Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Jan 7th 2010 1:30PM by Dan Reilly
As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For Vic Ruggiero, the singer and keyboard player of longtime New York City ska act the Slackers, that statement certainly holds true about his band.
"A friend of mine had this videotape from a gig that must have been from '94 or '95, right when we recorded our first album, 'Better Late Than Never.' For us, our memories were 'we were probably rough around the edges, not so good,'" Ruggiero tells Spinner. "You think everybody's become demented over the years and ridiculous and then I look at the video and it's like nothing's changed, man. It's the same band. Some of the people are different but the essence of the band -- it's so weird -- it's just the same."
There have been many changes for the band -- the so-called death of the ska scene, the loss of several members to other careers or married life -- but their musical blend of ska, reggae, rocksteady, soul and blues remains as original and catchy as when they started. That consistency can be heard on their latest album, 'Lost and Found,' a collection of unreleased material recorded from 1998 to 2007.
"The more recent stuff is really cool," Ruggiero says of the compilation, which was produced by saxophonist Dave Hillyard and guitarist "Agent" Jay Nugent. "We played some of these songs in different styles -- if there's a ska song, we did it reggae. I kinda forget that this band can just do that and be organic."
The Slackers will show off that organic ability again when they release their next studio album, 'The Great Rocksteady Swindle,' a title borrowed from a Sex Pistols documentary. The record is their first on Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong's Hellcat Records since 2001's 'Wasted Days.'
"With Hellcat, after our first contract ran out, we've always done one-off deals [with other labels] so it just kind of happens when it happens," Ruggiero says. "They felt kind of bad like, 'What happened? You guys don't want to make records with us anymore?' We were like 'You guys stopped asking us and we figured we had a record coming out and we just made it for this company.' They said, 'Tell us you want to make a record' and we go 'Yeah, here it is.' It was more natural than you'd expect."
And just as their sound harkens back to traditional American and Jamaican music, the band decided to keep it simple when it came to recording the album. "I was recording with a Romanian band and they told me about this joint in Berlin. It's totally down-home, like you're recording in a garage ," Ruggiero says. "It's a record where everybody's a songwriter. Even Ara [Babajian, the band's drummer] wrote a song, so lyrically it's kind of funny. The Slackers are a weird bunch of guys. They think about funny stuff."
'Lost and Found' is available now and 'The Great Rocksteady Swindle' hits stores on Apr. 20.