339413_4ko2noiseAhead of the unveiling of an exhibition of unseen images featuring David Bowie shot by Markus Klinko for the 2002 album Heathen, I had a chance to talk to the fashion photographer for an up-coming preview piece in the Miami New Times’ Arts and Culture blog (it’s live now, read it here). I was given a preview of many of the images (some of which illustrate this post) at the Miami Design District art gallery Markowicz Fine Art by gallery owner Bernard Markowicz. He also put Klinko on the phone with me, and we spoke for quite some time. After submitting my article to the Miami New Times, there was plenty of material left over, including some details Klinko knew the fans would appreciate. This is what this article is about.

When Bowie’s death from cancer was announced in the early morning hours of January 11, Klinko admits he was not completely surprised by it. Because he often worked with Bowie’s wife, the supermodel Iman, Klinko was one of the few Bowie collaborators who knew of Bowie’s illness. “I can’t say that I didn’t expect it,” he says speaking via phone from New York City. “Even though I didn’t know and nobody called me to say that he was about to die, I had a feeling that this was happening. I knew he was very sick. It was mentioned to me, and I saw the video a few days before he died for ‘Blackstar.’ I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t expect it, but I wasn’t surprised.”

He found out about Bowie’s passing at 69 the same way many others did, via social media. “I woke up and saw so many Bowie mentions on Instagram,” he recalls. “I was tagged on some of them. $_57One of my images was used on the cover of ‘Le Monde.’ There were a bunch of emails from people asking to publish images. It was waking up to an avalanche of Instagram tags, missed calls. It was definitely a busy morning.”

The idea for the upcoming exhibition came when he and Markowicz, who has represented Klinko for the past 15 months, discussed revealing some outtakes from the Heathen photo session for a touring exhibit. Klinko added the cancer benefit component (proceeds will go to Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research).

The photos were all taken after Bowie had recorded Heathen, during a day-long session at Klinko’s Soho studio in New York City. As with many of Klinko’s images, he collaborated with Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri who added effects in post-production, for instance erasing Bowie’s corneas for the album’s striking cover. Many of the images were never used and some later appeared on the pages of GQ. Still others never saw the light of day. “You can imagine how rich that session was,” says Klinko. “We got so much done in such a short time.”

Some of the images might bring to mind Bowie looks from past eras. Klinko points to things as subtle as a look in Bowie’s face to what he wears. 339413_2koala2sharp“There’s an image in the press release where he leans on a brick wall, I feel like there’s a bit of Ziggy Stardust in his expression there, different from all the other images from this set,” he notes. “Then there’s some of the Thin White Duke in the white shirt and the black vest … There are some reference points throughout his career, with all the transformations that he went through that still come back all the time.”

Though they would not work for a long time after, they stayed in touch because Klinko worked so often with Iman. He remembers when Bowie suffered a heart attack on stage in 2004 and needed emergency surgery. Bowie would then enter a decade-long phase away from the limelight. Like many others, Klinko thought Bowie had simply quietly retired after the health scare, though the photographer never stopped trying to get him involved with his shoots with Iman. “That’s exactly what I thought,” Klinko confirms, “that he’s not going to do anything, and I did ask Iman several times, ‘Hey, why don’t we do a shoot with you and David, and she said, ‘No, no.’”

But, one day, in the spring of 2013, Klinko was surprised to receive a call from Bowie to ask him to direct a music video for one of the songs off of his recently released album The Next Day. It was Bowie’s first album in 10 years,339413_10_ko1noisewhich had been recorded in secrecy, and it was an album that I declared in a Miami New Times review as Bowie’s great reboot. Indeed, says Klinko, when he spoke to Bowie after the album’s release, the pop star sounded rejuvenated and surprised by the album’s success. “It was obvious in his voice that he was absolutely shocked by the commercial success of that album,” says Klinko. “It made number one on a bunch of charts in the U.K. — not in the U.S. chart — but it did well in the U.S. chart, and he was very, very excited about that.”

It seems, according to Klinko, Bowie had doubts of his relevance in the world of popular music. “He would have never expected it because that was another conversation I also remember having,” Klinko continues. “Back in the time of the Heathen album shoot, I had asked him if he was going to do a video and he said, ‘Why should I? MTV won’t play it.’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about? You’re David Bowie.’ He said, ‘They’re not gonna play it. They’re not gonna play it. Maybe they’ll play it one time at 2 a.m. I’m not gonna do it.’ And, you know, I wasn’t at that time interested in directing videos, so I didn’t make much of it, but I remember him saying it in conversation, that MTV won’t play it, and so 12 years later, when he called, and he asked me to direct the video, I felt an almost child-like enthusiasm in his voice that ‘Oh, my God, it’s a huge success. I’m actually going to do this next video now,’ and he had already done [three] other ones.”

During the release of Heathen, music videos were not seeing routine release on YouTube and MTV became more obsessed with reality shows than playing music videos. But, in 2013, the music video world had become something else, easing into spaces on the Internet via artists, record labels and even fan produced works. On Bowie’s birthday, 339413_7ko1noisein 2013, he released a lyric video for “Where Are We Now” (David Bowie returns to music with new song on his 66th birthday). A month later, he released a second video, co-starring Tilda Swinton, for “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” (Finally, David Bowie and Tilda Swinton join forces: Watch DB’s new video). Then, after the album’s release in March, Bowie released a video for the title track where the singer played a Christ-like figure. Klinko worked with Bowie on the album’s final single, “Valentine’s Day.” By then, Bowie was on a roll, and Klinko cannot help but compare The Next Day Bowie to the Bowie he met during Heathen. “When he said, ‘MTV won’t play it,’ it was definitely with some kind of disappointment,” he says. “He was definitely feeling that the genre of music that he wanted to do did not get the support of this type of mainstream channels, and it was something that he was trying to deal with at the time.”

After not having heard from Bowie for a few years besides casual conversations with Iman, in the spring of 2013, Klinko received the phone call from Bowie’s manager that the singer wanted to do something him. “I was actually in L.A. at the gym, and his longtime manager Elaine called me and said, ‘David wants to speak to you right away. Can you talk to him?’ And I remember stepping out of the gym, running home to get his call, and he had this idea for this video.”

In the video for “Valentine’s Day” that we know, which was also co-directed by Indrani, Bowie inhabits an abandoned building, posing rather menacingly at times with a small guitar that he sometimes handles as if it were a rifle. But it would have been something quite different had Bowie had his way. “He wanted to reverse age, like in that Brad Pitt movie [The Curious Case of Benjamin Button]. He basically wanted to start out as an old man, like 80, and reverse in special effects and be like 19 at the end of the video.”

It wasn’t a concept entirely new for a later-period Bowie music video. The 1997 music video “Little Wonder” featured a young visage of Ziggy Stardust and Bowie had a young doppelgänger in the 1999 video for “Thursday’s Child.” It was also an idea Klinko, however, did not feel too keen about. Having already worked collaboratively with Bowie for the Heathen photo shoot, the photographer had no trouble disagreeing with Bowie, though it wasn’t necessarily an easy task to sway him away from the idea. “It was kind of tough to talk him out of it,” admits Klinko. “He really wanted it that way. We cast a young version of him, a lookalike, a model that was really talented that was used for some of the shots, like the scene from the back, when he’s looking through the window. That’s actually his younger body double. We decided not to do that with him. I felt it was a little cheesy to do it … It was the only time I ever really talked him out of something. Many of the other ideas for the record packaging and all that, a lot of it was his ideas.”

What finally changed Bowie’s mind, says Klinko, was the photographer’s stark concept for the music video. “He fell in love with the simplicity because the ‘Valentine’s Day’ was shot right after this very crazy  that he did withbabywlkbook being Jesus Christ, the priest … It was really a lot, very intense, very theatrical, so coming out with a video that was very simple, basically an animated portrait performance.”

But it was also more than that. The song is about a mass shooting and the video contains subtle references to guns. Klinko says of the song, “He did that about the time where the school shootings were very intense, around 2013. I mean, they still are, for the last few years in America. We thought about that, and so he made the song about that.”

The references are indeed quite subtle. In one instance, Bowie strikes a pose holding the guitar overhead in imitation of a famous photo of Charlton Heston holding a rifle similarly during an address to the NRA. In another, Klinko inserted a bullet that most viewers might miss. “There’s a close up of the vibrating guitar strings, very close, and out of the coiled guitar string you see a flying bullet. It’s almost subliminal because it’s so fast. Most people won’t realize it, but it’s there.” Cue the video above to the 2:28 mark to see it.

“With the tiny little hint of the gunshot,” continues Klinko, “I’m happy you picked up on that because it was a very subtle thing that was very important for me to have in there … I wanted to do more gun references and shadows of guns and things like that. There’s a little bit of that, like a machine gun shadow at some point.”

Klinko and I also spoke about how he met Bowie, his experience listening to a rough mix of Heathen and shooting and conceptualizing the artwork with Bowie. Jump through the logo below for the Miami New Times Arts and Culture blog to read all about that:

NT Arts

The photos will be on display for the public at Markowicz Fine Art in Miami’s Design District from Feb. 26 though mid-March. It begins with a private Media & VIP Reveal Party on Thursday, Feb. 25, from 7-9 p.m.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

heathen_reality_cvrs_v2_1000sq (1)

While we’re sharing old David Bowie reviews along with reissue news, it’s only been a few years since we mentioned that Bowie’s brilliant 2002 album Heathen was reissued on vinyl (David Bowie’s ‘Heathen’ album to see vinyl reissue). Well, now it seems that it’s coming back again, along with another version of Reality (2003), which was only reissued last year on vinyl, also via Music On Vinyl. According to Bowienet, this time the albums will arrive in more luxurious tri-fold sleeves. We may also have a change in audio quality. Friday Music, the boutique vinyl reissue company handling these reissues, boasts,  “mastered impeccably by Joe Reagoso (David Bowie/Jeff Beck/Deep Purple) for the first time on audiophile vinyl.” The Heathen vinyl will also be a translucent blue and the Reality disc will be clear.

The Bowie news page tantalizingly leaves us with “Stay tuned for more news regarding Friday Music releases.” Hopefully, that could mean even more desired early-period Bowie albums that were released on RCA and have been out of print on vinyl for much longer than these albums. There have been some cruel teases that never came to fruition (EMI/Capitol Vaults delays Bowie reissues… again) and random reissues in the past (Reissue of the year: Station to Station (plus exclusive edit for “Wild is the Wind” on mp3), but nothing career-spanning, so albums like the so-called Berlin trilogy would be welcome news.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in these two later-period works. Heathen stands as an alltime favorite Bowie album for this writer. So far, it’s the only one of these reissues that has a release date, slated for June 23 (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase direct through Amazon via this link). David Bowie - Heathen album artReality‘s release date remains TBA. Both albums mark a certain era for Bowie. The start of the 2000s for the rock icon hint at a creative artist very aware of being in his autumnal years. It’s a mix of self-referencing nostalgia and a new-found creativity. The two albums each featured two covers among the original Bowie compositions. “Cactus” by the Pixies and “I’ve Been Waiting For You” by Neil Young on Heathen and “Pablo Picasso” by Johnathan Richman and “Try Some, Buy Some” by George Harrison on Reality.

Heathen also did death and mortality way better than hours… (From the Archives: David Bowie’s hours…reissue on vinyl and my 1999 review). It went from self-centered to more aware of the subject’s relationship to time and place. There’s a wistful tribute to a vintage New York TV show called “The Uncle Floyd Show” (“Slip Away”) that also featured the stylophone, which Bowie made famous on “Space Oddity.” The album was capped off with the incredibly powerful “Heathen (the Rays),” which subtly referenced the fall of the Twin Towers. Then there are some of the songs that Bowie made of old ideas (“Afraid” and the outtake “Wood Jackson”) and self-covers, like the B-side “Conversation Piece.”

But the best part of Heathen were the all-new originals, featuring Bowie at his most original. There’s the creepy “I Would Be Your Slave,” with some unknowable wind instrument pulsing and whooshing below a melancholic string section and a skittish beat. Following it, Bowie references space and the Stardust Cowboy who inspired Ziggy Stardust with “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship.” There’s another skittering beat and a swooning string part, but it also features a squonking baritone sax and rubbery guitar licks.

I never reviewed the album, but I loved it, and it was great that Bowie found new energy, rebooting himself after the lackluster hours… with a never-released album of self-covers called Toy that preceded Heathen, which included some songs from the Toy sessions. I did review Reality. I was granted a preview CD of the album, about a month ahead of release. I can’t recall who I wrote it for. It may have been the “Miami New Times,” when they ran reviews in print. If not, it could have been the record collectors magazine, “Goldmine.”

David Bowie Reality album art

DAVID BOWIE

Reality

ISO/Columbia Records (CK 90576)

It has become the ultimate litmus test for David Bowie:  How good is any new release compared to his 1980 album Scary Monsters?  Anyone who has followed Bowie’s reviews will notice critics pulling out the Scary Monsters card, if not, even further back to the Eno trilogy of 1977-78: Low, “Heroes”, and Lodger.

But it’s been well over twenty years since the release of these albums, and Bowie has recorded some comparable works in the last decade alone, including 1993’s Buddha of Suburbia, 1995’s Outside, 1997’s Earthling and last year’s Heathen. Bowie’s music is certainly in a renaissance of sorts and Reality, released this past September, carries on that trend.

Producer Tony Visconti deserves some credit, proving to be a magical presence behind the boards for Bowie. He’s back for a second year straight, previously not having worked with Bowie since Scary Monsters and, prior to that, having produced Bowie’s acclaimed work with Eno in the seventies.

Reality moves dynamically from song to song. Bowie has written some of the catchiest tunes in ten years, like the album’s single “New Killer Star,” and truly propulsive numbers like “Looking For Water” and “Reality,” the latter sounding suspiciously similar to “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).”  Most of the tracks have odd quirks like the sputtering guitar intro of “New Killer Star,” which proves Bowie’s been listening to Radiohead and bands on the Thrill Jockey label.  There are also some plaintive moments like the creepy “The Loneliest Guy” and the jazzy “Bring Me the Disco King,” which highlights Mike Garson’s jittery piano work and seems to mimic the music of David Sylvian. With Reality, Bowie proves he’s much more than the sum of his work in the seventies and a vital source in the contemporary music scene.

*  *  *

I can’t say I disagree with this review, almost 12 years later, and I must say it reads like something I would have written for the “Miami New Times,” so it probably first appeared there. I’ll leave you with a live version of “New Killer Star.”

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)