Sunday, March 02, 2008

Baille De Los Locos

In 1996, Ty and I chose to pass up an Attaboy Skip show to see the Voodoo Glow Skulls play at Bricks. We'd never heard VGS before, but the artwork on their album Firme was so awesome that we knew that we'd love them.

Goldfinger was the touring support, so it surprised us when VGS came on second. They played four songs, which took about 10 minutes and then walked off the stage. We vowed to never support them again. But the draw to Firme was just too strong. We bought a copy at Media Play and we've been fans ever since.

Since the inception of Johnny Tightlips, I think I have tried to get the band on as the opening act for Voodoo Glow Skulls at least five times. Each time the promoter strings us along and then doesn't tell us that we're not playing the show. This time it's finally going to happen (fingers crossed).

So in just a few days the band is going to have our biggest show to date. Not big in terms of number of people--I'm sure there will be very few people in the crowd when we start playing-- but big in that we're going to be on the same stage as one of my favorite bands.

I am completely nervous, and like every show, I'm totally wishing that we never would have sought it out. That anxiety will intensify until we go on stage. I'll be nervous while we play and then immediately after, I will be so excited/relieved that the only thing I'll be able to think about is playing another show.


For the past few months I've been writing album reviews for In Utah This Week. I figured it afforded me an opportunity that I never would have had otherwise. With being assigned, or even clearing it with my editor, I sent an email to VGS, requesting an interview for the magazine.

I was excited when I heard back from lead singer Frank Casillas. We set up a time and I gave him a call a few days later. I was nervous to talk to him--especially two minutes into the interview when my digital recorded started beeping because it was out of memory--but he was incredibly cool and very easy to talk to. At the show on Thursday I plan to meet him in person, which I'm really looking forward to.

Here's the interview:

Black Magic
Fifteen years of genre-bending have the Voodoo Glow Skulls radiating worldwide.

Mixing ska, metal and Latin, the genre-defying Voodoo Glow Skulls have sold more than 1 million records since their debut 15 years ago. With their seventh album, “California Street Music,” the band shows no signs of slowing down. In Utah This Week caught up with frontman Frank Casillas before the band headed out its current West Coast tour.

IN: Over your career, you’ve outlasted almost all of your peers. What’s been the key to the success and longevity of your band?
Frank Casillas: We decided a long time ago that we were going to be a punk rock band. There’s a lot of work ethic and DIY values that we started out with back in the day that got us where we’re at now. We’ve always tried to maintain that type of integrity.

There was a point in time where we were persuaded to have corporate and business management, but at the end of the day all they were doing was sucking money out of the band. We eliminated all of that from the business part of the band and took it upon ourselves to do everything on our own.

[Fortunately], we weren’t thrown through the system. That seems to be a common thing with commercial labels — they get a band sopping wet and they throw them against the wall to see if they’ll stick. Nine times out of 10 they don’t. That’s why you don’t hear about [a lot of bands] again after their debut. We’ve always been aware of that. We’ve always called our own shots and done what we thought was best. We’re still doing it. The phone’s still ringing and we’re still here.

IN: You took a longer time to put out “California Street Music” than usual. How do you think that affected the process and the final product?
FC: Throughout the years, we’ve been developing our own recording studio. We’ve done the last couple of records on our own. This time we just decided to wait until it felt right. Nobody was really saying ‘Man, you’ve got to put this record out right now.’ There were really no deadlines. We wanted to take our time with it.

We wanted to reinvent what we had done on the first couple of albums. We tried to re-create what the Voodoo Glow Skulls are known for — the manic sound. A mixture of punk, metal, ska and Latin, and little bit of hip-hop. We tried to re-create what we’re known for and come out with a young-sounding album again.

We didn’t really try to go for any goals or anything; we just put ourselves in the studio. It took us a couple of years because we were on tour while we were trying to write the album. A lot of it was writing songs, putting them on hold for a couple months, coming back and giving them another listen, reevaluating what we did a couple months before, and fixing it — basically just taking our time. We came out with a good record. It’s not the best we can do, by all means, but it was a good transition and probably what people were expecting from us at this time.

IN: If someone were checking out Voodoo Glow Skulls for the first time, what record would you recommend?
FC: The record that got us the most notoriety was “Firme.” That record catapulted the band to the next level. I think it’s the record a lot of people identify the band with. “Band Geek Mafia” is also a fan favorite. Those two are the ones that made the biggest impact on our fans.

IN: Voodoo Glow Skulls have played everywhere. Where are your best international fans?
FC: Mexico is always great for us. My parents are from Mexico and we’ve got family there. Plus we did the “Firme” record all in Spanish, which got us a lot of attention there. That’s where we have the most rabid fans, where fans really go nuts over the band.

On our last tour, we made it to some Eastern European countries [including Croatia and Slovenia] for the first time. The crowds were so happy just to have an American band in their presence. It could have been anybody probably [laughs], but for Voodoo Glow Skulls to go somewhere where many American bands never get to go ... it was a great feeling. It’s a sense of accomplishment when you can say, ‘Our music is the reason why we’re here. And our music got us here.’ There are a lot of places abroad where they take in the band, and where we’re well respected. Japan has some of the best audiences. The UK is also a great for this type of music.

We don’t break attendance records everywhere we go. We play small, comfortable clubs — places where fans can see the band and experience the band the way they want to. We do play big festivals as well. Every gig is different. For us, it’s great just to be able to maintain and do what we do — play small punk rock shows for the most part. And sometimes you’ll travel across the globe and play a small, 200- person venue. And some of those are the best shows.

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