This month marks the beginning of the Zombies in America Tour with Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Atlas Genius and Night Riots. For Night Riots, their first show on the tour was in Fresno, California at a small, punk rock venue called Strummer’s. Personally, it is one of my favorite venues, and according to the band it was a great start to the two-month national tour that will also conclude back in California.

A personal friend of mine, Ben Zucker, is currently on tour with Night Riots and has been their right hand man (photographer, videographer) for a few years now. I had a chance to talk to Zucker on the phone a couple days after the start of the tour and we discussed everything from tour stories to what he keeps in his bag.

This is part one of a two-part article. (We’ll check back with Zucker towards the end of the tour.)

So first of all, how are you, man? I bet you’re stoked to get back on the road again. Tell us about what’s going on for this tour.

Hey dude, I’m doing great! Just getting into the swing of things on Zombies in America with Night Riots. They are opening on this two-and-a-half month, full U.S. tour for Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and Atlas Genius. I’m stoked because this tour has a lot of bigger venues and most of them are sold out. I have a lot of stuff to do on this tour, though, but I’m getting the hang of it. I’m trying to figure out what my “title” is, but I haven’t figured it out past “photographer, videographer, merch guy and stage guru.”

Ben Zucker, © Anna Lee

When it comes to packing for tour, we all have our own go-to techniques. How do you normally pack for a tour and do you have any advice for new photographers planning on traveling with bands?

There are a few things I can’t go on tour without. Obviously my camera, but also earplugs and a sleeping bag. If there’s any advice I can try to give to anyone packing for a tour it is to definitely try to pack portable. The easier to move around and the more portable things are, the easier it gets. With bulky stuff/gear, you have to lug it around all the time, and you’ll honestly just stop using it after a while. I’ve definitely made that mistake before.

I’ve been on tours before and you have to keep yourself entertained, especially during the longer drives between venues or in the green rooms waiting for shows to begin. What are some ways you keep yourself occupied?

On this tour so far, I’ve been so busy with content that I pretty much spend all of my time [when driving] editing photos or video. When I do have free time though, I love to play my Nintendo 3Ds. Pokemon and Mario Kart 7 are my main games. Some of the guys [in Night Riots] just got Nintendo Switches, so I’m getting a little envious of that, but I’m content with my 3Ds. We also listen to a lot of podcasts. The comedian Chris D’Elia has a podcast and I’ve been listening to that a lot as of late.

Sometimes, though, it’s just fun when we all get to talk and have a good time. A lot of people think about long drives in a negative way, but they are some of my favorite times on tour because we all just get to hang out on this awesome journey.

Are there any venues you are looking forward to visiting or maybe revisiting?

Yeah, I’m looking forward to a lot of venues on this tour! But one of them I’m really excited about is The Fillmore in Philadelphia. I’ve been to the smaller room in that venue two times now and I think we will be playing in the larger room this time. The small room is really cool, but I’ve always seen the big room and knew I’d get to photograph it one day. Other than that though, honestly, [I’m looking forward to] any venues with good lighting.

For those new to your work, talk about how you got involved with Night Riots.

Well, as you know, we are all from the same hometown [San Luis Obispo, California] and naturally that is how it all started. But for those who don’t know about our relationship, I got introduced to the band actually through you [Richard Fusillo]. After that, I started doing more work for them and then they asked me to tour. In the beginning, I had no idea how far it would take me, but it has truly been amazing!

What’s special about photographing Night Riots live?

I could talk about these guys forever, but I’ll try to keep it short. They are all around great guys. What I love about seeing them and photographing them is that they really do put on a show, meaning that even if you’ve never heard of them, they still have moments that anyone can be a part of. I think that is why their shows are definitely must-see, because they love audience engagement. As an audience member, you’ll never feel like being on the outside of an inside joke. They will invite you in with a warm welcome.

© Ben Zucker Photos

© Ben Zucker Photos

© Ben Zucker Photos

Night Riots 3 - Ben Zucker Photos

© Ben Zucker Photos

© Ben Zucker Photos

Night Riots - Ben Zucker

© Ben Zucker Photos

Let’s talk tour memories, dude. Give me one at least.

There are so many good tour memories! I remember a lot of the little things that happen on the road because I just feel so lucky to be out on this crazy adventure with such great people.

I remember on the last tour with Night Riots we spent a lot of time creating these Dungeon and Dragons characters with the intention of going on this huge quest. Each character had its own personality. My character was about as close to a mix of Harry Potter and myself as it possibly could have been [laughs]. It was honestly insane.

Rico [Rodriguez, drums] even wrote his own quest instead of using one that was already made. In his quest, we ended up meeting in the story and all hung out in this fictional town for hours. We went to a local bar and blew the crowd away with a song, almost got into a few bar fights, met some girls, but right before we started an actual quest we got to the hotel and to this day never continued. Every time I think about it, I just laugh. Maybe it’s only funny to me, but I’m okay with that.

Give some advice to an inspiring photographer wanting to start in the music industry.

I was talking to a photographer at a show the other night, I love meeting other photographers on the road, and we sort of discussed this. We talked about a lot of basic stuff. For anyone that really is starting out, learn about shutter speed, ISO and aperture. If you can understand how those affect your imagery, it will make shooting so much easier.

For anyone that already shoots but doesn’t know how to get into shooting concerts, just start going to local shows. Go to any terrible local show. Go to your favorites, go to them all. No local band is going to say no to photos, and if they do, then find a different band or musician. Get to know the local scene. Start small and continue building up from there.

Find out more about Ben Zucker at Catch him at the Zombies in America Tour, happening now.


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