ROCK ROLL REPEAT
A few years back we stumbled upon the coolest Instagram profile that was filled with the most incredible, curated, old images of what we love most: punks, goths, teddy boys and rock ‘n’ rollers. That profile is called Rock Roll Repeat. But it’s not just the fantastic IG that we fell in love with; we also went crazy for the terrific t-shirts that this company launches on a steady basis. And we’re talking about great collaborations with underground photographers that we are huge fans of, for example, Karlheinz Weinberger, Jenny Lens and Jim Jacoy. So we reached out to the California based owner and designer, Joshua Shame, to find out more about his company. All photos courtesy of Rock Roll Repeat. https://rockrollrepeatforever.com/ https://www.instagram.com/_rockrollrepeat_/
PONYBOY: Joshua, we love Rock Roll Repeat tees and your Instagram. Tell us about your background/upbringing.
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: Thanks! Oh man. I was raised in the south by a Vietnam vet and a seamstress. My mom would recreate outfits from Frederick’s of Hollywood catalogues and sell them to the dancers at the strip clubs my dad bounced at. So, imagine a kid obsessed with Ritchie Valens and old rock ‘n’ roll, coming home to pasties drying on the windowsill. They split up not long afterwards and amid the drinking and fighting it was pretty much a straight pipeline into punk rock from there.
PONYBOY: Were you a musician?
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: Absolutely. I started with the piano when I was a kid. I loved Jerry Lee Lewis, but I wanted to be Ritchie Valens, so my cool aunt’s boyfriend gave me guitar lessons (RIP Steve). Speaking of which, my nana recorded the movie La Bamba off of HBO for me when I was a kid, and I still know that movie backwards and forwards..
PONYBOY: How did you get into t-shirt design?
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: Total chance. I mean, I always drew flyers and zines but I always saw myself doing album design or laying out fashion rags. I LOVED the design of The Face and Dazed and Confused…those giant format W magazines were amazing. Do you remember Cheap Date?
But, when I got to Oakland I ended up moving into a neighborhood of a punk rock print shop! I worked my way up from cleaning screens to become a designer, and then art director, and this place had become a major music merchandiser by then. We had a badass team of people and our roster was nuts. Imagine growing up in the armpit of the south listening to a busted cassette copy of Dead Kennedys and then you’re in a warehouse working with the singer of the Swinger Utters and half of Spitboy, and designing shirts for Alternative Tentacles AND the Misfits. My first approved design was for The Shins. We did all of Green Day’s tour supply.
But by the time they left and moved to LA, we were doing retail and tour lines for everyone from Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Jamie Foxx.
PONYBOY: Incredible! Yes, we remember Cheap Date, the zine from Keith Richards’ son, Marlon. We went to a release party and every cool person in NYC was there…Kate Moss, etc. I wish we still had our copy. Back to RRR, when and how did you actually start your Rock Roll Repeat t-shirt company?
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: It was in 2016, after the merch. company split, and I was working the counter at a couple of tattoo shops to supplement my freelance work. I had some ideas but didn’t think I could ‘manage’ a brand, not being so much a businessman. But I’d done some freelance work for Bandit Brand, and Jen was just the coolest, her approach to shirts was so laid back and ran counter to what I imagined running a brand was like. She doesn’t do seasons, licensing, no trend forecasting, product development, etc. All that stuff you had to keep up with at a big merch company like where I had worked, you know? They were classic one color prints, and she printed whatever she wanted to print, on whatever shirts she thought was cool, whenever she wanted. That’s powerful and liberating. So when I had a couple of ideas of my own I went for it. I bought some blank shirts from the thrift store, a one color press, and Maya at Mindseye Vintage, a friend of the tattoo shop, sourced a handful of actual vintage blanks and it all jumped off from there.
PONYBOY: Are the t-shirts manufactured in the USA? And are they limited collections?
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: It’s my goal to eventually have my own custom signature blanks, 100% US made. Right now when I can’t get US made, though, I still source blanks as ethically as possible. The brands I print on are either W.R.A.P. certified sweatshop free, or they run a similar, ethical program that’s been independently verified.
As far as limited collections go, I have the hits, the classic originals that I restock regularly, and then I have my benefit tees and collaborations which are always exclusive, and limited. But, honestly, the people I collaborate with are like me and love just putting cool shit out into the world. So, they’re usually up for doing more than one run if people seem into it, like the Bad Seed tees I did with Miriam Linna (the Cramps, Norton Records). We’re re-issuing the Bad Seed #1 tees.
PONYBOY: Tell us about some of your collaborations.
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: I work with people I’m a fan of, and usually they’re just outside the spotlight in this rock nostalgia complex we’ve got going on around us but have played a huge part that I think people would dig. So these collaborations and the collections we produce are sort of like wearable history, like artifacts.
My most recent collaboration is with the proto-punk band Pure Hell. Talk about game changers! Kicked out of the Chelsea Hotel, were roommates with the New York Dolls, opened for Sid Vicious…the tragedy is that they recorded an album, Noise Addiction, in 1978 that never got released until 2006. But you can hear it and tell who heard them back then because they influenced everyone who did.
One of the first collaborations I ever did was with Jon Moritsugu, the filmmaker. It featured stills I pulled from his short film Mommy Mommy Where’s My Head. I just reached out to him with my idea and he was cool enough to respond and we worked it out.
That’s pretty typical of my approach to collaborations. I just reach out and ask. As stated, I’ve worked with Miriam Linna, but also Niagara (Destroy All Monsters), Justin Pearson (The Locust) and I did a benefit tee for the Humane Society.
I’ve been turned down and ghosted, too, but they all at least know I’m sincere. And the ones that have trusted me with their art or photography or name have become good friends. There’s a couple more coming up this year that are gonna be great. I’m also working with Jake Brennan on an exclusive, limited edition project for the Disgraceland Podcast in the coming months.
But, I work with them directly, not through artist reps or distant licenses, except for Bettie Page and Karlheinz Weinberger, for obvious reasons.
PONYBOY: We’ve been huge fans of photographer Karlheinz Weinberger and his Swiss rebels since the early 2000s, when we stumbled upon his first book and immediately snapped it up. Tell us about working with his archive estate.
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: It’s a total honor. I’m proud to be the first brand to work with the archive and be trusted with it for apparel. I mean, John Waters wrote the forward for Rebel Youth. Fashion designers have had his Halbstarke photos on mood boards for decades. Vogue wrote about him. So we’ve taken our time, step by step, working together to make sure it’s up to snuff. I can’t wait to give one to John Waters this year at Burger Boogaloo.
PONYBOY: We’re also infatuated with pioneer punk photographer Jenny Lens. What was it like working with her?
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: My wife gave me her book, Punk Pioneers, for my birthday one year and I devoured every photo in it. And, of course, I wrote to her right away to ask about collaborating and she was cool enough to write back and we’ve been friends ever since. We share the gift of gab. haha.
She’s another one of those photographers whose work you’ve definitely seen but not known it was hers. Again, one of the movers and shakers just outside the spotlight these collaborations highlight. She shot the Germs’ first photoshoot, the Screamers, X, The Clash, and Iggy. I mean, just right there in the middle of it in late 70’s LA. And the Alice Bag shirt we made is going to be in an episode of Gentified, which is debuting on Netflix later this month.
PONYBOY: We saw on your instagram feed that you have a future collaboration in store with another favorite of ours, punk photographer Jim Jacoy. We also stumbled upon his book and bought it right away!
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: That’s how I got it, too, right away when I saw it! I’ve got a copy of We’re Desperate, but I can’t wait to get my hands on Order of Appearance. Here’s how crazy serendipitous this is. When I first got into that art department it was also the first time I ever saw Jim’s book. It had only been out a few years, and it was like a bible to me. I didn’t have my own copy. Fast forward years later, I’m preparing for my brand’s first photoshoot and I’m telling my photographer I want my shoot to look like Jim Jocoy did it. We get to the record store for the shoot and guess what book they have for sale? Just one copy. I snapped it up so fast. I tracked him down and he is the nicest guy, and I can’t wait to drape his photos on people! He’s also a big Weinberger fan the first person that got shirts from the collection.
PONYBOY: Your inspiration is obviously music. Tell us what bands are your very favorite.
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: Oh, I am always chasing that particular dragon. I just sponsored Kate Clover and SUO, but there a few on lifetime rotation for me like The Cramps, Iggy, X, Queen, Chuck Berry and the architect, Little Richard.
PONYBOY: Can you tell our readers about any upcoming projects you have in the works?
ROCK ROLL REPEAT: Yeah! Thanks. Jim Jocoy and I are releasing a collection as you mentioned. And in the beginning of March, Paul Pope and I are releasing 2 limited edition tees with some surprises to celebrate the launch of the re-issue of his graphic novel “100%”. It’s a slight departure from my usual collaborations except that he’s made all of my favorite books for the last 20 years and is by far the most rock n roll illustrator working in comics.