Robert Fish, at age 43, has been the front man for several bands including Resurrection, Release, The Judas Factor, and 108. He recently did a widely-publicized guest vocalist stint for Turning Point at This Is Hardcore 2016. His words about racism, LGBT rights, immigration, and social services were lauded far and wide. His monologue was seen as a necessary healing moment during a festival that had become mired in controversy. Following the festival, Robert took some time to share his thoughts.
Threefold Misery is one of my favorite hardcore albums of all time. It got a lot of non-Krishna kids like me shouting along to what is, essentially, a religious work. What values do you still hold to from that time period in your life? What have you let go? Is it strange revisiting those songs on stage?
108, and that part of my life, were less about religion and more about grounding. I had a rather unfortunate life early on… abuse, loneliness and depression. Somehow I never felt quite connected with my surroundings. To put it mildly I always felt awkward, alone and I lived with a strange sense of desperation. Simply put I was damaged goods and needed something to ground me. I needed to be a part of something bigger than what existed in my own head in order to keep myself together, as it gave me the sense of purpose I needed to stay alive. Those songs were a big part of my life and while I look at them in a different light today than when we wrote them they are still important to me.
You’ve played in several hardcore bands, most notably 108, Resurrection, Release, and The Judas Factor. Chris Zusi, who has done a couple interviews for this site, was with you for several of these bands. Was it your interest in religion that sent you guys in different musical directions?
No, it was musical. Resurrection was an active band at the same period as 108 and The Judas Factor was after.
People in hardcore have been pretty vocal about calling each other out on racism, even when there’s fairly strong debate over whether someone’s words were actually racist. In one way, I find it positive that people are taking a firm stand. But, in another sense, I see people being crucified for perhaps not being articulate in a live, unscripted setting. A similar conversation came up in Chris Zusi’s second interview for this site. Do you see a strong, yet compassionate way through this?
I rarely hear race discussed in the punk/hardcore scene at this point. There have been one or two highly visible discussions on it over the last few years but I am not sure it is a regular occurrence.
I would say that if you are going to pinpoint an individual as a racist there should be something fairly substantial behind it. It’s a complicated discussion with a tremendous amount of nuance that can’t be based off of a soundbite.
Some people have held up your monologue before Over the Line as a rebuttal to Civ’s monologue before Gorilla Biscuits played Degradation, although you’ve made it clear that this wasn’t the case. What did you hear in Civ’s words? Have you two spoken since TIHC?
I heard what he said. I got what he was trying to say. I also understand what the detractors took from it but like I said- to pinpoint an individual as a racist there should be something fairly substantial behind it not based off of a soundbite that can be reasonably taken in a number of different ways.
I sent Civ a note when everything blew up the day after TIHC ended. He wasn’t aware of what I said or that anyone had taken what I said as being a rebuttal to him. As I told him anyone that knows me can tell you that if it were meant for him I would have said it. It was about a mentality that, in my opinion, has seeped into the heads of many of the people I grew up with in the hardcore and straight edge scene. If someone in Nike’s and a vintage youth crew shirt thinks BLM is bullshit, marriage equality sucks, immigrants are dangerous and social services are for only for people who want to suck the system dry, then the shoe fits. Otherwise people are connecting dots that don’t need to be connected.
Black Lives Matter is a cause that you have spoken about and supported prior to your monologue during This is Hardcore 2016 in Philadelphia. Do you see an aligning between the values held by most people in hardcore and the values within the Black Lives Matter movement? Is hardcore doing enough to embrace racial equality?
Idealistically I would like to think there is alignment. Hardcore can do nothing to embrace racial equality, only individuals can. Hardcore is but a collective of those individuals. I am sure some scenes are more progressive in that respect than others but I have no temperature on what that means to “hardcore” as a whole.
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