Vic Ruggiero: Road Skalar .:. Interview by Abram Jones












In 2002, at the end of Chris Murray and Vic Ruggiero's west coast tour, I hitched a ride with them from Berkeley to L.A. to see the last show of the tour and the first public show for the Twi-Lites. On the way down a lot of interesting things were said that I really wish I could have recorded! It was good to finally meet Vic though, because never having spoken with him I had assumed he was stuck-up, being in what I would call the number one Ska act in America right now. As usual, I was dead wrong, as he turned out to be one of the most down-to-earth people I've ever met. Halfway between Rude Roots' stomping grounds of Berkeley and the major Cali scene of L.A., we had lunch and conducted this interview.

Abram Jones: You said in the NPR interview that 'Wasted Days' was a Nyabinghi ballad. What about wasted days makes it a Nyabinghi ballad?

Vic: The beat of the kick-drum is like the beat in "Mellow Mood". It's really a kick-beat, a soul beat. When you watch an interview with Bob Marley, you see that he felt that that was where the beat gets placed, in the offbeat. It's almost like that Queen song "We Will Rock You". D-dum dum shaa, d-dum dum shaa.

AJ:What's the difference between Nyabinghi and Burru drumming?

Vic: Burru is done on a drum kit. I was with Eddie Ocampo one night talking to Lloyd Knibb about it. It's a combination of Nyabinghi and Bolero (Spanish beats and music). But that's a ballad. That Spainish music. Listening to Revell's "Bolero" you can hear it. When The Skatalites were in school, they learned a lot of marches. The best part was that Eric asked Lloyd "Tell me the pattern, is it roll first or something..?", and Lloyd said "You have to fix that for yourself. Just tighten your snare and fix if for yourself. That's something that no man can teach you."
People always forget the connection between Ska and Latin music. It's more obvious out here (California) because there is more traditional Latin music being played.

AJ: Are there any new recording projects on the horizon that you're excited about?

Vic does his solo act at Larry Blake's

Vic: We (members of The Slackers) are backing up Chris (glances at Chris Murray, seated to my right) on a record. We're excited about that!
Chris and Vic begin to talk excitedly about the project. The conversation turned into one about the origins of Ska, and what song was really the first one recorded that you could call Ska. I really wish I had been able to record it, as Ska nerds like you and I eat that stuff up.

DJ: What is the remote control alien sound box thing that you use called?

Vic: A Theremin. The story of Theremin's life is based on him fuckin around with an AM radio. how it goes "Hmmmmmmm" between stations.

DJ: In Berkeley, you said that it was a lot like New York. How so?

Vic: Berkeley and the Village have a lot in common. Berkeley is a lot like New York was ten years ago. I hope it stays the way it is. Real people, really interacting. And class interaction, which is really important. Suburban kids, grownups, people of all different economic classes were all there at the show last night. It was like being on Bleeker street in 1989.

all photos and text copyright 2002


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