Never in a million years did I think that Ska would want to be friends with me. Lo and behold, I received a personal message from Ska on Friendster. The communique follows:
I think we should be friends.
Okey doke. Who’s the man behind the checkers, if I may ask?
Not one man. It’s been many men through decades of music all across the world. Ska was not created by just one.
I have been chosen by the Ska. I am honored. Even though I kind of hate ska.
Since you’re the embodiment of ska, can I interview for my zine?
Figuring I’d never have the opportunity to speak with the living, breathing ethereal embodiment of Ska again, I conducted this tell-all interview, asking all the questions I’ve ever wanted to ask this dopey music quasi-genre.
Ska, I thought you were dead. What gives?
No, I’m not dead, just out of the public ear. The people who like me and listen to me will never go away. I’ve had my moments of fame, though. A lot of people were exposed to the sounds who wouldn’t have otherwise. They all assume because I’m not on the radio anymore, that the genre is dead. No worries, though, I’ll always be here.
What is it about you that creates such infectious danceability?
I think my original sound has the same tempo as a heartbeat. It’s something I can’t define with words. The rhythm and the syncopation creep inside you and take over. There is no downtime. The heavy bass, the quick and steady guitar, hat on offbeats, snare on one and three. It is the perfect formula.
Are you still mad at the embodiment of punk or are you cool with each other?
Punk and I still get along. We collaborated on a big project a while ago, but that’s kind of over now. We don’t have any hard feelings, we just need some time apart again. It was fun, but it never felt authentic. I’m taking some time to get back to my roots.
Is ska Jamaican, or just some white kid trying to be Jamaican?
The music is Jamaican. I’m not trying to be Jamaican, though. I’m trying to be something from Jamaica. I think there is a difference.
What do you think of the “waves theory?” Are there periods of peaks and valleys of your popularity with identifiably different styles, or are you just one big continuum?
The waves theory is an interesting one. I have finally had the time to look back and reflect on the past 40 years. The waves are undeniable though. Jamaica, England, and the US each had their own unique sounds and scenes, each in their respective eras for their own reasons. Each wave was that much more commercialized than the previous, with a pinacle in the states, not surprisingly. That’s all they were though, were moments of mainstream attention. Ska continues all around the world. A lot of places nowadays have amazing bands and scenes, but I would hardly call any of them waves. Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Denmark, Japan, Brazil, and Australia come to mind. Mainstream media has the power to destroy good things. I only hope that corporations don’t take over any more ska around the world. The reasons so many places have such thriving scenes is that they were all built from the ground up. The time has been taken to develop a following. You can’t do that when all people have to do is turn on their radio.
Can I have a pony for Christmas?
Yes. You can actually have two ponies, but I get to ride the second one when I visit.
Bob Marley: Prophet or jerk?
Bob was a good guy. He had a good message. Again, though, with the commercialization of reggae music, the public needed an idol, and they chose Bob. He has become one of the biggest, best known, most loved artists of all time. Probably more than he deserved. The masses have a tendency to leech onto new things. Some of his older Studio One recordings are quite amazing. The still get me dancing when I put them on. He wasn’t the original rude boy, though, as he’s been credited with. He wasn’t the first. His contribution to reggae was amazing, and for that, he is remembered. Don’t forget about the hundreds of other musicians that went into the development of a music, though. Ultimately I can’t blame Bob for becoming such a star. At least his message was heard.
What’s a music genre you’d hate to be hyphenated with?
You mean one I’ve heard already? Or something I don’t want to see later? I think electroni-ska is one of the strangest I’ve seen. I would cringe if smooth jazz-ska ever became popular.
Have No Doubt and Smashmouth help send converts your way, or did they take your name in vain?
No Doubt actually started as a ska band. Not many people knew about them then. As they got bigger, they moved away from the ska sound, but people still said they played ska. Smashmouth is similar. A lot of bands incorporated the upbeat sound a little. That didn’t make them ska bands. I wonder myself how many people went out and picked up an old ska album after hearing Smashmouth. Probably not many. They were just playing what was big at the time.
What are some bands that have blasphemed you?
Haha. This is an excellent question. Mustard Plug, the Impossibles, Skanking Pickle, Instant Winner, Jefferies Fan Club, the list goes on. They’re all from the states. Odd, isn’t it? It’s not them as bands, though, which irks me. It is that people label them as ska bands when they’re not.
Are you truly the embodiment of ska? If so, can I get my money back for that MU330 album I once bought?
I am the embodiment of the music, the culture, and the spirit of ska music. I cannot give refunds. I am sorry. I take no responsibility for what people did to me in the nineties.
Which website has the best forum dedicated to you?
One thing that makes a good ska website is links to other ska websites. If someone takes the time to put these up, they care about the music in a greater context, not just about the popularity of their website. www.ruderoots.com is one of the better resources I’ve found. www.jumpuprecords.com and www.chrismurray.net and www.bayareaska.com also have some great information.
Since you seem to know me, what is my place in the history of ska?
Well, Adam. You are relatively new to the scene, as are most people who weren’t alive in the 60’s. You are crucial, though. You list some great bands, so you like the authentic ska sounds. You also write for a zine, which means you are ever-important to the spread of information. Without local media, music would have no way of extending beyond its immediate boundaries.
What’s something about yourself nobody knows?
My hat size. No one knows, and no one will ever know.
What’s in store for you? Will there be a fourth wave?
I can’t say, really. I would like for there not to be another wave. Like I said, ska can survive and scenes can thrive without mainstream attention, without a “wave.” I would like to see myself played and appreciated all over the world. All I want is recognition and enjoyment. I think my time in the mainstream eye is about over. I don’t have any control on what people exploit next, though.
Anything else you’d like to say to all your fans?
Ladies, gentlemen, girls and boys: know your roots and don’t discriminate. You don’t have to like the old music, you don’t even have to listen to it, but know that it was there. Know that without it, the later music wouldn’t have happend. I never would have made it to the US, or the world.
You’re very welcome.