Coming up with the idea to start this blog, I brainstormed some ideas and people i wanted to interview into a sketchbook. Robby's name being at the top. Which led to me getting in touch with him...Which led to this. In this interview Robby touches on the beginning of his run with the HC scene, his love for art, photography and screen printing. Some things Ink and Dagger. And the upcoming release of his new book, a photo documentation of the Sound and Fury fest in Los Angeles this past summer. Ladies and Gentlemen...Robby Redcheeks.
SG: Robby, your are one of the OG Philly hardcore dudes. Going back, what is one of your best memories early on in your experiences in hardcore?
Redcheeks: Well going to shows was awesome back then, it was all so new to me. A whole different world. It was fun, but didn’t hold as much meaning till the friends were more a part of it than the music. It kinda made it all complete and binded it into one great thing I was a small part of. We were all real close friends, and to this day the friends I made 20 years ago, I can still call friends. Some I may not see or talk to in 5, 10, 15 years, but talking to them today is just like I saw them last night. The beginning of Philly hardcore for me really started down in Ocean City NJ in 1993. I traded a ticket to quicksand at the troc to live in a 1 bedroom apt on morlan terr. In OCNJ for the summer with 15 friends free of charge. It was all the crud is a cult, reveal, and random South NJ/Bensalem/ Chalfont dudes. I had been going down on the weekends, this just gave me an excuse to stay down the rest of the summer. We basically took over the shore and chaos was had by all. The stories from that summer could be a book in its self. We did this for 2 or 3 years. Someone would rent a house, and we would all live there. I think it was 1994 Dan and Sean went down like 2 months early for some reason, but they made these stickers “Dan Murphy & Sean McCabe OCNJ 1994- can we hang out?” and put them EVERYWHERE in OC. Plus they were down there bombing the shit out of OC. Just getting the chaos started early I guess. We used to do tons of pranks on the boardwalk, and rob soda machines to get money for food. Just dumb fun with no rules. We were all SXE kids in a dry town doing what ever we wanted. We would run over to shows at city gardens on the weekends, and to the troc or revival. The friendships that I made in those summers will last the rest of my life. I say it’s the start of Philly HC because after the summer of 1994 (I think) we all moved to a house in philly on 1335 Rodman st.. we started booking shows, cabbage collective found this little place you might have heard of “ the church”. The next year we all moved into 314 n. 19th st. that’s when it really got underway. Out of that house Ink & Dagger started, I started booking shows fulltime, contention zine, suburban zine, Tre from Deathwish lived there, Matt & Summers went on to do Shark Attack. Dan went on to do megawords…and so on. I don’t know just a lot spawned from a bunch of friends in the HC scene living down the shore for a few summers together. So I would say that’s one of my best memories. Being a part of the beginning of something great.
SG: What bands were your stepping stones into hardcore and became the most influential in your becoming straight edge and staying true until this day?
Redcheeks: Judge. They were a big part of my first years in HC. I remember cutting school to go down to Philly to get "Bringin it Down" the day it came out. They were playing in a month so we had to learn all the lyrics! Lyrically they meant a lot to me growing up. Plus is was one of the first bands I saw live. I had a hard upbringing with lots of drugs and alcohol around me at all times. When I got into being SXE in 1988 it seemed like an escape from what I thought was normal. Judge was a big catalyst for that progression. I found a different direction for my life to go. I just stuck with it since then. Basically I got lucky. Most people in terrible situations never find an escape or an alternate path to follow.
SG: It seems as if you started shooting photos in the mid 90s, stopped for a while. Then found the love for it again and picked it back up? How did that whole thing go?
Redcheeks: Well I lived with Tre at 314 in 1995 and he had this old 80’s manual cannon camera. So I bought it from him so I could teach myself. I was pretty clueless. But it seemed like a fun hobby. I was just fucking around. I would walk around the city and just take random photos. And I would take photos at a few shows. I remember it had a long ass zoom lens, but I didn’t know any better. I had to stand far away to get somewhat of a decent photo. I also had a point and shoot. One day this girl Janice Price broke it while we were in Little Petes (the hot spot of 314 tennents). She had this up to date Minolta that she sold to me for cheap for breaking my camera. From that point on I started shooting more and more. And I was getting a little better. In 1998 I moved to NYC to learn how to be a booking agent with my friend Tim. The first month I was there I sold al my camera stuff to pay rent. Sucks. I missed out on a ton of amazing things I could have shot living in NYC.
In 2003 or so, I was looking at some photos online, and I remembered I had a box of photos I took at my moms house collecting dust. I figured people might want to see them, instead of them rotting in a box somewhere. So I got them and made a crappy website for them for people to check out. People seemed to love them, so I traded records for a new Nikon. And started shooting again. About 3 years ago I started taking it a bit more serious & trying to get better at it at all times. Everytime I pick that thing up, im trying something new.
SG: Over the past few years you have became one of the biggest photographers in the hardcore scene. Seems as if your photos are credited everywhere. What are your biggest inspirations in photography?
Redcheeks: Well, first off Glen E. Friedman of course. Any punk related photographer that doesn’t say him first just isn’t paying attention. I realize he might not be the “best” in some peoples eyes, but hardcore & punk rock is less about the surface and more about the culture & content. Same goes for the reasons I use him for an inspiration. He documented a piece of time in history that can never be recreated. And did it well. I look at his books and I can feel like im at one of those shows. So I strive to create that feeling with what I do. Im trying to capture 1 second in time each time I press that button. I want that 1 second to make you feel like you are there. Honestly I am basically just pressing a button. There is no real art to that. You can be taught how a camera works, or you can teach yourself. The art is capturing that moment. That’s what makes people like Glen E. stand out. That’s what I strive for. There is a ton of current photographers that I think are doing that. Zac Wolf, Manny Marez, Todd Polak are a few that come right to mind. People should check them out.
SG: A little while back you were running a record label, Dead by 23. I loved what you were doing there. The artwork was so important to you and that is something that seems to becoming forgotten as the years pass. You don't see as much illustration/painting in record covers anymore? What was your reason for paying such close attention to the artwork and who are some of your favorite artists?
Redcheeks: Its funny that’s one of the reasons I started the record label. Well that and my obsession with limited records. I was sick of photoshopped throw up for covers. There is only a few people out there I consider artists and taking that style to another level. They also happen to be 2 of my favorite artists. Jacob Bannon & Linas Garsys. They collectively defined a large portion the past 10 years of art in the Hardcore scene. When I started DB23 the main goal was to have drawn artist covers & intense covers. I did lots of hand made, hand silk screened covers. I just loved doing it. If I was bored and thought up a cool idea I would just sit down and make it happen. I love art & I was never an artist, this was my way of expressing what I could. I started silk screening when I started the label. Its now 7 years later, and I have become pretty good at it. Its like a hobby I picked up to help keep costs down on the label. Then I ended up loving the hobby. Now I have a 2 bedroom apt with one room dedicated as a silk screen room. Im going to start silk screening Photos that I took and selling prints of them. Kinda combining 2 hobbies.
SG: To this day, some of my favorite photos of yours are the Ink and Dagger photos at Gilman St. You were a part of Ink and Daggers reign, what is one of your fondest memories on Ink & Dagger, and Sean McCabe?
Redcheeks: Its funny… That specific set of photos are why I got back into photography. Of all the old stuff I shot, that was the one set that I still love. The longer I take photos the more and more I scrutinize what I did in the past. That set still stands up my personal test of time. Probably because they hold so many personal memories. Those days were some of the best of my life. Crazy shit happened that only people that were there could understand & anyone that ever toured in a van can appreciate. It makes you closer to even your best friends.
One story that comes to mind is on Halloween one year. Trope built a coffin to carry Jenny Jamz out to into the show. We delayed the show for a while , people were up front waiting and waiting for the Dagger to start. Dudes were all set up and ready to play. The show was PACKED. So we put Jenny in the coffin outside of the show, me and 3 other dudes carried her in pushing through the crowd. People were like “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT” Im pretty sure we were all in dagger makeup also. We set the coffin down in front of the crowd. Jenny got out wearing a black leather body suit and started reciting the thing she wrote in the drive this 7”. Reciting, im sorry, more like inciting a riot. She was pushing people and yelling in their faces. I had previously prepared a batch of Dagger blood, (this was actually the first time it was used) it was a mix of 1 bottle of club soda & 1 red color food dye. We made like 4 bottles of it and perched on each side of the band for when Jenny was done. When she reached the end, dagger had already been building up feedback and noise. She finished, and they started off with the beginning to "Changling" (if I remember correctly) . Then BLAM we covered the crowd with blood. And chaos erupted throughout. Needless to say, anyone that was at that show will remember that show forever. Including me.
Sean McCabe was an unexplainable force. One of the most intelligent people I will ever have known and one of the craziest. He owned the internet before people knew what it was. He once told me this “internet” thing will someday take over the world and peoples everyday life. That was in like 1995. He was right.
SG: If you could shoot any three bands in the world right now, who would they be? where would you wanna shoot them at? and why?
Redcheeks: Honesty, it would be friends bands. Blacklisted, Cold World, & Let Down. These bands never seem to lose my attention. When im shooting them im having a ton of fun. They are great bands in there own right. They all put in 110% into their shows, and I appreciate that. Shooting them I get the feeling I did when I was at shows in the early 90’s, a constant rush. Im always singing along while im shooting. I have shot them all so much that I know their personal mannerisims when they are on stage. They all have their little personal moves. And through shooting them so much, I know whats going to come out good and what wont translate.
SG: Lastly, i hear you are releasing a book in the upcoming future? could you give us a little insight on that?
Redcheeks: Well its just starting to come together right now. Its going to be a book on the Sound & Fury fest in LA this past summer. It was 4 days of all amazing HC bands from around the world. 2 of the promoters are old friends. I had mentioned that I was going to come out to shoot the fest for a book idea I had. They instantly asked me if I was looking for someone to put it out. I was planning on doing it myself. But I was stoked they loved the idea that much that they wanted to help me out. So I flew out to LA for the week. and shot 7000 photos in 4 days. I wanted to encompass every aspect of the fest & what it was about. A sorta photo documentary of 4 days in 2000+ peoples lives. So I shot all 50 + bands, and tons of walking around random parking lot shots and such.
Being that I pretty much try to work with friends on any project I come up with. I wanted to get Anthony Symirski involved with this book. Hes one of my old friends from Philly. He has made a pretty good footprint in the book world with stuff that hes put together. I love the stuff hes done and he understands what a HC show is about, because hes a HC kid. So im pretty amped for this book. Working with friends & its some of the best photos I have ever taken. I think people will like the final product. It should be out in like 4 months or so. Shooting for a spring release.