After 15 years on the road and six full-length albums, Voodoo Glow Skulls have successfully cast a spell in punk rock history. Their sound, a grinding blend of punk, ska, and Latino tradition, allows the band to play the same type of music they grew up with, simultaneously paying homage to a culture they are still very much a part of. VGS’ live show, coming to The Factory in Ft. Lauderdale on February 26, features an ultra fast rhythm section complemented with blazing horns and boisterous vocals. The Skulls stand out amongst the ska/punk outfits one might’ve listened to in high school due to their more adult, foreboding presence and socio-political songs like “Ethnic Cleansing.” Founding member and guitarist Eddie Castillas spoke to Life and Art from the back of their tour van via telephone while traveling through Texas, discussing topics ranging from the punk scene’s relevance to the impending war in Iraq. Castillas consistently made clear that their new album, Steady As She Goes, features a band not changing it’s sound for anyone, with no plans on calling it quits.
Q: Your band got lumped into the late ’90s third wave ska resurgence, but you never really seemed to fit into the mold of those bands. What were the good and bad sides to being a part of that?
VGS: The good thing was that it was trendy and it was good for ticket sales and record sales because we sold a lot during that time. But every thing that gets hyped up big goes away quick. The real fans are still with us, but the fans that were into the third wave back then are probably into emo now. We don’t consider ourselves to be that disposable.
Q: Why have you guys decided to stay with independent labels (Epitaph, Victory) throughout your career despite enjoying the kind of success that would attract major label offers?
VGS: We trust the little guy a little more than the corporation. But again, we aren’t above that; we have just found that it’s easier working with independents. We have had our offers in the past, and it doesn’t mean that in the future we won’t go to a major label. If the offer was right and it was with people we thought we could trust, we would probably do it.
Q: What changes have you witnessed in the punk rock scene over the course of your career (1993-present)?
VGS: It’s changed a lot with the style of music, but really people don’t change that much. People are always ready to latch on to the next thing because they are so bored. These days it’s more about fashion. It’s about Hot Topic punk rock.
Q: What is your answer to the claim, coming predominantly from older punk rockers, that says punk rock is dead and it will never capture the same fire that it had in the L.A. scene of the early ’80s?
VGS: I think it’s common for a bunch of old guys to sit around and get bitter and say, “Hey, it was good back in the day, but these young kids just don’t got it.” I bet the guys from Led Zeppelin sit around and talk about Aerosmith like that. For a kid who didn’t live back then, now is their time, and who’s to say that bands like us or Guttermouth aren’t their Bad Religion and their Circle Jerks? I think its just bitterness on the part of bands that say stuff like that because they are feeling old and they are out of the game.
Q: The song “Tell the People” on the new album takes a very anti-government political stance, but there’s ambiguity as to what issue it’s referring to. What was the inspiration for that song?
VGS: I was a little apprehensive about that because we are the kind of band that doesn’t want to sound dumb about politics and what we say. It was about what was going on with the propositions in California about closing the borders between San Diego and Mexico; and how all the immigrants come to California and do the shitty jobs but we want to kick them out. They come here and pick the fruit that we eat and buy at our fancy supermarkets. It’s not fair that we would let people in and then close the opportunity on them. Sure if they come here and cause crimes and rape people and sell drugs then lets lock them away, but if they are coming here to work hard then it makes the whole world prosperous.
Q: The first amendment protects songs like “Tell the People” from being banned in the United States. However, a boy was sent home from school a few days ago in Michigan for wearing an anti-George Bush shirt. What do you think about the t-shirt and the form of censorship that occurred?
VGS: I think it makes sense that most people right now would agree to send him home, because we are under so much fire. That is a trip because I think you should have the right to speak freely and wear that shirt, but he should realize that he is going to come under a lot of fire and get a lot of shit for it. That whole thing is scary because I don’t want to go to war and it’s not fair that people should die. But it’s not fair that people come here and do these random acts of violence and crash planes into our buildings. So I think that those people should expect America to be pissed off and expect some retaliation. My only choice is to hide behind the government and the military because that is what rules here – but that kid is free to wear that shirt and not get shot in the head by the cops, and that is the beauty of the whole thing.
Turner Sparks can be reached at email@example.com.