A short while ago, during a not-so-valuable teaching open house, I overhead a fellow prospective teacher talking about his ska band, The Skamatix. As you may have guessed, this immediately piqued my interest and I asked him about it and we started chatting. So while the day itself may have been a waste in my educational professional life (which I even took a day off from work for), it definitely was valuable in other ways.
So I would like to introduce you to Nate Trier. And if you are wondering, he was gracious enough to answer questions via e-mail, this is not record of our conversation over a free lunch in a school library. Yes, the open house did provide lunch so again, good conversation and chocolate chip cookies, not all was lost.
Nate, thank you so much for taking time out of your hectic schedule to tell me about The Skamatix and the unusal mix of genres behind the band.
The Skamatix is a ska/jazz band that explores the intersection of jazz and first-wave ska in any combination we can imagine – this means playing catchy vocal tunes that draw on the poppiness of first-wave ska and also Tin Pan Alley (and in fact we play “Blue Skies” and “Honeysuckle Rose” in our sets!), and it also means we play jammed-out and ska’d up John Coltrane tunes. Anything is fair game!
Who are your major influences?
For the band as a whole, we try to find new ground and craft our own take on this style, but we’re all definitely big fans of The Skatalites and of course the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble. Personally I’m a huge Herbie Hancock fan (and of course I love that his career has been spent leaping across genres with ease). Everyone else in The Skamatix has such a wide range of interests you never know what’s going to crop up (including an Olivia Newton-John cover), but our guitarist, David DiMario, comes from a very in-depth reggae background, so that shows up a lot in our music. And we’re all big jazz fans, of course.
How was The Skamatix formed?
The Skamatix really dates back to something I wanted to do back in college – I was playing in a jazz quintet and getting deeper and deeper into first-wave ska. First-wave ska and jazz seemed like such a natural combination to me, in that they both prominently feature horns and have a sort of rhythmic propulsion to them. I had filed the idea under “great projects that will never happen” until my jazz band split up and I briefly mentioned a ska/jazz project to my trumpet player Tim Kane. He completely jumped on it and pretty much put the band together within a week. As a side note, Tim lives around the corner from me and four of our six members all live in the same neighborhood!
I haven’t heard that much about the ska scene in Connecticut. What can you tell my readers about it as far as where they can go to find ska shows?
That’s a good question! The place to go is CTSka.com, which is co-run by my friend Alex Dancho. They have a pretty active message board for show listings.
Can you talk about your album a bit? It is for sale here. I see you have the download version (which I now have, thank you very much!) as well as limited edition physical editions. What made you decide to do both?
We decided to do a physical version and a downloadable version (with bonus tracks!) just from thinking of our experiences as music fans – sometimes you find out about a great band online but there’s no way to get a CD except for at a show, and they just happen to live far away or your schedule doesn’t let you go out to shows that often anymore. Or, sometimes you’re at a great show and you want to take a little piece of it home right then and there.
The Internet has changed everything in that you can’t market to just people who come to shows anymore – for everyone who’s at a show, there are five fans who couldn’t make it out to a late-night gig but still enjoy your music. Why ignore them?
While looking at your Myspace page, I came across Mindscape Music. Of course, I was attracted to the description as “dark.” Are you still working on that project?
Mindscape Music was a lot of fun and very gratifying to work on, but it’s pretty much on hiatus now. I love electronica (and dark elecronica!) and Mindscape Music was a great outlet for that. But unfortunately there’s only so many hours in a day!
As a teacher, what are some of the things you want to share with your students about music? Not just performance, but music in general.
Wow, that’s a good question! Well obviously I love all genres of music, so I try to teach my students with the “big picture” in mind by giving them information that they can use in any genre for the rest of their life. So I’m always doing things like showing how the movement between the notes in a jazz chord progression is like the movement between notes in a classical chord progression, or asking the students to identify the chords they’re playing rather than just playing the piece by rote. There’s so many ways for someone to play and enjoy music their entire life, I see my job as not just teaching how to play certain but facilitating a lifelong enthusiasm for music.
Thank you, Nate! I think you are going to have some pretty lucky students. I wish you and the band tons of luck on everything.
So if this interview has piqued your interest, which I can’t imagine it didn’t, check out The Skamatix’s online tunes and see what you think. Keep an eye on the official Myspace page to find out when The Skamatix will be playing live. The next show is actually tonight at Two Boots.