How is a drum solo like a sneeze?
You know it’s coming, but there’s nothing you can do about it.
Drummers always get a bum rap. Why is that? Ever seen a good band with a bad drummer? No. Know why? BECAUSE THEY DON’T FUCKING EXIST (with exception for Ringo.)
Drummers rule! We hit stuff, get peoples’ butts shaking, and ultimately determine whether or not the band is going to perform well. You CANNOT have a solid band without a solid drummer, so all you 6-string wankers out there with your tapping and flooded solos can suck it… This one is for the hitters.
I sat down with Sammy Siegler, from every NYHC band of note and then some, at SXSW (thank you very much Facebook!) and I’m just gonna get this one started, because the man really needs no introduction.
G- What’s up, man, and thank you so much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today!
G- How’s everything going at SXSW for ya?
S- It’s going good! It’s kicking my ass a little bit. Too much sun, not enough hydration, but good times! A lot of music… I saw Ghostface Killa last night at 2am…
G- So YOU’RE the one that got in!
S- Yeah I got into that. Some of the perks from coming from the hardcore world is I’ve made some good friends throughout the years, so I got hooked up with some passes to some of these shows, and it’s nice!
G- I was in that line. I was at the show at 1am at the venue and I waited, and as the line slowly moved back towards Houston, I knew I wasn’t getting in.
S- Yeah. You gotta choose your battles here, for sure.
G- There’s enough music to go around. You don’t have to see everything, and you won’t anyway!
G- Let’s get down to these drums. Obviously, you’re a very prolific drummer and have been doing this for a long time… How long have you been playing drums and when did you really get started?
S- I think it’s good to know that my dad plays drums, and my grandfather played drums, so it’s just in the family, and when I was really little, probably 4-5 years old, I was learning double stroke rolls. My grandfather was just teaching me “mama papa mama papa,” and that was the double stroke roll. And then… my dad tells the story that he actually put the drums away, and he was kinda done when my sister and I were born, and I would see them and say ‘What are those? Set those up!’ So, he set them up, and I’d say around 7 or 8 I got pretty for real and started taking lessons, and kinda hooked up with bands when I was 10-11, and that just sorta snowballed and pushed me to get better.
G- And you were literally playing in those bands at that age. You were playing very young with some very noted bands!
S- The very early one is… I was in a punk/ska/reggae band called Noise Police with these two guys that went on to be in The Skadanks. So, Rocker T and Alex Valenti and stuff. So, and they went to Stuyvesant High School and they were older than me and stuff, so I was just kinda hanging on, trying to figure out how to play drums a little bit. We played shows around the city, and then a friend of me introduced me to Walter from Gorilla Biscuits, and introduced me to the hardcore scene. I played with them for a little bit in ’85, and that just sorta snowball with all these… we were all friends, and we just kept starting bands and everybody needed a drummer, and there were only 2 or 3 of us that…
G- Could play that style well.
S- Yeah. Well, Luke and myself and Drew, we were all friends and we were playing in a lot of these bands. And obviously, there was Mackie and Petey Hines, and those guys were monsters. You know, a lot of different players.
G- Now, when would you say that you started playing professionally because the NYHC scene, you know, is huge now, but back then you guys were probably returning bottles and cans and whatever you can to scrounge. When do you think it really clicked over and were able to generate some income from playing?
S- Umm, there was money trickling in those hardcore days, but it’s all relative. I was 12, 13, 14, so trickling in was cool! You know, you get $50 and you’re excited!
But later, I think right around when Green Day and The Offsprings went big, every major label wanted to sign a band, a hardcore punk band. So, that’s when you saw Sick Of It All getting a record deal with a major, and Into Another, and Seaweed, and Rocket From The Crypt, and then CIV. Civ was signed to a label through Atlantic Records, and we hit a semi-hit with “Can’t Wait One Minute More,” and it was like ‘Wow… I can make a living out of this for a little bit!’
G- By the way, that was the best record that Lava ever put out! That was THE BEST record in Lava’s catalogue!
S- Thank you!
G- We’ve gotta go ahead a talk gear for a second… We’re drummers.
G- We’re all gear heads, so what is your current rig looking like, what kind of drums and cymbals are you using primarily, what are the configurations and compositions, and what companies are you currently backing up at this time, man?
S- Uhh GMS out of Long Island, Rob Antoni made me a kit back in 1995, and I still have it. It’s pretty simple. It’s just a 14-inch snare which… I actually use a bunch of different snares, whatever I’m feeling for the occasion. But, usually a 12 inch rack, 16 inch floor, and a 22 inch kick. And then Zildjian cymbals, and I mess around with K’s and A’s, A customs, and I rotate them. Some of them break, so I get other ones. Vic Firth sticks, I think it’s the Rock Classic 2B. I always go back and forth between the 2A and 2B’s.
G- You’re playing the baseball bats, huh?
S- Yeah. I’m trying to go smaller now, hit a little less hard and all that stuff.
G- 5A 5B type?
S- Yeah. Actually, you’re right. I’m back to 5A and 5B now.
G- Every drummer starts with a pair of 5A when they play!
S- I remember playing 7A’s because my dad had jazz sticks around, but it’s good. I remember with gear, I used to be really anal about it and I only wanted to play on my stuff, very meticulous about this and that, and I’ve kinda gotten more into just whatever is sounding good and has a good vibe and attitude at the time.
A couple of years ago at SXSW with Rival Schools, it was like 4 shows in 3 days…
G- Juan In A Million!
S- Yeah! And I was running around with a stick bag, and basically you’ve gotta make every kit sound special. So, cymbals are important, but if you can tune a kit, you can get some good sounds out of a lot of things.
G- Right! Now, I gotta ask a couple of questions because there’s been some really, really awesome news lately with the Black and Blue Bowl, with the Judge reunion after a VERY long time… You’ve got things going on with Rival Schools and stuff like that…
(noise induced quick relocation)
… but we definitely have to know what is going on with all of this. You seem to have a never-ending drumming madman, so what’s going with Rival Schools, what’s going on with Judge…
S- Well, Rival Schools I kind of look at as my band! You know, our band, but the band I’m currently doing. We’re releasing an unreleased album that we recorded in 2003 that was supposed to by the follow up to United By Fate, sort of these demos we spent some time and money on, and we just ended up going on a hiatus after a year of working on that. So, they leaked a little bit n the internet, and we decided to officially release the album. It’s called Found, and it comes out on April 9th, and it’s a self-release. Chris Traynor played guitar on it, and I think he’s gonna be playing with us. We’re gonna try to do some shows this summer in support of it.
G- Get out of here! Anything in the works that you can let us know about?
S- Late June, maybe a little East Coast/West Coast thing. We’re working on it.
G- Dude that’s sick! And you’ve got Chris Traynor on guitar?!?!?!
S- Yeah. He a master, man! And we’re working on… We have a bunch of new songs as well, and the idea is to find the time to make that third or fourth album, however you look at it. We also want to make a new record, and it’s a fun thing. I really love those guys… It’s a lot of fun.
And Judge, I think the last show we played was in 1991…
G- My god!
S- And Mike is just kinda like… He lays low, so I don’t think many people have been in touch with him. But he’s inspired to play some music again. He really wants to get out there and he loves the music, as do we all, and we just kept talking about it, and our friend CIV was really helpful in getting Mike out and fired up again. So, we rehearsed a bunch, and it sounds good, so we said ‘Let’s do it,’ and we’re playing Black and Blue Bowl May 18th and 19th!
G- And should we even bother trying to expect any new material?
S- You know, they talk about it. Mike and Porcell have mentioned it a few times… ‘I wanna do this’ and ‘I wanna do that,’ and I’m into it. I just want to make sure we get our set really solid.
G- So, I don’t know… This is just incredible, because there are so many of us in the hardcore scene that NEVER thought we’d get to see this, and the fact that it’s happening is just awesome, but a new release would be great if it could happen!
Obviously, you’ve got the Rival Schools stuff coming… What else are you doing, man?
S- You know, I’ve always thought about doing my own kind of project, just bringing in a lot of my friends that I’ve met throughout the years, and I’ve been writing a little bit. It’s nice being able to have Pro-tools, and I’ve got some recording stuff at home so I can kinda get into my own things a little bit. So, one of these days I’ll get my shit together and do an album with a bunch of friends. That would be nice! But aside from that, I’m just living in California right now for a little chapter, and doing some work out there, and I’m really looking forward to this Rival Schools stuff and this Judge stuff, you know.
G- So are we, dude. So are we!
S- Yeah. I’ve been really lucky to be able to play with these great bands, and music is just kinda keeps knocking at my door. And just thinking about it now, that Glassjaw record I did in 1999, you know, that just sorta came out of left field, but it led to so many other things, and I ended up meeting the guys from The Movielife and playing with them, and that snowballed into doing Nightmare Of You, with Brandon who played guitar in The Movielife, and that snowballed into this, and it’s just pretty cool. I think it’s important to be in it and just keep the doors open.
G- Now, how many bands have you been in at this time? Have you even been able to keep count, because you’re a double digit man!
S- I mean, if you want to count, like, random sessions and fill-in things? I played a show with Lostprophets once when their drummer couldn’t make it and I filled in. I played a show with Patti Smith once…
G- I heard about that!
S- That was pretty weird. Umm, Limp Bizkit was a very weird time as well. I don’t know… 30 maybe? Something like that.
G- Is that all?
G- Slacker. Now, in all your time as a drummer, we eat, sleep, bleed, cry, and sweat, and we’ve all been hurt at some point… What’s the worst drum related injury you’ve sustained throughout your career? What happened?
S- I remember being on stage in Copenhagen with CIV at a very small club, and some guy with a Mohawk was skanking across the stage, and he fell into my cymbal and it fell back and hit my on the cheek, and kinda sliced my cheek. Not disasterous, but I’m sure I’ve fell off a drum riser or two. I hit myself in the eye really hard at a Youth of Today show in France and almost had to stop playing. It was that bad, and it sucked.
G- Sounds like it. Couple of stitches myself and a lot of bloody knuckes. It happens.
Now, this might be very difficult for you to answer, but what is your favorite release that you’ve been on to date? You’ve been on so many that we should probably talk for another hour and a half after you think about it, but what would you say is you proudest release that you’ve laid a groove for?
S- Shit. Right now, umm, the first Glassjaw record that I played on was just a really magical time. I met my wife there. We were at a studio in Topanga Canyon, and these kids were 20-years old. Daryll, the singer, was really… We just caught it at a magical time. They didn’t know shit… They just wanted to make some serious fire music. That was a pretty special time.
This Rival Schools Found album is also a special album, because it’s demos, but we didn’t over-think it. A lot of the vocals are first take, a lot of the drum tracks are first take, and it was a pretty magical time. It was right after United By Fate, and I think the songs are really good. Obviously, if it was a real album, it might be better, or if it was a real produced typical album, I guess, maybe it’d be better, or maybe it’d be worse. But that’s really cool.
The Youth Of Today Disengage 7” was a special time.
And to follow up directly with that one, in all of your performing experience, there’s gotta be one, and I’m sure there are several, but there’s gotta be one moment that really stands out to you like ‘Yeahhhhhh!’
G- Which one was it?
S- CIV opened up for KISS at Madison Square Garden.
I bust out laughing
S- You know, I was born and raised in NYC and, although Peter Criss is not such a great drummer, I loved KISS. So I said to myself ‘You know what? It could really all end right now and I feel accomplished.’ No one was there to see us, they wanted to see KISS of course, and they basically booed us until we played “Can’t Wait One Minute More” and fortunately, because they played that at a Rangers game, and basically KISS fans are Rangers fans, so…
G- (still laughing) You opened for KISS at the garden?!
G- With CIV?!
S- Yeah. Hardcore, those kind of tempos, don’t work in rooms that reverberate like that. It sounded like a pile of shit.
G- That’s just funny! So awesome… I wish I was at that one! I’d have been going for it, man!
S- It was badass!
G- Now, to finish up today, obviously we could continues this for hours, but you are a legend in the NY scene! You’ve been on so many releases and played so many shows, and you’re inspirational to me, inspirational to kids before me, after me, and coming up now.
You’ve been doing this for a long time, and we love you for what you do… What advice could you maybe give to some of the young, up and coming players out here who want to even try to touch what you’ve managed to do?
S- It’s funny. I think back to when I was younger, when I was in Noise Police or 32 Tribes, this reggae band I did for a while, or even Side By Side and stuff… We used to rehearse all the time, so I think it’s important, man. I practiced A LOT, and that’s the place to start. Try and own it, but at the same time, also do it! Don’t over-think it too much. You gotta just be in it. Show up, be proactive, and have a good attitude. It’s hard, as a drummer, because it’s a lot of carrying equipment, and you’re in the back, and your ears are getting fucked up and your arms are getting fucked up, but try an have a positive attitude. I’m still trying to learn that myself, but it’s a good one.
G- That’s a good one! Look, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with Live High Five today!
S- Yeah man. Thank you!
G- We’ll be at the Judge reunion…
S- Black and Blue… It’s gonna be good!
G- We’ll be at the Rival Schools shows on the East Coast…
G- And we’re looking forward to the next releases you come up on, so play well, travel safe, and we will be there!
S- Thank you, bro!