Tampa's Samantha Sirius talks club origins, Invisibl Skratch Piklz and her favorite records

Her first record player was a Fisher-Price.

If you're Samantha Sirius, then the road to Bay area club infamy was paved with pickles. Not the kind that go on sandwiches, but the kind that pioneered turntablism in the early '90s.

"I had The Invisible Skratch Piklz Live on VHS and would pause and rewind to try and copy them," Sirius told CL as she explained her beginnings as a bedroom DJ. She started DJing when she turned 18, after secretly getting a credit card which she maxed out by heading to Sam Ash and buying a pair of Technics turntables and a mixer. She would buy a few records each week and practice, often emulating the Invisibl Skratch Piklz.

Sirius — who currently alternates between Ichicoro Ane, The Bricks, Ciccio's and Armature Works — used to work with liquor companies and eventually utilized her connections in the club industry to land her first gig at Ybor mainstay Czar, where she stayed until it closed. She was kind enough to answer a few questions, explain her origins and tell CL about her five favorite records. Read our Q&A below, and follow Sam on Instagram.

Where are you from and how'd you end up in the club scene here?

Originally from Tampa. Moved to NYC for about five years when I worked for Red Bull, but stayed involved in the Tampa scene as well as the NYC scene. I've been into music as long as I can remember. I come from a family of artists and musicians. Yes, I did have Fisher-Price record player as a kid, no joke, it sounds like this typical DJ thing to talk about but I have a picture to prove it.

In high school people would joke and call me Mix Master Sam because I was always making mixtapes and controlling the music at parties. Senior year (when I turned 18), I secretly got a credit card and maxed it out with two Technics turntables and a mixer at Sam Ash from a DJ that still reps the Tampa scene — Thee Joker. I would save up and buy a few records every week and practice. I had The Invisible Skratch Piklz Live  on VHS and would pause and rewind to try and copy them. I started taking my hip-hop records and counting the beats and labeling them, putting a piece a tape on the records to know the cue points so I get would get better and faster.

I started as a bedroom DJ, meaning I just did it at home because I loved it, but didn't really want to be in front of people. In college I worked for a radio station doing promotions and club activations at WLLD, at the time it was WILD 95.7. I would stay late and watch the DJs and listen in on the shows. I made friends with some local DJs that would help me improve my skills;  DJ Rose from WILD, DJ Delano, and another female DJ (which which was really abnormal at the time) named Brooke. After college I took a job doing marketing with a liquor company for on-premise accounts in Ybor. This was somewhat strategic to fulfill my full-time career growth but to also get to know club owners on the down low.

How long have you been playing music in Tampa Bay?

I think you can get the idea without putting too many years on me, haha. I met Sandi Hein at the original Czar in Ybor, connecting with her about the liquor brands I was repping with my full-time job. I mentioned I was a DJ and she gave me a shot in the side room. I was secretly freaked out, but showed up with my records. The rest was history. I was a permanent DJ there until Czar closed.

What are your favorite places to spin?

In the past, the original Czar. Now there are so many places I jump around to for gigs. Lately it's been Ichicoro Ane, The Bricks, First Chance, Ciccio's and Armature Works. When it comes down to it, it's about the vibe and people's openness and willingness to hear old stuff, new stuff, and different genres. The mega club scene wore me out. I'm feeling more of the bar vibes.

Is there a type of music you wish you could build a party around?

I love being able to incorporate everything. Taking current music and mixing it with old tracks and the original samples of where the music originally came from. Beats, old breaks, funk, soul, old hip-hop, and house. Right now I'm listening to Pete Rock, so it's sorta skewing my music preference, but I'm a music junkie.

You also handle social media for Ichicoro and c. 1949?

Yeah, I do strategic brand management for Keurig Green Mountain, and social media for Ichicoro, and C.1949. I definitely keep busy. Finally finishing my MBA, so I'll have some free time I suppose.

You mentioned downsizing. How big did your collection get?

Exact number? I couldn't tell you. I had three of those Ikea eight-slot bookshelves filled. If I were to give a good solid guess at about 80 to 90 records per square slot, then it's probably over 2,000 records at one point.

What was the criteria for the records you kept?

When I moved to NYC I downsized and then downsized again when I became really sick with a G.I. disease I battle. I was and am hospitalized a lot especially for several years and got worried about having too much stuff if anything were to happen. Maybe it sounds morbid, but it put a new perspective on only keeping the most important things around and having freedom to do whatever. That is a whole other story I could tell you though. The story of how DJing actually saved my life. Is there a part two to this interview?

I got rid of almost all of the promo records I got from the radio station and records that got super beat up and badly scratched. Hand me down stuff that I wasn't super into were gone, but I kept my staples. I kept ones that sound good on vinyl, and what I mean by that is, when you hear that extra crackle in the record it adds to the feel of the song. I also kept the ones that were limited pressings, ones that were personal favorites, and ones that bring back an emotion or memory from my best club nights. My current genre of records are hip-hop, drum and bass, house, electro, '80s, '90s classics, old rock, funk and soul.

The five favorite records in your collection? Why?

Five? Only five?! Ugh, ask me again and it will probably change because I can't quite keep it at five.

Black Star, "Respiration" (feat. Common). I had two copies of this track and would practice juggling the instrumentals. When it came out, it was different than the hip-hop I was used to hearing at the time. Three amazing hip-hop artists with their stories, of city life, starting in Mos Def and [Talib] Kweli’s perception of Brooklyn, and ending in Common’s hometown of Chicago.I was also obsessed with the '80s documentary Style Wars. The track begins with an excerpt of a woman saying  “Listen to it, the city is breathing.”

DJ Shadow, Endtroducing.... I mean, this is a classic for DJs. It is composed almost entirely of sampled content, most of which originated from vinyl records. He used minimal equipment and is iconic for his use of an Akai MPC60.

Diana Ross, "Love Child." Diana Ross has always been one of my mom's favorites. This makes me think of her.

G-Pal, Life. Back in early 2000s I would spend my summers in Oslo, Norway. I would frequent a small bar called Skansen. It was a public toilet converted into a club nestled in a hill (weird, but cool, right?). Going there got me really into house and the different elements and genres of house. I remember digging in the record stores in Oslo and being taken aback by the selection of house records. This got me more into deep-house, tech-house, jazzy stuff, lounge-house, disco-house. When I went back to Florida I would incorporate house into my sets. I started mixing it with higher BPM hip-hop and later incorporated the electro and synth scene (Lindstrøm, Todd Terje, Daft Punk).

Tribe Called Quest, "Find a Way" was my go-to record for starting out a night. I brought this with me when I moved to NYC and would go see Q-Tip DJ any chance I got for inspiration. Anything from Tribe is timeless.

If I could add more, the the list could go on and on; J Dilla's The Diary, any Jackson 5 record, Greenskeeper's "Man in the House," Booka Shade's "White Rooms," Mylo's "Drop the Pressure," Paul Hardcastle's "19" and Jurassic 5's "Quality Control."


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Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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