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Scooters, skates and ska
“LGB have left a ska legacy in Fresno” says Janssens, the band's manager and tenor sax player. “They were the first band I ever saw. And if I time it right, they'll be the last.”
So, while The Suppressors may have growing popularity — they were named best band in our Famous Choice awards — “to be compared to LGB would be a crime.”
Decide for yourself. The Suppressors play this weekend at Smog City Roller Grrls bout against the Prison City Derby Dames.
Parents, don't worry. You won't have to cover any ears. They save the saucy stuff for the clubs.
The band used to be called Hobo Erotic. What was with the name change?
Basically, a lot of people hated our name, including newer band members. It was a tongue-in-cheek creation of mine that wore out its welcome. I guess that's the best way to put it. But come on ... Hobo Erotic? Comedy gold! In the end, we thought getting away from a “joke” name might help us get taken a little more seriously. I think it has, too. We've played big venues all over California since.
When we ran our Famous Choice contest, it was impressive the way you “got out the vote,” so to speak. Lots of people (including me) assumed that Rademacher would be a shoe-in for favorite band. So, you must have a pretty large and loyal fan base, yeah?
Our fan base never fails to surprise us. We're not rock stars or premadonnas. We're just a bunch of dudes who like to get together to play ska and drink beer (mostly the latter). Who knew that such a laid-back approach to establishing presence in the local music scene could even be marketable?
But there is something crazily enjoyable about ska shows. It's like an insta-party. Is that part of your guys' success, do you think?
Yes, exactly. We're not screaming into the mic, pretending we're troubled and possessed. We're not singing sad songs about childhood molestation. We're not trying to scare anyone or make anyone cry. That stuff is played out.
Can you explain “the skank” or “skanking?” This is a serious question.
Yeah, it's the funniest thing ever to watch people who don't know what the skank is to try to dance to ska music. Even better when a couple of unknowing drunk socialites wander into a Suppressors show and try to dance freaky sexy ... not possible, sister ... entertaining as all get out, but not possible.
Ska seems to be very much rooted in history. How do you keep the sound contemporary, while embracing the roots of the music?
In the beginning, it was a constant struggle. With large bands, lots of musicians have lots of different ideas about how the music “should” sound. Now that the current lineup has been established for awhile, we are comfortable with our sound and each other's contributions. It also helps to keep the roots music in constant rotation on your iPod.
So, how has the “scene” as such changed since the heyday of Fresno ska (whenever that was. I'm thinking 1990s, when there was a new ska band popping up every other week).
For some reason, these days it is harder than ever to get the all-ages crowd to give an ear to traditional ska music. I think we need to wear tighter pants or something. But ska's popularity comes and goes in waves, and we're confident that it will be on the upswing in the very near future.
So, does ska music have a place in the world of modern pop music?
Well, you do hear it from time to time. Lily Allen had a ton of ska influence in her recent music. Early No Doubt utilized it as well. As long as people want to dance, there is a potential for ska. We'll never be a pop band, though. We play a more traditional, organic version of the music ... more closely related to the roots. I doubt we'll ever be spotted on MTV or on the Vans Warped Tour, but we don't have those types of expectations, so we're good.
Tell me a little about your record. It's an actual record, yes? Where can I find it, I have a record player, which I do?
The sad part is that not many people have record players. I guess we should have put more consideration into that before we pressed the vinyl. We give out MP3s to people who buy the record but there's something about the wax that intimidates people. Still, we think it's cool. It was recorded at Maximus and produced by ourselves and Darren Fletcher from LGB ... how could it be bad?
We actually have about two dozen left from the original 200 disc pressing. We had them in a few record stores, but have since pulled them because we were running out of them to sell at shows. Generally, people purchase them at gigs but I've sold a few via a makeshift mail-order operation.
We're planning to release a full-length CD and we've recorded more than half of it already. We are taking our time on completing it but we wanted to release a “tickler” of what we're doing in the studio. Aside from being somewhat inconvenient and antiquated, there's something special about vinyl and die-hard ska record collectors have been very happy with our offering. And we do actually have the songs in MP3 format, we just haven't aggressively pursued distributing them. Maybe with the benefit of hindsight, we'll come to see this situation as a big mistake.
You've shared the bill with some big-time ska guys. Favorite gig moment?
Being on the same bill as The Skatalites will be an all-time highlight for this band. We've made a lot of real friends in the music scene, though, so it's kinda hard to nail it down to just one moment.
You're playing the Roller Grrls bout this weekend. How did that come about?
A lot of our personal and close friends are involved with the team. They support us and we support them. It feels natural for us to play these bouts.
What's getting you excited these days?
Gas prices are starting to get more people into scootering. Scootering and ska have always been inexplicably linked. Seeing the look on someone's face when you pass them going 80 mph on 10-inch wheels is precious.
I have a 1964 Lambretta TV175 that I put a GP200cc motor in, and I've had it worked on by Al at Hod Rod Scooters. The stock speed was about 55 tops. And yeah, 80 mph is too fast on tiny wheels ... it's uncomfortable.
Live, during the Smog City Roller Grrrls bout vs. the Prison City Derby Dames
June 28, 7 p.m.
Valdez Hall, Convention Center