Interview With Rick Ta Life: Hardcore’s Most Loved And Hated (On)

Interview With Rick Ta Life: Hardcore’s Most Loved And Hated (On)

—by , August 10, 2009

Rick Ta LifeTo celebrate his birthday, Rick Healey attended one of those rare happenings: A hardcore show in New York City. The performance by Negative Approach, a group that pioneered the genre in the early ‘80s, was especially significant to Healey, who grew up listening to the Detroit band. Healey’s own band, 25 Ta Life, has long covered “Lead Song” from the group’s 1982 self-titled record, and he was now seeing them for the first time. After the gig, in the wee hours of a spring morning last year, Healey was walking six blocks from the Brooklyn venue when he was approached by three strangers in hooded sweatshirts. They attacked him and knocked him unconscious. It’s amazing how quickly a perfect night can turn to shit.

Three days later, Healey, better known as Rick Ta Life, was performing onstage, and between songs he described the pleasure of having finally seen his longtime heroes play. “I went to see Negative Approach on my 38th birthday and that’s what I’m going to remember,” he said after 25 Ta Life’s set at a Long Island bar. “I’m just very grateful to be here, to be able to play a show and do what I love,” said Healey, sporting a black eye and sipping a Coke. “I wanna’ focus on the good times in life.”

During his two decades in the hardcore scene, Healey has grown experienced at deflecting negativity. Although he supports hardcore relentlessly—playing with three different bands, printing fanzines, and releasing over 70 records on his D.I.Y. label, Back Ta Basics—his relationship to the scene is strained. “Is there a schism there?” asks Paul Bearer, who sang for the classic New York hardcore outfit Sheer Terror and collaborated with Healey on a song in 1999. “I dunno. I dunno.” What’s certain is that Healey gets a lot of flak. At once, he is a hardcore hero, a living legend, an inside joke, and a punching bag for the scene—and for its online community in particular. Nevertheless, he remains undeterred. “This is the music that helped me in my life,” Rick says. “I just do my thing. Good times, hard times, whatever.”

Healey’s introduction to hardcore coincided with some of the toughest years of his life. He grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, and started going to shows regularly when he was 17, just after he began using drugs. “I went from weed to crack, coke, heroin. So I went pretty bad and pretty fast,” says Healey. He dropped out of high school and continued using heavily until he was 20 years old. “I got myself in a lot of trouble. I got locked up, all these fines.”

He credits his probation officer with helping him begin the process of getting clean. In the mid-‘90s, Healey would adopt a straight-edge lifestyle, which has helped him stay sober, and which he has sung about on tracks like “Promise Keeper.” But before that, his other great help in combating addiction came from a different avenue of hardcore culture: Tattoos. “When I started getting sober, instead of going and spending my money on heroin and crack, I would go and get tattoos,” he says. “That was how I was venting.”

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    reader responses
  1. Rick has diagnosed with Schizophrenia…Too sad…

    LowerDMSide on 7/22/2011 at 05:40 AM 

  2. LOL bitchez cryin’ bout rick. Surely, what he did wasn’t completely right yet not completely wrong. There are facts that justify him and facts that prove he did shit BUT people were buying his stuff so don’t complain, if they didn’t like it they would stop buying it.

    aaaaaa on 5/11/2011 at 07:02 AM 

  3. yo, fuck the haters… i’ve known rtl for 15 years, i also know all the people he’s beefing with and the reason there’s beef. dude up top is a liar, no cdr’s… he’s got mad demos, most of you shit talkers don’t know anything and don’t say a word to him when he’s around. this dude is family to me, and he’s never dicked me over, he did bootleg a comp i put out, but i couldn’t afford to repress it so he did. most bands that complain never went anywhere or arent going anywhere, and kids who complain now are trendy because it’s now cool to hate rick, like it was cool to wear his keepin it real hoodie in 96… fuck you all…

    stu on 1/30/2010 at 07:23 PM 

  4. Good article man. Rick is a complete liar though. When i saw 25 ta a couple years ago, he had NO demos. Only photocopied CDR’s at full price. Most of which were larger hardcore releases, on larger labels. So as for you “getting the music out there” complete bullshit. Possibly back in the day that was your intent, now that is not the case. Although I do not feel sorry for anyone who was duped into buying his shoddy merchandise, one look and you can tell it is not authentic. How are you getting the word of these bands out there for $10 a pop? I usually discover music over the internet for FREE! So if your intention was to truly “get the music out there” You would host albums on back ta basics website for free! He would get a ton of hits and most likely make more money this way. Not to mention It would be accessible all over the world and not just 1 hardcore show with 25 kids at it.

    Yes i know, you have dedicated your life to this, but who cares. It seems as if he has only dedicated his life to hardcore because he is an absolute idiot. He has no clue what to do with his life, your band is done! For real 25 ta life is a joke now and rightfully so (super sloppy sets and terrible albums). The only other band with less original members is Gwar and they are meant to be a joke! Not that you need original members, but at least find steady talented musicians. When i read your portrayal of rick ta, it makes the 38 year old man seem like he is still searching for acceptance and a 0place to belong. Much like he was when he was in high school. He seems like a sad empty man, who has burned too many bridges to ever return to greatness. Doomed to be a has been.

    steele on 10/10/2009 at 07:47 PM 

  5. Funny enough Strong Intention should take their own advice about shady business. They were the band that would call the venues and promoters, where bigger bands were playing, and claim they were on tour with them. DRI was really surprised that year as was Tear it Up.

    shorecore on 9/19/2009 at 02:42 PM 

  6. funny how there’s talk of how the NY scene is dead meanwhile there’s not a single person that lives in NY talking in the article. the NY scene never died…. it just went deeper underground when little pussies stopped supporting the bands. as for rick, he didnt have permission from a lot of these bands to make copies of these demos…. if he has asked then he’d get the benefit of the doubt but he was shady about it. plus the quality of the stuff was terrible, shitty photocopies, tapes that cut off halfway through… people who bought the shit felt just as ripped off as the bands that he made money off of (without permission). and it wasnt just tapes, he bootlegged cds, dvds and shirts also. shit aint right no matter how hard you try to justify it. i dont care how much good youve done for the scene, shit is dishonest, a thief is a thief.

    SATAN on 8/20/2009 at 11:15 AM 

  7. YOU go an quit your day job and see how long you survive. You are probably sitting sipping a latte while downloading everybody’s music for free and you would bust Ric for selling some demos to eat? WTF?

    Kurt Violence on 8/18/2009 at 02:01 PM 

  8. Nice glossing over a lot of the “why’s?” that have gotten you into trouble with this scene in the first place. I realize there are a TON of blowhards who crack wise on you who 10 years ago would have sucked your dick to be you, but you are NOT completely faultless in all of this.

    Razor Ray on 8/17/2009 at 02:59 PM 

  9. great article, Brendan!

    Tim Follos on 8/11/2009 at 11:51 PM 


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