ROCK N ROLL PHOTOGRAPHER - ROB FENN
“Once I stopped worrying about it, and just tried to outdo myself every day, it seemed like life got a lot easier.” - Rob Fenn, music photographer, owner of Cut N’ Scratch
ON EPISODE 13:
Have we discovered planets with life? The exciting news from NASA this week is about a brand new galaxy called Trappist - 1, and Dustin and Jeff talk about the possibilities of aliens on Science. Then the idea of 'fake it till you make it' and just getting out there and trying to do what you want to do is the theme of What Fuels You. Finally, the hosts discuss some new mugs coming out this year from the Death Wish Coffee Company.
ABOUT ROB FENN:
Robb Fenn has photographed some huge acts in the music world and now is getting into some other business endeavors. Rob stops by the show to talk about how he jumped right into photography and how it has led to touring with some huge bands like Metallica and Rob Zombie. He also shares what it is like to own a business and some new and exciting things he is getting into now.
Rob: ... I was down in Arlington. Are you guys familiar with the band Pantera?
Jeff: Yeah, my hero is Dimebag Darrell.
Dustin: Jeff tried to take the day off of work when Dimebag died.
Jeff: I did.
Dustin: Jeff was completely distraught, so he's the biggest Pantera fan.
Rob: You'll be happy to know, Jeff, I was just in Arlington at Dime's house editing the new Dimevision 2 that's coming out soon.
Jeff: It's funny, because, like I said, I love everything you do. I've been stalking you on the internet. I noticed the other day you posted a photo, and you're like, "I'm working hard in the studio," whatever. I saw on your computer a picture of Dime. I was like, "What is he working on? I can't wait to see." Cannot wait, yeah. Pantera's my lifeblood.
Rob: Dime recorded everything since 1982. He always had a video camera.
Rob: It's just combing through footage after footage, and just like you, I'm a huge, I'm an uber fan with a pass. I even named my kid after Pantera. Her full name's Pamalatera.
Jeff: Oh, wow.
Rob: Yeah. I might be a little bit of a fan. It was surreal to sit in his house and edit ... I gotta go in the studio. One of my favorite albums ever is The Great Southern Trendkill, and so I was sitting in there taking pictures and just soaking it all in. Just an amazing person. His wife Rita is the one that spearheaded the project. I'm doing it with her and Bobby Tongs.
Jeff: I'm so excited for this. When is it gonna be available, or is that still way in the future?
Rob: It's not way in the future. We're almost done with the whole editing thing. It's done. We're just tightening it up right now, putting the bells and whistles and the Dimebonics, so to speak. Honestly, I don't know if I'm allowed to say it, but I don't fucking care and I'm tired. It's going to be sometime this summer. It was gonna be spring, but I see realistically, hopefully, June, July maybe. Don't hold me to that, but it's gonna be this year.
Jeff: Hey, that's good enough for me, is just knowing that it's going to be this year.
Dustin: Wait. For our listeners and maybe for myself, what exactly does this project entail?
Rob: If you're familiar with Jackass ...
Rob: Dime is the original person of Jackass. I'm pretty sure Johnny Knoxville stole the idea from him.
Jeff: A ton ...
Rob: If you've seen any of the Pantera home videos, they're nuts.
Jeff: They're like my bible.
Rob: Yeah, they're crazy. We got Sterling in this. One of my favorite lines from this new one is, "How old are you people," because they're just, there's fireworks, there's alcohol, and there's fireworks, and there's a lot of alcohol.
Rob: Yeah. It's great. You guys will be glad to know, it's been fueled by Death Wish. I am drinking the shit out of that stuff while editing this thing until I can't feel my face.
Dustin: Your ears are ringing.
Rob: Yeah. It's neat. What it is, it's like Dime just made a bunch of home videos, and he was a prankster and always having fun, but there's also, what's cool with this is I've got footage of when they were playing in 1987 in the clubs in Texas. There's a lot of guitar stuff in it. It's got a little bit of everything. I'm pretty stoked for everybody to check it out and see what the hell's going on with it.
Jeff: I'm so excited.
Dustin: We're five minutes into this conversation, and Jeff has already hit cloud nine, yeah.
Rob: We like that.
Jeff: I'm not only excited because it's Pantera, but I'm excited that you're a part of this and you're spearheading this. Speaking on that, you've been now in the, I guess, rock photographer scene for a couple years, and you've done some incredible stuff. I would love to talk a little bit about how you started that path of your life, how you started photographing rock stars.
Rob: Okay. I started out in the music business on radio.
Jeff: Oh, okay. I didn't know that.
Rob: Yeah. I still hold the most F-words by the FCC in one setting. That's a different time or place. Long story short, I've always just loved music. It's really been one of those passion things for me. I started playing guitar when I was young, wanted to be a rock star just like everybody else.
Dustin: Oh, yeah.
Rob: Couldn't find the right group of people to play with. Still played but just never ... I took it seriously and I loved it. I fell into radio at one point in my life and worked for a station called KBER in Salt Lake City, Utah. I didn't know how to do it. I didn't go to school for it. I had no clue. I didn't know there were rules. I just was a music fan. I figured I gotta go there, play whatever the fuck I wanted, and that was that. That's how I met Pantera, all this crazy shit.
I got mad at my boss and didn't want to just quit, so I Super Glued the door shut, made an eight-hour tape telling him to go fuck himself ... or a 30-minute tape that was looped. It took eight hours for him to break down the studio door.
Jeff: Holy crap.
Dustin: You held the studio hostage with F-bombs. That's amazing, especially in Salt Lake City. I'm sure the Mormons loved it.
Rob: It was great. It made the papers. I had done a lot of crazy shit. I didn't know any better. The thing I did that saved my butt is I made sure all the commercials played. I looped it in the computer system.
Jeff: Excellent. Excellent. You had the station IDs in there. You had the weather and all that stuff. That's great.
Rob: Oh, yeah, everything. [crosstalk 00:06:09] nothing they could sue me for it, just the F-words, telling my boss to go politely fuck himself.
Jeff: Oh, my god.
Dustin: That's great, man.
Rob: The greatest thing is he got fired two weeks later because I did plan it out. The FCC was in town. The owner, Citadel Radio, was in town. It was the craziest ... August 17th, 1997 was the day.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Rob: I loved radio. I was good at it. I just didn't get the rules and shit. I went on. I became the creative service director at KBPI in Denver, one of the biggest rock stations out there. Was always in radio and music and all of that. I was part of Jacor when we merged with Clear Channel and then started that monstrosity, got in the concert side of it. I got laid off after 9/11, like a lot of people did on the radio. Radio took a shit.
Rob: I went back to Utah. I started a couple nightclubs with the money I'd saved. If you ever want to lose money, start a nightclub. [crosstalk 00:07:17] stuff.
Jeff: All right.
Dustin: Duly noted.
Rob: Yeah. It was great. It was fun. We made money, but so much shit can go wrong when you involve alcohol and rules and stuff.
Jeff: That's true.
Rob: I was 35 years old, and for all your listeners, this will give ... You're never too old to start over on shit.
Jeff: Damn right.
Rob: I do have a daughter, and I've had sole custody of her from day one. I had a nightclub in Park City, Utah. I was just, I don't know if either one of you have ever got to a point in your life where you're just like, "I am fucking over all of this."
Dustin: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative), we've both been there, for sure.
Rob: I hit that point ... and my poor mother. I'm 35 years old. My kid was staying with her while I was doing this bar in Park City, so I'd go ... She basically stayed at my mom's, because my mom was babysitting. Long story short, I was just done. I had this bar in Park City. I wasn't getting to see ... I'd never been apart from my kid more than a day, and this bar was making it so she's hanging out at my mom's house for three or four days, so she can go to school. I basically just said, "Fuck it," and it literally was one day. My poor business partner about died. I'm like, "I'm done." We were having issues with the bar. It just wasn't worth fighting for shit anymore.
I sold everything I had, including my cars, everything, and I went to my mom's house and moved in. I didn't ask permission. I just kind of showed up. To clear this up for everybody is, I moved out when I was 17. I've always worked. I've always been doing something. Here I come to my parents' house. There was no room for me, because my brothers and sisters, two of the families were there. This was a full house. I literally sat on the couch and watched episodes of 24 and NCIS on my laptop. Take my kid to school, come back. I'd shower every once in a fucking while. I was just done. My poor mom didn't know what to think.
After about 40 days of that, you realize that your bank account, when you ain't putting shit in it and you're just taking shit out of it, that's not a good thing.
Rob: I really wanted to get back into radio, and I got some investors, and I wanted to start an online radio station that was a magazine as well. I'm not just talking some fucking blog that someone picks up and does whatever.
Rob: I wanted this thing to be a real cool, go back to my radio roots, because I was such a big part of that part of the industry. I hit up a friend at Warner Brothers and just asked if I could get a photo pass to show my investors. I needed 75 grand to start this thing.
Rob: Nobody living on their mom's couch is giving me 75 ... you know what I mean?
Jeff: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:10:15]
Rob: I had to design this all up. Warner Brothers hooked me up with a pass to Disturbed and Sevendust, and I'm really good friends with Sevendust. I was there when they got when they were signed at F-Fest and all that good shit. Then they also gave me a pair, a photo pass, for Avenged Sevenfold. This is 2009. I loved taking pictures, but I was by no means a photographer. I'd done it when I was a kid, you know what I mean?
Rob: I borrowed a camera from a friend of mine at the Tribune, Amanda Chamberlain. They gave me this big Cannon thing. I didn't know how to fucking work the thing. I roll up to the Disturbed show, and I'm pretending to know what I'm doing, and I gotta be in the little pit, and I'm fucking acting like a photographer. Long story short, I couldn't wait to see these pictures. I look at them, and the worst picture you've ever taken on an iPhone at a concert was better than the shit I did. It was so bad.
Dustin: Oh, no.
Rob: I was like, "This is dumb as fuck." It was kind of brutal, the other people in the pit because I didn't belong. I didn't know the rules. I didn't know how it worked.
Rob: I was just like, "Fuck it, I'm going to have to buy these pictures from somebody and get this done," but I was a big Avenged Sevenfold fan. I liked the music. I'm like, "Fuck it. I get to be in this little pit area for a couple songs. I'm going to go to the next show and just pretend ..." just so I could go see the show, basically. I think that was the trick for me because I took this camera. I wasn't planning on using it. I wasn't planning on anything, but I couldn't just go stand in the pit and not look like I ...
Jeff: Right, right.
Rob: ... didn't belong there. I basically watched the show through the camera, but I was clicking just so I could, no one booted my ass out of there.
Rob: About a week later, I went through the photos, and I found this one of Brian Synyster Gates. I was like, "Holy fuck. Maybe I can do this." I had a good time because I just watched the show. I didn't worry about getting a picture. I just kind of enjoyed the thing. I fell in love with it. I was just like, "How do you do this for a living," because I'd seen a lot of people in the pit, so I'm like, "God, there's got to be ... Somebody's paying these people to be here." Long story short, nobody's paying anybody to be there.
Jeff: Nope, they do not make money.
Rob: I asked a few people. I got the runaround on a lot of stuff, a lot of empty, weird shit. There were all these people doing it, but nobody was making any money. I tell everyone, "You should do what you love, but, remember, you got to make a living at it too, or you ain't gonna be able to do shit."
Rob: I put together a business plan. I didn't shoot another show for nine months until the fall of 2009 and started just doing my thing. Two years after that first Avenged Sevenfold show, I was on tour with them. Needless to say, my business plan worked.
Dustin: That's awesome. You started with nothing in the photo pit. You had no experience, but you decided to grind it out anyway. What would you give as far as advice to somebody doing the same thing as you, starting in the bottom, starting in the pit, taking photos. What would you say to them that would help them be successful?
Rob: The first thing I'd say to anybody in the entertainment business in this is don't be a fucking asshole, and the reason I say that is this business is so small. I know it's worldwide, but it, literally, everybody knows somebody that knows somebody.
Jeff: Right, totally.
Rob: The one thing that I've always done is ... always, we're all going to have ... There's two people out there that can tell you I'm a total fucking asshole, but you don't be that way, because it's so small, and just follow the rules. The standard photo thing is the first three songs, no flash in the pit. Then you're done.
Rob: I always followed the rules, because I didn't know any better. I wasn't trying to sneak anything and all that kind of shit, and I was just very honest and upfront. There's been bands I don't get a shot. It's funny because I'll give you a great example. I'm doing a lot of projects with Randy Blythe from Lamb of God.
Jeff: Okay, yeah, I've actually seen you post a lot with him.
Rob: Yeah, really good friends and all that. I put in for a photo pass for Lamb of God one time in Utah and got denied. I didn't throw a fit. I didn't bitch. The crew had hit me up. They wanted me to bring them In-N-Out burger, which I did. The funny story is, Willie's guitar tech's like, "Hey, he just got this ESP thing. Can you shoot a few shots of this on stage?" I'm like, "No, I got denied," and they about died. They're like, "Bullshit."
Rob: He hooked it up, but I'm friends with these guys, and instead of going ... I could have gone to anyone and started screaming and saying, "This is bullshit." You just don't. You're always going to have a chance to do something else, and just make a good impression and don't be mean to people, because you just never know who knows who.
Rob: There can be that person in this photo pit with an iPhone that you want to punch in the back of the head because they're in your way, but it might be somebody's wife that's on stage.
Dustin: Right. You never know. I've heard of stories of, not to bring up any names, but Gene Simmons can be a jerk to a couple people, and one of those people was a comedian that was nobody at first and is now a famous comedian.
Dustin: Now he talks about it a lot. It doesn't look good for Gene Simmons. It's like, you never know what that person's going to be that you're talking to that you decide to be a jerk too. It could end up ruining your career in the future. It goes without saying, the Golden Rule applies everywhere.
Rob: It really does. It's easy to say, but that's my advice to people, because I did get to where I'm at, and it was because I solely believe ... I worked hard. I had a business plan and I stuck to it. It wasn't an easy road, but I always made sure that I was building relationships with people, because if you noticed the people I work with now, they really didn't work with other people, and they're pretty closed off, and I've got that trust with them.
That's the thing is, you've just got to build relationships and build trust. The best advice I can give is ... Are you guys familiar with the actor Jeremy Piven?
Rob: One of my favorite actors ever.
Jeff: Yeah, I love Jeremy Piven.
Rob: Yeah, he's great. His mom's actually a schoolteacher that teaches acting.
Jeff: Oh, okay.
Rob: There was this Sundance event that she was getting an award for from him for being the Teacher of the Year. It was a cool luncheon type of thing. I got hired to shoot it. This is when I first started out and stuff, and I was really excited about it. Not only being a fan but ... Because it was all these actors that had their favorite teacher and stuff.
Rob: I can't remember what happened, but I, Piven and his mom kind of got locked backstage while they were setting something up, and I was taking pictures of them with the award. It's just the three of us, which was kind of surreal for me. I just asked her, I'm like, "How did you control this guy? What was the one thing that made him turn ..." Like you guys ask, "What was the advice you did?" She told me. She's like, "I told him just to outdo himself every day and not worry about everyone else."
Jeff: Ah, such great advice.
Rob: Yeah. I was always when I first started out, and this is the first time I'll ever admit this, you always worry about the ... Why does that person get to do that, or why can't I be that photographer for that band? All that bullshit. Once I stopped worrying about that shit and just tried to outdo myself every day, it seemed like life got a lot easier and things fell into place.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Dustin: I always say that you can't live in the relativity of others, whether they're doing better or worse than you, whether you're working with somebody who is not following through with what you expect, and you give yourself some slack because of that. That shouldn't be allowed. You should never live in the relativity of others, and you should always be living on your own scale. Comparing yourself with, like you said, how you did yesterday. Do better than you did yesterday. That's definitely something I always keep in mind.
Jeff: That's great advice.
Rob: It's the one thing that always stuck with me. I'm telling you, as corny as it sounds, it works. Outdo you, and then you'll always be better. It's the whole keeping up with the Jones' is bullshit.
Jeff: That's awesome. Speaking of keeping up with yourself, after shooting Avenged Sevenfold and going on tour with them, you have now shot a myriad of different acts and bands and toured with a lot of bands, most famously, some of your shots of Rob Zombie are just incredible.
Rob: Thank you very much.
Jeff: On top of just, countless others that we can name. I would love to hear ... Okay, I think we're still there. I would love to hear some of your most favorite memories because what's fun is that you got into this as an auxiliary. You didn't know what you were doing like you said, and you threw yourself into the pit. You had the confidence to do it. Now you're a rock photographer, and you've done a lot of cool stuff with that. Do you have some favorite tours you've been on or some crazy tour stories or something like that?
Rob: I'm writing a book called Tour Bus [inaudible 00:20:41]. I'm not kidding.
Jeff: That's the answer to that question then. It's awesome.
Rob: Before everyone's all, "Oh, fuck, he's gonna ..." It's not a tell-all. There's so much shit that happens on the road that people don't know about. Even if you told them, they wouldn't fucking believe you.
Rob: What my book is, is I'm doing this thing, there's no names, you know what I mean?
Rob: There'll never be a name, but it's just a story.
Rob: I'd say my favorite thing is when I get to talk to all the roadies and the artists and everything, just hearing the stories. Like I said, I was with Rise Against today, and Nick's producing that album, the guy that made the guacamole in Sound City.
Jeff: Yep. Oh, yeah.
Rob: Kind of a famous producer, but we're all just bullshitting about road stories and stuff like that. That's my favorite part is, it's kind of this weird, crazy community that ... Dustin knows. When we were at Gibson's at the dinner.
Rob: Me and Randy were rattling off a bunch of shit.
Dustin: Yeah, that was great.
Rob: It's a cool camaraderie. As far as one that sticks out, there's so fucking many.
Jeff: Yeah, I'm sure.
Rob: This one, and, like I said, you can believe it or not. I don't know how I could even fucking make it up.
Dustin: Give it to me, Rob. I want to hear it.
Rob: I was in North ... Is it North Carolina or South Carolina that has the rebel flag flying above the capitol?
Jeff: I'm going to say South.
Rob: Is it both?
Jeff: I'm going to say South. I'm not exactly sure, but I'm just going to guess it's South Carolina.
Rob: God. It's one of the Carolinas.
Rob: I'm on tour with Shinedown on one of the Carnival of Madnesses in 2013.
Jeff: Okay, yeah.
Rob: For people that don't understand how touring works, you can't shit on the bus.
Dustin: No, never.
Rob: Your morning ritual is to find the bathroom and do your business, and you get on this thing, and that's just how it is.
Rob: My whole thing is I go ... Am I allowed to mention another coffee place?
Jeff: Of course.
Dustin: Yeah, go for it, man.
Rob: Oh, okay. It just dawned on me. Starbucks is like the American embassy. No matter where you're at, in Moscow, when I went through to Moscow, they speak ... That's the safe haven because you go, they got the clean bathroom.
Jeff: Yep, they got a clean bathroom, and they speak English, yeah. No, I've heard this from other people too, yeah, definitely.
Rob: I had the app on my phone. I find this place, and a lot of them are in hotels and shit like that. We're downtown. I want to say it was Raleigh.
Rob: I'm fucking up the city.
Dustin: That's North Carolina.
Jeff: That's North Carolina, but, yeah, okay.
Rob: Okay. It's an outdoor venue. It was a crazy place. Anyways, there was this Marriott Hotel that this coffee place was in and I'm going to do my business. I wake up in the morning about nine o'clock, and I get off the bus. I roll up to this place, and I'm walking. Like I said, you can believe it or not, I don't know how the fuck I could make it up, but there's an Indian wedding going on in one of the Carolinas.
Rob: When I mean Indian wedding, I'm talking mid ... India, the colorful elephants, and all that bullshit.
Jeff: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Rob: Just picture that downtown outside this Marriott.
Dustin: Wait. Were there elephants?
Rob: There was an elephant and a camel.
Dustin: Wow. Wow, that's so awesome.
Rob: The whole full-on crazy circus ticket. I'm half asleep. I don't do drugs, and I don't drink a lot. I'm just like, "Did somebody ... What the fuck? Did I get Roofied?" The closer I'm getting to this monstrosity, I realize, for me to get to the coffee, I gotta go through the wedding, and to use the bathroom. I'm just like, "There's no turning back." I kind of weave my way through this crazy stuff.
There's this beautiful tattooed Barbie looking girl right outside of the coffee shop holding a pit bull by the leash. I'm like, "Oh, the morning's looking up." I'm practicing what Rico Suave move I'm going to use on her. The closer I get to her, though, the more pissed off she looks. I'm like, "Yeah, I ain't talking to her." I get in the place. I go do my business. I get my coffee and my brownie or whatever the hell I ate, the muffin, that morning. I walk up, and the good-looking girl's like, "Excuse me, sir," and this is word-for-fucking-word, "Excuse me, sir, can you hold my pit bull so it doesn't eat the camel while I get a cup of coffee?" I'm like, "Sure."
Jeff: Are you serious?
Rob: I grab the dog by the leash. I sit on the little bench. There's the camel there and all that kind of stuff. She goes in the thing, and it dawns on me. I'm like, "My life is so fucked up that this is normal."
Jeff: That's insane. That's insane.
Rob: She comes back out. I talk to her for a little bit. I go back to the bus. The tour lady, Jackie, that's out there, love her to death. She's like, "So how was your morning?" I'm just like, "You wouldn't fucking believe it." That's one of them. That's one of so many great, crazy stories. I love being on the road. I'm very lucky. The people that I get to work with are my family.
Rob: I haven't worked with anyone that I could say was a bad experience and that hasn't treated me well, which, I feel very fortunate because I do know, there's the stories out there, but ... I released a Halestorm book. I was just at Lzzy's house today. I slept over. They got this place in Nashville that's amazing. Lzzy made us all breakfast. They're family.
Jeff: I love Lzzy.
Rob: Then rolled over to Rise Against in the studio and took care of some other business on some other stuff. I feel very blessed, and I wish I knew the formula so everybody could do it and everybody could experience what I get to experience. I'll be honest. The only thing is, is just believe in yourself. You're not owed shit. None of these bands owe you a goddamn thing. You got to remember that.
Rob: They're working just as hard as you are. I know there's a lot, when it comes to photographers and stuff, there's those photo releases, and a lot of them are completely fucking ridiculous, but you got to look at it on the band's side of it is, they don't want bad pictures put out there. They don't want all this bullshit. I think the best thing I've done is when I work with people, they know, because we all get crazy, shitty shots. We've all had those goofy ...
Rob: ... things, but they know I'm just going to delete it. It's never going to see the light of day.
Rob: I've had a few. There was this one. I'd done an Oscar event, one of those gifting suites, where they give rich people free shit.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rob: Really high-end, A-list actress. I snapped a picture of her. She was in a massage chair, and it just caught it, the worst possible fucking picture. This woman is beyond beautiful. I love her to death. I'm looking at this picture. I probably could have sold it to one of those fucking tabloid places for 50 grand or whatever they pay for that bullshit, but I would have been ruined. That's the thing you gotta remember is, look, like you should with life, look at the big picture issue.
Dustin: Like you said earlier, it's about the fact that you've built the trust with these people.
Rob: Yeah, it's relationships. It's just like anything. It's like with you guys when I met you guys.
Rob: It's a cool hang. It's not a bunch of bullshit. When I was with Dustin, we went to Gibson's Steakhouse.
Dustin: I remember the first day when we heard Rob Zombie was going to be in town, and so we knew [Talana 00:29:23], and we hit up Talana to see if we could get tickets, and she got us tickets. Then you saw our names on the list, and you were like, "Who the hell are these schmoes?"
Rob: I don't know if we were supposed to tell that story, but ...
Dustin: No, no, we're good. We're good. We can tell anything we want. It's a podcast. We're great. I think we reached out to you, and we were like, "Hey, we're Death Wish Coffee. Just let us in. We'll give you a bunch of coffee." You were like, "Shit, I love coffee. Let's get this rocking."
Rob: The whole story, the big thing behind that is, is I don't give out tickets. I don't let anyone backstage. I've never done that because it's where I work.
Rob: When I do, it's like two people. That's it. The list came in really big, so that's why I cut it off. It was funny how it worked, and it all worked out in the end. Yeah, I was not a fan at the first. I was like, "I got two tickets, not fucking 16."
Dustin: Yeah, yeah, we brought the whole crew. In the end, you got to meet us, and you were all about coffee. Death Wish is now the exclusive coffee of Cut & Scratch.
Dustin: Which is your barbershop/vinyl shop/coffee shop. Can you tell us a little bit about Cut & Scratch?
Rob: Yeah. Don't ever drink and think.
Dustin: I disagree, sir.
Rob: Like I said earlier, I'm a huge fan of music. I fucking love it. Everything about it, all my greatest memories and all my worst memories I can, a song can trigger them. Always, when I was little, I wanted a record store. I don't know how old you guys are, but ...
Rob: When I was a teenager, I got to roll into the record store, flip through everything. It was a whole different time.
Jeff: Oh, yeah.
Rob: Nowadays, and we won't get started on that, because you'd need a three-hour podcast because I fucking hate iTunes. When I talk in the high schools, I scare the shit out of the kids, because I tell them, "You're stealing the music. You're fucking us all."
Rob: Maybe I'll venture off on that in a second. I was sitting in my shop one day in the photo studio, and I really wanted a record store. I had planned on opening one when I was going to retire because I knew it was just going to be a money pit, you know what I mean?
Jeff: Oh, yeah.
Rob: I just figured I'd save up my money. I'd throw a bunch of records in it, and I would just hang out and tell war stories and fucking be that crazy old dude on the corner. I got thinking about it. I'm like, "I want it now," you know what I mean? I was like, "Why the fuck can't I just open it now?" The place I was at, I had the room to do it, but I knew ... This is what I try to tell people is, just because you want to do something doesn't mean you can. You gotta figure out how to do it and how to realistically do it. Don't lie to yourself.
Rob: You can't go into business and just hope for fucking you sell everything out every day. That's just not how business works.
Rob: You guys know that.
Dustin: Oh, yeah.
Jeff: Yeah, we know.
Rob: I got to thinking, and I was sitting in there, and it just felt pretty cool. I'm like, "Fuck, if I threw two barber chairs in here and had a couple old school traditional barbers, then everybody would come in to get a haircut, and they'd buy a little bit of vinyl. They'd see a little bit of my work, and I'm a fuck-up." I love coffee. I'm like, "Fuck it, I'll throw the coffee in here too."
Jeff: Awesome. What a great idea.
Rob: I was just like, "You can't buy a haircut on Amazon, so these motherfuckers have to come in here," and that's how it started, was just that. It just happened to be when I was having a few beers.
Jeff: It's a great freaking idea. Not only that, I hear that you're expanding.
Rob: We are. My manager would like to kick me in the ass and have me do all, finish the projects I got going on. Ironically, I'm sitting in Nashville right now. We were going to move to Nashville. I got a little nervous on it, and I'm managed by In De Goot Entertainment that's based out of New York.
Rob: I'm a huge New York Yankees fan.
Jeff: Okay, cool.
Rob: I went and checked out Brooklyn and found a place and all this stuff. It just all fit. We are going to open the second one in Brooklyn.
Jeff: That is so exciting.
Jeff: Hopefully, we'll come down and visit you when you guys open.
Rob: Oh, we would love to have you guys down there, because just the one we have in Utah, we literally sell you guys' coffee exclusive. There's nothing else. There's no other options.
Jeff: That's so cool, man.
Dustin: There should be no other options.
Jeff: We're working on that. We're working on that.
Dustin: It's either way too much caffeine or way too much fucking caffeine.
Rob: Yeah. Here's the thing about you guys' coffee that I really dig is, it does have the high caffeine but it doesn't taste like shit.
Rob: I've had some of those, there's those Cuba Coffees that are like, I think they're crack, and they just don't taste good. You guys' taste, it's kind of dangerous for me, because it's smooth for me. Then all of a sudden I can't feel my fucking face.
Dustin: Here's the thing. There's a lot of imitation coffees out there that think they're the world's strongest coffee, and they can push their shit as much as they want to, but they're not going to taste good. We put in the care, and we make sure that it's organic and fair trade, and everybody's happy when it's made.
Jeff: We have mad scientists behind the curtain.
Dustin: Yeah. We give a fuck. That's what it's about, and it's not just about selling coffee. It's about making a lifestyle. I think that's what really catches people.
Rob: You guys have done it. The product's good. It tastes good, and it's ... That's why we were excited. That's why we were like, "We'll just do this. There's no others." Hell, we even used your skull and crossbones in our logo.
Dustin: Yeah, I saw that. Loved it.
Jeff: That is so freaking cool.
Rob: Which I love that stuff.
Dustin: That's cool, man.
Rob: Yeah. The coffee shop, we're rolling it to Brooklyn. I am planning on opening, I want one in Tokyo. I want one in London, that big of a reach. The only problem with it is finding the right people to run them because we're not going to franchise them. I still own them.
Rob: The only reason is that is not to be a greedy little shit. I just don't want it to become something that it's not, because this whole thing started and still is about music.
Dustin: It's about quality control. Once again, we're bringing up that trust aspect. When people hear "Rob Fenn," they know it's going to be a good quality product, one way or the other, whether it be coffee, photography or music, that the fact that you have the integrity to keep things really high quality.
Jeff: On the up and up.
Dustin: Yeah. I think that's what's important.
Rob: I do too. Unfortunately, it's been lost in certain aspects of everything, but it's not. I appreciate you guys saying that. I'm a little humbled and a little, I think I'm blushing a little bit.
Dustin: Hah-hah, good.
Rob: I appreciate it because we do it ... I've got the record label as well.
Rob: We just started this thing that I don't know if it's going to work or not. It's another one of those like I did with the coffee shop, but I had my one band ... I got this one band signed called Orange Blossom Special. They're out of California like the Foo Fighters meets Social Distortion, pretty cool group.
Jeff: Awesome. I'm in.
Rob: They came and done an in-store at Cut & Scratch.
Rob: Only 15 people showed up, which is like, "Ah, shit."
Dustin: Yeah, it's a little disheartening, but you gotta push through, man.
Rob: Yeah, but they sold 300 dollars in merch.
Dustin: Wow, that's awesome.
Rob: On 15 people.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Rob: The business person in me was like, "What the fuck?"
Rob: Then it dawned on me that nobody tours like they used to tour anymore. If you look back at when Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis started, they actually toured together. I don't know if anyone knows the history on that.
Jeff: Oh, hell, yeah, they did, yeah.
Rob: They got in a car and they hit every little fucking town every 60, 30 miles.
Rob: What I put together, it's called Loud, Live & in a Dive.
Rob: It kicks off February 25th in Los Angeles.
Jeff: Oh, cool.
Rob: We're literally rolling for eight weeks. It goes till April 28th and ends back in Los Angeles. Then we're going to do, for all the people bitching already, I already got the emails, we're going to do the northern part of the country in June, but we're hitting every little dive bar and every record store along the way.
Jeff: That's such a great idea.
Dustin: Old school, man. That's awesome.
Rob: Yeah. It's working. They're not 300 venue places and shit. They're 25 people show up, or five, but it gives it back to the fans and about the music and stuff. I'm pretty excited about that. My other band, the Boxmasters, we play theaters. They're big and stuff. This one I'm pretty excited about, to test it out, because bands always ask me, "What do I do?" It's like, literally, the way it is now, you can take that iTunes thing and fucking shove it up your ass because it's just ruined music. The reason I say that and I know we're on a podcast, and it probably runs through that shit.
Dustin: No, it's all right. It's all right.
Rob: To me, when Napster hit and everyone's like, "Well, it's not stealing music." Here's the thing. I know you got a lot of Nickelback fans out there listening.
Jeff: I hope not. Jesus.
Dustin: Wait, was that an insult?
Rob: No, that was not. That was getting your attention.
Dustin: Okay, you got it.
Rob: Nickelback, when they blew up ... By the way, and I don't give a shit what anyone says, Chad is one of the greatest guitarists. If you watch him play, without the other bullshit, take it away, he can play like a motherfucker. They're the nicest guys ever.
Jeff: Yes, I've heard that from multiple people, yeah.
Rob: I felt bad for him, because they're the most hated thing ever, but you know what? You can only feel bad for so long. Chad's like, "I got a hockey rink in my fucking house."
Jeff: Yeah, they're super successful.
Rob: Yeah, he's doing okay.
Rob: Here's my thing with it, though, is, with Nickelback, when Napster hit, they figured that they lost ten million album sales. Everyone's like, "Ah, who fucking cares?" If they would have got that, they would have broke AC/DC's record of the most albums sold.
Rob: It's like, "Who fucking cares?" Here's where you all should fucking care and start buying music is, times ten million by ten dollars.
Rob: That's how much money went out of the economy. Fucking Nickelback's pocket. That's how much money went out of the business. Now you couldn't hire photographers. You couldn't do these really cool shows. You couldn't hire Death Wish to come out and set up ... All this shit that everyone used to do promotion-wise, you couldn't do. Then you started seeing record stores shut down. A high school kid can't get a job in a record store anymore.
Rob: It's like, "Keep stealing that shit or keep paying your fucking 9.99 on iTunes." Here's the other kick in the fucking ass is, 30 percent of that goes straight to Apple, not the band.
Jeff: No, totally, yeah, straight to Apple.
Rob: Thirty fucking percent.
Rob: Here's the one that really pisses me off is, I know record companies are evil. I own one. Mine's truly independent, but the thing, what record companies do or did, is they weeded out the bullshit. Nowadays, anybody can throw an album up on iTunes. How in the fuck am I supposed to discover any band?
Jeff: Right. It's rough.
Rob: That's my biggest bitch.
Dustin: Yeah. You're supposed to stand out in a sea of idiocy.
Rob: You can't.
Jeff: It's really rough.
Rob: There's nobody anymore that ... We're losing, we lost Bowie, Prince, all these people. One of my favorite ones ever is Waylon Jennings.
Rob: Merle Haggard.
Rob: It's like, we're not getting any of that shit. When I watched the Grammies, and it's nothing against people putting anything out there. I don't want people to think I hate new music. I love anyone ...
Jeff: It's not the same.
Rob: I love anyone that's willing to put their balls on the chopping block and play in front of people.
Jeff: Me too.
Rob: Here's my bitch is, you don't get in the car and you don't drive around. You don't go through shit anymore to write that first good album. You think Appetite of Destruction was written on Pro Tools in the basement in one fucking week?
Jeff: Yeah, no way.
Rob: Those motherfuckers lived that stupid shit on Sunset Strip, were crazy as fuck. Read Duff's book. My favorite thing is, "We thought we partied. Then we met Mötley Crüe." As much as I hate Vince Neil and he can't sing worth a fuck, what a band, just debauchery-wise, and all rock and roll.
Dustin: I almost think that this whole iTunes, Napster, new wave of listening to music, almost cannibalized itself to where the point that the only musicians that will be left in the end, let's say five, ten years down the road, are the ones that actually give a fuck. I think we'll be left at the end of all this musical apocalypse with another Merle Haggard, another Waylon Jennings, another Johnny Cash. That's the way I see it. The only people who will stay in the business are the ones who actually give a crap about it.
Rob: I hope so. We do have one. His name's Sturgill Simpson.
Dustin: I love Sturgill Simpson.
Rob: That's the only new stuff that's come out, and he's got three albums.
Rob: They could be that iconic timeless band. There's no more. You look at Rob Zombie. That dude's show is beyond imaginable.
Dustin: Oh, my God.
Jeff: Yeah, so incredible.
Rob: Tell me one new person that's come out in the last ten years that can even touch that.
Dustin: No one.
Dustin: No one, period.
Rob: That's sad.
Jeff: It's sad, yeah.
Rob: That's my whole bitch on it is, and I love using the Nickelback thing, because everyone's like, "Oh, fuck them," but then when you realize that you took all of that money out of the economy and there are all these jobs that ... You guys know how it is. Look around your warehouse. It's a whole moving thing. It's not one person.
Jeff: No, no, no.
Dustin: No, it's gears.
Jeff: It is sad, but I do hope that it ebbs and flows and we get it back to that point at some point.
Rob: I think it will. My record company, we don't do digital download. You can't buy a digital download. You have to buy the physical copy. Everyone thinks I'm crazy, but here's a statistic for you. I'm in the black. I didn't lose money. We make money. Our bottom line is there. I don't get people stealing my shit off of fucking iTunes or illegally downloading it. They have to go to the shows and get copies. They get mailed out a copy, and it's worked.
Dustin: Speaking of running four businesses, what keeps you going? You deal with the label side of things, the photography side of things, the business running side of things. How do you keep this all in order? What fuels you?
Jeff: Yeah, what fuels you?
Rob: Let's just put the obvious plug in there, it's the Death Wish Coffee.
Jeff: Oh, no, stop. You don't have to do that.
Rob: I'll be honest. I've stepped back a little bit because it was catching up to me. My shit was falling through the ... Obviously, today, I was supposed to do this interview I don't know how long ago.
Dustin: You gotta be careful not to burn yourself out.
Rob: Yeah. I'm stepping into, I've got a couple movie projects I'm doing this year.
Rob: I wish I could talk about. I can't.
Jeff: Hopefully, down the road, we can talk.
Rob: Yeah, down the road. As soon as I can, holy fuck, I'm going to scream it to the rooftops.
Jeff: Yeah, we'll have you back on.
Rob: Yeah. We're enjoying it. This year's probably the best year career-wise for me, but I've also taken a step back to give more time to make sure I'm, that everything's getting taken care of.
Rob: I don't know. I'll be honest. I'm that guy that just is fucking when I come up with an idea, I want to do it. I got a good management team at In De Goot. They keep me grounded. I've got a good girl that is just amazing.
Jeff: Ah, that's the best.
Rob: Oh, yeah. Let's just say she runs the whole show because she's the one that can put up with my dumb ass.
Jeff: That's the best.
Rob: Dustin met her. She was at the dinner.
Dustin: Yeah, she was awesome.
Rob: It's just surrounding yourself with good people. I'll be honest. I love it. I love working as much as I do. That old saying, "When you do what you love, you don't ever work a day in your life."
Jeff: Yeah. Amen.
Rob: I love everything I do. Don't get me wrong. It gets frustrating at times.
Rob: It's like, "Oh, this sucks. Why are ...?" I could be flipping burgers at McDonald's.
Rob: Like I said, I've always been a Rob Zombie fan. I got told "Fuck off" six times to do a book with him, none of them by Rob.
Rob: All of them by people around him that, and not necessarily even around him. It was just like people ... If you want to do something, you can find a way to do it. I always wanted to do a Zombie photo book, because I just thought his show is so ...
Jeff: He's perfect. He's a perfect candidate for that.
Dustin: So visual.
Rob: It happened. I don't know how. It was an accident. I think what fuels me is just seeing the next level of everything.
Rob: Yeah. I'm releasing a Dream Theater book this year.
Rob: [crosstalk 00:48:53] any Dream theater fans out there.
Jeff: I love Dream Theater.
Dustin: You've got two of them here.
Jeff: Holy shit, that's awesome.
Rob: The book is ...
Dustin: Oh. Miss Popular again.
Jeff: You're back.
Rob: ... is done. Okay.
Jeff: The book is done.
Rob: The book is done. It was supposed to come out a couple years ago, but it just wasn't right yet. It is now done. We're going to release it sometime this year. We can't say yet when. There is a date.
Rob: It's one of those things, like when I have done it and I gotta see it, it's just so rewarding.
Jeff: That's so great.
Rob: I just think it's one of those things. I like seeing the end project. I've been really lucky, the people I've worked with. I have done the [Corn Book 00:49:47]. There are 20 [inaudible 00:49:48] books. I didn't take any of the pictures. I produced it, though, and put it together. It was one of those things. I just like seeing the end result. I think that's what keeps pushing me is the next project. Now that I'm in the movie business, which is, it's weird for me even to fucking say that.
Rob: I'm loving it. I don't know if it's a new shiny penny or if I'm good at it, and I'll figure that shit out later, but I really dig it, and I'm surrounded by really good people in it. I think that's the key to it, and that's what keeps me going is, once this stops being fun, I'm fucking done. That's it. It hasn't stopped being fun yet.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Dustin: If people want to see the end result of Rob Fenn, of what you're doing, how do they follow you? How do they find you on the internet? How do they get the end result of Rob Fenn?
Rob: They can go to RobFenn.com, R-O-B, F-as-in-Frank-E-N-N, dot come. I'm Irish.
Jeff: Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on fueled by [deff-cass 00:50:58] and telling us all these awesome stories and your outlook. I'm just going to say it right now. We are going to come to see you for the opening of Cut & Scratch in Brooklyn, because we love everything that you do, and we want to support you as much as we can. We'll be there.
Rob: Oh, I would love that, guys. I can't wait.
Jeff: Awesome. Awesome.