The last time I checked in with drummer Sammy Siegler, we chatted about his life in the hardcore scene, playing in such bands as Youth of Today, Side by Side, and Shelter. It's the latter group that brings us to today's piece as Shelter will be embarking on a European tour next month, and a pair of dates in Brooklyn, NY and Garfield, NJ (both presented by No Echo).
Since Shelter is going back out on the road I figured it would be a good time to get Sammy's thoughts on the band and its history.
When we previously chatted about your career on No Echo, you said the you initially felt threatened by Ray’s voyage into Krishna consciousness. You then said: "I wanted Youth of Today back, and all this shit, but in retrospect, that was pretty fucking cool. Dudes in Krishna robes playing hardcore. It was punk, dangerous, and badass.”
I know you weren’t in the band at that point, but what do you remember about those early Shelter shows and the reaction they got?
Yes, I was 15 in '88, we were on tour that summer and Ray was getting into Krishna. I was so into the band, I had just joined in '87, and felt somewhat threatened by it all. Ray would stay at the temples, hang out less, and it only got more intense when we went to Europe in '89. As an adult looking back I get it, I understand that people need to evolve, people change, and so on. I remember drawing a mustache on a photo of Krishna he had in the van by the drivers seat, that wasn’t cool, forgive me Krishna and Raghunath!
But yeah, when Shelter came out it was different, the song “Shelter” with the drum machine and samples. I think what really struck me was when Ray was on the cover of Maximum Rocknroll, that magazine was a big deal to us and the photo (or multiple images) looked really scary and weird. I think they were also on the cover of the Village Voice, although I could be wrong. It was amazing how many kids embraced Hare Krishna, it seemed like there were hundreds of Krishna Core Shelter fans that appeared when that band was formed.
One of the first things you did once you did start playing in Shelter was self-book a tour with Inside Out and Quicksand. In that aforementioned interview, you said “...we were traveling in a school bus filled with Hare Krishnas, and as a Winnebago filled with the Maharaja, who was like the leader, and there was this funky van with the non-Krishna guys like me, Porcell, who wasn't Krishna yet, and Zack [de la Rocha] and Alex [Barreto] from Inside Out in it.”
That sounds like a story that could have happened back in the late ‘60s! How were the shows (turnouts, etc.) and how did the California dudes get along with the NYC dudes?
I got a list of phone numbers on a piece of paper from YOT’s booking agent, Doug Caron, and booked this tour from my bedroom at age 17. The shows were good, I don’t believe there were any duds. Quicksand were traveling on their own, so we weren’t hanging with them as much. But the CA/NYC connection was strong, we already knew each other from touring in California, they were all really funny, especially Zack, I remember non-stop jokes.
We had a fluorescent orange hat that we called "The Conch." If you had The Conch, you were aloud to speak, here’s a photo of Zack with The Conch and a Pizzsoy, which was top-notch Vegan fare back then:
Another Shelter tour you did back in the day was with Type O Negative. Now, that sounds like a crazy pairing on paper, but how did it go from your perspective? Any funny Peter Steele stories?
Bands that exist for a while typically have interesting different phases, it’s just how it goes, things evolve and devolve and whatnot. This was a time when Shelter was on Roadrunner Records as was Type O, metal and hardcore—and even hip-hop—was all blending together and someone thought this tour would make sense. I actually remember it kind of working, I think Shelter had that ability to adapt to different audiences, Cappo is one of the best at making the most of any situation.
I remember having dinner at a devotee's house, he was an adult, he lived in a mansion that was painted saffron on the outside, there were two women there, one was a famous chef named Mother Yamuna who cooked food with bits of gold and silver in it, and the other sang on the recording of [George Harrison's] "My Sweet Lord." It was a wild scene.
Pete was cool, I think we ate birthday cake together on his birthday somewhere.
You’ve mentioned that you helped write the material that ended up on Shelter’s Mantra album, but you didn’t play on it. What’s the story there? Were you committed to other projects at the time?
I had a rehearsal studio on 26th St., a monthly lockout where CIV rehearsed, Shift rehearsed there as well another band I had called Loaded with Ian Love. I had played in Shelter early on, recorded two songs off the first release and they needed a drummer for this new record. We started rehearsing and coming up with music together for what eventually became Mantra. We recorded a demo and were spending a lot of time in the studio, I think things fell apart when it came to money and how I would be compensated, that’s typically the case. That album had some great songs, looking back I wish we could have made things work. Dave Dicenso (Cro-Mags, White Devil) played on it, he’s a phenomenal drummer, but there is a cool grit to the demos we did which I think is missing from the album.
I know you prefer the earlier Shelter material, where it was a bit less melodic. What can we expect from these upcoming shows in terms of the setlist? Do you guys play that by ear, or do you have things pretty dialed-in before a run of dates?
It’s not even that it’s less melodic (the earlier stuff), I just prefer the weirder songs like "Society Based on Bodies" or "In the Name of Comfort," they more like pieces of art, there’s a sense of danger to some of them which I like. Mantra did well in Europe so we’ll include a bunch of those songs for Europe, but in general the goal is to mix it up, a little something for everyone, songs that are special to Ray, that he wants to sing, a mix of tempos, there’s a lot of thought and discussion put into it. We differ sometimes on what the key songs are, what will go over well. I’d like to bring back "Turn It Around" at some point.
If you had to pick your favorite Shelter song, what would it be and why?
"The News" because I love the vocal melody, that the last chorus is fast, great dynamics, that rhythm in the verse, it’s a great message. I’m obsessed with the news these days, but it take up too much time and mental space and it’s a bunch of bullshit for the most part.
Shelter tour dates:
Nov. 02 - Einhoven, NL - Sound of Revolution fest
Nov. 04 - London, UK - The Dome
Nov. 06 - Stockholm, SE - Debaser
Nov. 07 - Warsaw, PL - Hyrdozagadka
Nov. 08 - Gasteiz, ES - Gasteiz Calling
Nov. 09 - Lisbon, PO - TBA
Dec. 19 - Brooklyn, NY - St. Vitus w/ Mil-Spec, Constant Elevation, Rule Them All (get tickets)
Dec. 20 - Garwood, NJ - Crossroads w/ Mil-Spec, Constant Elevation, School Drugs (get tickets)