Friday, November 16

Skeletones¹ members form backbone of success


Thursday, October 31, 1996

MUSIC:

Concert antics, new album contribute to local ska band’s
appealBy Vanessa VanderZanden

Daily Bruin Contributor

Relaxing in his mountain home at Crest Line, trombonist Garth
Schultz can just make out the gurgle of a nearby stream. Having
just returned from a nationwide tour with his band, the Skeletones,
you’d think he’d be pleased to kick back in the peace and solitude
of his foresty knoll. Yet, he’s only sticking around because a
handyman is fixing his deck.

"I had to be here, otherwise, I’d be somewhere else," Schultz
moans. "I just get cabin fever being here all day. I mean, it’s
nice and everything to look out the sliding glass doors and see
green, but by yourself it gets kind of old."

That would explain why Schultz enjoys his band’s busy touring
schedule with the release of their newest album, "Dr. Bones." They
play a Halloween show tonight at The Barn in Riverside, and
Saturday night they will pay a visit to the Alligator Lounge.

A well-known local band influencing the ska scene ever since
their formation 10 years ago, The Skeletones are regulars at many
Southern California clubs, and they even travel up and down the
coast regularly. However, sold out shows remain a Southern
California phenomena. "It’s kind of a sobering experience when you
go to a place like New York or you go to a place in Kansas and
they’re like, ‘Skele-who?’" Schultz says. "It’s not quite that bad,
but you don’t have the same interest as you would out here. It
keeps you humble. In California, most shows sell out, but in
Northern California, it just depends on the promotion. If the
promotion’s there, they do, but if a guy just mentions to his
friend that we’re playing there and expects it to sell out
magically, um, it probably won’t happen."

Veering from their usual unstructured lineup of songs, most
works played in concert on this tour stem from their recent album.
Yet, the Skeletones are always happy to appease the musical needs
of their die-hard fans. The seven band members gel on stage
regardless, and even throw themselves so deep into their sets that
spastic and spontaneous events become the standard.

Schultz explains how about a year ago at the Whisky, "Kip
(Wirtzfeld, sax player) and I were dancing next to each other and
both of us fell on top of each other and damn near bent my trombone
in half. That was embarrassing for me, trying to look all cool and
shit and ending up on my ass."

Other concert hijinx involve lesser amounts of personal
humiliation for Schultz, but greater amounts for drooling fans.
Once Schultz filled flash pots with too much gun powder, and nearly
burned a shrieking audience member. On another occasion, when The
Skeletones played Santa Cruz with Let’s Go Bowling, lead singer
Paul Hampton cussed out an obnoxious heckler, playing the song
"Lickin’ Pussy" specifically for his mom. Yet, the most memorable
event occurred a few years ago at The Armory with No Doubt. "This
dude jumps up on stage and stage dives," Schultz recalls. "He was
this real heavy dude who was pretty short, so he was really dense.
He didn’t know the song would be ending, so he jumps out, and the
last note was played while he was mid-air. The crowd parted and he
landed right on his face in the cement."

Other shows with No Doubt haven’t been quite so crazy, but they
have been numerous. The Skeletones used to headline, though with No
Doubt’s recent success, the order of bands has been altered. At
their recent Palladium engagement, Schultz tried hard to keep out
of Gwen’s way.

"Jonas, Paul, and Mark (of the Skeletones) are all really good
friends with Gwen and Tony and all those (from No Doubt). I don’t
know (Gwen) that well because I’m always kind of just the trombone
player, and I wasn’t there from day one, so, I wouldn’t really want
to go up and say ‘Hi! Err ..’" Schultz makes his best acne-faced
teen dork noise. "’Look at me! I’m an idiot!’ No, I just kind of
hold to my own. I didn’t want her not to recognize me (at the
Palladium) so I didn’t say anything. I felt it would be better for
my ego."

However, Schultz isn’t one to get competitive with other bands
on the scene, either. In fact, just recently while on tour up in
Chico, the Skeletones took a night off the jam with ska buddies
Selector, playing a variety of funk tunes. And, though Schultz
would probably prefer this kind of musical creativity to creating
albums, he realizes that a rapid output of recorded works can
better ensure his band’s longevity.

We don’t want to be one of those bands that comes out with one
album every three years," he insists. "We all hopefully are gonna
get a song on this next CD that’s comin’ out, though, I’m not gonna
say when."

However, most tunes are written by keyboardist Paul Hampton
while the lyrics come from trumpet playing Jonas Cabrera. The
entire team recorded "Dr. Bones" in a two-month period, throwing in
a wide variety of feel-good grooves and angst-filled rants. Such a
varied array of musical selections seems appropriate as the result
of the diverse Skeletones ensemble.

"Seven people with seven totally different musical tastes" is
how Schultz describes the band’s internal make-up. "I like Oingo
Boingo a lot, and pretty much bands with horns. I like a lot of old
Tower of Power, stuff like that. Everybody’s different down the
line. So when we do finally come up with something that we can all
agree on, it’s pretty much a Skeletone’s product."

Yet, a love of music keeps the Skeletones a tight sounding
group. Schultz joined the band after his brother made it in as
drummer.

"I came to the realization that that was what I wanted to do and
I didn’t want to teach theater or English or anything like that, so
here I am."

After learning the band’s music in a week and a half on his
newly purchased valve trombone, Schultz landed a spot in The
Skeletone’s regular lineup. Since then, he hasn’t looked back,
planning to be a Skeletone for as long as audiences will have
him.

"I thought about quitting before, when it was bad, but I’ve come
to the conclusion that once you’ve had a taste of freedom like this
where you own your own ass, it’s hard to go back to bartending," an
occupation Schultz enjoyed on UC Riverside’s campus. "All the rest
of the band would come in and get free beer off me, which was a
bitch, but my manager was a serious fan. So, I’d be drunk at work
with the whole band there, having a party."

Perhaps those early days weren’t so dismal after all. Yet,
Schultz recalls feelings of being at a cross roads in his life.

"I didn’t know if I wanted to move on and do some sort of ‘grown
up thing’ or continue doing what I wanted to do," he explains. "So
I decided that if you have the convictions to follow your heart,
you should go for it, ’cause you’ll be questioning whether you
could have done it later on in your life, and wonder what would’ve
happened if you’d followed it through."

So, after making a video which he’d rather stay in its current
storage place, and getting signed to Noise Records where all band
members can keep "the band thing" as their day job, Schultz is
sitting pretty. His life choice seems to have been a worthwhile
affair. Yet, despite his success, he’s not sorry he had to miss his
10 year high school reunion.

One of his fellow alumni "is a quarterback for the Kansas City
Chiefs. Supposedly, he had like three girls with him and pulled up
in a limo, so me in my Honda Prelude wouldn’t have impressed
anybody."

Still, many old high school friends go to shows, brimming with
pride at Schultz’s stardom. Though he describes himself as a "big
fish in a small pond," that pool of water may be enlarged with the
Skeletones three week tour in January with Goldfinger. And, though
he enjoys the excitement of the road, the actual trip he
dreads.

"We just bought a 15 passenger van, and well, being cooped up in
a big metal box, you’re gonna want to break." When Schultz got back
just recently from such a tour, "We were all like ‘OK, don’t call
me for a day or two. I don’t wanna hear your voice.’ But we all
love each other."

In the meantime, Schultz will recline in his cabin-like abode.
By night, he will party before, during, and after gigs, which, he
admits, isn’t a bad lifestyle, "especially if you have two or three
livers hanging around."

Meanwhile, his friend and fellow Skeletone, Paul Hampton, will
be taking care of his new baby, Coda. As Skeletone mascot, Coda is
sure to revel in a crazy life of wild concerts and awe-inspiring
beats.

"I don’t think it’s safe yet for him to stage dive,’ Schultz
speculates. "He’s only like three months old, so we’ll wait ’til
he’s five months old. We’ll do it right in the middle of the song
instead of the last note.’"

NOISE RECORDS

Local ska band The Skeletones play at The Barn in Riverside
tonight and at the Alligator Lounge Saturday.

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