If you've been to a big NYC ska show then you've seen Phil. He's hard to miss with his checkerboard creepers, NHS glasses and slightly modified take on Don King's hairstyle. He recently was the MC at a show my band played with The Pilfers at the Knitting Factory. He knows just about everyone in the NYC Ska scene and everyone knows him.
Unfortunately you need to live in Manhattan or Queens to see the show, but if you ever visit our fair city make it your business to tune into channel 34 at Midnight on Tuesday's to see what you are missing. Just about every major U.S. ska band has paid a visit to perform on Phil's show. He is a true treasure of the scene here and I have nothing but love and respect for the passion and energy he puts into keeping his show going. Its not all that different from the hard work that ska bands put into playing out.
Without further ado, here is an e-mail interview I conducted with Phil recently.
At a time when most Americans teenagers were listening to Duran Duran or Motley Crue in the 80's, you were discovering ska music. How did this happen?
Before Ska I was very big on new wave music. I listened to a lot of WLIR (which became WDRE) They played a lot of English Beat and Madness I think they also had a little ska show that was like an hour long. I think it was "One Step Beyond" This was my main indoctrination towards Two Tone Ska. Add Ska friendly Comics like Evan Dorkins Pirate Corps and Hewlitt and Martins Tank Girl I was off and running!
You grew up in NYC. Do you remember the early days of the NYC SKA scene and those Sunday Matinee Shows at CBGB's?
*Sigh!*It all mushes together in my mind, Yeah, There used to be a lot of cool shows in the vil. Things dwindled around the time they started cracking down after the Thompkins Square Riots (1989-90). I remember a lot of combination shows that had Ska hardcore and punk! Toasters, NY Citizens, Bigger Thomas (of course!) 24-7 Spyz, Murphys Law, SFA, 2 Minutes To Hate, Sic & Mad, Agent 99, Skinnerbox, Scofflaws, Second Step and Urban Blight! Bushmon, Casualties, Gamma Phi Acme etc, There were a lot of Venues too!
Lol! In the mid to late 80's I used to really be into watching NYC Public Access television. Not just Robin Byrd and Midnight Blue with their plethora of humorously titillating 900 number commercials (those shows were actually "leased cable" meaning they were allowed to sell commercials). I dug Public Access, the free stuff! Shows like Beyond Vaudeville, Love Cats/ Weather Report/ Mystical Realm, Vole Show, Rapid T. Rabbit, Tend To Offend, G Street Live, So in the mid 90's when MNN stated giving classes and teaching people how to get their own show for free I jumped on it. My motto was if it's for free it's for me! Originally it was just a video show with some live performances. I used to edit it it at home for vhs to vhs and it showed. The hosts were My High School Pal Mike as the Masked Mutant, my homegirl from Rocky Horror, Cinnamon and I. Originally it was a cool way to get free cds, merch and access to guest lists but my main goal was to always get ska music to the masses that wasn't getting a lot of airplay (at this time the only Ska in commercial radio was Bosstones and No Doubt, a lil' RBF). I especially liked putting live footage on the air! This was for the peeps who couldn't go to shows. Kids trapped in bedsit land, their only home.
How does it feel to be a cable access TV star?
Fame without fortune sometimes has perks. I got moved to the front of the line at some club thingy. I got in for free but all my friends had to pay. Sometimes someone will stop you on the street or offer to buy you a drink at a club. As long as people dig the show. If somebody sees a band they dig on the show and they turn around and go to a show or buy a cd of the band then my job is done. I hipped em to something new. That's important.
Note: to have your own public access show is still free in the NY area anyway I highly encourage everyone to get your own show! This was the real REALITY TV before it was cool!
How much work is involved in getting an episode of the show on the air?
Who are some of the ska bands you've had on the show?
There is one band who has NEVER performed on the show. YET! (glares at Marco tapping his foot)
Any memorable or strange shows that particularly stand out?
Who are your favorite ska bands?
As a high school art teacher you are well aware of the musical tastes of today's teens. Are they into ska the way we were when we were their age?
You are a true renaissance man. Tell me about your interests outside of ska?
What is your connection to Underdog Woman?
Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates.
Here is the show intro and promo featuring Phil and some videos of band performances:
The Slackers with Coolie Ranx
The Rudie Crew