WORDS: SEAN HUBBARD
Youth of Today, Project X, Judge, Shelter, even Limp Bizkit, Sammy Siegler has played the drums for them all and then some more. He’s been one of the stalwarts of the straight edge scene since it was popularised by Shelter and Youth of Today vocalist Ray Cappo, whom he hails as a true punk, saying: “Everyone can start a band, but if you want to be punk in the punk scene then you have to do something different. He decided he didn’t like seeing everyone constantly fucked up all around him in the punk scene and so began making positive straight edge music.” You only have to look to Cappo’s past, and being told that he could never be able to start a straight edge scene to see examples of how he has been a progressive force in straight edge and hardcore for decades.
He also attributes Cappo as being a driving influence on the explosive popularity of straight edge in the mid to late 80s, and also as one of the prime figures in the expansion of the movement from solely sobriety to include meat-free and veganism lifestyles as well. This was a completely new addition to the straight edge mind-set – especially because vegetarianism was not even a topic of discussion in the US in the 80s, and even straight edge pioneers Minor Threat had made no mention of it, but Cappo saw the meat-free lifestyle as an extension of the anti-self-abuse nature of straight edge. Siegler reasoned it out as “if we consume put alcohol and drugs because they are bad for us, then why the fuck would we eat meat too?” It was certainly an extension of the culture of self-empowerment surrounding straight edge, which ran on positive energy and a meat-free lifestyle was simply the next step on this journey of self-improvement. It was the 1988 Youth of Today song ‘No More’ which Cappo used to promote a meat-free lifestyle, and which began a closer relationship between the straight edge movement and animal rights and veganism movements.
“hardcore is a constant alternative that has always been there.”
For Siegler the appeal of punk and hardcore was always that it was so different initially to the mainstream, but also because “hardcore is a constant alternative that has always been there.” He enthused about the accessibility of becoming engrained in a hardcore scene – there are very few barriers to entry and he muses about how fantastic it is that kids can pick up an instrument, start taking photos or even start their own zine all within the same scene, and because of its inherent DIY nature they learn and grow. The involvement in a local scene was the starting point for every single successful hardcore band to date, all the way from Youth of Today up to Knocked Loose, and it is that accessibility and that ability to begin a creative endeavour that Siegler feels draws young people to hardcore.
While most people are drawn to hardcore in their youth, Siegler also loves to see people grow up and then eventually introduce their own children to the music and the scene that shaped their lives – while he issues a disclaimer that he hasn’t fully introduced his own children to much hardcore yet simply because they’re no older than 10, he feels that it is a key part of the scene, and seeing older people alongside a younger generation at shows has contributed to the longevity of hardcore and punk as a whole. This has also contributed to the connection that Sammy feels when talking to someone else who’s into hardcore – the way he sees it they have their own “secret language” that immediately opens up an inter-personal connection, and it has grown because of the counter-culture of hardcore and its position away from the mainstream.
Sammy Siegler is undoubtedly one of the most experienced men in hardcore, one of the original straight edge movement, and he essentially lays all the credit for the explosion in popularity for straight edge at the feet of his colleagues.
One of the many ways that hardcore – and especially straight edge – in the early days differentiated themselves from the mainstream was through fashion, and while today bands like Turnstile are seen as trend setters, in the 80s when Youth of Today were coming up it was always Ray Cappo once again who was at the forefront of new looks. Sammy feels that he was disheartened by the ‘crusty’ look of most punks in New York in the 80s, and instead looked to the rising hip-hop scene for style inspiration, with artists like Grandmaster Flash and Run-DMC serving as a much greater source of creativeness than the NYC punk and hardcore scene did. Siegler attributes style choices such as cuffed pants and fanny packs gaining popularity within New York Hardcore to Cappo’s outfits, which in turn led to huge swathes of the straight edge youth crew creating their own imitations of his style.
Sammy Siegler is undoubtedly one of the most experienced men in hardcore, one of the original straight edge movement, and he essentially lays all the credit for the explosion in popularity for straight edge at the feet of his colleagues. That’s the essense of hardcore though, a movement can’t be held responsible by one individual, but a community, and that is just how hardcore has and forever will alter counterculture.