Thirteen Day Getaway (Atlantic)
An interview with Sammy Siegler
by Celine Hania
Photos by Heidi Hartwig
I wanted to talk about the bands you were in before: Judge, Gorilla Biscuits…
I think the first hardcore band, from that scene, was this band, Side by Side. I was about thirteen when I hooked up with that band. They were just a bunch of guys from the hardcore scene, a couple guys from Jersey, a couple guys from the City, and I was just learning how to play drums. I started when I was a kid, my dad plays and my grandfather plays, so I was just getting into it.
Did you go to shows when you were really little and watch your dad play?
Yeah, but they were always just supportive. I’d even go to see bands myself when I was younger; my dad took me to go see The Stray Cats. And at the old Ritz, they used to have a bunch of punk shows. When I was eleven, my mom would take me. It was cool. And even when I was in that band Side by Side, we played a couple of shows at CBGB’s, which I was too young to even go in.
You were thirteen, playing these shows?
Yeah, so my mom would have to come.
Were you ever nervous, at thirteen playing?
It was so punk, you just didn’t give a shit. You know, we were just bad, the bass player was so bad, he was this guy and he was made the bass player. He just kind of learned. But that band was cool, because it kind of hooked me into this whole scene that was going on in, like, in ’86. We used to open up for this band, Youth of Today. We’d open for them on road trips, so I got to meet those guys, and later when their drummer quit, I ended up playing.
So you went from Side by Side to…
Actually, before I was in Side by Side, I was in Gorilla Biscuits, when I was really little. I knew the guitar player’s brother. I only played one show called “The Birth of Unity Show,” in ’85… But I got kicked out right after that ’cause I sucked. I was so bad. Then I hooked up with Side by Side, and then came Youth of Today. And me and the guitar player for Youth of Today, John Percell, became really good friends and ended up doing all these other low projects. We did this thing called Project X, which was total straight edge…
You were in the whole straight edge hardcore, big black Xs on your hands thing?
Yeah (laughs), we had the Unity crew, yeah, totally Xs on our hands, everything. Then we started Project X, then we did Judge, which we started as a side project. Then, I think I was in Youth of Today and Judge at the same time. Then Youth of Today broke up. I guess Judge broke up, and I started playing with Gorilla Biscuits again.
Did you ever record with them?
You just played shows?
Yeah. They had this kid Luke, who was a good friend of mine who was also really young, he was the other young drummer on the scene. Luke and I were both trying out for Youth of Today. We were both really into it. My friend Perso, who’s a guitar player, was really into me and my friend Walter, he was the bass player in Youth of Today, he was really into Luke, and there was this whole thing.
You grew up with Walter.
I did, damn it. Yeah, Gorilla Biscuits was Walter’s band. He started it, and that turned into CIV. And Arthur, the ex-bass player for CIV…
I was going to ask you about that. I hear you have a new bass player.
Yeah, and an organ player, too. This kid’s going to play organ and percussion, sing back-up vocals, and stuff like that, kind of help it out. CIV is more about that whole entertainment factor, bringing it back. When we were in all those bands, those old hardcore bands, we would just go to the show, get on stage in the clothes that we were wearing and just play. When we started CIV, we thought it would be cool to do something a little bit different, and try to take it to another level, as far as entertaining and putting on a show.
Yeah, the CIV album sounds like a bunch of guys just got together and said “Let’s just play.” It was fun stuff, not that it isn’t serious, but it’s “Let’s just have fun.”
Yeah, totally, we had a lot of fun making that record. There’s a song with all these horns on it, “Marching Goals” it’s called.
Yeah, I really like that one.
All the horns, we just bugged out, and we did a song called “Don’t Got To Prove It” on that record which is all acoustic. We were just fucking around, started singing the song, and it ended up being on the record. That was an interesting record. We just started doing CIV as a project, just for fun, and Walter, who’s not in the band but who was in Quicksand, was involved in the whole concept. We were just going to do singles on our friend’s record label.
He helped produce that album, right?
Yeah, he helped write a lot of it and he produced it. We were just doing it for fun and Quicksand’s manager ended up hearing it, and he shopped it around. We ended up getting this record deal before we even played any shows. We only had one two-song 7″, that was it. So, next thing you know, we had this record deal, and it was like OK, you’ve got to write a record. So we wrote it in two months basically, in the studio, and then recorded it. So it was really fun. The whole thing was so overwhelming, like, oh my god, you don’t have to work construction anymore, now you got a deal. It was like The Great Rock-n-Roll Swindle.
What about this album that’s coming out, this is CIV’s second album?
Yeah, this is definitely a special album, ’cause we wrote it. Walter wrote a lot of the last record, so this one just really came out of us, totally, from our hearts. We’d been on tour for about a year and a half pretty much off and on, so we had more of that bond musically, and mentally it was just more sincere. The whole thing seems more real to me as opposed to then, when it was this project turned real thing.
So it sounds pretty different from Set Your Goals?
People who’ve heard it say that it sounds like the next obvious step. It’s not a total departure, but we didn’t make the same record twice.
You can tell it’s two years later, and you guys have played more, been together more.
Yeah, we hooked up with this producer who was really cool, and we learned a lot from, and he’s got some experience with big rock bands. He’s worked with Metallica, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Mick Jagger, a bunch of weird fucking people. But we went to this studio up in Woodstock, called Bearsville, which is this huge barn in the woods, and just kind of hung out for five weeks. We’d never really worked with a big producer before, in a real studio, with real microphones and amplifiers…
The real deal.
Usually it’s just like, OK, plug in, turn everything up really loud, press record, and let’s just set it off. But, this was cool, with a lot of organs.
You said you got an organ player, did he play on the album?
No, we had this friend of our producer’s came down, this total Guido from Long Island who’s a really good player, this total funny guy. There’re thirteen songs on the record, and five or six of them are pretty organ heavy. It’s cool, I think the poppier songs are more like real songs, and the heavier songs are just really fucking heavy and insane. They’re just more interesting, even the hardcore stuff is more interesting. I think a lot of these bands are remaking records, redoing Minor Threat or 7 Seconds, or even Youth of Today and shit like that. I don’t mind playing hardcore at all, I love it, it still has a huge place in my heart, but you know, I want to do something different. It’s 1998, not 1988.
When’s this album coming out?
April 7th, it’s called Thirteen Day Getaway. I think we’re going on tour with the Bosstones in April. Hopefully we’ll go to some new places, like we got to go to Japan and Australia and Hawaii last time. A lot of bands are going to South America, so I want to check that out.
How are the crowds over there?
They’re so cool, man. They just don’t get this stuff that much, so they’re not as jaded. In America especially, to get someone to pay ten dollars to go see a band is a lot. People are very picky. I think Europe used to be really cool. When I went over there in 1988 with Youth of Today, it was so pure, it was straight edge kids and skinheads and punks and squatters and all these people mixed together coming to the shows. Now, it’s definitely more divided, in the sense that America is. That’s why I’m into going to new, weird places. I’ve heard bands going to Israel. With Youth of Today, we got to go to Yugoslavia, we went to Czechoslovakia, and Portugal – places where they don’t really get New York Hardcore.
But they still go to the shows?
They go. Even if they don’t know the band, they go. They go sick, they lose their fucking minds.
So you like touring.
It has its ups and downs. When we used to tour, in Gorilla Biscuits and stuff like that, it was like OK, this is the big summer tour, you go away for a month and a half, ’cause we had to work around our school schedule.
That’s right, you guys were still in school.
Everyone pretty much was, even those guys. I was fourteen, but they were all eighteen or seventeen, college and high school. We’d do the spring break two week tour, or maybe go to California for five days. Now it’s more constant, you come home and they’re like, “go back out, make us some money.”
Let’s talk about your label, Some Records. When did that come together?
That came about, basically, from doing the Warped Tour. Not last summer but the summer before. There were a lot of West Coast bands on it, and it just seemed they had a really cool thing going on. You know, they had Fat Records, Epitaph, and all these small labels, and every band would watch each other. It was really kind of united and tight, almost how New York was in ’87, ’88, when Revelation Records was in New York. It was that kind of vibe, and I just got to thinking that there’s a real need for that in New York right now, something to keep New York or the East Coast together.
I was wondering why you decided to put a label together. I mean, there are so many labels out there now.
Well, I’ve seen my friend Jordan start Revelation and my friend Steve started Equal Vision. I’ve been doing this for a while, and I knew Walter from Quicksand was into it, and my friend Matt has a really good head for all that. So if Jordan can do it (laughs) – he’s a great guy, but he’s just really fucking lazy – if he can do Revelation, I think we can pull this off. We got lucky with the first album, for Six Going On Seven, and our second album is this band, Error Type 11. Both those bands are so fucking good.
I saw Six Going On Seven, and they were really good. You guys are so supportive of them too, you always go out to their shows.
They’re on their first tour ever, and I’m so psyched for them. You know, shitty, in a van, losing their minds, playing to five people in Texas. It’s exciting for me to see them doing that. It’s cool to support them, ’cause I know how much it sucks to not have any support. I’ve had that experience – not getting paid by labels, not getting statements, not getting checks, so I know what bands like and what bands don’t, and Walter’s definitely had that experience too. Bands like to see posters at the clubs when they just drove fifteen hours, and they like to see a statement even if they didn’t make any money. So it’s cool, it’s going to be fun. The whole attitude of it is not to be a big record exec, it’s just trying to have fun right now and create something organic, just letting it happen naturally.