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- Posted on Jan 22nd 2010 3:00PM by Dan Reilly
Like a musical dot-com boom, the genre's popularity faded as the decade ended, leaving many bands without the support they once had and, for many record buyers, making the word "ska" synonymous with "lame." With their brand of traditional ska, New York's the Slackers survived that rise and fall by never really being part of it.
"We managed to avoid the fad, which was good," Slackers singer/keyboardist Vic Ruggiero tells Spinner. We lucked out because we weren't part of the guys that were cool guys at the time and then when they got uncool, we also weren't in that group. We never really wanted to be part of that crew anyway."
And though the NYC ska scene isn't as thriving as it once was -- thanks in part to the loss of venues like Coney Island High and the Wetlands -- there are still plenty of bands like the Slackers that have stuck with it, even though many of the once-popular acts are gone.
"The bands that were on a similar kind of mission, we all saw it in each other," Ruggiero says. "We recognized it and I think we all hated getting lumped in with the wrong bunch. We were waiting for those bands to wear themselves out so we didn't have to listen to them anymore. People got bored with it and that was that. Luckily, people haven't gotten bored with us yet."
With several acclaimed albums, including an upcoming release on Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong's Hellcat Records called 'The Great Rocksteady Swindle,' Ruggiero is fine with the Slackers' place in the music world, even if they never got the big success of some of their contemporaries.
"I've come to realize that's not what the goal is anyway. It has nothing to do with that," he says. "I'm in the underground. This is not the pop world and it's good for us. It's much more reliable than anything. I've been always a songwriter since I was a little kid. It's just what I do. It's fun. I'm lucky that I get to do what happens naturally."
Still, Ruggiero sees that, to borrow the motto of label Stubborn Records, "ska's not dead, it's stubborn." "Pick a place, man and there's a f---ing bunch of kids that like reggae and there's a bunch of kids that like the Slackers. It's crazy," he says. "You expect it in the States, like 'hey, look, there's 20 kids that like the Slackers in Toledo.' You don't expect it if you go to Istanbul and there's 20 kids there that like the Slackers. And it's more than 20 kids. Man, it's bizarre."
'The Great Rocksteady Swindle' is due out on April 20.