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

A decade later, that story still circulates on hardcore message boards. However, the most popular online chatter regarding Healey concerns his infamous “traveling distro,” a series of plastic crates packed with demos and CDs from a variety of underground hardcore bands and labels that Healey brings to all his shows. These crates are the main attraction at Healey’s merchandise booth, an elaborate production that dwarfs the more modest offerings of most hardcore bands. In addition to the usual t-shirts and sweatshirts, the booth (which Healey mans himself, save for his time onstage) offers hats, basketball jerseys, mesh shorts and handmade, Xeroxed flyers listing 25 Ta Life tour dates, current and upcoming releases from Back Ta Basics, and Healey’s contact info. However, it is not the merch but the distro that has caused controversy. Some have questioned the legitimacy of the products in those crates.

“When a band gave him 10 demos to sell, to get the word out, Rick made 20 or 30,” says Ohler, who claims Strong Intention sold Healey 50 demos at a dollar a piece and that Healey, in addition to bootlegging additional copies, sold them for as much as $10. “Admittedly, that’s a little sketchy,” says Ohler. “[But] it’s not for me to judge. Nobody has to buy that stuff.” Ohler acknowledges that some bands consider this to be stealing food off their tables. “To me, it doesn’t matter because it’s only helping my band,” he adds. “If people had a real issue with it, they’d step to Rick. And nobody does.”

The day after Healey was assaulted, there was a post about the incident on the hardcore blog World Moves Fast. The first comment, left by someone using the handle The Straight Edge, said, “Shouldn’t have been selling blank ass CDs and VHS tapes on the Internet and passing them off as legit shit!” Later on, drunkenmonkey111 wrote: “The list of suspects must be a mile long. Think of all the bands whose CD was bootlegged by him.” The remarks are typical of the online rancor directed at Healey.

“It comes down to Internet message board bullshit,” says Pavich. “I think there’re a lot of kids who’ve never even seen 25 Ta Life, who don’t even know Rick. They’re like, ‘Fuck that guy, bootlegging.’ They’re just talking nonsense because they’ve heard other people talk nonsense. So I think it’s kind of a game of telephone where it’s gotten exaggerated.

“I would get MySpace messages, like, ‘I’m so excited that the [N.Y.H.C.] DVD is out because I only have a bootleg copy that I got from Rick,’” Pavich continues. “I think maybe he bootlegged it, I don’t know,” he says, unperturbed. “As far as I know, most of the quote/unquote bootlegging that he did was demo tapes and crap. These little bands—if I were them, I think I’d be happy. He’s always on tour. He tours the fucking world—Japan, Europe, South America. He’s getting your little band out there. That’s pretty awesome.”

So what does Healey have to say about “the rumors,” as he calls them?

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