If you are a fan of NYHC music chances are that drummer Sammy Siegler has played with bands that you know and love. His earlier work with Side By Side, Project X, Youth Of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, and Judge was followed up by with runs with bands like CIV, Glassjaw and Rival Schools. His musical transitions throughout the years have seemed to have kept his name and body of work fresh and always one step ahead. In 2016 he played drums on “The Anti-Circle” with World Be Free (more about them in this interview) with his most current work being with Constant Elevation who released a 4 song EP with Revelation Records this past July. On top of all this he has done session work with bands well outside the realm of hardcore punk (more on that within this interview as well). Without further ado we present this “20 Questions With…” interview with Sammy Siegler who answered these questions in mid-September 2020.
Lead photo by: Joel Dowling. Graphics by: John Franko. Additional questions by Mike Not Like You.
1. Hey Sammy… where are you right now and what would you usually be doing at this time if you weren't answering these questions?
Sammy: I’m in Venice, CA. Been on this hustle from the house quarantine vibe as of late, dipping out for the occasional bike ride. Currently contemplating a hike.
2. The thing that triggered this interview is the new Constant Elevation “Freedom Beach” EP that came out on Revelation Records in July. We really, really liked it. Please tell us more about this band and this particular release.
Sammy: Awesome, glad you dig it. I stumbled upon an autographed Shawn Mendes Taylor acoustic a few years ago, started writing some hardcore bass lines upside down since I’m lefty and it’s a righty guitar. I bugged my friends in World Be Free to record them with me and asked Vinnie Caruana to sing, he was down and we released our debut EP, really as a project with Vinnie and I as the only members. We wanted to play some shows, needed a band and a few more songs so it all kind of came together and led to our follow up EP “Freedom Beach”.
SAMMY WITH JUDGE AT THE 2015 IEPERFEST IN BELGIUM. PHOTO BY: AGA HAIRESIS
3. On the first Constant Elevation record it was just you and Vinnie playing all the instruments but for this new one you put together a full lineup. It seems as if the initial idea behind this band was to just record a record and that's it. Am I off the mark in regards to that? What prompted putting together a full lineup?
Sammy: Initially I was excited about it just being he and I… the thought was to have different members wherever we played, wherever it made sense, making it easier logistically to be in various places. I love the comradery of being in a band, I’ve been in a bunch of them but it seemed refreshing to keep it Vinnie and I. As a drummer you can’t really do a solo project so this was the closest thing I suppose… BUT, as mentioned above, it sort of came together and we now are a band with Mike Ireland, Jani Jzubkovs, Jim Carroll, Vinnie Caruana and myself.
4. What's the thought process behind the name Constant Elevation? It has a very PMA feel about it… who thought of it?
Sammy: Vinnie came up with it, I believe it’s a reference to The Gravediggaz, I associate it more with “I Know You Got Soul” by Eric B & Rakim "Constant elevation causes expansion”. But yes, 100% wanted a positive vibe… felt like that was lacking in hardcore, that was/is the goal.
5. While we were setting this up you mentioned that this fall will see some new World Be Free material being released. Can you tell us more about that? (Editors note: World Be Free’s lone release “The Anti-Circle” came out on Revelation Records in 2016 and included members from Terror, Strife, Gorilla Biscuits and more)
Sammy: It’s called “One Time For Unity”, 5 song 12” EP on Revelation Records and will be available for pre order on 10/7 releasing 11/13. We worked really hard on it… amazing what it takes to release 5 hardcore songs sometimes, I’m excited about it. The title track has Chuck Ragan on it, my friend Jason Peterson let us use his photo for the cover, he did the design, a bit of a group effort, some good people involved. The first song is called “Acceptance”, it’s a ripper.
6. World Be Free's first record came out in 2016 but things never seemed to get rolling with playing shows due to singer Scott Vogel's neck surgery around the time of that record's release. What were the circumstances surrounding bringing World Be Free back after 4 years off?
Sammy: I feel like we came out guns blazing with that release... “The Anti-Circle”. Scott had the injury and we all were busy with other projects, life, etc. We just weren’t able to play many shows for a few reasons. Arthur Smilios who played on that record was the only member living in NYC with the rest of us in LA. He got an awesome but demanding job and wasn’t available when it came time to play some local shows and work on new music. Alex Barreto from Chain Of Strength and Excel joined, both are really talented musicians, my favorite two bass players in hardcore (there’s a few others), it’s interesting how that one change affected the music.
7. You were born and raised in Manhattan but now call Southern California home. How long have you been living there and what are some of the things you look at as upgrades compared to living in NY?
Sammy: I moved out here about 8 years ago and live in Venice. I like that there’s a history to Venice… bands, skating, surfing, etc. You can also walk to places which was important in my transition from NYC. I remember appreciating not talking about the weather as much as I did in NYC… it always seemed to be a thing when I lived in NYC. What’s the Doppler up to?
8. What are some things that you miss about living in NYC?
Sammy: There’s a spontaneity to NYC which is amazing and I miss it. I could leave my house with no money and no plan, next thing you know it’s 3am and I’ve been fed and have new sneakers… things just flow in NYC. In L.A. you make a plan which will get cancelled, then another plan, then a drive… tough to have that same spark. I grew up on West 15th Street, there’s memories on almost every block for me, the NYC connection is deep.
9. Drumming runs in your family as both your grandfather and father played and obviously it has rubbed off on you. What was it like when you first started getting into playing hardcore music in regards to your mother and fathers acceptance of it? Were they supportive of it?
Sammy: My dad would joke and say, “you know what I like about hardcore songs? They’re all short”. Meaning he was happy they ended quickly. I was playing shows quickly, age 11, my parents would come, I think they were ultimately supportive because they knew how driven I was, plus all the guys would hang at my house, they were mostly straight edge and like big brothers to me so my parents were down with that. Youth Of Today played in Miami in ’88 and my grandfather came to the show at the Cameo Theatre… we all stayed at his house, that was really cool.
SAMMY (LEFT) WITH PORCELL, WALTER AND SAMMY'S GRANDFATHER IN MIAMI 1988
10. Any advice that you can offer up for someone reading this that may be just getting into playing the drums with an eye on playing hardcore music?
Sammy: Even though it’s hardcore it’s still very musical or can be, so approach it with a musical mindset, the adrenalin and energy is great, but you still need to hold the stick properly, listen, use dynamics, and play musically. Once you can play and feel like you have something special, record it, put it out, make a shirt, do a zine, bring it to life, that’s what I really get off on.
11. How would you honestly rate yourself as a drummer? Are there any aspects of drumming that you wish you were better at?
Sammy: There’s always room for improvement, so many great drummers out there. I see dudes on social media and say fuck I need to learn that or practice more. I’m stoked on my contributions, some recordings I’d love a redo, but overall I’m proud of it, looking forward to making THAT recording still. B-?
12. Over the years the bulk of your drumming has been with well-known hardcore bands but you have done various session work with other types of bands outside of hardcore as well. Limp Bizkit being the one that stands out the most as it seems like a very unlikely fit on both ends. Can you tell us some of the other work you've been involved with besides the ones most of us already know?
Sammy: I played drums for Patti Smith once, filled in for one show, that was a trip. I think I played on a PM Dawn song, not sure though. My band Nightmare Of You was non-hardcore, I played in Head Automatica and Glassjaw and Nightmare Of You as well as a record for a band called A Static Lullaby. I was in a cool reggae band called 32 Tribes in the early 90’s, wish we recorded an album, we had some good tunes, we played with HR a bunch and Eek A Mouse.
13. What was the most dangerous situation you have found yourself in while doing music?
Sammy: Youth Of Today/Lethal Aggression European tour in Belgium, I think it was my birthday, we played two shows in one day. A fight with metal heads in the afternoon, and playing to a half filled room of adult nazis in the evening, the latter being a bit more scary, supposedly someone had a gun, I was 17. Rival Schools played a Festival in Belgium where 9 people were killed from a storm that rolled in. That was a weird scary sad one.
14. In July of 1996 CIV opened up for KISS at Madison Square Garden. Having grown up in NYC this has to be a career highlight or at least it had the makings of being one. Can you take us through that whole situation?
Sammy: Was that really 96? Thought it was later for some reason, you’re probably correct. We were on the Warped Tour, I remember being at some club or something the night we found out and they played “Calling Dr. Love” and I was really hyped. The day of the show I took the subway to MSG, it was an amazing day/night, dream come true. We had the same manager so that is how we got the show. The NY Rangers were coming on to the ice those days to our song “Can’t Wait One Minute More” so the KISS fans (Ranger Fans) knew that song and that saved us.
15. What are some of your proudest moments from your time playing music? They can be particular shows, experiences or relationships made.
Sammy: With hardcore there’s a connection to the fans that’s unique. I met a kid in 1988 with Youth Of Today who said his brother died in a motorcycle wreck and they buried him with our record. I met someone recently in Singapore who came to our hotel with every single record I played on, from Biscuit to Bizkit, he had ‘em all. Because my dad and grandfather play drums, it’s been great connecting with them, my dad has come to a lot of shows all over the world in weird places, that’s always special.
16. Your ultimate lineup! If you could build a hardcore band with any past band members you have played with who would you pick?
Sammy: Let’s have two bass players, Arthur Smilios who might cover the finesse and Cache Tolman on the balls. Walter Schreifels, Charlie Garriga, and Porcell on guitar, with Cappo and Mike Judge trading vocals. Maybe Justin Beck from Glassjaw as another drummer? Ian Love can do sound and jump up and rip mind blowing solos, he can also play the thereman. Vinnie Caruana, Brandon Reilly and Daryl Palumbo as the three Long Island backup singers crushing the gang vocals and harmonies.
17. What have you not accomplished with music that you'd still like to do?
Sammy: I have a bunch of songs I’ve recorded myself or with other people, odds and ends, some agro, some chill and programmed, answering machine messages from the 90’s, it’s all over the place but kind of feels cohesive in a way. I joke that it will be called Siegler’s Spaceship (Ace Frehley had Frehley's Comet), we shall see, not everything needs to be released, or maybe it does.
18. What kinds of things do you like to do in your free time outside of music?
Sammy: I cook, I’m "good-ish", although these days it’s mainly pastas, I need to switch it up. Chill with my wife and daughter. I have plants and mess with them. L.A. is weird and this pandemic sucks. I could use a few new activities. Just finished Cobra Kai.
19. Albums, EP’s, demos… Can you give us your top 3 recordings that you have played on?
Sammy: Rival Schools “United By Fate” or “Pedals” or “Found”, CIV, “Set Your Goals”, Glassjaw “EYEWTKAS” and Youth Of Today “Disengage”, that’s 4. Judge… “Bringing It Down”? I love them all, “We’re Not In This Alone” (Youth Of Today) is tough to listen to, but I still have love for it. That Nightmare Of You album and EP are groovy.
20. What are some of the things in your life that you think would be different for you if you never got into hardcore music, playing in bands and touring all over the world?
Sammy: I like to think I’d still have friends and be passionate about something, but fuck man, it wouldn’t be as cool or special. Maybe if I was a professional basketball player or something. That probably is fun, about unity, solid bonds, defense and such.
21. If you have to cook up a meal what are some of your go to things that you like and are good at making?
Sammy: As mentioned above I’m deep in a pasta thing, I can do a pesto from scratch, a lot of ratatouille type things with eggplant and zucchinis, simple things but the devils in the details. I know how to make pasta from scratch, no machine, that’s a fun one, kind of messy but tastes good.
22. With the current state of the world and how it's changed every facet of life what types of activities are you looking to do once again on a regular basis once things get more back to normal?
Sammy: See some family and friends and travel. Show my daughter some crazy stuff to blow her mind. Possibly get back into some sort of physical activity, looking forward to playing drums again. Side note… I’m excited to release some recordings I did with Brian McTernan (currently singing for Be Well) and Josh English back in the late 90’s, the project is called Forgive/Forget, should be available 10/2, give it a listen. (Click HERE to find the Forgive/Forget Bandcamp page and check back on Friday October 2nd for its debut).
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