Danny Seventh Dagger is someone I've been interested in interviewing for a long time I've watched Seventh Dagger grow from selling shirts to a full blown record label that has never been afraid of trying a controversial approach to promoting the straight edge movement, to some the attitude of seventh dagger has been overly aggresive, abrasive and uncompromising to others the approach seemed just in a time of apathy and indifference where fashion seemingly compromises passion but whichever side of the fence you are on respect is due to anyone that can cultivate debate and prove that a company can be grounded with a central focus and ethics in a way which seventh dagger has achieved. Straight Edge is a family and Seventh Dagger embody that notion, they carry the banner with pride and i hope they will contunue to set the standard for what a lot of straight edge kids like myself & bands can look up to for years to come...
Heya Danny thanks for doing this, you seem to be doing really well for your self at the moment Seventh Dagger seems to be going from strength to strength. I guess we should start off with the basics first, where are you currently living? and where are you from?
I am living in Raleigh, NC. I was born in Durham, NC and moved with my family to Pennsylvania when I was in elementary school and came back to NC as I entered high school. I love it here I am definitely a southern boy.
How do you think growing up in that area & environment influenced the opinions you've formed? Have you had much personal experience with drug addiction through friends & family members and are these experiences what motivated you to push the straight edge ideology through Seventh Dagger?
My family life was fine, good upbringing, loving parents. A lot of my friends in high school did drugs and drank but it didn't really have any bearing on me. I did after high school see friends go to jail over drugs and girls sell their bodies for drugs and they were people I at one time considered friends but once someone has reached that point they usually don't have friends any more. I was living the ideals of straightedge long before I head about it, it pretty much just gave a name to an attitude and lifestyle I already embraced. I would be this way right now if I had never heard of straightedge it just happens to be who I am.
You strike me as an interesting guy; tell me a bit about yourself? Do you think of yourself as an entrepreneur? And is Seventh Dagger your full time job? What are you interested in away from the label?
I actually own a screen printing business as my real occupation. Seventh Dagger was a hobby that has turned into something that takes up a lot of my time and requires a lot more work than a hobby usually entails. I would say I treat Seventh Dagger very seriously, like a full time job but I don't do this for money. I have lost more money running Seventh Dagger than I care to calculate to have promoted it to the level it is at now. I love straightedge and I love hardcore and I can tell you straight up that if I was doing this for the money I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago.
Away from the label I am pretty boring, I spend time with my wife and kids, hang out with friends, watch and collect way to many movies (my wife calls me a movie snob), as time permits I am an avid runner.
Is this something that you had always wanted to do? How hard was it getting it up together? Would you recommend it?
I always wanted to run a record label even when I was a kid I wanted to do this. When I was younger I loved crust punk and grind and always wanted to release that kind of stuff, but being young and poor the resources were not available. I did a lot of things before this I booked hardcore and punk rock shows for a venue in Winston Salem, did a small zine called Sober, toured with Walls of Jericho, tour managed It Dies Today and eventually started a straightedge clothing line that over time turned into a label. The first release was for a friends band Prayer for Cleansing and after that I just wanted to keep going.
It has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life making this label a reality. The amount of money and time put into the beginning of getting this label going were unreal. I lived in a house that had no electricity in half of it, no heat in the winter I could see my breath in the house and was as cold inside as it was outside, there were actual squirrels that would come in my house and get at the food and every once in a while the plumbing above me would explode and it would literally rain in my kitchen for 15 minutes at a time haha. I lived there because it was all I could afford and still have the money left over to keep the label going. It took a long time to get it to where it is now.
So tell me where the idea for Seventh Dagger came from? (History) Is there a story behind the name?
I loved straightedge and wanted to play a more active role in promoting what I believed in and hardcore music has always been the best way to spread and promote the straightedge lifestyle. In the early days I made really ridiculous shirts, with overly violent themes that probably did more harm to the name of straightedge than good but I was younger and I had different ideas. I still get a lot of flack for those designs but the two main points I have in my defense were one I was young and so my ideas about the world were not as fully developed but nobody is perfect everyone develops over time so I think all the people that condemn Seventh Dagger for those early shirts should reflect on who they were 7 years ago, I am sure they were not as well versed and thought out in their own ideologies either. The second point is in the beginning I was making shirts for straightedge kids I was not trying initially to spread the word I was just trying to be a rallying point for kids that already believed so I didn't take into consideration the image I was conveying. I have long since toned down the violent themes in my designs because I want people from the outside to hear this message and not just be put off by violence, because straightedge is the most positive thing I have ever been a part of. Then there is a part of me that still thinks "who the fuck cares what you think" haha.
How has it evolved over the years originally it was a clothing label and now a record label…your designs were and still are awesome, why didn't you continue the straight edge clothing line though?
It is still a clothing line we have a lot of straightedge shirts in our store.
Was it a conscious decision to start again or did you see it more as a natural progression going from clothing to releasing music?
Like I said earlier it was initially a one off thing I was going to do a vinyl version of Prayer for Cleansing's "The Rain in Endless Fall" but after that project I thought there at the time was no 100% straightedge record label. I thought there was a need for this out there as a lot of straightedge bands do not get taken seriously by labels because they view them as unmarketable. I don't give a fuck about money if I believe in a band I will loose as much money as it takes to see them succeed, ask any of the bands on the label they will tell you this is true. I see a lot of people on message boards saying that Seventh Dagger is trying to make a product out of straightedge and that we just do it for the money and that's ridiculous. I have given fighting chances to bands that would otherwise have never had a shot and I have lost a lot of money on the way. If I didn't love straightedge this label would have stopped a long time ago.
I wanted to start doing shirts but I couldn't find anyone willing to do me any designs, which sucked because my main goal in life is to promote the shit out of the straight edge! What were your original intentions and how have those goals evolved over time?
The goals originally were to be a rallying point for straightedge kids over time it has changed to promoting straightedge and not watering it down trying to promote it as real as it is. It has also evolved over time by us actually getting bigger and trying to compete with other legitimate hardcore and metal labels. We have gotten coverage in major U.S. metal magazines (Revolver, Outburn, Unrestrained, Metal Maniacs), our bands have played such large shows as the Earth Crisis reunion, The New England Metal and Hardcore Fest, we had the first Seventh Dagger Fest last week and filmed it for a DVD coming out this summer. We have really stepped our game up in these last few years.
What advise would you give to someone looking to start up a record label or produce some shirts? What's the best way to go about it? What are the advantages & disadvantages? Is there anything you would have done differently looking back in hindsight?
My main advice is be prepared to loose money. If you are not ready to sacrifice to make your record label a success then you are not ready to run a record label. The other advice is when people don't take you serious in the beginning fight hard and prove them wrong. So many people didn't take Seventh Dagger serious in the beginning, they didn't believe anyone could really make a straightedge record label get the notoriety that it has gotten, I took their rejection and used to to fuel my desire to prove them wrong.
Why do you think hardcore and straight edge has such a fanatical following? I mean shows can get out of hand pretty quickly…there's so much passion and of course the disregard for general health & safety that just make for a unique blend of mayhem.
As long as I have been involved in straightedge there is the knee jerk reaction from people on the outside to judge and direct discrimination against straightedge. There has also always been those that think straightedge is about being a tough guy and want to test that. Between those two things I think it is only natural that at this point the average straightedge kid is going to be quick to defend him or herself and their beliefs. If you are constantly being pushed your bound to snap. Now combine all that outside persecution with someones strong personal beliefs and I think it is pretty easy to see how things can get out of hand fairly easy.
How long have you been involved in the hardcore scene? Who have been your main influences? Any people in particular and have you found it hard getting to the stage your at now with the label creating a name etc?
I have been involved in it on some level for the last 19 years of my life. I have been straightedge since I was 15 and I am now 34. I think I had more influences on me when I was younger as an adult I have done my best to define myself on my terms without outside influence. I do find some people to be inspiring Karl from Earth Crisis, John McKaig, Chuck D, Malcolm X, Alejando Jodorowski, the bands on Seventh Dagger inspire me everyday to keep working, the band Catharsis had a huge impact on me, my friend Christian Ogilvy, who I have lost touch with but who I would say taught me about veganism which has changed my entire life for the better.
How do you deal with the fame? (Lol)
Haha it should be how do I deal with all the negative opinions.
As for success on relative scales is seventh dagger doing better than you thought it would as a label? You seem to be garnering a lot of attention…
I can say that right now Seventh Dagger is bigger than I ever thought it would be and I am not ready to stop so I plan on taking it as far as I can. The more this label can get itself into the spotlight the more kids that hear about straightedge and in this day and age with all the negative life choices out there for kids that can't be a bad thing.
As far as the attention I have had to fight pretty hard for that. You can imagine when you first start spreading the word about your straightedge record label the world doesn't fall all over itself to interview and help your bands. When I first started spreading the word about Seventh Dagger to media sources I couldn't usually even get written back, now we get coverage in national magazines like Revolver and Outburn. I think we have done pretty well and I think we have changed some opinions out there. I know that people out there that work in the music industry actually take serious what we are doing now. To me that's a pretty big deal, because now they are seeing past the prejudiced, preconceived ideas of what straightedge is and seeing that these are hard working hardcore bands worthy of the same time and respect as any other band out there and capable of the same success.
Where do you see the direction for Seventh Dagger heading? Do you have any more things that you want to achieve with the label? (A straight edge band in the billboard chart would be funny as hell)
The direction Seventh Dagger is on and has been on is the same direction we will always be on. I am here to promote serious and honest straightedge bands and the straightedge lifestyle, nothing else. I would like to achieve higher levels of success with it of course, and not for bullshit money reasons but for the same reasons the label was started to further spread the word of straightedge and to open the worlds eyes to some of these amazing bands. I would love to see some of my bands able to make a living off of what they do, tour full time and not have to work bullshit jobs.
What do's being straight edge mean to you?
Plain and simple abstaining from drugs and alcohol. I have to say that I think it is ignorant to see straightedge as the end of your path of progression as a person. I think straightedge should be the launching pad for attaining higher goals in your life be they personal or simply getting as much out of your life as possible. Earth Crisis said it best "An effective revolutionary through the clarity of mind that I've attained."
At what age & how did you get introduced to the hardcore scene? Can you remember when you first heard about the straight edge movement?
I was 15 when I first found out about straightedge. I was a total metal kid and I loved hip hop of the time and my friend who was a skinhead played Minor Threat for me. I thought to myself "jesus that sounds awful" haha and I still feel that way to this day. I hated all of those early straightedge bands musically (and now I dislike most of them for making a mockery of straightedge by betraying it) but I can credit those bands with making me aware of a movement and a name for what I already believed wholeheartedly.
On the subject of those old bands, fuck them. When these old bands full of sellout members reform to make a quick buck playing songs they don't believe in any more we shouldn't be supporting them. Even if you truly love Youth of Today, Project X or Bold's music we should not be supporting these guys. I have heard a ton of times that Seventh Dagger is just trying to make money off of straightedge, well there is the real people trying to make money off of straightedge. They don't believe a word they are singing and we are lining up to pay them for betraying what we hold so dear.
X'in up has always been a big part of being straight edge to me not just the history the message – the camaraderie and the identification of like minded people, do you still X up? Is it important to you to see other kids at shows doing it too? (The word heritage comes to mind haha)
I have never X'd up in my whole life. Not even once. On the other hand I have something like 30 X's tattooed on me haha. I am more interested in who people are and if they are honest and really live up to their words. I have seen so many kids with X's on their hands and X's tattooed on them sell out and I have seen kids that never X'd up and never got a straightedge tattoo never back down. The importance is on who we are and what we do.
Your opinion on the crew mentality sweeping across US shows? Do you have much knowledge on say FSU (Friends Stand United) & Courage Crew, how do people find out that are interested?
I personally am not in any crews because I don't really believe in the idea. I know a lot of people in Courage Crew and think extremely highly of them and of the crew in general. I would say the only crew I recognize as adding any value back to straightedge would be Courage Crew. I stay away from crews simply because if there are 10 people in the room I probably hate 9 of them so me and a crew would never work out. I don't even really believe in friends I keep to myself and family as much as possible and avoid socializing as much as possible I have some friends but I only allow people to get but so close to me. I don't know much about FSU aside from what the media says and I don't ever believe what the media says ever. I do know a few FSU members and have found them to be good people and that's about as far as I can comment on them.
What age is too old to do say a back-flip in the pit? Attend a show? Grow up and walk away from the scene…just kidding fuck those kids.
I am 34 with a wife and two kids and I am still here. I know John McKaig is over 49 I believe and he is still here. I don't see any limit as to when you have to throw in the towel and leave. If the older dudes help guide the younger generation that would be the best way for straightedge to really grow.
Thank you very much!
Phil Edge Lifestyle