How did you get into SKA?
well I first heard the specials really. I went to this record store with my friend in 1979. he showed me a copy of The Prince by Madness but I hadn’t heard it yet. a little later on I heard the Specials
ahh ok. Do u remember what song that got u hooked?
Hmm I kind of just remember thinking that it was unlike anything I had ever heard before, and I was amazed at the trombone playing of Rico Rodriquez. I wasn’t a musician at the time, and it was just so wildly different than what I was used
ahh I see
So from that, I started buying all the 2-Tone and English ska and I read the liner notes and read about Prince Buster and all these old guys
So what city were you in when all this happened
New York City. I was going to school in uptown Manhattan at the time
Dan: Ahh ok.. So at that time, how was the scene lookin? Still in its infant stages or what?
I didn’t know anything about any scene at that point and I didn’t know about any ska music going on in NYC except when these English bands were playing
I see. So what instruments did u begin to pick up?
well it wasn’t for a little while after that that I picked up the trombone
I started trying to chat around 82 or 83. let’s say 83 for argument’s sake
Ok, fair enuff
then around the last day of 12th grade, I borrowed a trombone from the music teacher for the summer. it was a fucked up shitty trombone and I couldn’t figure out anything hahaha
Dan: hahaha Dan: did u learn on your own or took lessons?
it never occurred to me to join the band in school or anything either. I learned on my own
Ahh very nice
much later on I had a couple of lessons each with two guys, but not much to really speak of
ahh, so was it enuff to build on, or not even that?
what the lessons?
oh well the lessons were after I’d already been playing wrong for a few years hahehe
hahah. Well at least u got some good out of it
some I guess. the first teacher, I couldn’t jibe with. the second one was like, listen, do exercises, smoke some pot, drink some tea and play
hahha, I take it u liked the 2nd one?
he was cool– he basically broke it down to me like this, he said, look, nobody can teach you how to play, I can show you all these books and exercises and shit but if you want to play– you just have to play…
riight riight. So how did Skinnerbox/Stubborn All Stars form?
that was MUCH later
Do u want to add anything before hand.. like when u did The Boilers and collaborations with the Slackers and Skadanks?
Skinnerbox started at the very end of 1988, when my other band, the Boilers was on the verge of breaking up. The Slackers came way after Skinnerbox. in fact, Skinnerbox was the first ska show that Vic Ruggiero ever saw
What are origins behind the names?
The Boilers was a band before I got there. When I got in the Boilers it had basically split up.
Ahhhh, i see
I joined it when there was 2 guitarists, a bassist and a sax player.
did u feel like you were “part” of the group.. or just somebody to fill in?
well the band wasn’t really together at the time, they had cut a demo previously of mostly cover tunes then broke up
ahh I see
I used to hang out with some of the guys in the street in the Lower East Side…
so they said, hey man, we heard you play trombone.. I said, well I have one but I can’t figure that shit out!
so they said come to auditions, we are trying to find a drummer and a singer and shit like that
so I went to the auditions and umm mind you I was fuckin’ around with some stuff before that, I tried singing in a band in 11th and 12th grade I guess and then my first year in college I was trying to get something together anyways so I was going to these auditions with a trombone position chart and trying to memorize the positions of the notes and stuff and basically learning the trombone during the auditions we were having no luck finding a drummer or singer or anything
the original singer said he would come back if we axed one of the guitars…
aah…did that happen
yeah we did it so he came back
and umm then I found us a drummer and keyboard player and the keys man, he brought in a trumpet that keyboard player is still around…
his name is Victor Axelrod, he does some reggae stuff and stuff like that.
hell yeah.. do u still work with him?
So that band did a lot of shit back in the day and we were pretty popular in NYC. Nah I don’t really work with him anymore. We talk once in a while.
then when that band was about to break up I said fuck it, and started Skinnerbox. that’s the very end of ’88. We played our first show on April Fools’ day 1989. Skadanks were on that bill too.
I think it was one of their first shows, possibly their first as well…
I can’t remember if I played horn with them yet, I think so though. it was at this place on Houston Street, downtown Manhattan, called Downtown Beirut II. I remember I fell off the stage 3 times that night hahahah. That established a pattern
hahahah, damn.. poor structure or just being drunk?
ummm neither really. the first thing was, it was only about 6-8 inches high. :-) and it was very small and there were 6 or 7 of us
hahah, damn no wonder why u were fallin off
What are your thoughts about the SKA scene in the U.S today?
I haven’t any :-) I mean, I have a number of friends in good young ska bands… as far as a “scene”– I haven’t really been sure what that means in a long time…
Ok, fair enuff. Dan: What kind of message do you want to portray in your music
Hmmm … I got into reggae and ska because it had positive and uplifting messages. I never want to preach but music and lyrics have been really important to me in a lot of ways and times, different types of music and lyrics. I can only hope that perhaps someone will find something uplifting and strengthening in my work in some way.
That’s a very noble thing to say. I don’t know about you, but a lot of music today seems to lose that essence
Hmm I dunno if it’s noble… It’s almost just… habit or something… I mean, it was an intrinsic part of this music that inspired me to be a musician… so it’s an integral part of my work because of that. I don’t know how noble that is.
True. Well different strokes for different folks I guess:-) Dan: What is the funniest/outragest thing you’ve seen while performing
ummm lately, I’d have to say, kids’ heads catching on fire… Hmmm… chicas going at it with each other– dirty dancing as it were…
hahahh, how bout that. King Django gets the women to booty shake
Hmm well that night in Ybor at the New World Brewery, those skinhead kids were pretty funny…
just acting all crazy and shit, but they were into it, almost got a little violent toward the end which is really not positive for anyone…
ahh i see Dan: What are your thoughts on the underground VS mainstream/commercialism
Ummm well, by necessity, the underground stuff is always going to be more interesting… Mainstream stuff has to be watered down and lowest-common-denominator type of stuff, because it’s goal is to appeal to the masses…
Do you feel that the underground retains more of the roots and ethics of the music? Do u feel mainstream/ commercialism exploits music?
I’m not going to really get into a discussion about the ethics of music… business is business, big business is all about a bottom line… I think that it’s kind of silly to focus on that of all things, when there’s so much more serious shit going on. Certainly artists are exploited by record companies on the major-label level and even when you are dealing with large indies.
I see yer perspective of it bro Dan: 8-)
there are people who are into it to be pop stars, and there are people who are just very serious musicians…
Absolutely, with out a doubt
and then there’s all levels of grey in between those two positions…
And I guess on the independent level, there’s the same type of spectrum with record labels but I guess you do find more on the DIY/indie level that it’s coming more from a love of the music and the lifestyle, and that the guys at the labels really have a passion for the music. They’re not just thinking about the bottom line. and then there’s all levels of grey in between those two positions… Unfortunately, that does translate to bad business :-)
lol, yeah. What is your take behind the whole DJ/MC battle between yourself, Dr. Ring Ding, and Alex Desert? What are your thoughts about words being said between you and Coolie Ranx
Look this is the thing Alex doesn’t even belong in that paragraph really. These other guys, Ring Ding and Coolie, these are actually DJs whereas Mr. Lickso never has been and is not
Ahhh i see
This is the thing, I made Open Season in 1994. When did that answer tune come out??
Ummmm, like 97/98?
at least let’s find out jan 20 1998 OK so four years pass and then they come with this half-assed nursery rhyming bullshit taking potshots at me… If you listen, this is a challenge.
Oh ive listen/am listening
I picked up the record, listened to it, and literally the next day, cut Hepcat Season with Skinnerbox and had it at the pressing plant the morning after that’s how you do it, not wait for four years and then come with some mary had a little microphone shit
Your right man
So the upshot of the story is, by the time Hepcat arrived in NYC with that tour supporting that record, I had two boxes of Hepcat Season singles to give away at that show and a signed test pressing for Alex… to make a long story short… I challenged him to battle me on the mic, freestyle, I had prepared nothing, I was gonna go it cold with him, and he straight up backed down.
He said, and I quote, “I can’t. I don’t know how to do that.” And that’s why he should never have cut that song, ’cause it was false.
I see now
That’s the abridged truth. I just took out the details– the hilarity and the mayhem.
Now Coolie Ranx is another story. Coolie is a very talented DJ. He just has some social issues. He is a very condescending character. I have tried to be friendly with him for a long time, but he talks down to everyone. You’ll hear this from other people, not just me.
I never knew that Dan: interesting
He’s just in permanent clash mode. He needs to be worshipped or something, I dunno what it is. It’s a shame, because he has a really great voice and he’s a decent MC. His lyrics are corny as shit, though, I do gotta say, and for me, his stage schtick just goes way too far, it’s way phony. I’m not really into that shit, like bullying the crowd into dancing or taking three minutes to set up a stage dive– that’s corny. You don’t set up a stage dive, you just do it out of nowhere…
lol, i gotcha. What should the fans expect next from Django and Skinnerbox/Stubborn Allstars?
Right now, I have been recording a lot of cool bands, I just finished the Westbound Train album the other day…
Cool cool any tours?
There’s gonna be a lot of stuff coming out of Version City soon, all on different labels… For tours, you can look at www.kingdjango.com we are going to Europe soon and a short midwestern stab I also just started rehearsing the Roots & Culture band to play material off my Roots & Culture album and new stuff, all in the yiddish-reggae style
interesting. cool, ill check it when it comes out, Any last words?
Hmmm… Come on people, you don’t have to be mean. Because remember, no matter where you go, there you are.
Nice. Django. I appreciate yer time. I know ive been hounding you for the past couple of weeks, but i’m glad we got the opportunity to do this.