Type “ska music review” into Google and you’ll likely come across web pages like “10 things you hate about ska” or “everyone hates ska”. Of course, this is not true. Tons of people love the upbeat and relentless nature of ska, yet it’s a very controversial genre.
Enter In defense of the Ska, a new book from Santa Cruz Good time music editor Aaron Carnes, released on May 4 Shock books. Although aimed at ska enthusiasts hoping to change their minds, the book is essential reading for ska enthusiasts.
“I wrote my book to appeal to both ska enthusiasts and haters, or rather people who rejected the genre as something not worth their time,” Carnes explained in an interview with E-mail. “Obviously, the angle of the book is to push back the popular culture narrative around ska, that it’s a punchline and doesn’t really deserve the critical respect like other genres do. Non-ska fans and ska haters will rise to the challenge and read it and see if I can get them to change some of their opinions, stereotypes and preconceptions about ska.
“It’s not my goal to get people to like ska,” Carnes continued. “I want them to see it as a worthwhile genre. I think if they give it more attention, they’ll probably find songs they like, but that’s not the point. I said, I also wrote this book with some ska fans in mind.There are tons of stories that I unearthed that even hardcore ska fans probably haven’t heard yet. I think the journey through the different ska stories will be a lot of fun for fans of the genre to read. I also think people who don’t like ska will also enjoy the stories. But I had to challenge them to give it a go because, since they don’t take music seriously, they would never consider playing it.
Despite being a huge ska fan, reading Carnes’ book made me feel ignorant of the genre. His knowledge is deep! On a scale of 1 to 10, how obsessed is he with ska?
“I think considering the fact that I’ve spent seven years working on a ska book, the only correct answer is 10,” he joked. “Either I’m obsessed with ska or I’m a thorough music journalist. Probably both. Honestly, ska was my favorite style of music in the 90s. And that really disappointed me as I got older and became a journalist. professional musical that this style of music that I love and mean so much to me has been treated as a punchline. So I probably went overboard in making sure this book is full of compelling stories. ”
One story he delves deeply into is Propagandhi’s 1993 classic song “Ska Sucks”, which at the time was very controversial, and then Carnes moves on to an obscure earlier event at the time – a brawl between punks and Nazis during from a 1989 event. Green Day, Samiam and Econochrist show in Sacramento. Then he returns to explain that “Ska Sucks” was really a response to the Nazi skinheads infiltrating the ska scene. How the hell did he unearth all these amazing stories?
“Understanding the story of ‘Ska Sucks’ was a challenge because [Propagandhi frontman] Chris Hannah doesn’t talk much about ‘Ska Sucks’ and he didn’t respond to my interview requests. I had heard rumors about the song’s history but couldn’t confirm them. Turns out Chris spoke about the song on [podcast] Turned out a punk, which a friend told me about. It gave me my main source. For the Green Day story, I learned that because it was a scene cut from the documentary Turn it over. Super film by the way. A friend of mine led it.
“In a conversation he told me about the infamous Green Day show,” Carnes continued. “I was particularly interested in the story because I currently live in Sacramento, the city where it happened, and I had never heard of the show. I put it in my memory. I was working on the “Ska Sucks” chapter, it made me think about how the Nazis were a common problem in 80s and 90s shows, and thought I could illustrate this point by bringing up the show Green Day. The Nazi issues in all of these shows also make it pretty clear that the alt-right didn’t come out of nowhere in 2015. It’s been there for a long time. ”
For those unfamiliar with it, the song says, “Ska sucks / Ska revival ain’t cool you fucking shit / Bands are only there for the money / What if you don’t believe me , you’re a jerk / But the trend will hopefully die out. ” I’ve always found the phrase “bands are only there for the money” ironic because most ska bands have, like, eight people playing a four hour show for $ 200. Plus, you have to carry all the equipment, and Carnes, as a drummer, knows that pain better than anyone. How do you think people play ska to get rich?
“I guess people assume if you’re on MTV you’re probably rich. That’s not true for most musicians. And yes, being in a ska band is probably the dumbest way to try. to get rich. There are too many people in The Group! ”
Reading his book, it seems Carnes’ favorite of the three ska periods was the 2-tone ska revival of the 70s and 80s. The third wave had some good bands but also a lot of superficial new bands which I think led to the reaction against the ska. Am I right?
“I think the 2 Tone period is probably the best time for ska,” Carnes agreed, “but it was a short period and there weren’t a lot of bands. It was over so quickly. came after 2 Tone is not a period single. Thousands of bands around the world have come thanks to 2 Tone ska. I don’t even think in terms of “third wave ska” because that’s an inaccurate description of the ska course. Some groups were seen as new to the groups that became big, but there were a lot of groups doing totally different things with the ska at the same time. I have no problem with Reel Big Fish or Aquabats. These are great bands. All the bands in the 90s did it. their own thing, and that was awesome. The problem was that the mainstream culture didn’t understand ska and assumed that few bands were becoming famous people defined ska in one way or another. was not. And none of these groups would have told you. my favorite records came out when ska was mainstream, but they were off the radar. Crab Rangoon in 1997. It deals with grief and religious trauma. He is as much influenced by Weezer as he is by ska. It was a flop, but I think it’s one of the best ’90s ska albums. There are hundreds of great underrated’ 90s ska albums like that. ”
Carnes ‘former band, Flat Planet, were part of Wave Three, inspired by Skankin’ Pickle, a band that toured regularly through San Luis Obispo. Carnes was from Gilroy at the time. Has Flat Planet ever toured SLO Town?
“We never got to SLO. We played SoCal a few times, but other than one show in Pomona they were still in the Inland Empire. I don’t know why. I think they were just easier. to book. I would have loved to play in SLO. ”
Carnes’ book is available locally from Boo Boo Records – buy local! – but also online on amazon.com. ??
Contact senior editor Glen Starkey at [email protected]