“I started this whole thing to just give back and to contribute something.”
If you’ve watched any well-shot, well-edited and decent sounding video of a live hardcore show over the last few years, then good chances are it’s a hate5Six.com video. Started by Sunny Singh in 2007, it’s not just a media platform to share hardcore music, but a growing community too; one that’s built around the prosperity and documentation of hardcore and punk music via an audio-visual lens. However, hate5six.com has actually been a side-gig for Sunny until just recently.
See, in January 2018, Sunny was laid off from his I.T. job after many years of being a computer programmer. (This is actually where a lot of his hate5six.com software like Sage comes from; as to Sunny it’s not just about videos, but a playground for what he can do with tech to enrich music lovers’ experiences). With no full-time job and now with more time on his hands, a chance encounter during a job interview confirmed his realization that it was time to pursue his videographer and hardcore music documenter role 110%.
“This past January I was laid off and I was at a crossroads with either continuing working in software or trying to do this stuff full time. It was really funny, actually. I had a couple [job] interviews and at one of them, they were asking all of these algorithm questions, and I’m using a whiteboard to answer the coding questions. At the end of it, the interviewer, he’s like “I know this is a little random, and I don’t wanna catch you off-guard, but I watch hate5six all the time! You filmed my band like eight years ago.” It was a ‘holy shit’ moment for me, just that he was familiar with that side of my life,” laughs Sunny.
“It was a sign for me to try and do this thing full time.”
Of course, doing it full-time means needing a steady income. This is where Patreon comes in for the life-long hardcore music enthusiast. Now, to me, the work of hate5six is a near-perfect application for the Patreon model – it’s digital, it’s online, it’s instant, and there’s a constant stream of content coming out for monthly supporters to enjoy. So, to start at the beginning of this new journey, how is the monthly subscription going for him? Well, in short, it’s going well.
“A couple people were pushing me to sign up for Patreon a couple years back”, recalls Sunny, getting into the stats and goals he’d like to see himself hit.
“I felt that I wasn’t ready to quit tech and I also felt like it would’ve been a premature move. I think we’re now culturally at a point where people want to support content creators that they like. Again, it’s not out of the norm to ask your supporters to sustain and support you through monthly contributions. The pieces were all ready to go! Like you said, the content I make lends itself well to Patreon. I started it back in March and after the first two months, I had almost 600 subscribers – about 592 subs. In terms of statistics like that, that’s 1.4% of my viewership, which is a good start for me as I didn’t know what to expect, honestly. Aiming bigger, I’m looking to hit 5-10%. And that might be unrealistic, but getting to that ballpark would allow me to travel the world and film bands – bands that don’t come to my neck of the woods. So if an Australian band wanted me to come over and shoot their band, I could potentially do that. That’s what hate5six could be if I get it there”.
1.4% is a solid start within just two months. At the time of publishing, his Patreon is now at 37.8% of his funding goal, with 792 supporters – he’s even started doing band interviews too. So far, it’s doing good, and it’s at least starting to stabilize his home life too.
“I have enough saved for at least a few months and not have to worry. My parents were freaking out and saying that I need to be working, but I said that if I’m trying this, then I need to go at this 110%. For the last ten years it’s been a side-project, and if I need to get this somewhere, I can’t juggle another job. Thankfully, the Patreon is at a point where I’m not bleeding too much out of my own savings. So I’m slowly but surely getting to the point where all of those bases are being covered. I was actually talking to a friend the other day who said that big companies like Walmart and Amazon, their conversion rate is roughly 2%. So, 2% of people who visit their sites actually buy something. So he was saying that 10% might be unrealistic, but I’m targeting a niche community and I’d like to think that the hardcore and punk community is willing to step up and help this project grow and benefit. My goal is to hit that mark and then exceed that.”
A good friend of mine was saying to me once that he’d happily drop $5-10 a month to hate5six just to ensure that his Hope Conspiracy clips stay online. Which is the same approach for a lot of people – wishing to preserve the hardcore community and the shows and memories of bands that they love. Think of it this way: his videos of some of hardcore’s fastest rising acts could be gone without this kind of support, which means no more killer videos of Jesus Piece, Vein, Code Orange, Incendiary, and Knocked Loose. But there’s a lot of love for the guy and his work prevalent in the scene. Hell, when Sunny released his 2017 Vein set from This Is Hardcore, or even that awesome Kodi The Supergirl featuring Jesus Piece clip, my own personal feeds were choked full of his videos. Anecdotal, sure, but the community is listening, watching and loving what he does. And it isn’t slowing down by the looks of it.
“Man, that Vein set is one of my favourite videos that I’ve ever produced,” Sunny chimes in, damned proud of what is a wicked video.
“It just goes by so fast. I’m so glad that people all over are enjoying it!”
Getting into the ethos of his camera-work and his intent, I’ve always felt that it was so much more than just pointing a camera at a stage and hitting the record button. Anyone can do that. I can do that. The difference is, when Sunny does it, he captures the “story” of these bands too; the heart of it all, making something truly memorable in the process.
“As you said, this is more than just me pointing a camera. I’m trying to capture what a bands energy is and how the crowd responds to it. I’m trying to do storytelling with the edits and footage. I’m capturing what it’s like to actually be there seeing the band live. With what your friend said about The Hope Conspiracy, I’m trying to build a living-breathing archive that ten, twenty or fifty years from now we can all look back and relive what it was like. We can show future generations what it was like and help them discover new bands.”
“To all of my Patreon supporters, I want them to know that they are investing in the future and documentation of hardcore. This is music where you can’t expect someone else to come in and do it. National Geographic or someone might do a piece on straight edge but they aren’t gonna come right in and document the smaller bands and events – we need to do that. The people who take video and photos at shows are really chronicling their own scene. I hope people all over really support not just me, but everyone in the video archival scene. If we don’t take the DIY initiative, then we’re fucked.”
“I’m just gonna keep filming and keep archiving this for as long as I can”, he sums up.
For those who don’t know, hate5six.com actually donates 8.56% of that Patreon income to charities that his supporters choose. This comes from the roots of hardcore, about taking the initiative and doing it yourself. It’s a feedback loop of putting more out there than you consume – Sunny’s main ethos.
“That nails it completely! I actually called it the 8.56% Pledge [the New Jersey area code where Sunny grew up – hence the hate5six name]. I started this whole thing to just give back and to contribute something. For a while, coming to shows and watching the bands then going home, I thought that I should put more out there then I take to better the scene. That pledge is to make a commitment to pledge that amount of my monthly income to help out. Hearing these bands and what they had to say was radical to me. I even became vegan and straight edge because of these bands and this music. A lot of my political views were shaped by bands lyrics and hearing those speeches at shows about what their songs meant. Doing this full-time is to not lose sight of that; to help causes that not just I think are worthy but what fans feel are worthy too – to hopefully make a better world. So every month I come up with a short list of charities and they can nominate ones themselves, and it gets voted on. It’s more than money, though, it’s also about awareness. Because the money will dry up one day and [we should] not just pat ourselves on the back. As there’s information out there that we need to hear, that we need to show the people who need to hear it the most.”
Stemming from this, Sunny also doesn’t shy away from the politics of not just his own views, but the bands he films as well. And he shares this online too. Now, if you’ve spent any time on the Internet ever, then you’ll know that that shit can get heated – quickly. Then again, the same people who often say they don’t want politics in their music either don’t understand the history of most musical movements from the 20th century or just want to put their head in the sand about the very music they consume. hate5six.com fully agrees.
“A lot of bands have a strong political message, and it’s funny when I post about these bands or speeches that they gave, and you see these comments where people say “the singer should shut up and just play the music”. And it’s like, do they just not get what is actually being sung in the songs? Telling them to shut up is totally missing the point!”
This is something that we saw with Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against The Machine, speaking passionately about the political beliefs that have gone right into their songs and lyrics; showing everyone watching and listening what they stood for. This was shown earlier this year with a hate5six video of a 2017 Pulling Teeth set where their frontman gave a speech about better accepting trans people in the community; that they are people too, that they aren’t a burden, and that they deserved to be treated equally. Seeing a handful of negative comments online about that topics just makes me personally think: “how the fuck do you exist in this scene with these kinds of ethics and people and then post disgusting shit like that?”
“Right, exactly!” hits back Sunny.
“There are sadly some people like that in hardcore and punk; a subset of fans who don’t care for the politics. However, as hate5six is growing, those kinds of videos reach more and more people; people on the fringes of metal and who may only listen to the radio and who don’t know the meanings behind a lot of hardcore bands. So that’s maybe where some of the vitriol comes from.”
[06:14 for that Pulling Teeth speech mentioned].
“As you so mentioned, Zack from Rage would do that often before in the middle of songs. To no one’s surprise, Rage is a HUGE influence on me – I talk about them on social media all the time to the point that it’s probably very annoying. Rage were good at disrupting the flow of information. You’d hear ‘Bulls On Parade’ or ‘Wake Up’ and then get the speech in the middle to make you stop and think. I’m not on the same level of Rage, but I take a very deliberate approach to how I do my own work. I post a few clips where I know they’ll be going viral, so I intersperse it with a video of a Black Lives Matter speech or a video about police brutality. I’m not afraid to do that, knowing that most people are just coming for the hardcore videos. It’s the optimal time to get that info in front of other people lives.”
Just like the bands that are on-stage, and much like Rage themselves, Sunny takes that kind of conviction to his own work and identity. There is a pride and real care in that; a reflection of his hardcore upbringing too. Which ties into another aspect: allowing proper debate and discussion to happen.
“It’s important for bands to put up messages that I personally agree with, but at the same time, if your band has their own message then say it. Speak your truth and use your platform to say what you want. Some are very afraid to express that. We can talk about getting stabbed in the back and “breaking these chains” all day, but I want to know what your music is about, so I’ll give you the time to speak your politics. So long as you offer the same courtesy to me or another. You don’t have to agree with what everyone says but you need to respect someone else’s time and have discussions. We’re not able to move forward unless we have that conversation.”
Getting into the specific nature of the American scene – and with me being Australian, an outsider to said scene – I query Sunny about what the videographer community is like over in the States. According to him, it’s actually a great space!
“It’s all very friendly and very collaborative. I often team up with other people who run their own respective channels for a big show like This Is Hardcore, as I know they have the experience and they have the eye to help out. It’s funny, I’m actually talking to two particular people – one out of Canada and one out of California – where we’re putting together a Discord server where videographers can communicate with each. Which is what I love about the video documenting scene, it’s that we’re all trying to help each other. I filmed a show the other day and a friend of mine was shooting some live stuff – who mainly does non-live music videos – and he came up to me afterward to say that he was sorry if he was crossing into my territory or stepping on my toes. I said that this isn’t a territorial thing, as everyone has the freedom to come film whatever they want to document. I’m not trying to stop him or another or anything like that.”
“However, I do think that the photographer community is a bit more territorial or cut-throat. As they’re trying to get that specific shot and therefore if someone else is trying to get it too, they might be stepping on your toes. That’s how I think of it out here in the States at least. In my experience, the photo community seems to be more competitive.”
Well, knowing some of the things I’ve heard from our own photographers and from people in the Australian music photographer scene, I can only agree with his sentiments here. Some of that stuff is super petty!
Taking a heavier and more serious route of discussion, we found time to talk about a member of the U.S. video community who sadly passed away – Chris Avis.
On the morning of July 5th, 2017, shortly after releasing his first ever video from Sound & Fury 2017, Avis (under the name of Cavis Tapes) was tragically killed in a car accident. After his death, his family and friends actually recovered Chris’ hard drive that contained his incomplete work and was eventually sent out to Sunny, so that Chris’s vision could live on and be realized. Sunny didn’t have to do anything here, but he still did – as a loving act to not just a fellow peer but also toa friend. In fact, as he puts it, Chris unknowingly left a breadcrumb trail of sorts for others to finish off his recent videos.
“Chris was a good friend of mine. He was in Cali and I was on the East Coast – about 3,000 miles apart – but we spoke a lot online. He and I actually shot Unbroken and Trial together once in 2014 and was cool to finally work with him in person. He filmed Sound and Fury a lot over the years and did a lot of work in California. But he didn’t put his face up as much as I did with hate5six, yet he was behind a lot of great content. On the day he passed, he made a Tweet, his last Tweet, which was a video of Free [the ex-Have Heart members]. It was his first video, and he was so excited to release it. It was crazy. He posted it at 10:03am and according to the police report from the crash, the van that he was in flipped by 10:10am. So within ten minutes of him posting that he was gone,” gloomily states Sunny.
“His last post on Instagram was a screenshot of his computer, which showed the exact hard drive that had all of his footage. It was almost like he left a clue. So I reached out to his family and the Sound and Fury guys, telling them this and that if they can find the hard drive, I will sit down and finish that which he didn’t get to. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past month or so, with 12 or 13 bands left. It was nuts, you can see him filming in some of the camera angles too – he’s on the other side of the stage filming. I’m sitting there, editing away, and I’m trying to edit the way he would but also inject my own style into it. I would like to think that when you’re watching it, you’re watching one of my works but I know that I’m trying to honor his memory as close as he would do it. I will never be able to replicate it, but I want to honor him as much as possible. We’re gonna try and get access to his online accounts so that there are backups of his content, just for prosperity sakes.”
After a quick pause, Sunny adds that “I wish Chris was still here to see how much attention and love his videos are getting. I would like to think he knew how much his work was appreciated too. He was way behind-the-scenes but people will realize the void that his passing has left us. It’ll take people time to see that the lack of footage coming out is a matter of his passing. And that that person’s name was Chris Avis.”
I personally had no idea who Chris Avis was until I saw his videos appearing on the hate5six.com channel. As for those videos, this is easily one of the most craziest sets that Chris had captured from the 2017 Sound & Fury; a great capturing of a great band getting right into their element.
Getting deeper into his own process, hate5six.com’s videos stand out because of their visual and audio quality. It’s not just capturing these great moments in times, but the angle-work, the good edits, and the decent live mixes too. Sunny actually gets the front of house console mix off the venue and sound engineers and then gets it cleaned up. This, as you might expect, isn’t really cheap. This topic also reveals why a lot of his This Is Hardcore videos take a few months to hit the Internet too.
“For a lot of big non-festival stuff, I just use my own ambient microphone on my camera. I do a lot of EQ and compression on my mics but for some smaller venues, I can get a pretty decent stereo feed from their soundboard. Either from the XLR outputs or if it’s a digital desk, just off a USB. I usually cross over the stereo feeds with my mic and it works, just blending them together. That’s what Chris Avis was actually doing for his videos too. But for something like This Is Hardcore, I hire my friend Len Carmichael, who runs a studio in New Jersey called Landmine Studios and he’s really good at what he does. Ever since 2012, we’ve been teaming up for This Is Hardcore and he’ll bring his full rig for a multi-track recording of every band. He’ll grab all 16 channels and use every mic so that every instrument has a feed. Then he and a small team of engineers will mix and master everything. Which is why it takes so long for it all to come out. As we have to people sit down and mix and master everything, like they’re doing a small album for each band. It’s a tonne of work that a lot of people don’t know about.”
Speaking of the hard work, Sunny also this year found himself in possession of a stack of VHS tapes of old live shows from years past. Perhaps to no one’s surprise, this is a lot of work but is right up our subject’s alley in terms of work and knowledge. “The difficulty there is that that stuff has to be done in real-time,” reveals Sunny.
“So I have to take the tape media and convert it in real-time; if it’s an hour-long then it takes an hour to convert. Once I’ve digitized the footage, it’s pretty straightforward – just cleaning up the audio and visual signal to make it brighter and sharper. I have a pretty good workflow now, where once I digitize them, it’s pretty quick.”
“The tapes you’re talking about specifically, though, a friend of mine worked on a documentary called No Delusion, about the Chicago hardcore scene. It’s the first doco featured on the site [hate5six]. It’s two hours long and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it. He spent ten years working on it, ten years talking about the scene; from the ‘80s right up to Weekend Nachos and everything in between. So what he’s doing is digitizing old footage for live content in the doco, and he sent that over to me, which means some sets may be coming to Hate5Six exclusively. I already have my own stack of tapes to get through, but now that I’m doing it full-time, I can get more done. Which is what people are also supporting me via Patreon, as I now can put a dent into this massive body of tapes I have. Some of these tapes are multi-cam sets too. Like, I have tapes from the 2001 and 2004 Hellfest shows, which ranges from bands like Andrew W.K, Misery Signals, The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Red Chord. And there’s like over 100 bands with all of these different cameras and none of its edited. So 500 tapes need to be converted and then we can start.”
“I have an endless list of work to do,” laughs Sunny.
Regarding This Is Hardcore (TIH), Sunny also chats a little about that relationship he has with the festival organizer, Joe McKay. As while the fest hits in the mid-point of the year (2018’s installment happens July 27-29th), the videos act as not just recaps from the year gone by, but also as solid promo for the next year’s show as well.
“I do get some funding from This Is Hardcore to pay for some of those expenses, and I do some fundraising for it too. But at the end of the day, Len is doing it for almost nothing. He doesn’t make much from it, just covering some of his time. So I’d like to have the Patreon get to the point where I could pay Len and his sound guys what they’re actually worth. I just can’t do that right now with my current resources. Right now, what we’re hoping for is to get their names out there with our videos – each set starts with a credit to the engineer. But it’s not cheap or a quick endeavor to do.”
“I do try to get the TIH content up as soon as I can. But I think it’s good to have that fill-in where people can re-live the show or remember a set from the day. I think it’s good for myself and the fans to spread the content out, and like you said, it builds up the momentum for next year. So it’s like a full-year around celebration of bands playing this amazing stage.”
I’ve never been to Philadelphia let alone the States myself, but attending a TIH show is high up on my to-do list! I mention this to Sunny and how I love the roll-out of videos in the second half of the year after TIH is done and dusted. As it just makes me so hyped on what new bands I should check out, as well as getting into the live show madness that I missed out on.
“I’m so glad you say that” he exclaims, whilst also getting into the self-aware nature of his role within the scene and the impact his videos may have.
“I sometimes worry that people may just wait for my videos to come out rather than go to the show. I would like to think that the videos help people come out in attendance, but there is always a debate that my work hurts attendance. Sure, some people just can’t come to shows due to illness or family commitments. I would hope my videos encourage more attendance. Because as much as I love my work, my videos will never top actually being there; it won’t replace it and I never want it to. Being at a show is something you can never get through a video. As much time as I put in, it won’t replace the live show experience of being right there with your friends, singing along, and stage diving.”
Earlier this year, I wrote an article about what Australian bands I’d love to see one day hit up U.S. shores for the yearly TIH. This list included Outright HC, Honest Crooks, Ill Natured, and Justice For The Damned, among a couple others. A few days after posting that piece, we actually received a message on our Facebook page from Joe McKay himself, talking about how they choose the bands, how it can be hard for internationals to make it out there on their own penny, and so forth. One thing in that message he mentioned was the work of hat35six giving the fest far more international attention. (I mean, come on, half of the videos in this articles are from some form of TIH set). I mention this to Sunny, as well as his old interview with Medium, where in a one-word reply about his TIH work, Sunny said that it was “stressful”.
“Joe and I are good friends and we were talking about my role with TIH. That what if someone asked me about live streaming the show, and for me, I don’t want to do it. That’s a whole lot of resources I don’t want to invest in – I’d rather buy better cameras for instance. Also, with live streams, it is just another reason for people to not come out. Joe said that he personally never wants a live stream, and I fully agree. But he does acknowledge that my videos provide a window into the sets that previously wasn’t there about what the fest is like and what American hardcore is like. He does realize the value in it as well as the negative side of it as well.”
Personally, I think the good far outweighs the potential negative side of things. For instance, beyond the TIH stuff, Sunny also covered Knocked Loose’s 2017 headline tour with Terror, thus showing me who Year Of The Knife where. (And providing me with some sweet new Jesus Piece live footage too).
Now, one thing that not many people know about is that Sunny actually has a spin-off project: Love5Six. Now, this one ain’t about hardcore shows. Nope, this is all about weddings! 18 videos have been done so far, originally starting back in July 2012. The massive contrast between shooting loud, high-energy hardcore shows and then capturing a couple’s special day isn’t at all lost on Sunny, however.
“The reason I started was Mike from Mindset hit me up, saying that I filmed his band a bunch of times, and I should film his wedding. I thought, “fuck it, why not?””, he recalls.
“So, a lot of the videos I’ve done have been for people in hardcore or those I know through hardcore. Filming weddings is a very different beast for me. Like, I might wanna get just the right shot of the guy stage diving during Vein’s set, but at the same time, I need to get the right wedding shot and frame it the right way too. Just like I’m trying to tell a story with a live show, I’m trying to tell the narrative of a wedding and tell the story of that day. When I film shows, I don’t wanna obstruct a fan’s view or a photographer’s shot; I need to be an objective observer. Same with a wedding, I don’t wanna block another photographer’s view or block the mom and dad’s view of watching the wedding unfold. A lot of my hardcore show experience and not interfering in the moment is equally if not more important for a wedding.”
Moving from wedding videos to one of the greatest mysteries of hardcore today, we arrive at a small conversation about Bane and their final show. Given Sunny’s video work, and him having shot their final set, I raise the question to him about whether or not he knows when the Bane doco of their career and last show is coming out. Turns out, it might not be for a long while yet…
“It’s been taking a while! It’s interesting, as I’ve been asked to not post the footage of the last set until the doco is done. And I’m like, “FUCK”. I could honestly have the full set edited together within a week or two. They played a two-hour set and that would be the longest set I’ve ever posted, but I could get it done soon. Maybe three weeks to perfect the mix. I love those Bane guys and I really like that band but I am bound to their schedule, but I just don’t know how far along they are.”
“In the last couple of months, they actually had Greg from Trial, [their vocalist], come on as a producer as it was taking a long time and they were having trouble getting interviews and content. Now that he’s involved, I’m hoping it will really accelerate the process. As this June will have been two years since the final show. Every day I hear from someone about it, and it grinds me down to tell them that it’s not on me. As the average person thinks that I’m the top of it all. It’s frustrating because the final product will be incredible and the trailers have been so great, so here’s hoping.”
Remember how Sunny said earlier about he loved Rage Against The Machine to the probable point of annoyance for others? Well, with that in mind, and with the hate5six logo being a spin-off of the ‘Evil Empire’ album cover, I just had to know: what’s his take on Prophets Of Rage? If you read my coverage of Download Festival Melbourne from earlier this year, then you’ll know that I’m personally not even close to being a fan of them. So, what are hate5six’s thoughts?
“Okay, so I’ve seen them twice. The first time was in New York, a small room, and I was super excited. The band sounded great, but the thing is, while I love Rage and Public Enemy, there is no one on earth who will replicate what Zack did for that band. No one can bring the fire and fury like he can. I felt like I was watching a cover band, and a good cover band because half the members were in Rage. And yeah, I had fun, but that fun, now that I saw it live, I don’t even listen to Prophets’ new stuff. Every time I see their name pop up, all I think about is the potential for what it could’ve been and for what it might be one day. But I just don’t think that that’s gonna happen. I hold onto the fact that I saw Rage twice live. And I’ll never forget those memories. While I enjoyed what I saw, it was just a covers set.”
“Oh man, that Rock AM Ring set is so fucking good!” pipes up Sunny.
He continues. “What made Rage worked was what Zack would talk and sing about. I don’t know him personally nor have ever spoken to him, but since Prophets came up, Zack’s not in the spotlight. He doesn’t want to be. Prophets Of Rage is just a rock band, and that’s it. Zack was up there, also talking about politics, and he meant every single word. He was at the Women’s March in D.C. following Trump’s election, just marching along with them. No sleight on Chuck D or B-Real, but I don’t think that they believe those words quite to the degree that Zack did. And you cannot replicate that sort of passion, as it was never just about music for him. Once it became more about the music and the look more than the message, that’s when I think he took a real step back. As he didn’t want to compromise his message or stance.”
Lastly, Sunny and I agree that there is definitely no better feeling than turning someone onto a new band or new music. Whether it’s through a review or interview that I do, or through a video he uploads to hate5six, it’s a great feeling. It’s a really warm feeling you get when sharing the love, in one way or another. So to cap-off, we have one of Sunny’s personal favourite hate5six videos that he’s ever produced, one of his favourite sets that he’s captured over the years is, to him, a 2014 set from E. Town Concrete. They’re a band that’s maybe before a lot of people’s time in the scene nowadays – mine included. Yet it’s a video that he highly recommended watching – to me and to anyone else, unfamiliar with the band, a dan of hate5six.com or otherwise. And so that’s our closer here today.
Please give it a watch and spread the love: