WENDY WWAD interviews Fang’s Sammytown

Fang’s Sammytown

Photo by Larry Stern

Photo by Larry Stern

WW: It’s been a long time since we talked! How have things been in Sammytown world? What’s been going on?

Sammytown: Things have been good…probably quite a bit different since the last time we talked. I quit shooting dope and doing crime, so things have changed a bit! I opened up a tattoo shop. I guess I’m trying to apply some of the skills I learned in the penitentiary to the outside world! Hahaha!

WW: Were you tattooing in the penitentiary or getting tattooed? Haha.

Sammytown: A little bit of both. Haha. But since our last interview (I believe that was around 2004, right?)…well since then Fang has put out another record, I got clean, quit doing crimes…and I opened up a tattoo shop called Tiger’s Blood Social Club in Alameda, CA, which is right next to Oakland. I’ve also opened a sober house for men to help them transition when they get out of rehab.

WW: Are you a counselor?

Sammytown: No, just an ex-junkie trying to help other fuck-ups. So it’s a 6 bed house that is what we call a sober living environment (in California), where people right out of rehab can go and stay because sometimes things are too fucked up at home to go get right back in that environment.

WW: Because lots of times it’s hard to stay sober if you move straight back into your prior situation?

Sammytown: Absolutely. Like we had this one guy that ended up staying for a year, basically, just as long as it takes. Most times just 30 days doesn’t work out.

WW: So this is your own place?

Sammytown: Yeah, well I have a business partner and it’s called the Promise House. It’s been open like a year and a half now, and the tattoo shop has also been open about a year and a half now.fang sammytown

WW: When did you get sober? And is that totally sober?

Sammytown: I got sober 8 years ago…and that’s totally sober.

WW: No weed either? If not, what makes weed bad?

Sammytown: It’s not bad! It just doesn’t work for me. If I smoke some weed then I’m going to want to shoot up some heroin and I’m going to go pick up a gun and rob somebody. I can’t fuck with anything cause if I get loaded I just want to shoot dope. I’m not trying to dictate what anybody does cause it ain’t none of my fucking business. Just for me, I know what I can do and what I can’t do. And I can’t do anything. The first time I got sober was in prison, and obviously I was in prison for a number of years. After I got out of prison I was sober for a couple of years, then I tried to drink beer and, the thing is, only 10% of addicts are actually alcoholics. Lots of people can party and still function. But for me if I smoke weed I’ll end up shooting dope and doing crimes and will end up back in prison. When I was using I just didn’t like running out of drugs and I would do anything to make sure that didn’t happen.

WW: What was the main catalyst that made you decide that you HAD to get sober to avoid fucking up?

Sammytown: I was down in Houston (which was pretty funny…I ended up getting stuck down there), and I had this partner in crime that ended up getting busted and going back to prison. I realized then that if I kept doing what I was doing that I was going to end up going back to prison and that they weren’t going to let me out again. So when he got busted it was a wake up call for me, so I split from Houston, went up to Philadelphia and tried to pull it back together. That wasn’t working so I went back to California.

Photo by Larry Stern

Photo by Larry Stern

WW: Did you go to rehab?

Sammytown: Not exactly. I went back to California and I wanted to kick heroin…and at the time I was DONE, but I can’t stop once I start. Well there was this woman named Faith who told me that there are only two ends to this story. You’re either going to get killed or you’re going back to prison and are going to spend the rest of your life there. Well this lady friend of mine had a basement room in Northern California, and Nikki Sikki and I boarded up the windows in the basement room, and I put a deadbolt on the door so you had to have a key to get out of there. And Nikki and this woman, they locked me in that room for a month…so I could kick. They would come check on me and change my bucket, and they kept me locked in that room for a month. And it still took me a year and a half after that before I could stay sober. You know, I’d go shoot some pills every once in a while and go a little crazy.

WW: Didn’t you and Nikki used to be roommates?

Sammytown: Yeah, we’ve lived together and toured with them numerous times. I’ve seen Verbal Abuse more times than I’ve seen any other band.

WW: Are you and Nikki Sikki from Verbal Abuse still buddies?

Sammytown: Oh yeah! We still hang together, we tour together, Verbal Abuse just started sharing our practice space in Oakland, and he lives in Oakland. He’s my best friend. Nikki and I go back forever. I met him when he moved out to San Francisco with Jerry and them from Texas. Shit, we were both little kids running around the San Francisco punk rock scene. We were like 14, 15, 16.

WW: How old are you now?

Sammytown: I just turned 50.

WW: What originally got you into punk rock. Were any bands inspiring you? Or was it more of a lifestyle / attitude?

Sammytown: I remember the first time I heard the Sex Pistols I was actually in the UK…I was 12.

WW: Why were you in the UK?

Sammytown: My father and I moved over there for like 9 months. I was 12 and turned 13 when I was there so that would have been like 77…So there was a kid that I was friends with in school and he was kind of an outcast too. We were living in Wales. He was English and the Welsh hate the English, so he was kind of an outcast. And I was an American so we became friends. He took me over to his house and told me he got a record from a new band that I had to check out, and it was the Sex Pistols! And I was fucking sold, right then and there. I was like, this is it, this is the shit. Fuck everything else. So that planted the seed and, when I got back to America, I went looking. And I found the Ramones, and dyed my hair, pierced my ear…

WW: And you joined Fang when you were like 15? In 1980?

Sammytown: Yeah, about then. And I had two other bands before Fang. One was called Reign of Terror when I was around 13/14, so we never toured or anything. Then I had another band called Shut Up and we played live one time, when I was 14 or so at this notorious punk rock bar in San Francisco called the Sound of Music. Then right after that I got into Fang.

fang old photos by dan walters

WW: What is Fang’s current line-up?

Sammytown: Right now we have Jamey Dangerous on drums (he’s been in the band about 8 years now), Tomi Knox on guitar (he tattoos at Tiger’s Blood Social Club), and we’ve got Brandon Brown, he’s the youngster, on bass. He just got his leg cut off in a motorcycle wreck. It’s cut off just below the knee so we dedicate “Destroy the Handicapped” to him every night. Our lead guitarist is Obadiah Bowling, who has been around Berkeley for a long time…and then me on vocals. And we’re working on a new record! We hadn’t recorded for a long time and a couple of years ago we recorded a full length CD called “Here Comes the Cops”. It’s been about three years now and I’ve been wanting to write a new record so we started writing a couple of new songs and we’ll be playing a few of the songs off that record tonight. We still have a way to go as far as writing goes but…I think it’s funny because, when we did that record “Here Come the Cops” a few years ago people kept asking me why I didn’t put out another record and I was like…eh, I’m not really into it…for whatever reason, and I couldn’t even tell you why…

WW: Do you think it was tough to write maybe cause you’re sober? Punk rock is a huge part of your life…

Sammytown: Punk rock IS my life! I mean, shit! I started touring in 1980 when I was 16 so for thirty-five years I have been playing punk rock. Sober or not, that’s my life. I’ve played it fucked up and I’ve played it sober. That’s what I do.


WW: Years ago you gave me a copy of “Thirty Days In the Hole”, which you wrote during your stint in Soledad State Prison. Did it ever get published?

Sammytown: It did not. People have often asked me, why don’t you put out a book? And I think I’m finally getting to the point where I’m about ready. I’m actually supposed to sit down with a writer in California in January and start talking. For a while, I didn’t want to do it cause the story ain’t over.

WW: But you don’t want to die before you do it! Haha.

Sammytown: I know, I know… there’s that window. So I think in the next year or two I’m going to get on it here. Also, there’s a lot of fucking shit to write so it will take a while.

WW: So how has Fang been doing since you got sober?

Sammytown: Well I got sober 8 years ago and for the past 7 we have been touring pretty consistently. It was fun getting to go back to Europe. I was wanted by Interpol back in the 80’s for international drug trafficking…LSD. But I had been out of prison long enough that I was able to get a passport, then I contacted some people in Europe to find out if I could go back without going to prison in Germany. Well the statute of limitations in Germany was only 10 years, so I was good. So we went back and toured Europe, and we toured Brazil.

Photo by Larry Stern

Photo by Larry Stern

WW: So people still love Fang?

Sammytown: Yeah, it’s been good. We haven’t come to Texas as much as I would have liked, because Texas has always been good to us. I don’t know why we’ve been doing the East Coast so much, or why the last time we came through was probably 5 years ago. We have been touring, just not much through here. But I’m really glad we came this time. It’s been an amazing tour. We got to play with JFA, we did three shows with Negative Approach, I got to see Poison Idea yesterday…

WW: So how did the song “Electric Chair” get you in trouble in the yard at Soledad?

Sammytown: That’s a long fucking story. It wasn’t so much the song, it was more about prison politics. At the time, they had a music program in Soledad and the Muslims controlled it and, at the time, I didn’t know that. So I just bounced in there and said I want to start a band and they were like…who the fuck is this kid? So that was one of the problems and the other problem in prison is that you have the guards and the “free staff”, and the “free staff” is like the chef, or the cook in the kitchen…not a guy that’s a guard but that is actually hired to be the cook…they’re called free staff. These are workers that work in the prison but aren’t guards. The deal was that this guy Jack Bowers ran the whole free staff corrections program, and he was hired in the prison to run this program. And I don’t know why he didn’t like me, maybe it was because I was so pretty. Hahaha. I know I had a writing teacher that he really had a thing for and she really liked me. I didn’t bang her (he thought I did), but for whatever reason he didn’t like me and the Muslims didn’t like that I had put this band together. So they were having a yard show of all the prison bands, so the Muslims dropped a kite to Jack Bowers and said that if my band played on July the 4th that I was going to be killed. So Jack Bowers, because he didn’t like me, he didn’t take the kite to the guards. He didn’t tell anybody and he put us out there on the yard anyway, because he was trying to get me killed because he didn’t like me. I didn’t know anything…

I had no idea that any of this was going on. I didn’t know that the Muslims were pissed at me, or that they had dropped the kite to Bowers. I just went out there to play some punk rock on the yard at Soledad. Then when I went up there the Muslims started instigating and talking shit and implying that I was making racist remarks. It was punk rock and it was fast so they were easy to agitate. We literally only played one song and by the time the song was over, there were about 150 black dudes ready to kill me. So everybody, at that point, started digging out knives, and there were about 150 blacks and 150 whites faced off out on the yard.

All the blacks wanted to kill me specifically, and none of the whites wanted to let a white boy get killed. And that’s prison politics. So basically, to make a long story short, they said I tried to incite a prison riot. I ended up spending about 5 months in the hole, and that’s when I wrote “30 Days in the Hole”.

fang sammytown1

WW: You served time in Soledad for voluntary manslaughter, for murdering your girlfriend in the late 1980’s. When I interviewed you back in 2004 regarding Dixie’s death you said, “I was an acid dealer at the time and brought my girlfriend in to deal acid for me because I was out of town on the road a lot. When I got back from tour I found out from a mutual contact that she had taken twenty grand of my money and socked it away and had hooked up with a drug dealer from Texas. The crux of it was that she was about take off with my business and my customers and was running off with the Texas drug dealer. Basically they planned on taking my business and relocating. I found out about it, got loaded and went back to the house to confront her. I walked in and the drug dealer from Texas was in my bedroom…and I snapped. She and the acid dealer tried to get away from me. He got away. She didn’t. He was just faster.” Do you feel the same way about that today, or do you think that you would react differently?

Sammytown: Oh yeah, absolutely.

WW: For starters, I didn’t know that you strangled her…

Sammytown: The thing is, well there’s a lot of circumstances. What it boils down to Wendy, that shit doesn’t fucking matter cause it doesn’t excuse what I did.

WW: How old were you?

Sammytown: I was 24. And I could have made a bunch of different choices, but I didn’t. I came from a background of drug dealing where you didn’t do things like that. But that’s still just excuses and there’s no excuse for what I did. I can’t imagine that if those circumstances happened again that I would ever react like that again. I did what I did. Some of your choices in life you can’t take back.

WW: Did you ever hear from her family?

Sammytown: I got some threats from her Dad but I get that. I did a fucking horrible thing. That’s where, this part I definitely take responsibility for. People give me shit for what I did, because, for some reason, they don’t think that I have a problem with what I did. But I have a much bigger problem with what I did than they can imagine. There’s no dialogue for it. They just say well fuck that guy, he’s a horrible person. There are a lot of circumstances that affect the decisions you make when you’re seeing red. You know, and if you take just one of those things out of the equation you can have a totally different outcome. There’s a lot of reasons, but there’s no excuses.

WW: So whatever happened to the Texas drug dealer?

Sammytown: I don’t know. I’ve heard bits and pieces but that’s none of my fucking business.

WW: Have you been in any legal trouble since your stint in Soledad?

Sammytown: The only legal trouble, well the only thing I’ve been caught for, since Soledad, was a possession charge. I had some speed on me. And that was probably about, 9 years ago…and I’ve been sober for 8 years now.

fang here come the cops

WW: So I saw something online that you were getting married and looking at fatherhood.

Sammytown: Married? No that’s not real. I’ve got a girlfriend but we don’t have any plans on getting married. It’s coming up on five years now. But I do have kids…they’re grown. My son Max, is 20. He’s a conjugal visit baby. Max was living with me until he got a job and got an apartment. My daughter, Ruby, she’s 17. And I’ve had Ruby, I’ve been raising Ruby on my own since she was 11, and she’s 17 now.

WW: So what happened to their Mom?

Sammytown: Well she’s just doing her thing.

WW: Are you and artist Joe Coleman (who did the Artwork for American Nightmare” ) still friends? I remember reading that you were a pall bearer at his wedding.

Sammytown: Absolutely. I just saw Joe not that long ago. It’s his birthday on the 22nd. Nov. 22nd. He’s going to be 60. He’s 10 years older than me. I love Joe. He’s kind of like a surrogate father figure in a weird sort of way.

fang american nightmare

WW: Well I know that you were out of your house by the time you were 15. Did you ever get your high school degree?

Sammytown: Yeah, I did in prison.

WW: In an alternate reality, can you imagine doing anything besides playing punk rock?

Sammytown: Aside from some of the horrible things I have done in my life, I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I’m good with where I’m at.

WW: I personally consider you to be one of the founding fathers of American punk rock.

Sammytown: Haha! I’m not that old lady!

WW: Well the Sex Pistols were like what, 76′, and you were, what 1980? You kind of are a founding father. That should feel bad ass!

Sammytown: It just makes me feel old, Wendy. Haha. Like sometimes when we go out it can be disenchanting cause it’s like, where are all the fucking kids? Where’s the punk rock? When you’ve been doing it this long you know, it waxes and wanes. But this tour we’ve been on has been a blast. We played with JFA and Negative Approach in Dallas.

WW: Well those guys are old-timers too.

Sammytown: Yeah, and that place went off the fucking hook.

WW: So does it give you hope that punk is still alive?

Sammytown: Yeah, like we played Salt Lake City on a Monday night and had a decent crowd, people were going crazy and it was a blast.

WW: When I interviewed you back in 2004 you said there weren’t any bands at that time that really made your jaw drop. What about now?

Sammytown: Well, they’re not a new band, they’re an old band that’s out playing again…Negative Approach. And when we were touring in Europe I saw this band called Night Fever, and they were kind of like Gluecifer meets East Coast hardcore…and Gluecifer is one of my all time favorite bands. We played with a band in Denver called Final Blow, and I’m finding myself listening to a lot of East Coast hardcore. So I’m looking for bands that are mad again, that are pissed off. Nothing but Enemies out of Austin…another great band.

 WW:What is your definition of punk rock? In OC Weekly you said that “you still relate to feelings of alienation, of not fitting in, feelings of unrequited love, feelings of nihilism and and anger”. Does this define punk for you? Do you think it still exists?

Sammytown: What, punk rock? Yeah, I know it still exists. And I think the definition still applies…maybe more so now than it did back in 1979. There’s still punk rock bands…there’s just not enough of them as far as I’m concerned. That’s what I want to know, where is the fucking underground? Where’s the new fucking underground? Where’s the beatniks? Where’s the fucking hippies? Where are the punk rockers? Where are the people saying this shit ain’t right?

The interview was interrupted here because some drunk dude punched Fang’s one-legged bass player inside the club while we were outside shooting the shit! I guess punk rock does still exist! Or fucking stupidity…

Come to find out that the dude is a friend of mine that will not be named.

Other Fang Member (not sure which one): “Well it’s bad enough that the dude is fucking wasted, but then he has to go up and punch a one-legged guy out of nowhere! He’s been punched twice now on tour!”

WW: Wow…

Sammytown: Of all the people to fuck with too.

WW: What’s really fucked up is that the dude that punched your one-legged bass player is normally a really cool dude…and a musician that is in about four bands!

Sammytown: Well hopefully he’ll feel like an asshole when you tell him tomorrow, “Way to go dude! You punched the one-legged bass player of Fang last night!

WW: Alright, we probably need to wrap this up! If you could give any words of encouragement to upcoming punk bands, would you? If so, what would you say?

Sammytown: Here’s what I would say…Go support live music! I don’t care what fucking genre you play. Go support live music! If you play in a band, you better be out watching other bands play. Live music in America is dying because people don’t go out and support live music. That’s the encouraging thing I would say, if you want to play music, then go support live music. If you’re a musician, you’d better be out watching other musicians. Haha, I don’t know how encouraging that is.

Fang on FB: https://www.facebook.com/fangpunks/

Fang’s Website: http://www.fangofficial.com/

fang lost well flyer


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