Luke Rota is the man banging away at the drums for both the mighty Wisdom In Chains and the underrated Stigma. Straight outta da Boogie Down Bronx he is well respected for his playing and by all accounts is a really cool dude as well. The “20 Questions With” series here at In Effect HC is a more personal and fun look at members of our favorite bands and we think this new interview that took place on New Year’s Eve 2019 does just that. Photo by: Wass Photography, Graphics by: John Franko.
1. Hey Luke. Where are you right now and what would you usually be doing if you weren't answering these questions?
Luke: What’s up Chris! Well right now it’s New Year’s Eve at 630 AM and I am at my day job waiting for some carpenters to show up to measure some cabinet space so as I wait I figured I’d start answering some questions you got for me. But I’d definitely rather be home making a potato, egg and mozzarella frittata as I answer these questions! Haha… but it’s all good!
2. How does a Bronx, NY guy end up being the drummer for Wisdom In Chains, a band that has members spread around the great state of Pennsylvania?
Luke: To be honest, I ask myself the same question! Haha! It all started when I said yes after getting offered to be the official drummer for this band, which was an awesome day in my life and it has been an honor to be a part of this band still to this day. I think it’s been like 6 years so far officially.
3. Where does Wisdom In Chains practice and what is that drive like for you each time?
Luke: We practice in Richie’s basement in Stroudsburg and the drive is a beautiful and scenic 2 hours but could be torturous if there's traffic… which there usually is especially in the summer or on Sundays or anytime leaving and entering New York! Haha!
LUKE (LEFT) WITH HIS WISDOM IN CHAINS BANDMATES, EUROPE, 2015
4. When and where was your first show with Wisdom In Chains? How did it go?
Luke: Well my first show I played with them I was filling in still and we went out to Cleveland, Ohio to play Summer of Hate Fest which was in 2011 I believe. You can probably find it on YouTube and I believe it also got released on DVD. It went pretty good from what I remember and there were a ton of cool bands that played that day. The first show I played as the official drummer was in Asbury Park, NJ with our boys Sick Of It All at Asbury Lanes, which was awesome!
5. Wisdom in Chains has got to have around 100 or more songs in their catalog of songs over the years. How many would you say you know and how many do you think you could just jump behind the drum kit and play without much practice?
Luke: I feel pretty confident I could play any song that gets thrown at me. I might even know more than the rest of the band! Haha! I feel like I could play most and would definitely have to run through it a few times with the fellas. But I don’t mind rocking a song on the fly. Would be fun!
6. What can you tell us about the new Wisdom In Chains material? The band made mention recently that there would be a new album out in 2020.
Luke: So yeah… we are currently working on writing songs for the new record. It’s always an exciting process since no one knows which direction it will go but so far it’s going in an explosive direction. We get together and write in the basement and just go with whatever comes out and however we’re feeling in that moment and I have to say I’m totally digging all the songs so far! I hear vibes from earlier records like “Die Young” that are more on the melodic side and spots that could be strong sing along vocals, but also HARD riffs with in your face pounding drums! So far I’m pretty happy with the direction it’s going. So get excited cause it’ll be a banger! We’ve been throwing a few albums titles around but nothing set in stone yet so stay tuned! Click the above cover to watch the "Already Dead" music video by Wisdom In Chains.
LUKE PLAYING WITH STIGMA, MAY, 2019. PHOTO BY: TIM DALEY
7. You apparently were a big part in putting together a Wisdom In Chains coffee brew/blend. What can you tell us about it?
Luke: Yeah, we got approached by our friends from Dead Sled Coffee by a mutual friend and thought it would be fun and awesome to come up with a flavor so we decided to take on the task. I found myself taking the reins and just thinking back to my first coffee experiences when I was a kid in my Nonna’s house, which was dunking Stella D’Ora “S” cookies in coffee after Sunday dinner! Haha! So I decided to come up with that flavor to try to capture that comforting taste! It’s called “Amaretto Biscotti Sogno” which translates to Amaretto Cookie Dream and it’s delicious! Been getting great feedback so far! So to all you coffee drinkers or even non coffee drinkers, order a bag or come out to a show and scoop one up from merch! You and your guests will not be disappointed. Click HERE for more info.
8. The other band people may recognize you from is Stigma... a band that I feel like too many people either don't know about or sleep on. For the uninitiated can you break down what Stigma is all about?
Luke: Yeah, I wanna say that the Stigma band formed and starting writing in 2005, which was 3 years before the first record “New York Blood” was released. I loved the band since day one. Vinnie really does a great job on vocals and it’s truly great hardcore/punk music. There are nothing but good vibes on and off the stage when we’re together. Unfortunately we don’t get to play as much as we would like since Vinnie and Mike Gallo (bassist) are still completely active with Agnostic Front and still going strong carrying the torch for this music of ours. It’s hard to plan with their busy touring schedules but we’re still together and play when we can and there’s been talk of writing new music so definitely keep your ears open. People should definitely check it out and give it a listen. “New York Blood” and “For Love And Glory” are the two releases we have out. I will forever be thankful and honored to be a part of Stigma and those records we put out and look forward to writing new music. Click on Stigma cover to watch the "Don't Lose Faith" video.
9. Everyone who plays in bands with Vinnie Stigma or who has toured with Stigma seems to have no shortage of Stigma stories. We'd love to hear one or two of your favorites.
Luke: Haha! Oh man there’s so many we’ll be here for days but any day or moment spent with Vinnie Stigma is a trip and an awesome time filled with laughs! But I’ll tell you just how much of an icon he is. It might have been my first time in Rome, Italy with the Stigma band and we went to check out the Roman Coliseum. I am not sure if you know but there are guys dressed up as gladiators that stand around in character for people to take pictures and stuff, and as we’re walking by one of them starts shouting… Vinnie! Vinnie! Stigma! Haha! And I’m like… what the fuck!? It turns out that the gladiator dude recognized Stigma and was a fan of Agnostic Front. It seemed like it made the dudes day and I thought that was the coolest shit. Stigma leaned over and spoke in my ear and said “I got friends all over kid, I’ve been playing here for years!” He is the coolest man alive! Haha. Above photo taken in Rome has Stigma on left and fellow AF guitarist Craig Silverman on right... photo taken from the collection of Craig Silverman.
10. What was your introduction to hardcore music like? Who led you down this path and what were some of the first bands, records and shows you can recall getting and seeing?
Luke: So the first person and introduction into this music was Anthony Civarelli a.k.a. CIV, from Gorilla Biscuits and obviously his other band “Civ”. I met him at a very young age through a family friend who went to high school with him and she knew I was into cool music so she brought me to see his band play. Then after that my oldest brother brought home two Sick Of It All records which were, “Yours Truly” and “Scratch The Surface”. It was pretty much on from there. Then I started hanging with my friends in the neighborhood who were into the same type of music and Vinnie Stigma was actually a Godfather to one of them so of course I started listening to Agnostic Front and started going to shows in NYC. Vinnie would hook up and always take care of us. By the age of 13 I was already playing in a hardcore/punk band formed in the Bronx called “245!” It was all downhill from there! Haha! There was really nothing else I really wanted to do besides play music from that point on. Above photo taken in 1998 with Civ of Gorilla Biscuits and 12 year old Luke.
11. What about playing drums? How did you get into playing them?
Luke: I’m not really sure how I got into playing drums. I guess I always had it in me. But watching films and really any band I would see in videos or live I would always get drawn to the drums. To me it’s the machine that’s keeps going and going. I just love feeling the energy I get from hitting or watching the drums. But no one really introduced me to it or sat me down behind a kit. It really was just more of a feeling I had and a choice I made saying this is how I could release my energy. As soon as I got my first real drum set I taught myself from there from listening and watching drummers over and over again. Photo to the right has 14 year old Luke playing at CBGB's with his old band 245.
12. How would you rate yourself as a drummer at this point in your life? Are there things you wish you could do better?
Luke: Looking back it definitely would have been a benefit if I had the chance to learn some basics and different styles but that just wasn’t an option at the time when I was young so I just made the best of what I had or what I could learn coming across different people or musicians. Overall I’m pretty happy at the point I’m at now with my drum playing, especially being in bands with such talented and creative musicians. It really pushes me to be better. There’s always room to learn something new though! So I’ll say I’m still evolving into a better drummer each show, tour, and recording that I do.
13. Past or present, what are your three favorite TV shows and why are they your favorite?
Luke: Hmmm… This is a tough one but right off the bat I would say “The Sopranos” because it was just a great show all around. It hit home in different aspects . Just ahead of its time as far as a TV series and still to this day I don’t think any show comes close. Then I would say “Emeril Lagasse Live” on the Food Network. He was the OG and I loved the way he taught cooking techniques and how he interacted with the audience! I thought it was great to see the guests try his recipes and be so happy to enjoy it there with him after the love he put into any dish he made. Must of been a great feeling. Then I guess I would have to say “Curb Your Enthusiasm” because I mean come on! It’s amazing some of the situations he puts himself into and writes about. In one way or another we’ve all been in those same awkward situations. The way he puts it on screen is just hilarious.
14. If you could have lunch with someone famous who would you want it to be with? What would you want to ask them?
Luke: Man I don’t know! Maybe Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones? I’d want to ask him how the fuck he has lived to be this old after a life of partying! Haha!
15. What are three bands not hardcore/punk or metal related that people may find surprising that you like?
Luke: Hmmm… The Turtles, The Cars , and TKA, Haha!
16. Favorite slices of pizza in the NY area is where? What makes it your favorite?
Luke: Oh man the golden question!! As far as slices go I would say Tommy’s Pizza in the Throggs Neck section in the Bronx or at Loretta’s Pizza. They’re just a great like “after school special” kind of slice. As far as pies go I would say Louie and Ernie’s also in the Bronx. It just comes out nice and crisp with perfect ratio of flavorful sauce and cheese, and if you wanna step it up a notch get it with their home made out of the casing sausage crumbles on top! Wow! Explosive! And now I’m hungry!
LUKE WITH WISDOM IN CHAINS @ THIS IS HARDCORE 2019. PHOTO BY: DANIELLE DOMBROWSKI
17. Scariest or most dangerous situation you have ever found yourself in while on tour?
Luke: Man, I’m sure there would be a bunch if I really sit here and think but just off the top of my head it might have been around 2009 while I was on tour with Stigma and The Business in Europe. Rest In Peace Micky Fitz! But I just remember it was at a venue in France that we usually play. We came out from after playing to go to our backstage area and there must of been a rival football firm in town and before you know it we were caught in between a huge beef and I just remember seeing Molotov cocktails flying over our heads crashing down over the gates of the venue! I was thinking “holy shit did you see that!” Barb-wired bats and shit we’re getting thrown, dirt bikes were getting ghost ridden into the gates! It was pretty wild! I’ll never forget it but no one in our crew was harmed in anyway.
18. When packing for a tour what are some of the most important personal items that you can never forget to pack?
Luke: BABY WIPES! Haha!
19. How do you usually like to kill time before playing a show? There must be many times on tour where you can be at a venue hours before you need to load equipment in.
Luke: After sound check can get pretty boring if you hang around the club trying to use shitty Wi-Fi. I tend to try to walk around whatever city we’re in if there’s time and make an afternoon of it. I enjoy the cites culture and food. I mean we’re blessed to see and play in so many cities and countries. Why not use the time we have before we play to check it out? I’m not one with many before stage time rituals.
20. What are either your favorite cities or countries to play in and what about them makes them your favorites?
Luke: I really just love every city or country we get to play in. It’s truly a blessing. All places are unique in their own way but some places are more exciting than others. Love playing in Berlin. Such a cool place. Lots of friends there. Shout out to the Coretex Records crew. Always taking care of us. I’m pretty comfortable there and know my way around quite a bit so that’s one of my favorites. I also would have to say Slovenia and Italy, of course, because of the amazing food. Also Japan is one of my favorite places! What a beautiful country and great people especially my brother Uzi from Aggressive Dogs. I am blessed to have been there twice in my life and hope to make it back. Wisdom In Chains also just went to Colombia! What an amazing place too. It’s so amazing to see hardcore family all over the world!
21. Outside of playing the drums what kinds of things would you consider hobbies of yours? What do you like to do when you are away from music and have free time?
Luke: I’m not sure I have many hobbies now a days but when I’m not busy with music or other work I love checking out new restaurants, going to shows, doing some cooking and just kicking back with friends and fam. But I’m always down for new adventures. Would love to start a clothing brand or a food truck voyage! Haha!
Photo at right: Luke getting a haircut from Street Dogs bassist Johnny Rioux on the 2020 Persistence Tour stop in Brno, Czech Republic.
22. We did an interview with your guitarist Richie in 2018 where he made it seem like that the end of Wisdom In Chains may be near. Here we are not too long after and there is talk of a new album. How are things with the band these days and can you see a long road ahead still?
Luke: Oh man I saw that interview! He must have been in down spirits that day! The band has its ups and downs and it’s hard to play as much as we’d like with certain situations but we make the best of it and are very thankful for all the support! I believe this music and the friendships bring us all up and it lives in all our hearts! I don’t see any of us stopping anytime soon, as long as our brains are working and our bodies can move… we will continue on writing and making more music and memories together because hardcore lives through us and it will never die!
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