Back in the 1990's 25 Ta Life was one of the biggest names in hardcore. Their touring regiment was relentless as they played basically anywhere and everywhere from their base in the NY/NJ area to as far away as Japan and many places in between. The last few years have seen more negative than positive though with frontman Rick Healey being the lone OG member from their heyday. Internet beefs and name calling, claims that Rick had gone crazy, social media pages set up to mock Healey and the infamous show with no drummer are just a small sampling of what kind of negativity surrounded the name 25 Ta Life… and from many in the know... all was brought on by the man who was once one of the scenes biggest unifiers… “Rick Ta Life”.
Mid-2017 though sees a new chapter starting in the still unfinished career of this band as old members have reunited without Rick to try and bring the name 25 Ta Life back to its old self. Returning are original guitarist Fred Mesk, Seth Meyer on drums, Beto on lead guitar, and Mike 141 on bass... all of whom have spent time with the band in the past. Taking over on vocals is "Stikman" who many may recognize from NJ's Fury Of Five. The return date is Saturday July 29th and fittingly is at the This Is Hardcore Fest in Philadelphia. With all these things going down we reached out to both guitarist Fred and drummer Seth to see how all of this transpired and what lies ahead for the band in this interview conducted in early May. Graphics by: Bas Spierings.
IE: What's up guys? 25 Ta Life getting back together in 2017 without long time singer Rick Healey has got to be one of the most out there developments I've heard in a very long time. Who sparked the idea to get the band back together and how have things developed so far?
Seth: What’s up Chris? It’s weird how it came about because I had first come up with the idea 2 years ago and talked to a few other members about it but it wasn’t taken seriously as something that might actually happen. It was just one of those “imagine if we…” kind of ideas. But then that same week, from out of the blue, Joe Hardcore hit me up and proposed the idea for us to do it and play This Is Hardcore 2015. There was still no talk of who the singer would be but I was going through a lot of personal shit at the time so it really wasn’t the right time. But then in February of this year, Joe made the offer again and the timing was right. We all agreed right away that Stikman from Fury Of Five would be the perfect singer so we invited him to come and jam with us. We all clicked immediately.
Fred: Hey Chris what's up! I honestly thought it was all a joke. I got a text from my boy Dim Roc saying "I heard 25 Ta Life is playing at This Is Hardcore". I said with who? He said "with you". Then he's like "Stikman's singing, Seth's playing drums and Joe Hardcore wants you guys to play the show". I was like what the hell kind of joke is this? So I got in touch with Seth and it seemed like he was planning this for a long time. So we booked some time at Hellhound Studios and everything sounded better than I imagined. The new songs are harder than anything we ever put out. People are going to kill each other. I hope everyone is prepared for this.
IE: With this lineup you have Fred... an original 25 Ta Life member and Beto and Seth who put in significant chunks of time with the band as well during the bands heyday. What time periods were all of you with the band and what recordings did the two of you guys actually play on?
Fred: Big Frank, Harry, and me started this band somewhere around 1990. I wrote and recorded mostly every song up until 2000 which includes the Demo ('93), 25 Ta Life EP ('94), “Keepin’ It Real” ('96), “Strength Through Unity” ('97), “Friendship Loyalty Commitment” ('99) and various splits and compilations like “New York's Hardest".
Seth: I first started filling in for Harry (original drummer) whenever he couldn’t make it in March 1995 and then I joined full time in November 1996 and my last show was in February 1998. I played on “Strength Through Unity” and the “New York’s Hardest 2” compilation. Beto joined in the fall of 1994 and left in May 1997. He played on the first “New York’s Hardest” and “Keeping It Real”. Mike was in the band for a short but crucial period during the summer of 1997. He went to Europe with us and played on “Strength Through Unity”. We only had 4 songs when we went into the studio and had 1 day to write and record 3 more. That record would have been completely different without him.
TOKYO, JAPAN, APRIL, 1997. L-R: SETH, BETO, WARREN, RICK, FRED
IE: You guys seem adamant about cleaning up the 25 Ta Life name. Can you tell us what are some of the things that bother you about more recent 25 Ta Life history? How do you try to fix this outside of just making new history?
Fred: When I was playing in 25 Ta Life we were one of the most popular NYHC bands. The shows were crazy! We got to play shows all over the world, made a lot of friends and had good times but it's not a job and we had to make a lot of sacrifices. We did it because we enjoyed playing music. Rick seemed to have a different plan...but that's a different story. Because of a lot of bullshit I broke the band up in the beginning of 2000 and Rick decided to do it on his own shortly after. It was never the same. Then all the stupid drama started and ruined the name that we worked so hard for. It was like a bad joke. When I look online I'm embarrassed to see what it has become. Playing This Is Hardcore 2017 with this line up is an offer I couldn't refuse! I feel like I'm on a mission. We're going to bring 25 Ta Life back to where I left off 17 years ago and make people realize that it's more than one person that makes the band.
Seth: When I was in the band, we were respected and I was proud to say I was in the band. We were playing packed shows all over the world on a regular basis. Everywhere I went, I saw people wearing our shirts. But over the years, when the band’s name was mentioned, it became associated with drama, online rants and also some live performances that didn’t seem to fairly represent the name 25 Ta Life. If you Google the band’s name, it’s all of the negativity that shows up and barely anything about the band I was in. The show with no drummer got more mainstream attention than anything the band ever did. There were thousands of people that never heard of the band and that show became their introduction. It was embarrassing. And I also see all of these people that used to come to every show with our shirts on singing every word acting like they never liked the band. And there are younger kids that were too young to see the 90’s line-up that never had a chance to properly judge us. It became cool to hate the band and it was really getting to me because I put everything I had into that band when I was in it. It was like we were being erased from history. So, the only way we can get rid of all of that is exactly what you said; make new history. We are better at what we do than ever before. This line-up is solid and the new songs we are working on blows me away. I listen to the MP3’s from practice and I can’t believe how much we all have improved over the last 20 years. We were kids then and we’ve grown.
IE: To make things more complicated there are two separate 25 Ta Life Facebook pages with Rick still updating his version which is called 25 Ta Life Official Page. Seems like a steep hill to climb to get the word out there and not have fans confused to who is who.
Seth: I’m not really concerned. There may be two pages but there is only one band and that’s us. Our page has a picture of us and his has a picture of him. I know he makes occasional posts on his but he isn’t very active on it. Our page had had more followers than his within 2 weeks. I’m sure some people will get confused but it is what it is.
IE: It's not too hard to look online these days and see all sorts of Rick Healy bashing going on. Beyond events from the past few years are years of dedication to this band and the scene from him. What are the current lineups feelings towards Rick considering he has done so much positive in the past? If you could have a civil face to face conversation with him what would you want to tell him or ask him?
Seth: Rick actually called Beto on Saturday (May 6) and they talked for about 40 minutes. Rick said he was on new meds and doing much better because of it. He was really happy that the band is doing this and especially with the line-up we have. He recognizes a lot of the wrongs he has done to people which he says were because of his mental illness and wants to apologize for them. He said he wanted to apologize to Stikman as well (but as of today, that hasn’t happened). I would personally rather not talk to him. I don’t hate him or hold a grudge against him but I also have nothing to say to him. He did a lot of things that definitely aren’t cool and it’s going to take a lot more than saying sorry to fix them. I am going to need to see him being nothing but positive for almost a decade because it’s been almost a decade that I’ve seen nothing but negativity. He did reach out to me in 2014 and we spoke for a bit. He told me he still considers me a good friend but I told him the same thing I am saying now which is that I am not going to be friends with or associated with him unless I see a serious change in him over a long period of time. I would also need to see him completely disassociate himself from white power people. As the lyrics to “Inside Knowledge” say, “I ain’t down with you or anyone who thinks the way you think.” I’ve seen him perform with, take pictures with and defend some really deplorable people whose names I don’t respect enough to even mention. Of everything he has done, that’s what upsets me the most. My family is mixed. And now the kids in my family are old enough to use the internet on their own and I don’t know if they have seen any of it. His associations with people like that have soiled the 25 Ta Life name worse than it had already been soiled. And since 25 Ta Life played such a big role in my life, it soils my name as well. I truly wish him the best and hope he stays well. I wish his family well. And I hope he is able to right some of his wrongs. I also know that a lot of people aren’t as forgiving as I am so I really don’t see him being welcomed back into the scene.
Fred: No matter what good you do you're usually remembered for the bad choices you make. So I'll leave it at that and "let the past be the past"… If I talked to him I would just say… "why did you fuck this up”… but I haven't talked to him in about 17 years.
IE: You guys have enlisted Stikman from Fury Of Five as the new 25 Ta Life singer. From the rehearsal studio videos you guys have put out he sounds really good and the band sounds great. How has the process of picking up all the pieces and putting this all back together been for each of you?
Seth: Natural. I’ve been friends with these guys since I was a kid. It just works. Nothing feels forced and most importantly, we are having fun.
Fred: Stikman is totally dedicated to this. He is what 25 Ta Life needed for a long time. I think we sound better than ever and I can't wait to see the reaction we get to the new songs.
IE: Are there any old songs or lyrics off limits for any reason? Is Stikman going to do all the old lyrics as they were originally done?
Seth: Well, there are a lot of albums that were released under the name 25 Ta Life in the 2000’s that none of us were in the band for and we obviously aren’t going to play any of those. There is nothing off the table as far as the songs that we will play from the 90’s but we all have songs that we like better than others. We haven’t changed any lyrics but Stikman sings them in his style as he should. No one expected Dio to sing Black Sabbath songs the way Ozzy did. I was a fan of Rick’s vocals and I am a fan of Stikman’s vocals and I think it’s pretty cool to now have a second version.
IE: You guys are working on new material with a song called “Game Over”. Tell us about this song and how it stacks up with older 25 Ta Life material. Musically will the new stuff you work on branch out some or are you guys more so trying to replicate the style and sound the band has produced in the past?
Fred: “Game Over” is the hardest song. When I play it in my car I get road rage! It definitely has the 25 Ta Life sound. The only thing different is the vocals which are hard as hell!
Seth: “Game Over” is fucking awesome. We just finished the structure of the song yesterday and now just need to lay out some of the finer points. It’s different than anything we’ve done in the past but at the same time it’s clearly 25 Ta Life. Fred has a very unique guitar style that is easily recognizable that is just brutal and untouchable. Mike and Beto were both in the band together in the 90’s but not at the same time and even though Beto and I played a lot of shows together, he left right before we recorded “Strength Through Unity" so we never got to write or record together. Having all of us together combines the feeling of “Keeping It Real” and “Strength Through Unity” into one giant whole. All of us contributed to the song. It feels bigger. It’s still raw. It’s violent but the musicianship and the harmonies are much more mature. Stikman adds a new dynamic… a new singer will always change a bands style unless you are just going from one monotonous singer to another. It has fast old-school hardcore style riffs and drums, it has metal style riffs with double bass that make you want to break someone’s face. Anyone who was a fan of 25 Ta Life will love it and I think we will gain a lot of new fans as well.
IE: The This Is Hardcore Fest in July is where people can catch 25 Ta Life's return. What can we expect from you guys in the weeks and months after this show? Are the plans to go full out with new music and touring or will this be more or a one- time thing or something that you guys do but not on a regular basis?
Fred: We're definitely going to be playing shows and writing new songs. I don't know if we're going to do any crazy touring but a week here and there will work for me. But you never know...
Seth: We are definitely going to play more shows and write more songs but we also have families and full time jobs so we won’t be doing any serious touring. I can’t speak for everyone in the band but writing and recording new songs is what’s most important to me. Writing new songs has always been my favorite part of playing music and it’s easy for us to get together once a week and jam for 3 hours. I’d like for us to write as many new songs as possible. Fred has like 15 years’ worth of riffs. Mike wrote most of the best One4One songs. I write every day. Stik has tons of lyrics. We’ll never run out of ideas.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST WITH SOME GREAT SHOWS 25 TA LIFE WAS A PART OF IN THE 1990's