My Place: Len Panecki

Len Panecki. Picture supplied

Tara Murray

Growing chilies and photographing musicians are Len Panecki’s two passions. The long-time St Albans resident spoke with Tara Murray about his love for both of them.

Tell us about your connection to St Albans and the Brimbank area?

I have a very long connection to St Albans as my dad built our first family home in Oberon Avenue, St Albans in 1955 and at that time there were only three houses in the whole street. I went to St Albans East Primary School and then later to St Albans High School, which was later renamed St Albans Secondary College. My four children also attended the same high school.

You’re a gardener and you’re known for your chilli. How did you start growing them and what do you love about them?

One of my big passions is growing chillies and this addiction first started some 35 years ago when my wife, who loves really hot and spicy food, would tell me that none of the chillies that she bought at the green grocer were hot enough. It was at this point that I made it my quest to find some really hot chillies and have grown chillies every year ever since then. Over the years chilli breeders have

managed to produce ever increasingly hot chillies and I’ve grown most of those varieties. Chillies have their heat rated in Scoville Heat Unite ( SHU’s) and to give you an idea of the great range in heat scale, the common jalapeno is rated at 5000 SHU, Thai birdseye chillies at 150,000 and the Carolina reaper, that I also grow, holds the record of being the world’s hottest chilli i rated at a

massive 2,200,000 SHU’s. Though I grow many varieties for the heat, most of the ones I have also have unique and delicious flavours and aromas like tropical fruit.

I believe you also have another passion in music photography. How did you get involved with that?

I’ve had a strong interest in photography as well as a real love of live music so I decided I could do both by shooting live music events. I started off shooting small local shows, then as I gained more experience I joined a couple of online live music media publications, and this enabled me to get access to shoot some of the biggest Australian and international music artists at big outdoor all day

festivals as well as huge arena shows. There are way too many artists to name whose shows I’ve shot over the past 15 years, but here’s just a few names that readily come to mind Kanye West, Iggy Pop, Rihanna, The Cure, Alice Cooper, Garbage, Queen with Adam Lambert, Robyn, Sia, Steel Panther, Red Hot Chilli Peppers , Green Day and so many more. I’ve also loved that I have had the opportunity to meet some of my music hero’s like John Farnham, Chrissy Amphlett from the Divinyls, Sarah Blasko, Mark Seymour, James Reyne , David Bridie as well as many other musicians from bands that aren’t very well know.

What’s one thing that not many people know about you?

I think what most people are surprised about is the range of music genres that I love – ranging from cheesy pop, blues, electronic dance music and all the way to heavy metal bands. And I am shooting a really talented local metal band Witchgrinder this weekend.