Shot a few questions over to Robby Redcheeks Legendary Hardcore Photographer, Singer in Damage & Damage 2 and the dude behind Philadelphia’s Dead By 23 Records.
DR: Hey Robby, how’s things?
Things are good, playing a lot of Call Of Duty (XBL: WeAllBurn)
DR: You’re the man behind the late Dead By 23 Records, where did your interest in Hardcore start and how/why did you end up doing a label?
I have always been a record collector. I also have a love for Art. DB23 was a direct result of me collecting Pusheads Bacteria Sour records. His packaging and artwork were mind blowing to me, and still are. One record in particular, the Roswell Project 7”, it came with a file folder inside with “documents” and the cover was silk screened onto Exposed film…well at least that version. There is a version with red foil that the band got out of 13 copies (I believe). Anyhow the idea behind DB23 was to do insane packaging and different version to make it fun. More importantly I wanted to utilize artists actually drawing artwork, and not do any Photoshop looking covers. Nothing against any of that, lots of designers (like Jake Bannon) are some of the best artists I have ever seen. There was a huge lack of record covers being actual drawn artwork back then, so I wanted to try and change that. Plus it was fun to make cool shit.
DR: How many Bands released stuff under Dead By 23 in the end?
That’s tricky. There are 13 “releases”. But records like Ink & Dagger were a 1 off 40 copy thing. I had bought the rights to the vinyl of the first Ink & Dagger record. That came with 900 unused labels from the first press on Happy Days records and 40 copies on what vinyl. I held onto all of that since the 90’s till I decided what I wanted to do with it. I had Dave from Six Feet Under repress the 7” in 2010 with the original labels for when Ink & Dagger did a tribute show to help out an old friends son. The 40 7”s I didn’t do anything with till a few years later. I did really cool acetate silk screened covers with different inserts to change the back round of the art (stole that idea from Pushead…the Sunny Day 7”). Because I always planned on re-releasing the Dagger 7” I decided to make those 40 records on DB23 after I stopped doing DB23. Just because, well I can. They were sold with copies of the This Is Hardcore book at TIHC 2 years ago. Linas Garsys, who did most of the art for DB23 over the years did a drawn cover of the cover photo I took for the book. I had made silk screen book covers and posters for the book, and used that art for the cover of the 40 records. As for other bands on DB23, Frostbite, The Final Plan, I Hate You., No Rights, One Up(CD only), Go Time, Reign Supreme, Damage II, Cast Aside (CD only), DTN, Let Down, Scraps and Heart Attacks.
DR: Who were some of your favourite bands on the label?
I cant really pick favorite bands, I would have to look at each release as a project, not a band. And if I’m looking at it like that, I would have to say Let Down “Crossed Off”. That record came about by me seeing them play a show at the FU Church in Philly. I had never heard of them, and didn’t even know they had a 7” out already, but they absolutely blew me away. Bob was still sweating after coming off stage and I asked if I could do a record for them. He said yes right on the spot. They were all like 17 year old kids that really gave it their all. That’s all I needed to see, on top of that, they were also a really good band. For their record I went above and beyond for making record covers. We did like 2000-2500 records I forget. 80% of these were 3 fold, 4 color silk screened covers.(also stolen from the Bacteria Sour 7” comps) I did all sorts of colorways. For the art I made a “mock up” to explain to Linas what the idea was. My version was hilarious, and you can see how he interpreted it in his amazing way. We also did a version with a skeleton instead of the guy. This was all planned out in advance before he started drawing it. I did a glow in the dark version of the skeleton guy for This Is hardcore one year. This one project lasted a couple years(or at least it seemed like it) of screening on and off. Sometimes the LD dudes would come over and help me screen in my apartment. Plus Dave worked for me helping me with mail order and silk screening. Its crazy to think of how many times that image has been in front of me over and over and over again. The reasoning for me taking on such a big project to silk screen is because Glen Danzig did it for the Misfits “Bullet” 7”. So I had to do it as well!. Over the years I became real good friends with the Let Down dudes and they all went on to be in some incredible bands that I consider some of the best bands from the last 20 years. Im proud to have been there at the beginning.
DR: Did you not also book shows?
My first show I ever booked was in 1993 at a fire hall down the shore. My friend Jim Kelly needed help, so I jumped in and split it with him. That show failed miserably, It wasn’t till I moved to Philly in 1995 that I would actually start booking shows. I lived in a huge house with Ink & Dagger, Justin Suburban, Matt Smith from Contention records, Rob Barber that did shows at U Arts, plus many more people. Everyone there sort of did something for the Scene in Philly, so did all of our friends. So it was kind of like that Punk Culture that cultivated its self with so many free thinkers under one roof. So yeah that was my way of being involved at the time. This was during the infancy of the First Unitarian Church. Don from Ink & Dagger did shows there via help from the Cabbage Collective. They were the group that found the spot. So he got me in there. I did shows there for a few years. As they got bigger and better they also go more violent. Eventually I got kicked out of doing shows there. Years later with help from Sean R5 I was able to book there again. Over the years I booked about 300+ shows at various venues around the Philadelphia, NJ, & NYC. Philly has always been a very tight knit scene were we all helping each other grow the scene. That was really the point. We all worked to progress the city. Sean R5 would be the best example of this. He took it very far and is still going hard with opening Union Transfer (a 1500 seat venue in Philly). He always did all sort of cross genera shows. Tony Pointless did the punk shows at Stalag 13 for many years. That turned into him doing a fest for a few years in the Punk Scene called Pointless fest. It was HUGE. Lots of bikes and dreadlocks. I basically did Hardcore the shows. I did them full time for a while. When I turned 30 I decided to get a “real” job. Joe Hardcore had been booking HC for almost as long as me. He took over after I left and ran with it. You can see he has really taken it all to levels I could never imagine. He does This is Hardcore, it is one of the best Festivals for HC music in the world. He keeps it true to what HC is 100%, but on a very professional level. I have been lucky to call, Joe, Tony and Sean R5 a friend for the past 20 years. I cant imagine a Philadelphia with out them.
DR: When and where did Damage start? And who was in that band?
Damage started in 2000 or so. More specifically at 7th and South St. in Philly. Me Brian Adoff, and Dan Gross were walking to Johnny Rockets for lunch. We came up with the idea to do a band on the walk. I had just bought a Neil Young CD, and that’s where we found the name. Half way through lunch we kicked out Dan because we wanted to make it a SXE band because we couldn’t think of a SXE band that was started in Philly. Then we got Dave from Anal Sausage & the Boils to play bass Richie on second Guitar. Brandon Wallace is who we wanted to play drums from the start. Brandon was actually in the band like 3 times before he actually showed up to practice. He was probably eating pizza, but we never gave up on him.
DR: Some of the guys in Damage were in some very well known Bands of the time, am I right?
Yeah, like Dave was in the Boils, but he went on to be in Blacklisted, and has played tours with Countless bands over the years. Brandon was originally in I Hate You. and did a stint in American Nightmare, Champion, Richie was in , they got pretty big around here
DR: How did you end up releasing the EP Final on Deathwish?
A few years prior to Damage I Lived with Tre Mcarthy from Deathwish at that house with everyone I was talking about(314). He lived down here for a couple years. When Tre and Jake started the label we talked about doing a 7” on their new label. We had recorded a crappy demo that Tre somehow liked. We recorded with Kurt at God City studio. We were actually planning on breaking up but they still wanted to do the record. I’m glad we did it. I love how it came out. It was the perfect mix of punk and hardcore. We all have always been proud to be one of the first DW bands and the first of a long Philly/DW connection. We ended up playing a last show as a Record Release to help promote the 7”. In true fashion we did a cool Glow in the Dark 7” for the show. Totally stole the insert idea from the American Nightmare “friends press” 7” on Bridge 9.
DR: How many shows did you play in the end? Were you a touring band?
I don’t know it wasn’t a ton. We did like 1 small tour, maybe 2. I was a booking agent in NYC for a year in the late 90’s. I booked some tours for Ink & Dagger, Floorpunch, Ten Yard Fight, Nerve Agents, Vision, Where Fear & Weapons Meet, Ensign and a few more. So after I quit doing that I always helped bands on my label or my bands by doing some booking still. I was working on a tour for Damage and the Nerve Agents for the East Coast. In the middle of booking that Tim from TYF called me and said his new band, American Nightmare, recorded a 7” and he wanted me to check it out. When I got it I popped it in and from the first feedback noise I was hooked. It had been a long time since a band blew me away that much. Just mind blowing as fuck. I called Tim up and asked if they wanted to meet up and play some shows on this Nerve Agents / Damage tour. The rest is history. We became real tight with both of those bands. That Tour was soo much fun. Me and Jesse Standhard fell asleep at an all you can eat buffet. Then woke up and ate breakfast. Lots of crazy shit happened. I won a bunch of money at a casino in Canada after being snuck over the border. We did a band called Pedestrian X because of the signs in Canada everywhere that said “Ped X” it was members of Damage and AN. I think Nerve Agents only did the US shows. We ended up going south with them. I cause Pharyngitis in Richmond and was basically couch ridden on Corey from RVA’s couch. I was completely miserable. Dave also stayed in Richmond with me. The rest of the band went to the next show in NC? With the Nerve Agents. They ended up doing a band with Timmy Stardust singing that was half Damage/Nerve Agents.
DR: When did you split and end up starting Damage 2? Did you have the same line up?
Damage was a real slow ending. We had a few last shows and we just kind of fizzled out. At the end me and Dave were really into doing what we were doing, and we wanted to keep going even if it was a different incarnation. It wasn’t right calling it Damage, so to honor the continuance we called it Damage II…it worked for Danzig Records right? I met a kid from a NJ band named Zach Trotta. Little did I know over the next few years he would become one of my best friends of that era. He was a sick drummer, so we asked him. Tim Smith had recently moved here from Cali and was looking to do a band, so he was in, and Jude was from a local NJ band as well. We got together and wrote a 7” and played a bunch of shows. I put the 7” out on DB23. Zach had moved into a big house with me that was like 314. I sort of took it over from Philly Punks that were real involved in Drexel Radio. They did shows in the basement for years, I moved in at the end of their era, and decided to refill it when they all were moving on. A bunch of HC kids from all over all under one roof was the idea. And we did lots of crazy shows. I think the house was around for a total of 7 years or so. Some pretty big bands played there too, Converge on the Jane Doe tour, Hope Con, AN, My Chemical Romance, Mike V and the rats, Over the course of a few years there was a rotating line up at Funrama as far as roomates, John Fuchs (the guy that got me into Alkaline Trio), Jay Pepito (Reign Supreme), Nick Frasca(a Life once Lost), Trotta of course, Sara Mattius, Cat Girl, and a whole bunch more. Wild times constantly. Most of Damage II lived there or at least hung out there constantly. No Rights recorded the first Demo there. George did the vocals in the Kitchen. Blacklisted was born in the basement. A Life Once Lost wrote on of their LPs in that basement. 4103 Baltimore Ave. has a lot of history for sure.
DR: When did you realize you wanted to start taking pictures at shows?
It actually comes down to one exact moment. I opened a copy of Glen E. Friedmans “Fuck You Heroes” in 1995 By the end of looking at it I wanted to get a camera. This was when I was living at 314 with Tre. He actually sold me his fathers old manual camera from the 70’s or early 80’s. It had a long zoom on it, but I didn’t know the difference. I used that for a little while and learned on. I eventually sold it back to him and got a Minolta that was pretty current from Janice Price. That camera was where I started to figure it all out. I am glad I started on fully manual, it taught me a lot I would have never learned. I ended up having to sell that camera the first month I moved to NYC in 1998. I really wish I didn’t do that. I missed out on my whole year in NY and lots of great shows. Fast forward to the summer of 2000. One of my oldest friends Sean Mccabe passed away. It was a hard time for everyone that knew him. He was a pretty amazing person on too many levels. Ryan from Ink & Dagger asked me if I had any photos they could use for the funeral. He came over to my moms house in NY and we dug out my old photo boxes and started going through them. I had a camera with me for all the tours I did with I&D, so that portion of Seans life was pretty well documented. Lots of cool shots from in the van and playing shows, practice… all sorts of stuff. One photo set in particular was and still is the best set of photos I ever took. Ink & Dagger at Gillman St. It was on the NineIronspitfire / Botch Tour. It was a new perfect set of photos. After seeing those shots for the first time in a couple years I decided that these shouldn’t sit in a box, so I set up a website to let people see them. Based on the overwhelming feedback I decided to get another camera and start shooting again. I went with a Nikon this time. I traded from records for it. It was a lower end camera but a decent start. A little while after that I upgraded to my most favorite camera I ever owned, a Nikon N90s. That camera was built like a tank. I used that till the digital age started or at least started for me in 2006. I used the money I made from rebooking the HC bands from the cancelled Hellfest to buy my first Digital SLR.
DR: Also what sort of kit are you using? It’s something I’d like to get interested in and I just bought a Nikon D3100 but I’m just getting used to it.
I think I have a Nikon D300. Before that I used a D70s. I have like 3 Nikon flashes up to the current version. Like 3 or so lenses. My stuff gets pretty beat up so I don’t spend a lot of Glass. I have had lenses snapped right off my camera via mosher. Recently at a left For Dead show I had my new $500 flash’s screen smashed. It happens, and always reminds me to keep it cheap.