Il Clan Del Wu
By Alessandro Zuek Simonetti
New York based Simonetti got up close with the Wu-Tang Clan in Rome during their Reunited in Full Force tour of 2010, and has self-published a 96-page bookzine, 'Il Clan Del Wu', that captures their behind-the-scenes antics.
Mandi Lennard: Embedded with Wu-Tang! How intense must that have been?
Alessandro Zuek Simonetti: Sharing a room with any iconic person I admire is intense. Being under the same ceiling, in the same room with such powerful icons was great. I had the chance to stay backstage for the whole show and I was totally in a tunnel vision.
ML: How did you manage to retain such a purity of work when there must have been so much craziness going on?
AZS: I think I became pretty confident in the situations I’ve documented so far. I shot in a fetish club dressed in latex, spent three days in a shooting range in LA with kids training with shotguns, Haiti after the earth quake, and the Mongols Gang members in Tivoli Garden, Kingston, during one of the most legit Dancehall party in Jamaica 'til 8am... I think I can handle pretty well any of the hip hop craziness! When I shoot, I mentally go into the subject; I separate myself from the rest. I think with time you develop a sort of intimacy with the reality through the viewfinder of the camera.
ML: Did you have to be really disciplined given the situation?
AZS: Well, situations in these cases are pretty delicate. Before the show there's always tension and you feel like an intruder no matter what. Backstage you can't be annoying to the crowd and in this concert there's always someone that will say to you that the colour of your pass isn't the right one to get in the area where you're supposed to be. So, yes. You have to be pretty disciplined.
ML: So I guess you're into the music then?
AZS: I've been going to shows since I was 16. Hardcore, straight edge, punk and hip hop music was played mostly on the squats circuit. I've always been surrounded by music, but I have to say that the visual part of the music is what really captures me. I used to shoot live shows all the time, bands I liked such as Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Skatalites, James Brown, Misfits, Casino Royale, Guru, Lil' Kim, Slick Rick, Toni Toca and the Wu, of course.
ML: What was a highlight for you?
AZS: Seeing Method Man smoking weed.
ML: Were there moments when it all got a bit much?
AZS: Not really. The champagne, Italian Cheetos, and weed backstage was funny... a Fellini-Neorealistic vibe! We were in Rome indeed.
ML: Why black and white?
AZS: I mostly shoot BW, but back in the day I used to shoot only colour slides because they were cheaper than prints and easy to store and to send to magazines through the mail. I mean real mail not internet. I like the lever of abstraction that BW gives to an image. I don't necessarily need to be honest with my reproduction of reality, nor literal with my photos. So BW became a sort of signature for my work.
ML: How difficult was it to make the final edit?
AZS: I shot in 2010 and only after 2 years did I take these films in my hands. I edited at that point, after I developed the films. I think I shot 10 rolls, so 360 images, which is nothing compared to how many shots you can make with a digital camera. I selected almost 60 images and cut to 48.
ML: How different is the book to how you envisaged it would be at the outset?
AZS: Well, the initial idea was to print a small zine with a Xerox machine, and less than 100 copies. I spent two days scanning non-stop and at that point I started to think about building something more than a zine. So the concept is in-between, with the taste of a fanzine, but with the numbers and the size of a book.
ML: Had you always planned to do a book, or was the book something that came to mind later once you saw the visual material accruing?
AZS: Zines and homemade publications were really popular in the hardcore punk graffiti scene in the early 90's. I remember few pro-vegan and graffiti ones at the concerts. A book is the ultimate achievement for a photographer, more than a gallery even, but I don't usually shoot thinking of the media I will use. Actually, when I shot them I was kind of over shooting shows.
ML: How hungry are you?
AZS: I’m hungry, but won't kill to eat. Dedicating my time to personal projects like this one keeps me curious. It’s the manifestation of the old DIY attitude. I shot, edited, produced, designed the layout and published it all myself. When you can do what you want, you express yourself at best.
ML: What next?
AZS: A studio in Italy is printing another publication I shot in Jamaica last year. It's a Risograph print with silk-screened cover called "Lo I'm With You Alway", a slang from 1800 that was a mix of English, Apanish and African languages that stands for "Lord I'm with you always," written in a church where I'd been shooting. I will present that book as well.
ML: A film?
AZS: Would be sick.
Produced in a limited edition of 1000, Il Clan Del Wu by Alessandro Zuek Simonetti is now available from The Standard Hotel NYC and online at www.shopthestandard.com with a further special edition, also being released, that includes a silver gelatin print.