The Slackers: A Documentary

Posted on December 29th, 2011 by Dan Schwent

The Slackers: A Documentary is a documentary about The Slackers, directed by Ben Levin.  Now that we’re all on the same page, on with the review…

The documentary starts with some concert footage of The Slackers playing Married Girl, then goes into the roots of the band, starting with Vic Ruggeiro’s days in Sic and Mad with bassist Marcus Geard.  From there, it goes into the formation of the Slackers by Vic with Marcus, original drummer Louis Zuluaga, Q-Maxx, and T.J. Scanlon.

Vic talks about how they were a two-tone band in the early days and he desperately wanted to be Paul Weller.  From there, the DVD goes into how Dave Hillyard and Jeremy Mushlin helped shape the Slackers into the form they currently have, ditching two-tone in favor of traditional ska.  From there, the formation of Hellcat is covered, as it Redlight and the coming of Glenn Pine.

Once Glen’s arrival is covered, the remainder of the DVD is talk about life on the road, thoughts about ska in general, and a lot of concert footage.  The Interpunk page lists these songs but this isn’t the order they appear on the DVD.

  • Sarah
  • Wasted Days
  • Married Girl
  • I Still Love You
  • What Went Wrong
  • Watch This
  • Peculiar
  • International War Criminal
  • Keep It Simple
  • No Good To Be In Love

Why this Documentary was awesome:

  • The behind the scenes glimpses of The Slackers while they weren’t on stage were well worth the price of admission.  While we’re enjoying watching the Slackers play live, it’s easy to forget the miles they drove to get to us.
  • The concert footage was top notch.  I actually preferred the recordings on this to the ones from Live at the Flamingo Cantina.
  • Seeing Vic and Glenn practice What Went Wrong was worth the price of admission.
  • Hearing the band’s thoughts on making the music, touring, etc, was quite something.  In particular, Vic’s talk of giving something back to the music that gave him so much was powerful stuff.

What I Wish They’d Done Differently:

  • There’s not a lot I would change about this documentary, honestly.  I wish it would have been twice as long, though.
  • I wouldn’t have minded the documentary covering the departures of Zulu, T.J., Q-Maxx, and Mush-1.
  • I also wouldn’t have minded something talking about Ara Babajian and Agent Jay joining the band.

The Thrilling Conclusion:
If I wasn’t already a diehard Slackers fan before watching this documentary, I would have been by the time I was finished.  This dvd is a clear indication that The Slackers are doing what they love and loving what they do.  If you’re a fan of The Slackers, and you should be, you owe it to yourself to buy this DVD.

Highest possible recommendation!

Comments (0) Dec 29 2011

Ska: An Oral History

Posted on December 29th, 2011 by Dan Schwent

Hey, gang! For my first contribution to Ska Blah Blah, I thought I’d take the lazy way out and re-post something I wrote on Goodreads over the summer. I hope you like it.

Ska: An Oral HistorySka: An Oral History by Heather Augustyn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ska: An Oral History covers the history of ska music from its inception to Jamaica through the ska boom of the 90′s, all the way up to present day.

Lean closer everyone, I have something to reveal. I became a ska fan when I got my first CD player in 1993 and my neighbor gave me a copy of Ska Core, the Devil, and More by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I’ve remained a fan of the music ever since, though these days I’m more into the more traditional ska sound of The Slackers, Mr. T-Bone, and Dr. Ring-Ding. Anyway, on to the review…

The chronicle starts in Jamaica, naturally. Pioneers like Derrick Morgan, Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker, Toots Hibbert, and The Skatellites were given their due. Some of the stuff, like Don Drummond murdering his girlfriend and dying in the insane asylum, I was familiar with. Others, like the feud between Derrick Morgan and Prince Buster, I was not.

From there, the English skinhead reggae scene of the 60′s is covered, primarily focusing on Laurel Aitken and Judge Dread. The focus shifts to the two tone era of The Specials, the Selecter, Madness, and Bad Manners. It really put me in the mood to dig out the Specials debut album. Actually, I’d say a bit too much time was spent on the two-tone era. I could have done without entire chapters detailing The Beat, The Selecter, and Bad Manners. It seemed a bit like padding.

The third wave was covered, starting with the Toasters and Bim Skala Bim, and moving along with Fishbone, Let’s Go Bowling, the Scofflaws, Agent 99, Jump with Joey, and the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble.

Hepcat was mentioned next and I began getting excited. Then radio ska bands like No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were mentioned. Deals gone bad was mentioned and then Agent Jay of The Slackers and Isaac Green of The Skalars talked about how the scene died because most of the people going to shows were in bands and nobody was buying records. Which I witnessed first hand in my first couple of years of going to ska shows.

That’s pretty much it. The book did a good job of detailing the history of ska but I think it focused on the two tone era a little too much and could have used more than a mention of The Slackers, since they are by far the biggest touring American ska band at the moment. It also wouldn’t have hurt to mention that ska has a much bigger audience in Europe and Japan, evident by the turnouts that Mr. T-Bone, The Moon Invaders, and Dr. Ring-Ding see. For being released in 2010, it doesn’t feel current to me.

Man, it’s hard to settle on a rating for this. I’m giving it a three. I’d give it a four but the writing seemed choppy in places, especially during the transitions between topics.

View all my reviews

Comments (0) Dec 29 2011

Guest Blogger, Victor Rice: So You’re Going to Make a Ska Record…

Posted on February 5th, 2009 by Victor Rice

For my second contribution here, I wanted to talk about the recording process and get into more of the technical aspect of record production. It quickly became clear to me that a prior installment will be necessary: we really must talk next about Pre-Production and what that entails. This is the stage where, with planning, you will keep your record from going over budget and past due.

I am known as a producer of the practical type – My first production basically fell to me because I was the only member of the Scofflaws with studio experience. When it came time for us to make our first CD, I was the one who found the engineer (Bob Stander) who in turn helped me to find a studio, choose the tape, schedule the sessions – all because no one else had ever gone about it. And the main objective was to get from start to finish with our budget of about $5000. In that sense I was a producer in the old use of the term, the liaison between the technical and musical teams. I took charge of scheduling and rehearsing the band in sections, made sure the engineer knew what was wanted, made sure the musicians knew what was possible.

Rob “Bucket” Hingley was satisfied with the result, and hired me to produce “Ooolooloo” for the Pietasters. Up to this point, Moon Ska NYC had only accepted finished projects for release, but was ready to invest directly in this record. Again, the main objective was to keep the production within budget, I was not hired to impart some kind of artistic vision. To this day, my main contribution to record-making is more practical than anything else. It’s in that spirit that I hope people find this chapter useful!

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Comments (5) Feb 05 2009

Guest Blogger, Marco Werman: Notes From a Sound System

Posted on December 8th, 2008 by Marco Werman

I just came back from ten days in Kingston, Jamaica where I was collecting program material on the Alpha Boys School, an orphanage that was founded in the 19th century by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy (to be aired on Frontline/WORLD later this Spring). Hard to believe for me, but it was my first time on the island. I got an amazing overview of where Jamaican music is at in 2008.

But I write to share a sublime musical experience I had in the Kingston working-class neighborhood of Rae Town. As you may know, Sound System-style street parties (with massive banks of loudspeakers that are more comfortingly bassy than ear-splittingly treble) happen pretty much every night of the week around Kingston, starting with Uptown Mondays at a shopping plaza in New Kingston with current dancehall hits, and going right through the week.

The neighborhood of Rae Town has, for the past 20 plus years there, thrown a Sunday night dance and party. The local paper the Gleaner describes it as an oldies night, and the people reflect that, sort of. There are 70 year-olds, all the way down to much younger people. Classes mix: doctors and lawyers from uptown mingle with an array of characters out of Fellini. The crowd shows up around midnight. The people slowly line up along both sides of the main street running through Rae Town, almost like a dance showdown, and everyone begins a slow groove to the music. Grillers with jerk chicken, fish and pork are common, as are sellers of ganja who wander around with small bouquets of the herb still on the stem. As the crowd builds, so does the music.

It’s the music that really drew me in that night: mostly old school reggae and dub and anything ska: “Fiddler on the Roof” ska by the Soul Brothers, “Norwegian Wood” ska by Jackie Mittoo, you name it. There was also a seductive selection of oldies like Dionne Warwick’s “Wishin and Hopin,” Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” and “A Change Is Gonna Come” (a kind of plea to the hood that crime and poverty can be licked), Dionne Warwick’s et al “That’s What Friends Are For” (a neighborhood anthem, in which the DJ dropped the sound right before the chorus, leaving the entire block singing out loud), Maxine Brown’s “Oh No Not My Baby.” And the walls of speakers sent all this great music vibrating through my bones and making me feel inspired and happy, and isn’t that what music’s supposed to do? It was the best party I’ve ever been to. I find dancehall monotonous with a capital M. And maybe Rae Town put me in a time warp, a flashback to the great old days of this music that is disconnected in many ways to the fast and furious business of dancehall. But what a great scene and sound that was last Sunday in Rae Town. It’s wonderful to be reminded that the Loudest Island in the World isn’t just about the size of the sound system. It’s also about some of the coolest music ever made and the whole world of sound that boomeranged into it.

-Marco Werman, Music Editor, PRI’s The World

Editor’s note:  I’m a big fan of all things NPR- and for world news from your NPR affiliate, there’s none better than PRI’s The World.  It is an honor to include Marco’s piece (written a few months back) in our new Guest Blogger series.  Here’s an older post I did, linking you to several of the stories Marco did from the above mentioned trip to Jamaica. Ska Online: The World Loves JA Music

-JJ

Comments (1) Dec 08 2008

Ska Blah Blah Introduces Guest Blogging

Posted on December 8th, 2008 by JJ Loy

Hey kids-  In an attempt to include more voices and more opinions on this site, I’ve invited some of the most opinionated and knowledgeable folks in the scene to contribute to Ska Blah Blah.

The first of these is Victor Rice.  He was my first phone interview for the Conversations on a Revivalist Movement (even though Chris Murray got the first episode), and now he’s the first to submit for the Guest Blogging series.

Rice is going to be lending his sage-like wisdom to all the new bands that want to play ska- and they want to do it right, in a series he calls, So You’re Starting a Ska Band.  The first installment can be found in the post immediately preceding this one or by clicking here.

Keep coming back for more advice from the one, Victor Rice- and look forward to more Guest Bloggers in the very near future.  And, as always, your comments are more than welcome.

Comments (1) Dec 08 2008