Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lady Di Meets Ghost Town Riots

Thanks to ska archivist John at Hoi Polloi Skazine for forwarding this very relevant historic clipping (click on the image to enlarge it) from the 1997 "square" reissue of George Marshall's "The 2Tone Story."

Love that the skins could be swept up in the Di-mania. Sad that this time 'round we're the ones with so many people on the dole (though will we ever riot over the increasingly outrageous divide between the haves and have nots?!)...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

US Reps: Bim Skala Bim at the London International Ska Festival

At the 2011 London International Ska Festival, the US ska scene was ably represented by Boston's mighty Bim Skala Bim (sorry, Dave Wakeling's US-based version of The Beat doesn't count!)--who also happened to be one of the featured acts at the very first London Ska Fest that Sean Flowerdew organized back in 1988!

Here's Bim in action performing a scorching version of their "Pretty Flowers" (from their Eyes & Ears album):

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dave & Ansel Collins + The Caroloregians = Reggae Magic!

Here is your moment of skinhead reggae zen (courtesy of the 2011 London International Ska Festival): the legendary duo of Dave and Ansel Collins backed by The Caroloregians (one of my favorite bands) performing "Double Barrel"!

King Hammond: Free Download, LP on Jump Up, New Record Coming!

It's a new season (though it's kind of hard to know if spring is really here in NYC, what with all the rain lately), so it must be time for the next King Hammond album to roll out, right?

Yeppers. It's called Showbiz! (More details to come.) Seriously now, does the King ever sleep?

While we're waiting for the new record to drop, we suggest that you ignore the other royal hullabaloo and bask in King Hammond's munificence--namely a free download of the new cut "Easy Lovin,'" which may be found here. (The "Easy Lovin'" video is below.) Plus, in this here post you can check out his new cut "Rockin' on Ridley Road" (a tribute to the Orange Street of his youth) and an advert for Floorshaker.

What's Floorshaker you ask? It's an LP (on orange/yellow vinyl from Jump Up Records) that collects all of the best tracks off of King Hammond's The King and I and Jacuzzi albums (the video previews all of the tracks)! A must for ska/skinhead reggae vinyl collectors and King Hammond fans alike!

Reviews of the 2011 London International Ska Festival

For we poor bastards that were unable to make it to the 2011 London International Ska Festival for lack of money and/or time, there are reviews in The Music Fix (accompanied by fantastic photos!), The Standard London Evening, and The Other Side to give us a little taste of what we missed. Plus, Kevin Flowerdew's Ska Vids Facebook page has a few live videos up right now.

Here's the money quote from the intro paragraph of The Standard London Evening review:
In a room full of Doc Martens, tartan-lined Harrington jackets, pork-pie hats, braces and buttoned up Fred Perrys one would be forgiven for thinking they had done a Doctor Who and ended up in 1979 Coventry at the heart of the English 2 Tone ska revival.
Hope to see many more LISF reviews and videos up on the internet soon! (I'm waiting for Jason Lawless' report in particular!)

+ + + +


Reggaeville has an excellent write up of LISF--plus a twenty minute video of Ken Boothe's performance.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Duff Gig Review: Big Audio Dynamite at the Roseland Ballroom (4/19/11)

While some of the New York music critics were less than impressed with Big Audio Dynamite's show at the Roseland Ballroom on April 19, 2011 (read Jon Pareles' review in The New York Times here and an even more curmudgeonly one from Dan "Headphones" Aquilante in the NY Post here), it really all depended on what your expectations were going in to the concert. I'd wager that the majority of those present were BAD fans from back in the day and wanted one more shot at seeing the original line-up in action (and quite honestly, how many more times are we going to have the opportunity to see Mick Jones from the Only Band That Matters performing on stage?!)

Likewise, I don't think Jonesy had any illusions about what the people wanted (to hear BAD's hits) and why (nostalgia for the music of their youth--that's why I was there). This re-union tour was not about deconstructing and re-imagining BAD's canon from a 2011 musical perspective. It was about authenticity--faithfully recreating BAD's sound and vibe from a couple of decades ago that the fans love and cherish. (According to MOJO, for this tour BAD performed using their original 1980's gear and samples--can it get any more real than that?!)

In 1985, when BAD unleashed This is Big Audio Dynamite and its even better follow-up a year later with No. 10, Upping Street (Trouser Press has spot-on write-ups of each release), its mash up of post-punk, reggae, hip-hop, funk, spaghetti Westerns, and B-movie audio samples was not exactly revolutionary (the distance between "This is Radio Clash" and anything off This is Big Audio Dynamite isn't as far as you'd think). Blondie, Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club, Afrika Bambaataa's and John Lydon's Time Zone, and dozens of other bands that fell under the New Wave umbrella had all ventured into this territory to a certain degree, and the first generation of underground hip-hop artists were reverse engineering their sound by sampling from everywhere and everyone else. However, there was still a major color divide in pop music at the time--the seismic crossover between "black" music and "white" mainstream rock audiences didn't come until 1986 with Run-D.M.C.'s classic rawk Aerosmith cover "Walk This Way" and the Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill album. Yet BAD had created a fresher sound that was still on the outer limits of underground-alternative-New Wave scene and would end up significantly influencing countless bands to come. (Compared to the Bernie Rhodes' mad scientist attempt to reanimate/exploit The Clash's corpse--the disastrous Cut the Crap, which was released almost simultaneously with BAD's debut--This is Big Audio Dynamite sounded all the more brilliant and cutting-edge.)

However, a quarter of a century later--long after BAD's mutant DNA has been absorbed by the constantly and rapidly evolving beast known as alternative music (one of their most recognizable descendants has to be the Gorillaz, no?)--BAD's cuts now come across more like great pop tracks. Indeed, at the end of the Roseland show, my friend Marc Wasserman (Marco on the Bass) commented that BAD was really an "arena rock" act, which struck me as both odd (when considered in their original, 1980s context), yet completely accurate! We weren't meant to experience the reunited BAD in an illegal loft space in Bushwick, but in the weirdly decadent airplane hangar that is the Roseland Ballroom. In doing so, we lose the intricacies and layering of the rhythms and samples (I'm not sure if the sound mix was muddy or if Roseland's acoustics just make it so), but in The Clash, Mick Jones was always most concerned about them becoming the greatest rock band ever (and relentlessly seeking out and assimilating the newest underground sounds), while Joe Strummer wanted to cure all social injustice through the power and conviction of The Clash's music and lyrics.

At BAD's Roseland show, most of the cuts were almost exact reproductions of their recorded versions, which worked well with the songs that had relatively fast tempos ("The Bottom Line," "C'mon Every Beatbox," "Rush," and "Just Play Music") or an intensity to them ("Bad" and "E=MC2"). But other tracks (that I happen to love like "V. Thirteen" and "Beyond the Pale") kind of plodded along and would have been more compelling at faster speeds. Yes, there were few surprises (apart for a backing tape screw up on "E=MC2" which forced them to re-set everything and start the song over), but the mere fact that the show was happening in the first place was the pleasant shocker that sent the fans (me amongst them) out into the night sated and happy (days later, I still have passages from "E=MC2" and "The Bottom Line" running through my head).

Below are the videos I shot with my (now sadly outdated) Flip. Sorry that some of them are a little shaky. We were towards the back of the dance floor and I had to hold my arm straight up to shoot over the heads of all the tall people in front of us. Just to orient you, Don Letts is at the keyboard on the left hand of the stage; Mick Jones is next to him on guitar; Leo "EZ Kill" Williams is on bass; Dan Donovan is on the keys at the right of the stage; and you can sometimes spot Greg Roberts at the drum kit in back.

+ + + +

For another (positive) take on the show, check out the Brooklyn Vegan review, which includes some great pix and the complete set list for the night (which seems to be the same for any gig on their tour).

+ + + +

Lastly, my son, who is a big Clash fan, was kind of bummed that he couldn't go to the BAD show to see Mick Jones (the tix were mad expensive, yo!). After watching some of BAD's videos on YouTube, he had spotted the BAD hip-hop styled baseball caps that the band sported on the cover of No. 10, Upping Street and asked me to pick up one at the merch table as sort of a consolation prize. I told him that I would, but warned him that I didn't think it was likely that they'd have them all these years later.

So whaddaya know, when I walked into Roseland they were selling BAD caps (for a reasonable $20)--I picked up one in black corduroy with BAD spelled out in red letters. Needless to say, he was psyched when I got home and presented it to him. He's got to be one of the few 13 year-olds in NYC with a BAD hat, but I'm proud to say that's just the kind of kid he is.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

DGTS Update

Sorry to be a bit MIA, Duff Guide to Ska readers. Last week, I was battling either severe allergies or a really bad cold--could have been either. All I know is that I felt like crap--and I barely made it through the bare minimum obligations of work and family. And now work has picked up significantly (which my wallet likes very much, thank you).

So here are a few bits and pieces to read--and I promise to grind up the writing machine that is I and I--and pump out some new album reviews, etc. soon!

- I had a very early and short window of time to hit Record Store Day on Saturday, so I hopped the express train to J&R Music and ended up being kind of repulsed by my fellow record-obsessed people. It was barely after the store had opened, and hordes of anxious middle-aged, pasty, C.H.U.D.-type people (plus a few indie-rock hipsters) were knocking over and stepping on merch to get their mitts on the limited-edition RSD vinyl. There was a giant crowd around a small bin in a cramped aisle that held the jumbled pile (yes, pile) of RSD vinyl singles. People who couldn't force their way to front were shouting out requests for different singles--and if someone found one (and didn't want it), they'd hand it out to the person. Part of my mission was to pick up the split Green Day/Husker Du orange single for my son (a rabid Green Day fan) and, through some miracle, someone found the last three and handed one to me (thank you, stranger!). The one ska/reggae Record Store Day release to be had was the Peter Tosh "Legalize It" b/w "Equal Rights" red vinyl single, which I bought (it sounds brilliant)--and I picked up new singles by The Cars and New York Dolls (never did see the split Ramones/Red Hot Chili Peppers single--those must have been snatched up within seconds).

- I'm psyched to see Big Audio Dynamite tonight with a crew that remembers them from the first time around (Marc Wasserman of Bigger Thomas, Roy Radics of The Rudie Crew, Sid Reitzfeld of the A-Kings/Thick as Thieves, and Mike D. of Sgt. Scagnetti). BAD received some terrific press from their Coachella performance in the LA Times (which notes that BAD was really quite groundbreaking--but strangely overlooked) and Huffington Post. Plus, Marco on the Bass has an excellent post up about the Mick Jones-Beat/General Public connection (Mick played guitar on GP's debut album, but then moved on to form Big Audio Dynamite).

Gotta run!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Support Your Local Musicslinger!

This Saturday (4/16/11) is the international Record Store Day, so I'm urging (if not begging) you to go out to support your local recorded music shop (if you're lucky enough to have one left near you). I'm taking my son (there is a new, RSD limited-edition Green Day/Husker Du vinyl single that I'm dangling in front of him to get him out the door)...gotta teach them well, they say.

It happens that there are a few releases of direct interest to the ska/reggae fan (though, of course, the overall list of RSD releases in the UK is much cooler that here in the US of A):


- Peter Tosh, "Legalize It" b/w "Equal Rights," (7-inch)

(Here is the complete list of US RSD releases--I'll be picking up singles from The Cars, DBs, Ramones/Red Hot Chili Peppers, NY Dolls, and Bad Brains.)


- Big Audio Dynamite, limited-edition numbered single (7-inch)

- The Clash, “The Magnificent Seven,” on red vinyl and CD with different B-sides (7-inch, CD)

- Toots & The Maytals, "Do The Boogaloo" b/w "Bim Today, Bam Tomorrow," on heavyweight vinyl (7-inch, Trojan)

(Find the complete list of UK Record Store Day releases here.)

If somebody in the mother country could pick up the RSD releases by The Clash, BAD, Toots, Echo and the Bunnymen, and The Smiths (The Queen is Dead on 10" vinyl!) for me, I'd sure appreciate it! Drop me a line!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Duff MOJO Watch: Ramones, Rocksteady Movie, Big Youth, Bad Manners

Compared to this month's Vive Le Rock!, the May 2011 MOJO has scant ska or reggae coverage to offer, even though there are plenty of worthy releases coming out/bands touring, etc. (Hmmm...the 2011 London International Ska Festival doesn't rate at least some sort of preview?!) However, MOJO cover boys The Ramones give me the opportunity to recount two minor Joey Ramone-ska connections. For a brief time in the late 80s, Joey Ramone owned a small club called Downtown that was located in the basement of a building that was just off Broadway on Bond Street. In 1989 or 1990, I caught a show there with the newly-minted, Django-led ska act Skinnerbox--my brother's best friend Steve Abrams was their guitarist at the time--and NYC Oi band The Press; afterwards, Steve invited me backstage to hang out. As it turns out, it was Joey Ramones' birthday (May 19) and they were holding a little celebration for him. So, fortified by all of the beer sloshing around in my belly, I went up to the punk legend that towered over me (even as hunched over as he was), thrust my hand into his and wished him a happy birthday. Joey said something like, "Thanks, man!" and offered me some of his cake, which I gobbled down when not smiling ear to ear. It was a great New York moment--the kind that reinforced the notion that you lived in the greatest city in the world. (Even though he wouldn't have known me from Adam, I passed by him many times in the East/West Village throughout the 90s...he'd just be walking around with a friend as I was on my way to work or a record shop.)

The other ska gig I caught at Downtown was an ultra-rare NYC appearance by The Untouchables (which must have been sometime in the winter or spring of 1989). Even though the album that they were touring in support of (Double OO Soul) was less than stellar (my friend Andy was reluctant to see the show, since he'd heard bad things about the record), The Untouchables unleashed one of most brilliant and energetic live performances I've ever seen (Black Rock Coaltion funk-metal rockers 24-7 Spyz were also on the bill and were extraordinarily good). Most of The Untouchables' set that night was comprised of cuts from Wild Child, their debut album, which is a must for every self-respecting ska fan's collection (and my compatriot Marco on the Bass has a great appreciation of the band and this record here).

Even though this is a little off topic, it should be noted that the articles in MOJO about The Ramones are excellent, including one that reveals that Joey's pretty severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder--which had afflicted him since he was a kid--led to his demise ten years ago (on April 15, 2001 at the shockingly young age of 49). Joey had been convinced that he had not closed his chiropractor's door properly--he'd already gone uptown earlier in the night to check it once--but decided to go check again at 6:00 am on December 31, 2000. He slipped on some ice outside his Village apartment and ended up breaking his hip--he'd had lymphatic cancer since 1994 and the medication he'd been taking to treat it caused his bones to become very brittle and fragile. To fix the hip, he had to go off the cancer drugs, which gave the cancer the opening it needed to complete its terrible work. Earlier that year, Joey had become friends with Bono, who offered to take care of his medical bills when he found out that Joey was in the hospital--and Bono was one of the last people to talk to Joey on the phone when he was in intensive care (when they unplug Joey from the respirator, U2's "In a Little While" from All That You Can't Leave Behind is playing on the boombox). It's heartbreaking stuff.

As for this month's attention to ska, there is a short, positive review of the Pressure Drop expanded reissue of Bad Manners' debut Ska'n'B (they should also have mentioned the reissues of Loonee Tunes, Gosh It's... and Forging Ahead while they were at it). Ian Harrison praises the reissue of Big Youth's awesome Screaming Target LP on Sunspot in his "Vinyl Countdown" column. There is also a double review of Looking Back: The Jamaican Chart Hits of 1958 and 1959 and Easy Snapping: The Jamaican Chart Hits of 1960 (Sunrise Records), which documents the roots and rise of the Jamaican music industry as reflected in the island's record sales charts for each of these years. In '58 and '59, the R&B pumping out of New Orleans dominated (with artists like Louis Jordan, Fats Domino, Louis Prima, Perez Prado, The Platters, The Drifters, and Nat King Cole), but by 1960 Laurel Aitken, Owen Gray, and Jackie Edwards were making this style their own. Then things started shifting away from the American sounds towards something closer to Jamaican ska with the involvement of sound system owners Duke Reid, Clement Dodd and others. Reviewer Lloyd Bradley gives both comps (compiled and with liner notes by Laurence Cane-Honeysett) four stars.

Lastly, David Katz reviews the documentary "Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae," directed by Stascha Bader. The original plan for the movie was to have guitarist Lynn Taitt return to JA for a concert and to re-record rocksteady hits with their 60s-era vocalists. But Taitt had to drop out to undergo cancer treatment (he died earlier this year of cardiac arrest after being hospitalized for pneumonia--read Brian Keyo's extraordinary tribute to Lynn Taitt here). Despite this major setback, the filmmaker was able to connect with and record performances by many in the rocksteady firmament (including Ken Boothe, Hopeton Lewis, Judy Mowatt, Dawn Penn, Derrick Morgan, Leroy Sibbles, The Tamlins, Stranger Cole, Ernest Ranglin, and Marcia Griffiths). Katz gives "Rocksteady" four stars, so I think I'd better track this one down and give it a look...(indeed, the trailer looks amazing and the newly recorded cuts sound out of this world).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Duff Guide Vive Le Rock! Ska Watch

On a quick lunch break from one of my freelance gigs where I'm writing grant applications for an arts and crafts-type museum(!), I stumbled across the completely unexpected. While looking for a copy of the latest MOJO (with The Ramones on the cover!) at the dying Borders Books near Columbus Circle, I discovered a new UK music mag called Vive Le Rock! (I would have liked to have been in the conference room when they were batting around names for the publication if this is the winner) that is blatantly gunning for the MOJO readership--focusing on the punk, New Wave, alternative, and rock scenes past and present. (Adam Ant is their cover man--and "Vive Le Rock" is an Adam Ant track/album--which gives you an idea of the demographic they're seeking: middle age music fans like me who were teens during the height of post-punk/New Wave and actually still buy print media and music in tangible formats.) Vive Le Rock!'s writing isn't as consistently strong as MOJO's and the design/layout is pretty bland for a mag that aspires to be on the cutting-edge of alternative music, but, in all fairness, this is their second issue and they haven't fully gained their sea legs yet.

Whatever Vive Le Rock!'s shortcomings, it made its way to the cashier with me after I flipped through the first couple of pages and came across a feature on the 2011 London International Ska Festival and an accompanying interview with Dave Wakeling. Plus ska record reviews! Sold!

Assistant editor Andy Peart provides almost all of the ska coverage, interviewing Sean Flowerdew for the feature on the 2011 London International Ska Festival (check out the rad photo of t-boner Vinnie Nobile from Bim Skala Bim at the 1988 London Ska Fest that accompanies the article!). Peart also talks to Dave Wakeling (who always has something interesting to say), since his version of The Beat (versus Ranking Roger's UK edition of the band) is one of the key groups at the LISF. (Fun facts: Dave is open to any of his former Beat mates joining him on-stage for any of his UK dates; and he finds that Americans take everything too literally--Dave: "I miss how [in the UK] someone could say the exact opposite of what they meant, and everyone got it from the face being pulled. Irony, nuance and sarcasm: the condiments of life.")

Peart also reviews Maroon Town's new Urban Myths album (Rockers Revolt), giving it an 8 out of 10; the 30th anniversary reissue of UB40's groundbreaking, should-have-been 2 Tone-released Signing Off album (7 out of 10); the Pressure Drop Laurel Aitken collections Everybody Ska: Rudi Got Married 1980-1992 (8 out of 10) and Voodoo Woman (7 out of 10); and writes up glowing appraisals of recent live gigs (though doesn't note the dates) by UB40, The Selecter (the Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson version), and Madness.

Lastly, Lee Catterell raves about The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983 comp--which Jump Up is carrying in the USA--dubbing it worthy of a 9 out of 10. Don't know much about the history of this scene, but I'm going to make a point of picking up this collection after reading this...

Here's hoping that Vive le Rock! continues to develop and flourish--especially if they're going to continue to devote significant column inches to ska music!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

NYC Ska Gig Alert: The Forthrights and The Pinstripes This Thursday Nite (4/7/11)!

Urgh. I'm not going to be able to make this FREE show featuring The Forthrights and Cincinnati, OH's Pinstripes as my duties as Mr. Mom take precedence. So it goes. If you're going, enjoy it for me.

Here are the details:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Forthrights
The Pinstripes

Otto's Shrunken Head
538 East 14th Street (between Avenues A and B)
Alphabet City in Manhattan!

9:00 pm

+ + + +

The Pinstripes will also be playing Two Boots in Brooklyn on Friday, April 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm. This show is free, but do yourself a favor and buy a slice or two.

I really dig this flyer in support of the band's New York State gigs...(nice job!):

The text forms an image of the state, get it?

+ + + +

The Forthrights head out on the Ska is Dead Young Guns 2011 tour next week! Go out and see them, America!

Ans Purins of Skavoovie/"Zombre" at Boston Comicon!

Apologies to Skavoovie singer and illustrator Ans Purins--at the end of his interview, I forgot to note that he will have his own table at Boston Comicon on April 30 and May 1, 2011. So if you happen to be there, stop by to pick up a copy of "Zombre" #2 and ask Ans to sign your copy of Ripe! Don't be shy, he's a good guy!

"Zombre" has his own Facebook page. Be his friend!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Duff Interview: Ansis Purins on the Return of Skavoovie (and "Zombre")!

During the heady days of the 3rd wave of ska, if you liked vintage-jazzy-big band-y ska, then you loved Skavoovie and the Epitones, because few did it as well as they did. I think I probably first encountered this Boston-based band when I was putting together the original Skarmageddon compilation for Moon Records back in 1994 (they were all still in high school and making this magnificent music!). And I've been a rabid fan ever since.

When rumors started to surface last year that Skavoovie was reforming, I was, obviously, incredibly happy about this development. Around the same time, I happened to be in touch with Dr. Dan Neely, Skavoovie's guitarist, who had been involved with recording The Jolly Boys' new album, so I asked him about what was up with the reunion and he directed me to make all inquiries of singer Ans Purins, who was gracious enough to answer the questions posed below.

Re-connecting with Ans also coincided with the publishing of the second issue of his extraordinary comic "Zombre" (about the adventures of a laid-back, nature-loving, slightly klutzy zombie!), which was published through a grant award from the Xeric Foundation! When not fronting Skavoovie, Ans is a gifted freelance illustrator (see a short bio here)--and he was making all sorts of cool comics, logos, and album covers throughout the 90s. (This fantastic print of his in green hangs on the wall above the desk where I do all my writing).

So read on to find out what the band has in store for their new album and live gigs; why they've dropped "and the Epitones"; and who or what is "Puckers"--plus check out two live tunes recorded when the band played at the 1998 Warped Tour!

+ + + +

The Duff Guide to Ska: I’m psyched that you’re back, but why reunite Skavoovie now? What led to you get the band back together?

Ansis Purins: We are all friends and have remained in touch through the years. Everyone in the band is doing music in some way. We’ve always talked about playing together again... We have studio space and we have label and festival offers coming in. Plus, I keep getting emails from fans! I think we’re all touched and humbled that people still want to hear our brand of ska. It’s kind of a personal project for me as well. I want to hear how we sound now after 10 years. I’m an expressive, creative type so it’s like scratching an itch for me. I still love ska and have a baaad case of the reggaemanitis. So this project seems really natural.

DGTS: Who is in the current line-up?

AP: It’s going to be all Skavoovie members 100% from past and present. No filler.

DGTS: What are your plans for recording and live shows (will there be any NYC gigs)? Is the album going to be self-released?

AP: We have a couple offers from labels, but there has been no serious discussion about playing shows. If we did, it would most likely be a couple of shows in New York and Boston.

DGTS: What does the new material sound like—and what are its influences? Who wrote the tunes?

AP: We are going for a roots ska sound. I know that sounds cliche... On our Growler record, we experimented with stuff outside of Ripe’s sound with doing ska-Devo and pushing the arrangement and composition beyond the constraints of what is considered ska. We want to emulate the tricks the old ska musicians employed that we never did, but with the typical brand of weird Skavoovie style ska. I wrote two tracks. I know Rob [Jost] and Benny [Jaffe] were working on something called “The Main Event.” Eric [Jalbert] and Jesse [Farber] have been working with Garageband and sending everyone their tunes. Its a slow, long process as the whole band is split up by countries and states. I just the hope the fans are patient with us.

DGTS: The music industry has experienced some radical changes since you were last part of it. How has this affected your plans to market, promote, and sell your new record? What are your thoughts about music file sharing?

AP: Skavoovie was active when the Internet and file sharing was in its infancy. I’m hoping to release a fancy version of the album with some cool schwag to help promote a purchase instead of stealing it from a pirate website. I personally don’t really like file sharing. I recently saw a website that had posted every issue of Asterix and Tintin, among others. Knowing how long it takes to draw a comic book like that, it was kind of upsetting to see... It’s the same thing for a band in many ways. Great exposure, but is it impossible now to make money without touring and selling merch?

DGTS: I’ve read that Skavoovie is planning to make some old live material and rare tracks available on the band’s website. Are these going to be sold or be there for fans to stream?

AP: We’ll be posting free downloads of old material on, including a few songs from our 1998 Warped Tour performance in Northampton, MA.

"Highball" (Recorded live, 1998 Warped Tour, Northampton, MA)

"Japanese Robot" (Recorded live, 1998 Warped Tour, Northampton, MA)

DGTS: I was listening to “Ripe” recently—over a decade later, it’s still fresh and vital. Which is your favorite Skavoovie and the Epitones album? What song best represents the group’s sound and attitude?

AP: Thanks Steve, I consider you to be a true ska ambassador, so that means a lot to me. My favorite Skavoovie tune is probably “Japanese Robot” (written by Eugene Cho, our keyboard player), or maybe “Desert Gold” (which Rob Jost wrote based on a Zane Grey novel, something he has done before). Both of those capture Skavoovie perfectly in my opinion. Skavoovie is filled with visual artists and we all loved watching old cartoons and anime on the bus. I think “Japanese Robot” was an homage to Force Five, a Japanese show we watched growing up in the Boston area. Here’s a You Tube clip: I can’t find the composer’s name, but the ending to this song sounds just like “Japanese Robot” to me. Eugene recently told me he wanted to re-record it with an orchestra someday.

DGTS: For the re-launch of the band, why did you decide to drop “the Epitones”? (Where did they go?)

AP: It’s not official yet, but we felt it was easier because hardly anyone called us by our full name. Also, I was always being asked by confused people if I was ‘Skavoovie.’ Telling them I was Ansis didn’t help very much. Some band members actually suggested changing the name of the band entirely. Making 10+ people agree on one thing is always one of the hardest things about being in a giant band.

DGTS: You’re also a professional graphic designer, who has done a fair amount of work for Stubborn Records and Moon. Are you doing any ska design work right now?

AP: I’m mostly an illustrator and comic book artist, but I do graphic design as well. I designed the Travis Pickle character for Brooklyn-based Wheelhouse Pickles. I also recently did some toy designs for Magic Cabin and I did the illustrations for Piebald’s latest DVD, "Nobody’s Robots." As for ska stuff, I’m finishing up the layout and cover illustration for Victor Rice’s new album. Dr. Dan Neely, ska ethno-musicologist and Skavoovie guitarist, did the liner notes. It’s an album of Version City rarities. I’m working on the logo for SuperSka, a new ska band here in Boston, MA which is comprised of members of Bim Skala Bim, The Allstonians (whose logo I also did), Beat Soup, and the Agitators. I just finished the logo for my friend Kristen’s Forbes’ awesome new reggae band, The Scotch Bonnets, I also recently did some bottle and t-shirt designs for Ska Brewery from Durango, Colorado.

(Note: this is not the the final album design.)

DGTS: You were just awarded a grant to print one of your comic books. How did this come about?

AP: I received a grant from the Xeric Foundation, which is a resource for comics artists who self publish. It was founded by Peter Laird of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame and it donates money to comic book nerds like me. The grant went toward funding my new Zombre book. I applied about 3-4 times over the last 10 years and was psyched when they gave me the grant last year. It was a lot of work. Zombre #2 was the result of intensive labor over about a year and was completed with the help of many Skavoovie members and other friends. The book is available from my site at:

Here’s a nifty timelapse video from a photoshoot for the back cover of the book: (with soundtrack by Roots Radics). The costume took over 6 hours to apply and get right. Evan Dorkin was kind to give this book a good review recently!

DGTS: Have you been actively following the ska scene over the past decade? If so, which bands are you a fan of?

AP: I haven’t been following it very much, I’m embarrassed to say. I still listen to ska, but my tastes have really gone towards dub, heavy metal, and jazz. I’ve spent most of my time hunting down Roots Radics rarities and the work of Electric Wizard, Black Sabbath, and Raymond Scott. I love The Aggrolites, and really enjoyed The Caroloregians and The Moon Invaders when they came to Boston last year. I don’t really hang in the scene much as I’m usually happiest drawing in my studio or collecting comics and Godzilla toys. Nerd practice.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

DGTS: Lastly, for anyone unfamiliar with the band, what is the one factoid they should know about Skavoovie?

AP: We loved buying dirty, ripped, ugly stuffed animals from thrift stores and treating them like absolutely sacred tour bus mascots/members/deities. This is Puckers, one of our many mascots.

There was also a macrame yarn cat. Jon threw the cat out the window in Nebraska somewhere. I never forgave him for that.

+ + + +

Blast from the ska past...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Duff Review: Hollie Cook "That Very Night" b/w "Milk and Honey"

Mr. Bongo Recordings
7" vinyl single

Any ska or reggae fan that is wise to the brilliance of Prince Fatty (read The Duff Guide to Ska review of this ace reggae collective's latest singles here) knows Hollie Cook and has fallen in love with that silkily ethereal voice of hers. If you haven't had the good fortune to come across her recordings, here's what you need to know: she was a member of the re-formed Slits and appeared on the Revenge of the Killer Slits EP and Trapped Animal album (rest in peace, Ari Up); she's been a member/featured singer on two Prince Fatty albums (Supersize and Survival of the Fattest); and--how's this for musical bona fides--is the daughter of the Sex Pistols' drummer, Paul Cook.

The first single off her forthcoming self-titled album (Mr. Bongo Recordings, May 2011) with producer Mike Pelanconi (AKA Prince Fatty) at the controls, "That Very Night" may remind one a bit of a Specials AKA In the Studio-type reggae excursion (where Dammers delved into alienation, madness, betrayal, addiction, and agoraphobia)--particularly Hollie's detached and disaffected vocal delivery as she sings, "You are the perfect boy/for my brand new number/I have bought the purse/and the spring time flowers...all around, oh/You'll be a charming boy/not like my previous one/'Cause he disappeared and left me all alone/with my frozen heart...oh." The track is shimmeringly, nite club gorgeous, but could never mask the emptiness and pain of "going through the motions" evident at the core of Cook's vocals.

The rootsy "Milk and Honey," off the second Prince Fatty album Survival of the Fattest (2008), was something of an underground hit in the UK and even made it onto an episode of the soapy doctor drama "Grey's Anatomy" in the US. The track is about someone so removed from life--aware of everything going on, but disdainful of and unable to take any joy in it: "Every day/in the morning paper you/You got the News of the World/You're gonna make them change/It’s time to laugh all alone in your room/If only you could shine through the darkness." And the only path to salvation/deliverance (milk and honey are fruits of the promised land, after all) is to "taste" life again--to choose to live, not merely exist. (And if you don't wanna go out and live after hearing Hollie sing this cut, you probably count yourself amongst the undead already.)

If "That Very Night" hints at what is to come on Hollie Cook's debut full-length, it very well may turn out to be one of the best reggae albums of 2011.

The Duff Guide to Ska Grade: A

+ + + +

To help promote the "That Very Night" single, Mr. Bongo Recordings is offering a free download of "Milk and Honey In My Dub"--get it here.

+ + + +