This interview took place Halloween night, 1996, at the Wetlands. If you were there, I was the one dressed as a ladybug, and I’m also the one who brought the balloons. I wanted to get both black and white balloons (2Tone, dig?) but Woolworths only had black. Me and Damon blew them all up during the Blue Meanies set, and balloons were bouncing everywhere! Billy the singer was like “What the fuck is this? A Grateful Dead show?” I threw one and it popped on someone’s cigarette. Damon threw one and it landed on some scary punk’s head, and this is really funny — it popped on his spiked head!! Oh yeah, so before the Blue Meanies went on, I asked if anyone wanted to do an interview and/or fill out a Mad Lib. This guy was like, talk to Bobby – he’s in the band. Little did I know it was a cruel Halloween trick! Read on…
OK this recorder is of very cheesy quality, so you’re probably going to have to talk loud and clear and stuff.
The first thing I want to know is, how big a dick is Beach Recordings?
Bobby’: I don’t know actually.
Well didn’t they screw you over?
Bobby’: I have no clue. Absolutely none. Why do you say they screwed us over?
Um, well… you had a contract, and they did shit to your CD that wasn’t on the contract.
Bobby’: Along with the Pave the World stuff, um pretty much. I’m really not sure.
I think I’m talking to the wrong person here.
[Me and Bobby’ talk a bit about metal and Bobby’ tells me he just saw Kiss. There’s a pause in the conversation where I have nothing to say, and Bobby’ asks me if I need to know the band’s penis size for the interview. I tell him no. He tells me the band’s working on new ska band names, and they’re considering Skarth Brooks. I ask him how he feels about people who say that the Blue Meanies are ruining ska. Jimmy Flame shouts out “Right on!” Bobby’ keeps saying “I don’t know” to a bunch of questions, and I start getting dubious. Then the truth comes out…]
Hey I’m going to let you in on a little secret here… My name is Lance, I’m the sound guy. That guy over there – he’s Bobby, he plays drums. That’s really the truth. (pause) But I’m still just as much fun to interview.
(really long pause, where I feel like a schmuck)… So you’re the sound person huh? Heh heh. Um… is it easy getting laid by being the sound person?
Lance: Absolutely not. All the girls are in the front row looking at THEM, and they don’t care about me at all. However if it weren’t for me.. these guys would be nowhere!
(pause) Oh god, this is pathetic. Is there anyone in the band that wants to be interviewed?
[Jimmy Flame the trumpet player agrees to an interview; Lance goes off and gets beer. Jimmy does the following soliloquy in one breath:]
Jimmy: Got a question? Want me to talk about the band? Where we’re from, how we started, where we got the name? The band started in Illinois, there’s one member of the band currently in the band that was in the band back then that’s Billy the singer they were in college they fucked around for about a year in college moved up to Chicago and graduated from Chicago in 90 that’s when they picked up me, Jimmy Flame, on trumpet and Chaz on organ we had a different rhythm section back then toured for a couple of years put out a record called Peace Love Groove put out a record called Pave the World we recorded Kiss Your Ass Goodbye then we broke up..
(interrupting) Why did you break up?
Jimmy: Well the drummer got married, the guitar player got married, and the bass player just quit basically…
Ah, women were behind it.
Jimmy: Women, right.
First the Beatles, then the Blue Meanies.
Jimmy: Yeah. So we broke up two months later we decided that the record was going to come out and we wanted to you know get back on the road so we picked up Bob on drums Dave on bass and Mike on guitar and we’ve been rocking ever since and here we are in New York on Halloween. That’s the story pretty much.
Did you read that off your press kit or something?
Jimmy: (laughs) I’ve just done that so many times, man.
Um, OK I already asked a bunch of questions to Lance, but it turns out he’s not in the Blue Meanies. I feel kind of misused and dirty.
Jimmy: I’m sorry, man. We’re just fooling. So our name? We got in from a girl who had just seen the Yellow Submarine movie by the Beatles, so that’s what it kind of means to us. Although it has many other kinds of meanings. Drugs, sex, that kind of thing.
Jimmy: Blue condoms. I thing it’s also some kind of weird sexual act so I’ve heard.
You don’t call yourself ska, what do you call yourself – Circus Punk?
Jimmy: Yeah! I mean we’re definitely ska influenced and we have songs that sound like ska songs, but 99 out of a 100 ska bands sound the same, and we kind of sound a different way.
When you tour, do you find yourself playing with more ska bands or punk bands?
Jimmy: Mostly ska. We have established some sort of reputation as a ska band, so we get booked with ska bands.
So how do you feel when people come up to you and are like Oh you guys aren’t ska, you shouldn’t be playing with ska bands, you’re ruining the scene…”
Jimmy: Well, I think it’s kind of bullshit. Mostly because we don’t claim to be a ska band. We don’t dress up like a ska band, we don’t have a checkerboard on our drumset, and we don’t play that whole game. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, we just don’t do it. So if people are expecting one thing, they have just been misled. Sometimes it’s not their fault. If we get billed as a “Big Ska Show with the Blue Meanies”, then I could understand them being a little disappointed.
So far, you have consistently written originals, but on your picture disc, you cover a couple of metal songs…
Jimmy: Just one. One metal song and one classic rock song.
Jimmy: Ace of Spades’ because we wanted to do a cover that was easy and it’s a fucking kick ass song. It’s pretty easy so we did it. Happy Together’ was… I don’t know who brought it up, but someone suggested it and it was just so funny, us playing that song. So we learned it and did it.
(meekly) And it’s a great song…
Jimmy: Yeah, it is a good song.
And you re-did Pave the World’ a couple of times.
Jimmy: Thank god! The original was a little bit young. The band was young, and the recording was a little immature. We’ve played it so many times, and we finally got a good recording of it, and we’re happy.
What happened with Beach Recordings? Go ahead, vent.
Jimmy: It was total bullshit. This was about two years ago, we were out in San Francisco, we were very broke (which we still are). And we were like “Look we got this record Pave the World that we put out years ago but it’s been out of print because we can’t afford to put it out. So this guy Paul Ratt from Beach Recordings approached us and introduced himself. He seemed like a reputable guy, and said, “Here I’ll give you a deal — I’ll press 1,000 of them, I’ll give you 200, and it’ll be a one-time shot. I’ll put it out there for you. We’ll do the same artwork and disc.” We were like all right, cool! We signed this little dingy contract, we gave him a copy of the disc, and he said he’ll send us the copies when it’s done. Two months later, we get this shit in the mail and it’s Pave the World plus different artwork, four other bands, and it was total bullshit. So we were mad, we called him, we wrote him, we said Bullshit. The contract that we had, said he was going to make 1,000. We know that he has made upwards of 5,000. It’s still being picked up by smaller distributors across the country. Everytime we go out to California, people are like requesting songs off of that record that they bought through him. The thing is, we haven’t compensated at all. I don’t want to nit-pick about money, but…
But you’re being fucked over!
Jimmy: Yeah, he basically fucked us over. And I know other bands that have been fucked over by him too.
Well the other bands on the Pave the World “compilation” weren’t told either.
Jimmy: Exactly, nobody was told. We tried to reach him, we tried to place calls through, had our lawyers send letters, but we’ve never had a response. He’s kind of laying low.
So how are you going to get this CD off the market?
Jimmy: We put out a flyer a couple of tours ago that said if you bought a copy, and didn’t know what was up with it, and then found out it was a bootleg or whatever, mail it to us, and we’ll send you a free T-shirt. It’s kind of a lame attempt, but we’re trying to get them out of circulation. We have plans to re-release Pave the World. Hopefully once we do that and get good distribution, people will realize that that’s the record, not this other bullshit, whatever the hell it is. But for now, we’re kind of fucked. So we’re mad. End of story I guess. Um.. Mephiskapheles rule. I’d like to say that right now.
[Long pause, so I start talking about my zine, and how great it is.]
…And for my next issue, I’m doing this Trad Vs Core thing, where I ask a bunch of bands what they think of the different types, and get them to sling mud. I want it to be all controversial, but everyone’s like “Oh, all ska is good! It’s all good!!” It’s really pissing me off! Is there anything bad you can say about ska, PLEASE?!
Jimmy: Well… ummm.. (groping for something to say to please me) Um.. A lot of ska music to me, and I’m going to get a lot of hate mail for saying this, a lot of it is really boring. It’s just like we see so many ska bands, and so many try to sound exactly the same, and some aren’t really that good. And it just turns into this giant… it’s like milk in a blender — it doesn’t do anything, it’s just like this generic, boring stuff that doesn’t have any taste.
Jimmy: That’s a lot of what we see, but not all. Bands like Mephiskapheles I love them because they’re fucking awesome! Not only are they like excellent musicians, their music is interesting and it all doesn’t sound exactly the same. But at the same time, there is something very captivating about a good ska band. I’m a horn player, so I can respect a lot of good stuff that’s going on out there.
What are you listening to right now?
Jimmy: I don’t really lean towards ska. I’m into 50’s and 60’s jazz.
[I tell Jimmy about the Jazz Heritage Society I joined. (It’s like Columbia House or BMG, but all jazz. They send you like 6 CDs for 4 bucks, and you get all these rad deals.) Then I drink some of Lance’s beer, and things get a little murky.]
Lance: Can I ask you for a favor? I spilled beer all over one guy out there and he’s really upset. If you see him, can you tell him the beer was for Bill?
Jimmy: Sure. You know what I like about the ska scene? I was reading that article in your zine about that guy that went to a ska show and met a beautiful girl…
(beaming): I wrote that!!!
Jimmy: That was you? That was well-written man. There are some hotties out there, man.
I made that story up.
Jimmy: (laughs) You did!?
It’s to meet girls, you know? So they read that and think I’m a nice guy. That’s why I’m wearing this ridiculous ladybug costume.
Jimmy: That kicks ass! Those little rudegirls are awesome man! They’re only 15 and they’re like let’s see how short we can get our skirt! Wa-hoo, all the way up to their ass!
So do you have a girlfriend or wife back home in Illinois?
Jimmy: Yeah, a girlfriend, she’s really cool. Actually, I live in Wisconsin now. I moved there. About half the band lives there now.
Not if the Jets can stop them!!
Jimmy: Aren’t they 0 for 8?
Jimmy: Oh well, it’s just football. You know what I don’t understand about rudeboys? Like they go to shows, they really want to be part of the show, and all these skinheads… it’s like a uniform now. And they bustle their way up front, pushing girls around, they get loaded on cheap beer, and then they grab the microphone and say stupid shit in it. It’s like — what are you doing? When you cut away all the bullshit, what are you getting at? What’s your point, what’s your message?
It’s an ego thing. They’re saying, “Look at me. Look how I’m part of the group. Look at my cool suit. I’m ruder than you.” I hate that shit. I don’t consider myself a rudeboy, I’m more for the individual. I mean, here I am with this ska zine, but my favorite band is Rush!
Jimmy: Yeah, but let me tell you something: Good luck getting out of the scene. Blue Meanies are forever stuck in this budding ska scene. I mean people get mad at us! “You’re not a ska band!” Well, you’re the one who said we were, so shut up and we won’t be. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to go off, I guess it all builds up though.
Mr. Bungle got out of the ska label.
Jimmy: Yeah, they did.
[I then tell Jimmy to listen to this band Eskimo who are really incredible and sound sort of Bungle-ish (but better!). They’re on Les Claypool’s Prawn Song label, so check it out!]
Jimmy: What’s with Claypool’s new band?
I haven’t heard it yet.
Jimmy: Hey another thing I don’t like about ska bands is that they do all these fucking covers. We do all our own music except for Ace of Spades, but that’s a gag. It’s like c’mon, man! If you want to be your own musician, I think half of that is writing and composing your own stuff. It’s all personal taste though. I can’t tell someone that they’re wrong because they like something I don’t like. Lance is really a nice guy.
Lance (tipsy): By the way, everything I said is 100% true so you can use it!
I’ll leave you in there. I know the sound man never gets any attention. That’s cool. And so what if you made fun of me.
Jimmy: We’re not making fun of you!
[Another Blue Meanie looks at me, points and laughs like a bully. We all laugh].
[Jimmy is pulled away by a band member who says it’s showtime. A couple of guys ask for a copy of my zine, and I’m shocked to see it’s Victor Rice of Scofflaws fame and Sheldon from the Stubborn All-Stars/Insteps]
What are you doing here, Vic?
Victor: I’m playing bass for Mephiskapheles.
Is this a permanent thing?
Victor: I’m playing with them til December, and then I have other projects until February, then I’ll play with them again.
So what happened with the Scofflaws? Why did you stop playing with them?
Yeah, it became so busy that I couldn’t play with anyone else.
They play like every night at clubs and stuff.
Yeah, they play all the time.
So there were no personal reasons?
Victor: No, although we do get along much better now. (laughs) You should really be talking to Sheldon. He got his start in the Stubborn All-Stars. What a start, man! Holy shit!
Sheldon: (laughs) Yeah, I got my start through Vic Rice. While he was away with MephiskapheIes in Europe, I got offered an American tour with the Stubborn All-Stars, and then that led to a European tour with the Stubborn All-Stars, and then from that, it led to a full-time job with the Insteps.
Wow, so you’ve been submerged in the traditional ska for a while. Great, see my next issue is this controversial Trad VS Core thing where people say what pisses them off about the different styles. Is there anything bad you want to say?
You know, like any hang-ups you have on certain types of ska or anything in general?
Victor: You know, people at NYNEX are not very polite.
You’re lucky you reached them! I keep getting voice mail!
That’s true. They are very impersonal and I feel… violated.
OK, Sheldon, are you from Long Island?
Sheldon: No, I’m from Rockland, Jersey.
OK see, me and Vic are from Long Island, where we have NYNEX and LILCO fucking us up the ass. There are no alternatives! Do you know how many times I’ve had NYNEX at my house? They finally admitted to me that all of the cables are corroded, and that’s why no one on Long Island is getting good service.
[A ska DJ from SUNY Purchase sits with us and he’s got a cool Mephiskapheles necklace. Victor comments on it, claiming it was made in the sweatshops of Hong Kong. Then I feel a needleprick on my arm and everything goes black.]
2000 Update: Blue Meanies are still around, I think. They recently put a live album out. Vic Rice recently released his first solo album on Stubborn Records called “Live at Version City,” which is chock full of amazing dub-jazz-ska. You can catch his super-group playing all over the city at small clubs for dirt cheap. I recently caught them at Meow Mix, and it was phenomenal. The musicians on stage included fellow old-school Scofflaws Buford O’Sullivan and Paul Gephardt!!
2006 Update: Wow, a lot of time has passed. I’m old.