Chad Lee with The Triple Threat – Dimebag, Kerry King & Zakk Wylde
Chad Lee: The Man Behind The Lens
Iconic rock photographer Chad Lee has been working in the music industry for 20 years. During that time, he has photographed many notable rock acts such as Dave Mustaine, Zakk Wylde, Dimebag Darrell, Pantera, David Draiman, Disturbed, Slayer, KISS, Testament, REX, Puddle Of Mudd, Anthrax, Whitesnake, The Dead Daisies, Rob Zombie, Black Label Society, Soil, Shadows Fall, In This Moment, Devildriver, Black Sabbath, Alice In Chains, Megadeath, and Lynyrd Skynrd, to name only a fraction of his work. In fact, you have probably seen his work without even realizing it!
Chad has also undertaken projects on behalf of Dean Guitars, Marshall, EMG Pickup, Monster Energy, Dean Markley, and many other industry leaders.
We know him as a photographer to the gods of Rock n Roll, but how did it all start?
Back in 1998 Chad was your average music fan until one day, he came across a photo book of KISS and Gene Simmons and said “I want to do that!” and thus started his career in photography.
He received his first big break from his good friend, John 5, who at the time was playing guitar in Marilyn Manson’s band. Chad and John would regularly exchange KISS memorabilia and one day, John invited Chad to come along and take some shots whilst he was performing. After seeing Chad’s work, John suggested to Chad that he should go to the NAMM show to further his portfolio. To this day, Chad thanks John for opening the doors to the industry for him.
On his friend’s advice, Chad went to NAMM where he met Jack Naufrom EMG Pickups. Jack was also impressed with Chad’s work and from there forged a long-standing working relationship between Chad Lee and EMG Pickups. Under EMG Chad had the opportunity of shooting names such as Jeff Kendrick (Devil Driver), Metallica,Stone Sour, Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society), Mike Inez(Alice In Chains), Slayer and many, many more. This helped him forge many of the strong artist relationships and friendships he has to this day.
In 2002 Chad attended Ozzfest with his friend Zakk Wylde and believes that this festival was a true turning point in his career for networking and building new relationships in the industry. He got to meet many of the artists and managers that he is still great friends with.
In 2004 Damageplan took off and Dimebag Darrell invited Chad out to cover 16 shows of their tour. Dime and Chad were long standing friends and most photos of Dime you see around today are Chad’s work.
After that tragic night on December 8th 2004 when Dime was assassinated, Chad has continued to support a charity set up in his friend’s memory by serving on the board for ‘Ride For Dime’ which is dedicated to furthering music education through America’s youth. Chad annually takes out his Harley and rides to raise money in his friends memory. The charity not only hosts motorcycle rides, but also puts on live music events called ‘Dimebash’ which has seen acts play like Rob Zombie, Pantera, Ace Frehley, Alice Cooper, Prong, Cypress Hill, Suicidal Tendencies and many other notable acts. Dimebash also raises money for other charities such as the Ronnie James Dio ‘Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund’ and various animal charities.
Jump forward to 2018 and Chad Lee is a leading industry name in the world of concert photography. Having had his work published by major outlets like Rolling Stone Magazine, Revolver, Guitar World, Bass Player Magazine, Metal Hammer, and Guitar Player, to name only a few, to being hired to photograph some of the worlds biggest artists for artist / product promotions worldwide, and having his work featured on artist merchandise across the globe.
“The most important piece of advice I was ever given was by Jack Nau and he told me that what ever happens, never stop being a fan! I am a professional photographer yes, but I am also a huge fan of all the artists I get to work with. I got where I am today by networking and hard work. It doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. I see lots of kids getting disappointed when they get refused passes to the pit. Don’t be! Take every opportunity life throws your way and make the most of it and one day, you’ll be the one standing on the stage looking out. It still gets me today to think of where I started and the journey to where I am now. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given and I still love what I do. I think that’s the key, you’ve got to love it otherwise you’ve picked the wrong career!” – Chad Lee
Earlier this year Chad was diagnosed with the most severe form of MS, Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS). This has not yet prevented Chad from continuing to do what he loves and he is commited doing what he can to raise awareness of the illness and raise money for the MS Foundation to help find a cure.
This is a true testament to Chad’s character, he takes any challenge thrown at him at work or in his personal life and meets it with the same determination and drive.
It takes a very special kind of eye to predict a moment and immortalise a memory on film. Chad Lee has been doing this for the past 20 years and his client testimonials speak for themselves.
“Chad Lee has a great eye and timing to get the shot. When I need a good shot of myself. I call Chad because I know that he has what I need. He also makes a damn good Bloody Mary”
– Chuck Billy (Testament)
“Chad Lee approaches photography like I approach drums: passion, heart and vigor….he’s the real deal and it comes through in his pictures!!!!!”
– Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Damageplan, Hellyeah)
“Chad Lee-the Dream Catcher not to be confused with Bruce Lee, but equally as brutal…. his shit makes us GODZ!”
– Dimebag Darrell
“Chad’s work has always stood head and shoulders above most of the rock photography I’ve seen. He has the uncanny ability to capture truly legendary moments when you are at your best.”
–David Draiman (Disturbed/Device)
“Chad is my new “photo-god”… truly, a man not afraid to jump in the trenches and get his lens wet! A righteous dude and a man I call my friend!”
– James Lomenzo (John Fogerty)
“Chad Lee Captures the Moment! that’s the bottom line. When you see a Chad Lee photo you get the feeling that you’re there. The only thing missing from his Photos is the Sound! Now if he can only create an mp3 photo….”
– Charlie Benante (Anthrax)