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Ink & Dagger: It’s All True (Part 1)

Photo: Justin Moulder

When I approached Carlos about this, I had an idea of how I wanted to it go… Reach out to a few friends and get them to tell Ink & Dagger stories. Nothing scandalous. Just paint a more complete picture… adding some color to the legend. The antics and hijinx of a band I knew all too well. More on that in the second instalment. I needed to set the table with people that were there at the start, folks that were on tour with them and some haters as well. Because, well I wanted a complete albeit skewed picture. 

Putting this together got me in a fight with someone who put me on blast, I got a message that clearly was too personal to add to the story and lost a little sleep over it… But at the end of the day, this is a truly Philadelphia story, (like the way I met my wife, in the kitchen of my apartment, she was dating my roommate… Shout out to Jim! But anyway…). Buckle up, strap on your tattoos, turn down the lights and kick over the Ouija Board, light a candle and turn on the strobe light, slow speed though. Anyone got a fog machine? A keyboard? Okay Okay. Enough of the niceties.. —Justin Moulder, November 2019

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Jennifer Layne Park – Ink & Dagger contributor, vocalist, muse
To say Jenny and Sean where like Sid and Nancy, sans suicide, would be pretty accurate. The fed off of each other. Jenny when Jenny joined Ink & Dagger, it took the band to a hyper level. Jenny continues do dabble in music and act while she cares for an ill family member. Thanks for taking the time to help, Jenny!

Jennifer Layne Park

"Sean was really a genius. I remember when Ink & Dagger was still a concept, something Don [Devore] and Sean [McCabe] would be up at 3:00 a.m. discussing at Little Pete’s Diner. One of Sean’s goals with Ink & Dagger was to reunite Philly’s punk rock and hardcore scenes. With Ink & Dagger’s infamous Halloween shows at Stalag 13, they did just that.

Sean and I always wanted to do more music together, but there just wasn’t time. One of our last discussions was about me being his “diva” and he, my producer extraordinaire. I’m sorry it didn’t happen.

Jennifer and Sean

We knew the first Halloween show had to be spectacular. Sean asked me to write an introduction and Chris Tropea built a coffin for me to jump out of. I was wearing head to toe black vinyl. I remember reciting the introduction for Sean and Jorge outside the venue that night. They agreed it was hot and we were excited to go on. I’ll never forget the sensation of anticipation as they carried me through the crowd and then I exploded on them, calling them little beasts, fake blood everywhere! It was epic."

David Wagenschutz – Ink & Dagger original drummer 
Dave was the original drummer for Ink & Dagger. He joined Sean, Don, and Jorge [Gonzalez] after leaving the band Anonymous. Whether he knows it or not, I had a slight hand in him joining. Story goes like this… I get home from work one day from a copy shop where I worked with the wife of the guitar player of Anonymous. While at work that day, she had mentioned Dave quit the band. Naturally, the first thing I did when I got home was to seek out Don and tell him what was up. I kid you not, I hardly had finished telling Don what was up, and he had his bag over his shoulder and he was headed from our house at 19th and Callowhill, up to 18th and Springarden St. (3 blocks away) to go ask Dave if he wanted to be in a band with Sean, Jorge, and Don… The rest, well… I’ll leave that up to Dave. Check out his new band, Crossed Keys. Great dudes. Great band!

Dave Wagenschutz performing with Ink & Dagger (Photo: Shawn Scallen)

"1996 - The Year of the Dagger:
When I think back to the year that was 1996, the first thing that comes to mind is my wife. We met in October that year and from friends and neighbors we became... well, more than friends, partners then parents. It’s funny to associate my three daughters with Ink & Dagger but the tale is too twisted to not be true.

In 1994 after walking away from Lifetime (a band I had relocated to the East Coast to join) I was kinda lost. ‘95 brought new people and places into my life. Hello, South Philly, let’s call you home for the next decade or so. But it also brought heartache. Relationships are funny that way, the true roller coaster of life. When Lifetime’s Hello Bastards was released, I think it was my ungluing. We had only starting writing one or two of those songs before I left but hearing them, better said; feeling them, and realizing how much those people meant to me and how lost I felt without them, left me in a dark place. 

Enter the Devil Children:
Ink & Dagger formed the next year and for me it was my way of working it all out through music. I played and lived with reckless abandon. Broken friendships led to burned bridges. A broken relationship led to careless wardrobe choices, yes there were a few shows played only in the face paint I was hiding behind. I hit harder and with less care for “songwriting” than ever before. Dagger was all about and audible and visual destruction of the moment. 

When I listen to the Love is Dead 7” I now cringe at the production value but also smile when the goosebumps crawl across my arms while hearing 'You can't change into me.' That summer we barely made it back from tour alive. I am amazed that [Eric] Wareheim’s van survived the journey to Vancouver Island and with the help of my parents, escaped St. Louis to return to Philadelphia. I will leave those stories on the side of I-80 where they belong. 

Exit Stage Left:
We returned to Philly, someone in the band got involved with my ex-girlfriend (yeah, this is one of those stories), it all went south and I went west, choosing to return to the St. Louis before making additional poor choices. 

After a few months of cleansing and boredom I headed back east. Landed in an apartment on South Street. My downstairs neighbor didn’t seem to mind Kid Dynamite practice above her head. I somehow convinced her to marry me and she somehow convinced me that having and homeschooling three daughters would extend and enrich my life. As always, she did (and still does) see the way of things. 

Come find me in Philadelphia, for the small price of a good vegan sandwich I have been known to tell a tale or two of the Summer of ‘96."

Jorge Gonzalez – Ink & Dagger original guitar player, along with Don Devore
When we first met Jorge, he was living in Ft. Smith, AR where he was contemplating leaving his girlfriend, after his band Benchmark broke up. This was early the days of 314. Anyway, I’ve kept in touch with Jorge after he left Dagger to purse acting in NYC. He currently resides in Germany with his girlfriend and by all accounts, is living an awesome life.

"Limited Edition Gap Shirts
In order to stave off the boredom associated with the impossible drives that plagued the first two Dagger tours, we would pull over at the local mall to stretch our legs and engage in shoplifting contests with each other...which soon became the Dagger tour sport of choice. We would all go in the mall and then meet in the van around an hour or two later and empty our loot onto the seat to see who had the most valuable score. Usually, it would be Robby and Sean that won, as they would grab huge, expensive things that were even behind the counter at times. Of course, stealing is wrong in any form, but to our credit, only super corporate stores were targets--never ‘mom and pop’ shops or people.

Before long, we became a full-on, organized raid crew. Each member had their own role, carefully planned and then played with precision for each heist. Sean would be the distracter, usually employing such tactics as dropping something really loudly in order to attract attention, mumble some nonsensical yet inquisitive request to draw an employee closer, or if said employee was a cute girl, flirt with abandon. The rest of us were usually either ‘grab men’ (and women if Ashli was around) or would run defense for the grab men with misdirection.

Photo: Justin Moulder

One time we were sold out of shirts mid tour, right before a huge show in Texas. Instead of waiting for some FedEx-to-club debacle, we decided to pull up to a Gap on our way to the next town. Sean did his thing and somehow got three employees to make his shopping experience their priority; l think he played the 'I’m an important guy' routine. Noticing that they didn’t have security tags on t-shirts, me, Don, Robby Redcheeks and some others quickly stuffed around 5 full stacks of soft, brushed cotton Gap tees into our backpacks and then, without hesitation, power-walked our creepy asses back to the tour van. 

Once we got to the venue, we broke out the silkscreen and went to work. I think we sold them for like 10 bucks that night, which is less than they cost at the Gap. Bargain of the century, if you ask me. Unfortunately, ink needs a bit longer than a mere hour to dry, which I’m sure led to smudged Rorschachs on the chest of countless kids the next day."

Photo: Matt Smith

Brandon Wallace – Drummer for I Hate You, Malvern Straight Edge, and best friend of mine
I’ve known Brandon for a long, long time. Also, with a unique spin on things. He was behind the drums for I Hate You when their singer, Nick, announced something to the effect, “We bought this song off Sean for a bag of weed, it’s a song by Crud Is a Cult called "'Dedication.'” Needless to say, I laughed out loud, hard. Some balls on these kids, coming in to our house trying to go at Sean? As for Sean, he appreciated it. Trust me. Here’s Brandon’s Ink & Dagger story. 

“'Yo, Wagenshutz is doing the new Crud band.'” My whole existence revolved around hardcore and when I heard who was doing what, I was salivating at the chance to hear it. I finally Saw a flyer and the date was set. To be honest, I don’t remember the show as a whole, so I can’t recall any interesting stories, but what I can say is, from that night we all knew that Philadelphia would never be the same and we were all members of the 'Philadelphia Society of Future Vampires.' 

When they played it was an event? It was a celebration of being different, and broken, and young (so young) and free. Even when you had the honor of playing a show with them, the feeling of 'let’s get this over with, I want to see Dagger' was paramount. The lights, the makeup, the gimmick, all of it ran a real risk of being corny, but it wasn’t. You almost got the feel like you were part of this dark ceremony and, unlike what Mandela said, this was a party and I was invited. All we had to do was give our souls and it all felt so real and right, we were the children of the night.

Photo: Justin Moulder

Everything they did, as a band, was gold. When they played in a warehouse in complete darkness, it was the coolest most cocky thing I’d ever seen a band do, and it was perfect. When they carried Sean into a show in a coffin, it solidified that he was our undead Elvis. I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to the records, but they did nothing compared to the live show. Sonically, I’d put that band up against anyone. Visually, they stood on their own. They were an undeniable force. I could go on forever, but I’ll try to button it up here.

Looking back on my youth there were definitely a few moments that really shook my reality and made things seem more attainable. Moments that still speak to me and help make sense of why I spent all those nights in fire halls and church basements. Ink & Dagger was a moment in my life that I’ll never forget. Sometimes, on still nights those memories still knock on my window and whisper in my ear, 'Sid Vicious, Delicious. Johnny Rotten not forgotten.' RIPSPM"

Demian Johnston – Nineironspitfire, Playing Enemy, Undertow, Kiss it Goodbye. Musical icon of the Pacific Northwest.
Demian, well he was in Nineironspitfire for the second Ink & Dagger tour along with Botch. Here, he adds color around the fun side of things and make no mistake, they were fun guys. And no, thank you, Demian. 

"I wish I had more time. More time to write this. More time to remember them. More time to sit somewhere quiet and replay some moment from my time with them. 

Ink & Dagger.

That name.

When Dan Dean first told me, we were going on tour with Ink & Dagger I remember thinking he was nuts. I remember them coming through Seattle a few months prior with stories, and thanks to their first bass player, Eric, video evidence of crimes and dangerous hijinks. I think they stole a vending machine? I don’t know. It’s a bit of a blur.

I wish I had more time.

I keep trying to pull out one event to write to Justin about. He’s putting together something about the band. There are little memories. They were maniacs and fuck-ups but they were so fucking certain of who they were. I was so jealous of that. I remember the pranks. I remember the shoplifting. I remember George leaving his vintage, left-handed, incredibly rare Fender Mustang (or Jaguar) on the ground behind their van after a show in Goleta, CA and seeing him almost faint when a van drove over it. Somehow, it was fine.

Demian performing with Nineironspitfire at JC Dobbs in DC, circa 1998. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

I remember the story about the old man coming to their show in Texas, armed to the teeth, to kill them when he heard they were vampires. We laughed about it but I think just like Andy Daly’s character, this man who claimed to have killed all the vampires in Texas may just have been a delusional serial killer. I remember how excited they got when they got home to Philadelphia after weeks and weeks away. As Philly became visible on the highway, they started throwing everything they could out the windows of the van. I believe a wallet, a jacket and Ryan’s yarmulke.

They were alive and insane and almost always on fire but I loved them. Their music. Their presence. Their fearlessness. I remember when the Courage Crew came to our show in Dayton and ended up starting some shit the first thing Sean yelled at them was 'go fuck yourselves. I’m not the fucking sell out embarrassing myself and all of hardcore on Jenny fucking Jones.'

Sean was fearless. I miss Sean. I wish we had more time.

There’s too much to say. There’s not enough time to say it. I just wish I had more time."

Photo: Jennifer Layne Park

Chris P – bass player of Prema, who toured with Ink & Dagger in 1996
When I came up with the idea for this deep dive, I knew I wanted to talk with Chris P. about tour stories. He was in a unique spot on the first Ink & Dagger tour. He was in Prema, a band that had been around for a while and in my opinion, never got the due they deserved. If you don’t believe me, go stream their LP, Drivel, right now! Chris, has some pretty awesome stories… 

"We booked that whole tour on one of those old Motorola flip (brick) phones, first generation of cellular phone (that you didn’t have to actually plug into a car) that flipped open and was the size of a brick. We had it 'chipped,' which was basically cloning another phone before people even knew what that was. The 'chip' was supposed to last a month before they would catch on and turn it off, but that thing lasted months and months and we booked that whole tour across the country and Canada on that. So, it was all word of mouth and an underground network that all of our friends across the US and in the scene had created. 

Chris P performing with Prema in 1997. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

There's a story about leaving the person at the rest stop, and I can’t remember it, so this is from Ryan [Mclaughlin, Prema drummer, who would later join Ink & Dagger]:

It was Robby [Redcheeks]! We had to take a pee so we stopped at a truck stop with an arcade. Sean got caught stealing and we all bounced! We drove a few hours before we needed gas. When we pulled up to the pump, we asked Robby for the money. 'Robby? Rob?....... Yo, Rob, WAKE UP! We need some MONEY!' Then realized that we left him back at the truck stop! We drive hours back and there he was, playing video games. With our money. He also took an 'old timey' B&W photo as a cowboy or some such shit, with the tour money spread out upon the floor while holding up a couple shotguns or something like that.

Canada tour falling through cuz the dude who was supposed to book it sucked! and being stuck in his parents’ cabin in central Canada with no running water or heat. Trying to figure how we were going to get to the west coast with no money or shows. It was hell. We ate pasta for days (all we could afford), Dave Wags played asshole with everybody (drinking root beer) and destroyed! Some people fell out of their chairs. 

Also, Sean couldn’t get into Canada he thought so he lied and said he was his brother, held up at the border forever! 

While in Canada at cabin the collapsing bunkbed on Sean that damn near killed him  Smashing the vending machines. Arguing for guarantees/gas money, promoters leaving with the show money, wild wild West shit, Todd jumping off the balcony US’s largest mall into the pirate ship lagoon. That guy in NYC who tried to charge us money to 'watch' Eric W.’s van so 'that nothing happened to it' while we were parked on a city street, we said, 'nah, man,' and as we rounded the corner heard a huge smash! Dude had smashed out Eric’s side '70s style window! Needless to say, it was on and about 15 of us chased that dude down into the subway where he, and we hopped the turnstile. As the train just arrived, he tried to make it to the door of the train and was promptly beaten into the doors and as they opened and he fell in. The door shut and he was gone. 

I could be wrong about this tour but we did play with New Found Glory in Florida to about 10 people. Back then, we played with all kinds of bands. Bloodlet, Nineironspitfire, Shelter, Lifetime, basement shows in New Brunswick, Battery, Damnation A.D., Texas Is the Reason, Botch, etc.

Photo: Justin Moulder

We rarely were in the city for more than a day at a time (so we caused as much chaos as possible knowing we would be gone the next day) all of the long drives, hours and hours to make it to the show. Craziness in the van, vending machines, getting kicked out of grocery stores, hanging at Walmart parking lots and eating cold Chef Boyardee raviolis. Somewhere along the way, we started getting a little crazy. While stopping at a rest stop, someone decided we should smash the vending machines with a baseball bat we had. It all started with the with the two vans, driving west out of Pennsylvania, and we came up on an 18-wheeler. It’s going slow and so we try to pass them, two vans jockeying for positions around this truck. They break and in the other lane is another 18-wheeler, also breaking. The two trucks are now blocking both lanes and both vans, one Prema, one Ink & Dagger. They’re slowing down and slowing us down. Why? 

Then the red and blue lights! It was the 18-wheeler slowing us down for the cops, someone had seen the broken vending machines and radio’d ahead to the truckers. Underneath most of our feet are pillowcases, filled with soda, candy, chips, and broken glass. The cop asks us our info and we tell them that were in a band and touring. He tells us that he used to be in a band in the '80s—for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the band right now—but it was something super '80s. Without missing a beat, Dave Wagenschutz lights up and says, 'I have heard you guys; you guys were awesome!' He already knows what happened and he asked everybody who smashed the machine and who took stuff and almost everybody lies and says they didn’t take anything, while the proof is spread out at our feet!

Photo: MArk X Miller

Long story short Dave takes the fall because someone has to and he was the oldest at that point and understood that I think. The cop leaves to go to the car to write a ticket or decide what he’s going to do. When he comes back, he asked, 'so, how do you guys do tour?' And Dave says, 'We do all right…  (perfect pause and then) ... Not enough for snacks, though!' And the cop loses his shit and starts laughing uncontrollably. It was great. 

Dave paid a hefty fine for the glass of the vending machine. Even though I’m almost sure he didn’t have anything to do with it (but maybe I’m wrong), but he knew there was no way we were getting away without someone admitting it. And everyone else were like mobsters, 'I don’t know nothin’.' 

I remember Sean and I sharing a feeling that working an office job or any job between tours was hell and we hated it but we did what we had to and couldn’t wait for it to be over. I remember us talking and sharing this feeling that 'this wasn’t what we were supposed to be doing,' working these jobs in between tours was just misery, and we needed that freedom that only hopping in a van with some of your closest friends while being creative and crazy across the country could only bring. And that in itself was a full-time job with rehearsals, loading in and out, and finding a place to stay, booking tours, designing merch, and recording records. That was a fulltime job, but we all loved it, we lived it."

Terry Yerves – drummer Ink & Dagger, Seraphim, sound engineer for all the Dagger recordings except The Fine Art of Original Sin, which he co-engineered
Terry currently resides on the West Coast where he channels aliens and lives an awesome life. He played drums on several Dagger releases and engineered the first two Ink & Dagger records (and the comp song "Crawler," that John LaCroix put out with Extent Fanzine in 1996). Terry was an early adopter to my idea and enthusiastic contributor and he’s a solid human being. Thanks, Terry, for helping out!

"Playing with Sean in Ink & Dagger was absolutely surreal. Countless times I found myself saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m in a band fucking Sean McCabe!?’ It was totally mind blowing. For me, I had always looked up to him. Early on, many years before Ink & Dagger, he kind of took me and others under his wing.  

Terry performing with Ink & Dagger (Photo: Justin Moulder)

He had a way of connecting with people, for both good, and sometimes bad. He certainly knew how to rile people up! However, he also knew how to make people feel welcomed and accepted. The hardcore scene back then, even though it was this place for outsiders, for kids who didn’t fit in anywhere else, it still had its cool kids and its cliques. It could be intimidating, especially for a shy dork like myself. Sean was definitely one of the ‘cooler’ kids in the scene, if not the coolest. People looked up to him, but that didn’t stop him from welcoming people in.  He almost encouraged it. Like, ‘come join our crew.’ It was that kind of friendship that helped people like myself grow out of their shells. As much of an iconic figure in the scene he was, he was a good person with a good heart and could see past a lot of the petty shit.  

So, playing with him in a band was like, playing with one of your idols. Yeah yeah, some might say there are no idols in punk… but there are. There are people you look up to and follow their leads, and trust, and he was that. He made the whole Ink & Dagger experience that much more than just a band. He was the glue. He was a brother. We were like a cult, and it was awesome, fucking awesome."

Matt Smith – 314 OG at the time, future Rain on the Parade and Terror bassist, and Shark Attack guitarist
When I set out to find people to fill out the 314 house, Matt had all the criteria required. A car and he was a good dude. He would go from Mao and the Revolution to Rain on the Parade to Shark Attack to Terror and back to Shark Attack again. Anyway, I wanted Matt’s take as someone that lived with Sean, Don, and Jorge early on. Also, a note/correction below, Jorge was in Ink & Dagger at their first show. He was also in a short-lived band with Don, Mike Parsell, and one of the other Frail dudes called Switched*On. Anyway, I give you, Matt’s story…

"In 1995, I moved to Philadelphia into a house with seven other guys, two of which were Sean McCabe and Don Devore. We all were involved in the music scene to some level whether it be fanzines, record labels, booking shows or playing in bands. At the time, I was putting out a band called Rain on the Parade, which Don was playing bass for simultaneously while he and Sean were putting together a new project. Sean was going through a pretty bad break up and was kind of a mess, however, at the same time was putting out some of his greatest lyrics to date—sometimes tragedy results in the best art, I suppose. 

Josh Brown and Terry Yerves performing with Ink & Dagger at Melody Bar, New Brunswick, NJ, 1998. (Photo: Justin Moulder)

The first show was in the living room of my friend Matt’s apartment where he lived with our friend, Amy Dolphin, and the now famous (and future Dagger bassist) Eric Wareheim, down on Six Street and Queen Village. They made a terrible racket and the neighbors were not at all pleased. There was a note on the door the next day telling them to keep down or they’d take the noise problem to the local news. We all laughed when the note dropped Steve Leavy’s name as a friend because Steve, who is a famous newscaster in Philadelphia, had a son Mike who was not only into Hardcore but at that very show that they were complaining about! [Laughs] If only they knew!

The first show was a blur, I don’t remember much about it. I know Matt Cleary played bass and Dave Wagenschutz play drums but I can’t remember if Jorge was in the band yet or not but I know he was definitely in the band for the second show which was in our living room at 314 N. 19th St. The band turn all the lights down and there must’ve been 150 people packed into our house to witness the show. the band came down the stairs in single file with Jorge in the lead holding a candle and then he stood in front of the crowd and read some evil shit out of an old witch’s book before the band picked up their instruments put on a strobe light and Sean stepped up in all his vampire make up and the place exploded.

Matt Summers had scored a chicken costume (like the one you would see a guy wearing in front of a fast food joint trying to get you to come in and buy a bucket of fried chicken!) He was wrecking kids in the pit in that suit! Someone’s gotta have a picture somewhere, I swear it’s true...

Don was still playing in Rain on the Parade, a band who’s 7 inch I was currently putting out. Don got busy with Ink & Dagger and had to leave opening up a spot in the band and they asked me to join. Rain on the Parade led me on my own musical adventure that’s still unfolding to this day, so I guess I owe a buy of that to Don.

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Stay tuned for Part 2

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