“We are the Voodoo Glow Skulls from
the world and bringing our sound of West Coast ska-core since 1988. We play fast. We play hard. We play the voodoo sound like no other.”
The Voodoo Glow Skulls are brothers Frank, Eddie and Jorge Casillas on vocals, guitar and bass respectively, joined by Jerry O’Neill on drums, Eric Fazzini on sax and Ruben Durazo on trombone. Having caught up with the guys in my hometown of
Eddie: Oh it’s been going great! This is actually the last day and it’s been going amazing. We’ve had a great time. We’ve been here for twelve days in the
Eddie: Jerrys’ foot….well it’s a long story, well not that long of a story. We played at a place called The Maize in
Eddie: Yeah, hit Jorge, hit him pretty hard, I mean hard enough to be “Hey motherfucker, what’s that all about, you’re a stranger?!”, so he kind of pushed the guy and his friend punched my brother in the face and then a big fight, a big pub brawl, so to speak, ensued and Jerry ended up with a broken foot, but he didn’t get hit by anything he didn’t think. I think it’s because he jumped off the stage, to like jump in and see what was going on. That’s our theory anyway as we don’t really know how he broke his foot, but he broke the back, a small bone in the back.
(Photo by Lorraine)
Lorraine: You’ve been playing your own brand of Ska Punk for over twenty years, how does the
Eddie: We’ve always been lumped in with the underground scene, we’ve always done our own thing, so what I’ve seen is it get kind of trendy for a while. It got pretty big in the States mid to late 90’s, that whole period, say ’96 to 2001. It got pretty trendy and pretty popular because of like.. No Doubt, Reel Big Fish and the Bosstones, all those bands had major radio play, they all had big, huge songs so that contributed to it getting huge really, really quick and kind of being flavour of the year, flavour of the month kind of thing, but I mean, we know a few of those bands and they’re quite good and really successful, but that’s basically what’s gone on. It’s actually changed now though, it’s kind of back to where it was, we’re sort of back into the underground again. I mean, some of those bands that had a lot of success are still around and still doing well, but it seems like the Ska Punk scene kind of died because of that, because it got so trendy to have horns and play Ska, now it seems like it’s coming back. Things haven’t changed so much for us though because we’ve never been like a pop band, like a song with a single, so we’ve never had any real commercial success I guess, it’s always been kind of underground and in the punk scene, so things haven’t changed all that much for us. We saw a little bit of the benefits of the trend getting big for a while, like some of the crowds got a little bigger because they’d heard about us and were kind of curious about us, but we’ve always maintained the same scene and the same type of shows, so things haven’t changed all that much for us, but in the States I would say it got trendy for a while and now it’s back to where it’s underground and people really care, to really go back to what they care about and stick with their scene and people that weren’t really into it in the first place kind of fucked off and got into some other trend. That’s my opinion. Seems like that might have happened here too, I’m thinking? It kind of seems that way but it was a little later. I noticed that bands that had their songs on the radio in the States, it took them about three to five years to get popular here and then when we were coming here it was like “That’s so passé” , not to make it sound like it’s behind the times because I mean, the UK is very hip
Eddie: My whole point is that it's very hip here and a lot of us guys consider it pretty much ‘ahead’ as far as music goes. But, as a way to see it, the whole Ska trend was delayed here by three to five years. But that makes sense. It takes a lot of time for those bands to start coming to do tours here. I mean, we'd already been here a few times. But when the bands that were on the radio came ahead, like real singles, it was obvious.
(Photos below by Christian Bendel)
Eddie: I think it's definitely something that helps us stay together as a band. It's three brothers and we've had MANY fights. Big ordeals on the road. Just between the family of course.
Eddie: Yes… yes, not crazy, but we fought enough, and we had our moments, for sure.
Lorraine: I want to know, as well, who's the boss?
Eddie: It depends on what you're looking at. Frank the singer is like the business manager, the manager so he in a lot of senses is the boss and takes a lot of responsibility on his shoulders that the rest of us wouldn't take on. So, to his credit, he's pretty much the boss. I would say that I might be more the boss of the music, at least myself and the bass player Jorge, we take over those aspects of it.
Eddie: I think we're all fairly quiet. We're all pretty similar. Yes, that seems to be the roles. He (Frank) seems to be the boss in charge of the management, he's more the voice, he's the email guy, I'm more the song writing guy, constantly trying to come up with new song ideas.
Eddie: We get along pretty good. Frank lives away. Him and his family moved to
Eddie: Both Jorge and Frank are both married. Frank lives four hours away. We get along fine but we don’t see him so often, we just see him on the road or for, like, family events. Jorge and his family live pretty close to me, and we live pretty close to my parents in my home town of Riverside,
Eddie: No, it’s just three dudes. It’s a little weird because we’re on the road together all the time, and our parents are at home. Yeah. We seem to get along ok.
Eddie: It’s been fairly good. It’s a little hit-or-miss too. It depends on the person. We expect people to come and go, here and there. I don’t want to put it this way, but it’s like a family business now. To get somebody to fit in hasn’t been so difficult, it’s just keeping people around. Once they figure out how hard it is to go on the road, and how hard it is to get paid well, and all these other factors, people start to figure out whether it’s for them, or not. And that’s how you gauge it, I guess. But being on the road is a good test of character. But I think they can deal with it for the most part. But they’ll see some arguments we get involved in, some brother-to-brother spats that they shouldn’t be involved in. It is what it is. You have to deal with it.
Eddie: After we set out to change the line-up with the horns we’ve never had a solid line up. The guys have been in the band for around eight or nine years, but they kind-of came and went too so we’re kind of used to it now, changing horn players. Right now we thought we had the best ones. It’s a pretty obvious thing to say but this is the best horn line-up we’ve had in a long time. We’re really happy with it, we’re really happy with the two guys, with Eric on sax, and Ruben on trombone. We’re pretty happy with them. They’re good dudes, they get along with us, They’re just quiet enough and they’re not so outspoken, and we kind-of like that. It’s not like you can’t have an opinion, but it’s good when dudes just lay in the cut and just are a part of the band, and don’t get in the way.
Eddie: Frank is a little older than us, Frank’s 42, and I’m 38,
Eddie: Oh, you look great! I thought you were my age! I’m 38, Frank is 42, Jorge is 36, so Frank is four years older than us, and was bringing home the first AC/DC records, the first Van Halen records, the first Iron Maiden records, a lot of stand-up comedy like Richard Pryor, a lot of that kind of stuff, and then the whole Two-Tone movement from the UK was a big influence. Those are our first influences. Before we even picked up instruments, we were into the British heavy metal stuff (of course, AC/DC is from
Lorraine: You’ve played with a lot of big bands, The Descendents, NoFX, Leftover Crack…was there any rivalry? Have there been big egos or has it all been pretty cool for everybody?
Eddie: You come across your characters. It seems that you come across the bands who don’t want to socialise and who’ll be just on their own terms, and there are the bands who make an effort to say “Hi” and hang out, We’ve gotten a little bit of both types of band that you’ve mentioned. Some of them, we’ve met and thought we could become friends with these guys; and some of them, while I won’t say they don’t want anything to do with you, they’ll just do their own thing.
Eddie: Exactly. It’s a little bit of both. Sometimes you’ll see the obvious people that talk shit, and are pretty competitive; and then sometimes there are the people who are real nice, real friendly, and they get along with you great.
Eddie: Oh boy! Anybody? It may sound lame, but we’ve already performed with Fishbone, who were a big influence. Fishbone was a big band when I was 15 or
Eddie: We’ve already been on the road a few times, at least, most places a band like us could go. We’ve been around the world a few times, and gotten to go to South America, and Mexico, and that was cool, Japan, we’re about to go to Japan in a week-and-a-half. Right now, what better time to have your own record label, to put out your own music, with downloads being the way to go nowadays. It’s great to have a recording studio because we’ll not have to pay for studio time ever again if we don’t want to. It’s pretty professional. I’ve some real gear in there, and I record my band, I record a bunch of friends’ bands, local bands, and some known bands here and there. It’s great! You can write a song, and go straight into the studio, and not have to book time, not have to deal with some engineers who’ll maybe rip you off, or rush you, or not do the job right. It’s all in our hands now. So that’s a good thing. We don’t have to look for a label if we don’t want to, I mean, it’s great to be on a label that has money for promotion and other expenses, but at the same time it’s good to know that you can do it yourself no matter what.
Eddie: Probably because we’ve been through some “real people” shit! We’ve done a little bit of everything. We know what it’s like to have our hits on the radio, like in
Lorraine: Your tunes are infectious and up-beat, they make you happy, but your lyrics contain serious social commentary, have you ever run into any trouble where ‘councils’ have not wanted you to play, or they’ve not liked what you’re saying in your lyrics?
Eddie: I don’t think we’ve had any bad luck with that. We’ve never been banned. We thought we would have been banned because of the name by religious groups! I mean, the name, “Voodoo…”! People get scared away by names like that and think, “Ooh! It’s taboo!” But, to be honest with you, there’s nothing coming to mind: we’ve been pretty lucky as far as that goes. People have been pretty open-minded. The worst stuff we’ve had with that kind of stuff is in our home town. They did an annual street festival, the “
Eddie: It’s not just Mexican kids, it’s southern
Eddie: Sure, we hear it all the time. It’s just weird to deal with, sometimes.
Eddie: We’re famous in some respects for sure, but we don’t see it that way. It’s still weird to have people freak out, to have people be that into it. But that happens. It’s been happening for over ten years, bands are like, “We were influenced by you guys first.” We played with a band last night, as a matter of fact, and we were in
Lorraine: You do a Specials cover, this is unfair: who does Ska best?
Eddie: Oh, the
Lorraine: We’ve just had a dip, but you probably know The Specials have done a tour this year. Do you think that this is bringing it (Ska) back up?
Eddie: I would hope so. I think if it came to the States it would be crazy too. Maybe not as big as here, but it might be as big. It would definitely help. People are definitely interested in those bands. I think when Madness came over, they were pretty huge. They did an amphitheatre, five or six thousand people, a big show. And that makes sense: they had huge singles in the States too. I think “One Step Beyond” and “Our House” were huge, huge songs. I remember them all over MTV.
Lorraine: My final question is, do you think you’ll get bored?
Eddie: I don’t think we’ll get bored.
Lorraine: Do you think, even with your recording studio and record label, you three brothers will get bored and give it up, or will you be still out here, gigging?
Eddie: That’s a hard call. We’ve come close to saying, “Oh, shall we not do this any more?” But I’m not sure. Now, it’s not an option for us. We can’t go there now. It would have to be a while down the line, for many reasons. We have to do this, just because we love doing it. And we have to stay in there, doing it, for financial reasons too. I can’t lie: this is what we do. For better or for worse, this band has to stay on the road, and we have to keep this going. And if we hated it, we’d obviously stop.
Eddie: That’s the best way of putting it. We don’t see it stopping any day soon. We just recorded ten or fifteen new songs, that are just about done, and we’ve done most of the tracks already. Fifteen new songs and we’re working on about ten to fifteen more. So we’re going to have about twenty-five to thirty new tracks by the end of the year. Most likely, they’ll all be finished being recorded by then. After that, who knows? We’re going to put out a split record in Japan, which is coming out next week: two new songs, with another band from Japan, and that’s going to be the first two singles to test the waters, and then we’re just going to try to develop, go back to the drawing-board. We have eight records, and we’re not in a rush. We could play old songs, we could tour, we could afford to fuck around with it. So that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to start over, and see where we’re at as a band, see where we want the sound to go. You can’t really change too much. You can’t divert too much, otherwise you’ll lose your audience. It’s got to be an improvement, unless you’re one of those few lucky bands who re-invent the wheel. But I don’t see us straying from the Ska-Punk formula. We just try to write songs that we think will work for us. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But it still has our stamp on it.
Eddie: Thank you very much for your time. So what was the name of this? Mud…? M-U-D-Kiss? Oh, wow, that’s a good one. Does that mean I get one?
Photo credit to Christian Bendel