographed so we talked about that – this was around 95 so it was pretty early days for Oasis really for her to be into them but she was pretty switched on.

Liam Gallagher

they crowned him King Liam
they crowned him King Liam

Again really like this and I’ve got a title for it which was inspired by my friend Leo Stanley (Identity Clothing… creator of “And on the 6th day God created MANchester”) – You can give Leo a picture and he’ll immediately work up some wording on it, he came up with “by Royal appointment” which I liked so then I came up with “fu KING LIAM” which I liked because it works on a couple of levels and its the sort of thing Noel might say him self, the image and title is again for T-shirt prints so you’d need some front to wear it… It’s kind of a goofy face and he (Liam) probably wont like that but I’ve never taken pictures that pander to peoples egos, I always go for the interesting shots.

In fact I’ve found out this week through the grape-vine that Ian Brown has decided that he doesn’t like the orange shot now (Blackpool show, backstage 89) and said he’d wished he’d never been photographed like that and I’m saying to my self; hang on a minute, that’s a great picture for you because its made you look human, its made you look like you have a great sense of humour.

But it is unusual for people not to let the photos go out and be used and not comment, letting the images speak for them selves.

Frazer King

stark, bollock naked- Frazer King charm the world
stark, bollock naked- Frazer King charm the world

This is a recent photograph about a year ago, Frazer King are from Manchester, Chorlton and Wythenshawe and I really love this lot, you can’t categorise them really though there’s sort of jazz and other vibes going on and melodies as well but a little bit strange and weird with it.

Anyway we set this photo session up at 10am one morning – you always need a starting point in any shoot, a certain atmosphere, any focus of an idea. So this one was “well, we’ve got a venue and its a disused florist in Chorlton” – I actually knew the place as I used to live round the corner years before, so I’m thinking this is a bit of a fuckin mad situation here.

I’m there thinking how do I bring all this together, make some sense of where to take it, and then the lead singer Nathan says “er.. I need a drink, I’m gonna get some cans” so I said “well alright, I know where your coming from” – he comes back with his cans from the local shop he said he felt a lot better while I’m setting up a light and still thinking “what am I going to do here”, so I just point the camera at Jack goes “he takes his clothes off a lot” so I said why don’t you do it now? “Alright then” he says “but I don’t want you to see my bits”. So Nathan strips off and reaches for one of these wicker fans to cover up, this is after suddenly deciding he’s modest after all and I’m just thinking “how strange” we’ve got a guy here in the nude, who needs his beer, in an old disused, spooky florist shop I remember from years ago and.. well”¦ nothing ties together. I’ve photographed bands & artists with their kit off before but it would normally start off quite normal then build up to some mad stuff because they were all in high spirits, drunk… but these guys are like “I’ll take my clothes off ” then Jack takes down his trousers and has his undies round his ankles!

I’ve always been attracted to mad people haha, people that live on the edge, and I’ve had some mad girlfriends as well, so these guys were living in the moment and there’s some thing real spiritual about that, also vulnerable and fucked up as well. Some judge them badly for it, be put off and scared by that but I’m attracted to all that, especially when I know were going to get a great picture, some people feel they have to control every moment but this is the opposite of that.

After all that, a few days later, when I sent them the pictures – they never chose the really mad ones, choosing the one’s a bit more conservative! I’m like “Just a mo – you haven’t picked out the really really good ones cos you’ve become all shy and modest” So I’m using the mad ones cos they’re the best.

The Stone Roses

the perfect Stone Roses photo
the perfect Stone Roses photo

This was Mani’s first photo shoot with the band and its going to be featured as a double page photo in MOJO magazine next month, I like this because you can sort of tell Mani’s new to the band, you’ve got Ian looking straight into the camera real confidently, him and John were both comfortable in front of the lens even back then, but if you look at Mani he’s sought of looking for guidance, it was all quite new to him then back then I suppose.

Another interesting piece I found going through some old Roses stuff and thought I’d pull out is this old review of The Stone Roses with an early Ian and John picture I took at the time, I’d say its got to be around 1987, I think & its interesting seeing the Roses supporting The Jack Rubies, not that I know the band but it shows how early on it was, when they were still supporting other bands.

Janice Graham Band

'the monochrome set'...Janice Graham Band
'the monochrome set'...Janice Graham Band

This is from the Janice Graham Band cover for the single “Murder”, its an out take from the session we did, this worked out really great & we had a good time doing it, very creative blokes, much more creative than most other bands and visually equally creative.
They know what they want and they know that they want some thing different which is what The Stones Roses always went for – very similar like that, these guys were great to work with, and quite particular as well.

Whenever I did a shot that was too normal they’d go “no, its just too predictable, we want to get away from that really” so they were leading me and that was wonderful if not slightly challenging but I knew we were taking it to a great place, and we got this great cover shot out of it.

I thought how excellent, none of these poses look like poses of a rock band, slightly goofy even, definitely different and they haven’t gone for the typical group stance, but its cool as well, its interesting, a fantastic balance of everything so I was very happy with the way this turned out.

This is an outtake and you can tell why, we shot the outline of the dead body in white tape but if you look at the picture used for the cover its in black. I made loads of changes in Photoshop. We took about 600 hundred shots to get the one for the cover because there was loads of experimental movement going on with them running about, jumping, pushing each other about, very spontaneous – to see that process with this band was great.

Ian Brown

Ian brown and his yo yo backstage at Blackpool 1989 by ian Tilton
Ian brown and his yo yo backstage at Blackpool 1989 by ian Tilton

I was actually going through some of these shots last night and my son Joe saw this & said “you’ve got to get that one on a T-shirt” so last night we started designing it.
This was taken within the same hour as the orange picture, back stage at the Blackpool show in 89, he had a luminous Yo-Yo; if you can remember he came on stage playing with it, so before the gig he was messing about and practising with it back stage. It was a fantastic atmosphere that day, really loose & I think the pictures really show that. That T-shirt (the money T-shirt) some people think its Paul Smith but its not, though I’m still not sure who did design it, they were actually in print again about 3 yrs ago and I got a phone call from The Nylon, the clothing company, asking for a picture of Ian wearing it, which they now use as the tags on the shirts but since then there’s been a few of boot-legs of it.

This picture is about 20 yrs old now. You can even see one of them old professional Sony Walkman’s used by journo’s back in then, they were expensive kit and the broadcast quality on them were the best thing around at the time so it looks like Ian was doing an interview and the journo left it behind. Funny I don’t remember any journo around actually, there was just me Cressa, the band and the crew.


Oasis by Ian Tilton
Oasis by Ian Tilton

First time I saw Oasis, the Canal Bar in MCR just a few doors down from the Hacienda, its unusual to get a whole band in one live shot as the drummer will usually be in the dark but everyone here has a light on them. You can see how early it was cos the local telephone code 061 is painted on the stage monitors which puts the shot back in time doesn’t it?
Their road manager Steve Adge at the time (and ex Roses tour manager) loved them and he said to me earlier that day “come see this band Oasis, they’re fuckin brilliant” so I thought – right I’m going, because I respected his opinion. So I went along and took a few mates as well plus Vicky (my missus at the time) and the gig was part of the MCR music festival, maybe the 1st or 2nd one ever. There had been comedy events on, so I said to a couple of my mates “you’ve got to come and see this band apparently there really good” so we all go to watch Oasis and some of my mates start saying “oh, I don’t know what you see in them” but I’m telling them – no they’re gonna be massive, really big, but they weren’t having it, so I’m really glad I caught them back then and rated them so early on. I wasn’t impressed with the slobby Ian Brown swagger that Liam had, like I’d seen it all before. I was bored of bands with their massive ego’s & I was bored of the crappy music industry, I knew Oasis were gonna be massive but for me I thought “I’ve just finished with this now, I’ve been on the road with the Happy Mondays and that was enough for me” you know, I loved the music but I didn’t want to hang out anymore really. My first son Joe had just been born and it put life into perspective for me.

The Happy Mondays

they seemed happy seven days a week in those days... the Happy Mondays
they seemed happy seven days a week in those days... the Happy Mondays

We were talking about Shaun’s new book earlier on and you asked about any of my pictures in Shaun’s new book, well there isn’t any and I know why – because we fell out, Shaun always said I made him look “ugly”, so I wasn’t asked photograph him after that. For me Shaun had a difficult massive ego then, and it makes it hard to work with, he appeared to be a bad boy but you look at all those shots of him (the book) they make him look a thug or they make him look decent family man so its a case of he doesn’t like my stuff because of the style of pictures I take – as I’ve said I like my pictures to look interesting as I’m not interested in flattery and I won’t pander to ego’s. These pic’s of Shaun are the definitive Shaun back in the day. I don’t think Paul would be happy with the humorous shot of him and Gaz Wheelan either… ha ha, but again it just shows them as they really were at that time.
The pictures were taken during a tour of Europe and I remember taking some lights and setting up a small studio back stage before they went on; it could of been the Paradiso gig in Amsterdam I think, the pictures ended up in Sounds magazine.

Previous articleInspiral Carpets South American tour diary part 2
drive careful cos I'm walkin...


  1. […] Sleeping Bags Can Be Used In Sub Zero Weather ConditionsFort Hood AttorneyNANOWRIMO! Sneak Peek.Rock photographer – Ian Tilton: in conversation .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 […]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here