No band this year has moved me the way Ramparts has. Anthony Anzaldo delivers Greg Ginn-meets-Aaron Melnick fury while former All Bets Off vocalist Sammy Winston has written some of his finest lyrics to date. Ramparts set the bar high with their Tramps Like Us demo released earlier this year and followed it up with a phenomenal 7" debut, Whiteboys Love the Blues. Scene Point Blank recently spoke with Sammy Winston about the formation of the band, the universal appeal of Morrissey, San Francisco graffiti, and everything in between.
Scene Point Blank: In your AMP column you wrote about getting the itch to be in a band again while spending time on tour with Ceremony. What was the process from that tour experience to the formation of Ramparts?
Sammy Winston: After that tour, Anthony and I became closer as friends. And one day, he came over to my house with a guitar. Simple as that. There was no real grand scheme. It was he and I in my apartment with an unplugged electric guitar named Patience.
Scene Point Blank: With Ceremony on the road so often, where does Ramparts stand? Is the goal to be full-time whenever possible?
Sammy Winston: Ceremony will always be a priority, and I wouldn't want it any other way. I love Ceremony as a band and as friends, and could never hold Anthony's commitment to Ceremony against them. It gets frustrating, sure, but I just dig making music with Anthony. I try not to think too much further than that. I'm lucky to be able to do anything with him, and Cody and Rockingham for that matter. Solid dudes, each one.
Scene Point Blank: I know All Bets Off toured infrequently; will the same be true for Ramparts? Any particular reason for the limited touring?
Sammy Winston: The Bets rarely toured because we all had jobs, had school, and quite frankly, would rather sit around and jam than plan out a tour. Another problem was that it was a difficult band to book. Bands like Allegiance, Trash Talk, and whatnot, and this isn't intended to discredit them, are a little easier to book. They show up, play with similar bands, and kids dance. The Bets were an acquired taste. Kids in Norcal got it because it was a part of the scene, part of the culture up here. It was harder for kids outside of Norcal to appreciate..
Scene Point Blank: When promoting the 7", you described the sound as Murder City Devils meets Black Flag. Could you talk a little bit about the songwriting process? Did you have a specific sound you were going for when the band started? Has that changed?
Sammy Winston: Yeah, I may have missed the mark with that description. What you imagine before you jam, and as a matter of fact, what you jam before you record, can differ vastly from the final product. Especially if, like I, you dig your musicians enough to let them do their thing. I don't know how to play an instrument, so I never tell someone who does how they should play theirs. I dig the spirit of collaboration, and I especially dig the spirit of improvisation. You let the song become a living thing and then recognize that you can't really control it, not if it's going to be any good.
Scene Point Blank: While lots of bands have limited shirts or vinyl colors to help push a new release, you chose a limited and hand-numbered zine titled The June Gloom to accompany the Ramparts 7" at the record release. What role does the zine currently play in the hardcore community? How do you view the role of zines in an era where kids heavily rely on the Internet for information about punk and hardcore?
Sammy Winston: I suppose you don't need cut and paste zines now with the Internet, but they are still so much fun. They are fun to make and fun to read and fun just to have, these cool little obsessive personals relic. I'm not bagging on webzines (is that what you're called?), but paper zines are just cool. They're like jazz.
Scene Point Blank: With so many bummed at the demise of the Bets, did you feel pressure for Ramparts to be a continuation of where you left off on We'll Die Here? Do you view Ramparts as a continuation of where you left off with the Bets or does this feel like a completely new project?
Sammy Winston: Ramparts was intended to be its own thing, completely independent of The Bets (and Ceremony and Sabertooth and These Days too, for that matter). The only real continuation is my own progression as a singer and lyricist.
Scene Point Blank: What are the current plans for Ramparts?
Sammy Winston: We plan to continue being unbelievably awesome.
Scene Point Blank: I've seen some incredible pictures floating around the Internet of you swinging on a Nazi with what appears to be a lead pipe. As a recent Bay Area transplant, I was surprised to learn the area had a history of problems with Nazis at shows. Could you talk a little bit about that history and how the kids in the scene responded to the problem?
Sammy Winston: Nazis have plagued the Bay Area scene for decades. There was a time when I was first discovering punk rock that all you heard about was how Nazis completely dominated the SF scene, assaulting people, ruining shows. I was often chased as a young punk by members of a particular Nazi gang that hung out in the Haight, at "Skinhead Hill." When the hardcore scene began to reestablish itself in the early nineties, there was a conscious decision to run out the Nazis and keep them out by any means necessary, most often enforced by the crews around at the time like OBHC, Most Hated Skins, and the U.S. Thugs. There were some very violent years there. The picture you're talking about was towards the end of the conflict. There was a Nazi gang called Dead Smurphs that OBHC had been warring with for a number of years. They showed up at a Floorpunch/ All Bets Off show in ?99. When they started swinging on kids, a handful of us took them out. That was the last major conflict with Nazis in the Bay Area, as far as hardcore shows were concerned. They pop up now and then, the stragglers, but they get shown the door pretty quickly. The Norcal hardcore scene is pretty much Nazi-free, to the point that most kids don't realize that there was ever a problem with them.
Scene Point Blank: I've heard that the "Free STM" shirts were in response to an incident at Gilman? Care to share the back-story on the incident, the shirts and your thoughts on the role of Gilman through the years?
Sammy Winston: It wasn't just Gilman. Gilman and I have always had a strained relationship and certain elements there have always sought to ban me. There have been occasions where I deserved such a punishment; those who dislike me are usually so zealous in their campaigns against me that they resort to lying or bullying or compromising the very ethics that founded the place, which pretty much discredits and ultimately derails their attempts to ban me. The problem is that I love Gilman as much as some members of its community hate me. The "Free STM" shirts weren't just about Gilman though. I was going through a rocky period in my life and it was manifesting itself rather recklessly. In the span of two months, I think, I had been banned from Gilman, The Pound, The Great American Music Hall, and a few other establishments for generally making a violent, cranky nuisance of myself. I'm feeling much better now.