It’s often said that you should never meet your heroes, but luckily photographer Neil Bedford didn’t listen. After designer, artist and G-Star Raw’s newest creative director Aitor Throup asked Neil along to shoot stills on the Kasabian video he was directing, Neil struck up a relationship with the band which took him as far behind the scenes as you can go as the bands official tour photographer. With an AAA pass in his pocket and the promise that he could shoot whatever he wanted, Neil and Kasabian made Underdogs, a book of 101 images taken in May 2016 showing, for the first time, the bands life on the road and on stage at their home team Leicester City’s football ground, the King Power stadium. As Underdogs is released, we asked Neil to tell us a bit more about the month of the underdogs.
How did you first start working with the band?
I was asked by Aitor Throup in 2011 to photograph stills on Kasabian’s set for the video he was directing Switchblade Smiles. I’d been working with Aitor for a couple of years by that point, so I was pretty excited by what we would be doing with Kasabian, but I never dreamt it would lead me to still being with them five years on. During the day I’d spoken with Tom, Serge, Dibs, Ian and their manager, John Coyne. John later asked if I’d like to photograph more stuff with them the week after. It was during that second meeting that Serge asked if I’d taken any decent photographs, to which I replied, “Of course I have, did you play all the best chords”? I only replied like that as I thought he was joking. In my head, I was thinking “It’s Kasabian, how couldn’t I have taken decent images?” I later learned he was genuinely interested to see if I’d shot anything I thought was decent. We still laugh about it now, but ultimately it was the reason we’ve gone on to become friends and are still working together.
Tell us about being “on tour” with your heroes.
Being on tour is incredible. I’m sure it would be a dream for most photographers to follow a band they genuinely loved and to be made feel a part of that bands life. I always wanted to be in a band at school, I even made one up when I was 17 called Camini (named after a car that used to be parked next to the smoking spot at school). I’d tell girls I was the frontman when we’d go to gigs, so to be able to travel and shoot with Kasabian is the closest I could ever get to that dream. I still get excited now with every email asking if I can do dates, every time I’m running around the stage and I’ll always be excited by the idea of working with them for the rest of my shooting career and what the future collaborating with them holds.
Having shot Kasabian for five years, why did you choose May 2016 above any other year and month?
I decided to do something this year as I really wanted to celebrate the two shows at the King Power Stadium, and the warm up gigs which preceded them for the band. It was such a big deal for them to play at the King Power, that cementing it in a book would mean it would be something they could look back on forever. The plan has always been to produce a book, but we’ve always spoken about waiting until I’ve shot three album tours and then going at it from there, allowing us to mix the past with the present. However, I’d shot a photograph of Serge on 3 May at his home, with all the newspapers from that day celebrating Leicester winning the Premier League, as I wanted to do something for him to remember it by. It was from that initial photograph that I knew something could potentially come out of the shows and ultimately making a book happen for the band and fans to celebrate Kasabian playing at the home of their football club at those two massive gigs.
Are you a Leicester fan yourself?
I’m not a Leicester City fan, but like anyone who loves football, that season I became fascinated with what they could and eventually did achieve. I’m a Bradford City fan and in the last few years we’ve had our own footballing dreams fulfilled, by reaching the Capitol One Cup final, being promoted at Wembley, beating Chelsea 4-2 at Stamford Bridge and reaching the quarter finals of the F.A cup. So with all that I knew exactly what it was like to be an underdog and go on to defy the odds, and I wanted that for my friends and their team too.
With an AAA pass and the freedom to shoot what you wanted, was there much you had to leave out?
It’s always incredibly fun when there is freedom, but there are always images you leave out of an edit — which you’re reminded of at a later date and consider if they should have made the final cut? But when you’re editing 3,000 photographs down to just 101 it’s impossible to not have too many options. Initially the edit came down to 256, and then I re-edited again and again until I got it to the final 101. In fact, the initial idea was to put out a 70-page book with 50 photographs, but it doubled when it became clear that things couldn’t be edited out. I’ve recently looked back at the shots which didn’t make the edit and I have no major regrets. There is one of Tom that I still love, but it will be used in the next book, so it’s not too much of a worry. The main thing is that you can turn every page in the book and not feel like you want to move on straight away, and for me I’ve achieved this.