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Current Events/News/Press

Film of Skafish on Music Underdogs-WJOB Radio, 6/10/2012

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Check out the film of my Sunday, June 10, 2012 radio interview on WJOB’s Music Underdogs. The show was hosted by Rick Kubic, Kat Marlow, and Larry “The K” Keilman in Hammond, Indiana.

That night, we talked about the possible release of my 21st birthday bootleg concert performance from August 29, 1977 at Ratso’s in Chicago, and the Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. I also got the chance to premiere many never-before-released tracks from the bootleg, and take phone calls from the audience.

We discussed my history, origins as a musician, and my career as an international artist, where I’ve had the true honor of performing and touring alongside such greats as The Police, Iggy Pop, Ramones, Cramps, Scorpions, Sha Na Na, U-2, UB-40, English Beat, XTC, Squeeze, The Stranglers, Ultravox, Dead Boys, Lemonheads, and others. On a more local level, we discussed the history and origins of the Chicago punk, new wave, and alternative scene, which I’ve been credited with starting back in February 1976.

The film, which was done by Guy Rhodes, is 1 hour and 36 minutes long.

Enjoy! – Skafish

Back In The Day/Current Events/News/Press

Skafish Bootleg: The Final Decision

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First, I want to thank everyone who sent me emails and left comments regarding the Kickstarter project not reaching its funding goal. Your well-wishes and words of encouragement are greatly appreciated. As I said in my last post on June 24, 2012, you wouldn’t hear from me for a while, because I needed to take a break and regroup. Then, I would make my final decision regarding whether the bootleg was going to be released or not.

After looking at all the options, sorting through everything that has happened, and deciding what the bottom line is, I have made my decision: I am going to release the bootleg in a digital-only format. The release date of the project will be August 29, 2012, which is its 35th anniversary to the day. (The album will also include 8 brand new commentary tracks that I recently recorded.) For all of you who are interested in the project, please sign up for my free mailing list at http://www.skafish.com/guestbook.htm and you will be notified first of any and all developments.

I ultimately made the decision to move forward with the bootleg project because I feel that this concert is simply far too valuable of a work to not share it with my fans, and with those who like genre-defining and genre-defying underground rock. The performance of my band is flawless, as it always was, and filled with both cathartic angst and primal intensity from beginning to end. Add in the reverent audience reaction, and this was a night that deserves to be celebrated forever. For me personally, it represents the milestones of turning 21 (the day of the original concert), and now, being able to release it on my birthday 35 years later.

As I said before, this will be the first-ever live Skafish album, and it will feature 27 songs, including 15 original Skafish compositions that have never been released in any form prior. Also, the record will have my first release of a cover song, which is the legendary Bobby Darin classic, “Splish Splash.” The 8 new commentary tracks that are included will tell the historical back-story of that time period, the songs, the project, and how it all came together.

Depending on what level of interest the bootleg garners, I will possibly consider releasing it in physical formats in the future. That could include limited edition vinyl releases, as well as a CD package. We’ll see what happens.

Through the process, I have taken inspiration from this quote by Winston Churchill: “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” What keeps the bootleg alive is my continued enthusiasm and passionate commitment to its phenomenal performance, its message, and the revolutionary spirit of its origin. I’m looking forward to this recording finally coming out from the shadows and into the light for everyone to hear and share. I hope that all of you enjoy experiencing this record as much as I do. It is music at its very bravest. — Skafish

Current Events/News/Press

Bootleg project not funded/what’s next?

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I just wanted to let everyone know that the project to fund my historic 1977 bootleg concert to celebrate my 21st birthday at Ratso’s in Chicago was not funded. To all of you who pledged, that means that you won’t be charged anything.

First, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who pledged to the project. The fact that many of you contributed your money to funding the bootleg means a lot to me. Also, to those of you who wanted to pledge to the project, but just didn’t have the money, I appreciate your intentions and well-wishes. I completely get how hard it is out there for many of us to just survive. I know it, because I have lived through debilitating poverty at different points in my own journey.

Since every Skafish record that has ever been released since the 1970’s has yet to financially break even (yet alone make a profit), I thought it would be great if the bootleg project could at least, pay for itself. That, along with my desire to give my fans the chance to participate in the process, were the reasons for the Kickstarter campaign. I have been, and continue to be passionately committed to my art, but it’s hard always going into serious debt with each project.

Of course, I feel the disappointment of the project not getting funded, but I am also grateful for all I’ve learned. I’ve always believed in taking chances and trying new things that could invigorate the process of all I do.

At this time, I need to take a break, regroup, go through whatever emotions are there, and ultimately, decide if the bootleg project can be salvaged on any level. So you won’t hear from me for a while, but when things are clear to me and I know in my heart the right thing to do, I will let everyone know. Till then, thanks again for your support and for sharing this experience with me! — Skafish

Back In The Day/News/Press

Skafish on WJOB Radio’s Music Underdogs Show on Sunday, June 10!

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I would love it if you join me on WJOB Radio on Sunday June 10, 2012, from 9:00 PM United Stated Central Time through 11:00 PM, when I will be a guest on the show, “Music Underdogs.” On the show, host Rick Kubic and I will premiere never-before-heard tracks from my 1977 live bootleg concert, and discuss both the local and international history of “Skafish.” Make sure to call into the show at 219-845-1100, or post on the message board, and I will be happy to answer your questions. Throughout the world, log on to http://www.wjob1230.com/ where the show will be streamed online, and in the Northwest Indiana area, feel free to tune into your radio at 1230AM.

As some of you may already know, I have launched a Kickstarter project to attempt to fund the release of the bootleg, where I am offering some very cool first-time limited-edition rewards for your financial pledges. If the bootleg gets funded by Sunday, June 24, 2012, it would end up becoming the first live Skafish album ever.

One of the things that is so exciting about the bootleg concert is that it features 27 songs, and 15 of those have never been released in any form before! Since the clock is ticking, please pledge to the Kickstarter project if you want to see the concert released. To find out more information about the project and how you can participate, click here:

Also, if you missed my appearance on the Razor and Die radio show in Chicago on May 25, 2012, you can listen to the entire broadcast by clicking here.

Your support is greatly appreciated — Skafish

Current Events/News/Press

Join Me on the Radio Tomorrow!

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Join me on the radio tomorrow, Friday May 25, 2012! Make sure to tune in when I will be a guest on the Razor and Die Show in Chicago from 4:30 to 5:30 pm. Throughout the world, listen to the entire broadcast online at www.wluw.org. If you’re in Chicago and want to listen on the radio, tune in to 88.7 FM. If you want me to answer your questions on the air, post them during the broadcast at http://www.facebook.com/razoranddieshow  and we will try to get to them!

On the show, I will be interviewed and also premiere several unreleased live bootleg tracks from my historic 1977 concert at Ratso’s in Chicago. Fifteen of the tracks from the concert are Skafish compositions that have never been released in any form prior, and many of them will be heard for the first time ever throughout the world tomorrow.

Also, I just created the I Want My Skafish Bootleg Facebook page. Please visit the page at http://www.facebook.com/IWantMySkafishBootleg and“Like” it. You can always check there for the latest updates regarding the bootleg project.

Keep in mind that if you want to see the bootleg released, please pledge your support to my Kickstarter project, and in return, you will get some very cool first-time limited edition rewards. Keep in mind that there’s only 30 days left to go, so please make your pledge today. Here is the link for the Kickstarter fundraising campaign, and spread the word: http://kck.st/JabAwc
Skafish

Back In The Day/Current Events/News/Press

Skafish to be Interviewed and Premiere Unreleased 1977 Bootleg Tracks on Chicago’s Razor and Die Show

Posted by Skafish on

I will be a guest on the Razor and Die Show in Chicago on Friday May 25, 2012 from 4:30 to 5:30 pm. On the show, I will be interviewed and also premiere several unreleased live bootleg tracks from my historic 1977 concert at Ratso’s in Chicago. Many of the tracks from the concert are Skafish compositions that have never been released in any form prior, and you’ll be the first to hear several of them.

Throughout the world, listen to the entire broadcast online at www.wluw.org. If you’re in Chicago and want to listen on the radio, tune in to 88.7 FM.

Exclusively via Facebook, post your questions during the broadcast at http://www.facebook.com/razoranddieshow  and we will try to answer them live on the air.

From the historical perceptive, to anecdotal stories and personal recollections, there is a great deal to discuss, and we will try to cover it all. Plus, we’re gonna play some really edgy and groundbreaking music! Please spread the word, and make sure to tune in!

Also, I just created the I Want My Skafish Bootleg Facebook page. Please visit the page at http://www.facebook.com/IWantMySkafishBootleg and“Like” it. You can always check there for the latest updates regarding the bootleg project.

Keep in mind that if you want to see the bootleg released, please pledge your support to my Kickstarter project, and in return, you can get some very cool first-time limited edition rewards. Here is the link for the Kickstarter fundraising campaign: http://kck.st/JabAwc

Your support is greatly appreciated!
Skafish

Back In The Day/Current Events/News/Press/Skafish Jazz

Skafish NPR Interview With Live Piano Performance

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When my first holiday jazz album, “Tidings Of Comfort And Joy – A Jazz Piano Trio Christmas” was first released in 2006, I was interviewed on the Chicago National Public Radio show Eight-Forty-Eight with host Steve Edwards to discuss the record. On the show, I also played live piano versions of three of my album tracks. We also talked about my musical background, and the origins of the Chicago punk scene.

I’ve put together a visual compilation which helps to tell the narrative of the interview, and features many never-before-seen images.

Enjoy! Skafish

News/Press

Skafish Interviewed in Spain’s Premier Rock Magazine

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Here is the interview I did with Alberto Diaz for Ruta66, Spain’s Premier Rock Magazine. It just appeared in the December 2011 print issue, and this is the first post of it in the United States. I hope you enjoy it, and please leave a comment here — Skafish  

“DISGRACING THE FAMILY NAME SINCE 1976”
SKAFISH INTERVIEW — By Alberto Díaz (Ruta 66 Magazine, December 2011-Spain)

When Chicago was still drowsing with good old blues, a youngster of impossible face and irreverent spirit took the microphone to express his disagreement and difference. Another punk-rock stray bullet to remember.

Once there was a man stuck to a nose, a guy burdened from childhood by fear and rage, hate and pain; a mistreated boy, stigmatized as “different” that focused all his negativity into a unique and inimitable art. Half eccentric genius, half circus freak, Jim Skafish turned Chicago’s scene upside down in the middle 70s, crowning himself –and his band- as artisans of the most uneasy and belligerent art-punk-rock. His intermittent story is a sequence of falls and knocks, will-power limping with wounded knees through a road full of pot holes and barbed wire; a blurred legend that few people seem to remember and others preferred to forget. That is not the case. From these pages (Ruta 66 magazine, December 2011 issue), we celebrate the thirty-five years of existence of this extraordinary entity talking with this main protagonist.

*Shocking, ambiguous, unpredictable, eclectic… Who (or What) is Skafish?
It seems that everyone has a different idea of who Skafish is. To some, I’m the snotty jerk who sang a song like “Joan Fan Club.” To others, especially other artists, I’m considered a musical genius. More mainstream fans and critics don’t often know who I am, or sometimes they view me as a weird, quirky, oddball character.

(And who’s right? All of them, kind of, as…)
Skafish is a seriously trained musician. I began piano lessons at age six, then I studied organ, then learned music theory, and voice. Because of my intense training in classical and jazz, musically I’m literally able to play anything, from Chopin to Art Tatum to Little Richard to Scott Joplin. Also, I can compose music in any style.

Skafish is also a person who has been a social misfit and outcast. My 12 years of Catholic school was a brutal experience for me, and I have continued to be treated as a social outcast throughout much of my life. Part of that deals with the way that I look: my huge hook nose, the appearance of breasts, my odd dress, and sometimes wearing makeup.

The human emotional intensity I’ve experienced from all I’ve been through helps to fuel and facilitate Skafish music, lyrics, visuals, and performance style. Skafish lyrics often have an edgy and controversial quality to them.

Skafish is also a spiritual person. I’ve studied metaphysics, psychic ability, astrology, reincarnation, and spirit meduimship since I was a teenager. Using my psychic abilities is an important part of who I am in my daily life and also in my music.

*35 years ago, you turned Chicago scene upside now, becoming the city’s first punk rocker. How do you remember those days?
First, let me put it into historical context, because nowadays, people take for granted that there was always punk, and indie rock, but at that time, there was NO such scene at all in Chicago. My first show in Chicago in February of 1976 started it all. I had no idea that I was starting what some people have now referred to as the beginning of Chicago’s modern rock era

People were utterly shocked by what I was doing. Audiences were sometimes violent, especially when I stripped down to an old fashioned old ladies one piece bathing suit and applied lipstick to my face. Then, after I stripped, I performed “Sign of the Cross,” while sprinkling the audience with authentic blessed Catholic holy water while swinging burning church incense as well.

Skafish1

 

*Why did you decided to adopt such an androgynous –and brave- look ?First, my appearance was not calculated at all, as in the way many performers create an image, a stage persona, or a gimmick. As shocking as it all was, I was just being me. I was always considered “weird” from the day I walked into kindergarten, and I had been persecuted virtually every day of my upbringing for the way I looked, dressed, and for who I was. I had a huge hook nose, the appearance of breasts, big feet, dressed oddly, was strange, and didn’t fit in at all.

The way I presented myself on stage was an extension of the way I looked in daily life, on the streets, and it just evolved step-by-step.

It really shocked and turned off many people, because it was so real, deliberately unattractive, and non-glamorous. It was anti-pretty-boy-rock star long before that became in vogue. And yes, there were many violent reactions from audiences.

*Fortunately, you got good friends there that protected you when things got ugly. Cheap Trick were one of them..,
Cheap Trick started coming to my shows back in November of 1976, and things just evolved from there. We both hung out at La Mere Vipere, Chicago’s first punk dance club in 1977-1978, and they tried to spread the word about what I was doing.

They told a great story in the liner notes to my record “What’s This? 1976-1979,” which really showed how protective they were of me. When Skafish was performing in Cheap Trick’s hometown of Rockford, Illinois in the fall of 1976, they came out to see the show. Of course, the audience was freaking out on my appearance and the performance. Then, the audience decided to take matters into their own hands. As they started to approach the stage like an angry mob, I was scared. But Rick Nielsen came to the rescue. He stood right at the front of the stage between me and the locals. He held a beer bottle over his head, ready to defend us. Luckily for us, the crowd did back down.

*Wow! What a guy, Rick Nielsen!
I love Cheap Trick. To me, they belong in the rock and roll hall of fame, and I hope that they can get there. A good memory I have of them is when they asked me to record with them, and I sang back up in the studio. I love their song “Surrender,” and I especially like the live version of “I want you to want me.” I also quite like their mid 1980’s comeback hit “The flame.” That was a great ballad, and I believe it went to number one in America.

Skafish2*Which other artists inspired you?
I was quite inspired by everything, and I mean everything: Little Richard, Weather Report, Muddy Waters, David Bowie, Edgar Varese, The Beatles, Classic Blues, and especially Classical music, because the composing and structure was so fantastic. 

*Let’s talk a little about your first album (to me, a wonderful and unknown classic!). The songs were catchy and full of melody, but also with a frantic and serious message… how would you define the spirit and music kept in this vinyl?
I would define my first album as a really diverse, complex, and multi-faceted mixture of music and message. The spirit was about rebellion, social commentary, being left out, rejection, sadness, alienation, being an outcast, spirituality, the world I grew up in, my family dysfunction, rage, getting even, persecution, emotional obsession, not fitting in anywhere, and a lack of sexual freedom in society.

Since I could do anything musically, the music was specifically designed to facilitate the message, which was largely defined by the concepts of the songs and the lyrics. For the album, I drew upon lots of styles to do that: punk, new wave, pop, rock, alternative, indie, metal, progressive jazz, avant-garde, Broadway, show tunes, blues, and electronic.

As with everything I’ve done, I wanted to make a record that was singularly Skafish, and create a spirit that was completely honest, real, explosive, and solely on my own terms. I had hoped at the time that the record would have connected with a lot of people.

*How much of autobiographical are the lyrics of Skafish (the album)? The songs talk about sexual humiliation, loneliness, rejection… not a happy collection of hymns, even though they’re sticky like a strange and sour bubblegum.
The answer to your question is simple. All of the lyrics on my first album are 100% autobiographical. Many of the lyrics just told the story of what happened to me, or things that I saw. It was the life I had led up to that point and the world as I saw it. It was painful, horrific, terrifying, and tortuous on many levels.

Because of the extremes that I had lived through by being considered a social outcast, I felt that I had a lot to say in my songs. Writing those songs gave me a terrific outlet. A lot of pain went into making that record, but I tried to make the songs catchy, so they would stick like glue to people.

*In your European tour you met a lot of important bands (Police, U2, XTC)… any anecdote you want to share?
There were a lot of magical moments, and some tough ones, too. That tour had so many legendary acts: The Police, XTC, English Beat, UB-40, Squeeze, and U-2, in Ireland. I was really so lucky to be included in such an incredible line-up. The Police were extremely kind and supportive to me. XTC listed Skafish as their favorite new group in their tour program, and I heard from someone that Bono referred to me as a genius, although I didn’t hear that first hand. It was incredible to be treated so warmly by artists who were so much more famous that I was at the time. It really meant a lot, because I was young, scared, and on foreign soil for the first time.

*And what about your concerts with Iggy Pop?
For me, it was a time of promise and hope, because that tour coincided with the release of our first record, the UK/European single, “Disgracing the Family Name,” B/W “Work Song.” We toured with Iggy Pop in November 1979 and we got on with him really well. It was rough in Detroit, because both Iggy and I were egged that night. When my band member Barbie Goodrich came on stage to start our show and she said, “Hi, I’m Barbie,” she got hit with an egg right in the face. That was a long night as I remember. It turned out to be a great double bill, because our styles complimented each other well. Iggy is one of my all-time favorites, because of how innovative he was.

*In the Urgh! movie, we had a chance to find your name amongst other great artist (from Pere Ubu to Devo, the Cramps, Gary Numan, etc)…this time, with one of your biggest classics, “Sign of the cross”… what does this song means to you?
I’m not sure that I could put into words just how important “Sign of the Cross” is to me. Besides being the first sacrilegious rock song ever written back in 1976, it represented twelve tortuous years of the abusive experience I got from attending Catholic schools. For instance, one of my grammar school teachers locked me in a tiny broom closet during class, and left me there. Another time, the high school band teacher choked me on a choral trip to Canada, while other teachers and students just stood there and watched.

All of the emotional pain, rage, fear, torment, and the desire to tear down all of the negative aspects of organized religion went into the writing and performance of the song. When I wrote it, I wanted it to be like a wrecking ball that would destroy the hypocrisy of organized religion.

Now, I see it as a piece that was part of my spiritual awakening, because it opened the door for me to find my own spirituality, which of course is broader and more metaphysically based than the limits of any organized religion.

*Second album, Conversation. Underrated piece, different sound… what’s your opinion on this record after all these years?
I look it now as a record that was great, and is much better than I originally thought it was. It was a very difficult record to make, because the original second album I turned in was rejected for being too controversial. Then, we had to amend certain tracks, and record new ones to try to make a record that the company deemed acceptable.

Even though it was a tough process, I really appreciate a lot of things about “Conversation,” especially the songs, the sound of the record, my singing, and the support of my longtime partner Glinda Harrison. If we would have had time to develop those songs, they could have all been more “finished,” and the record might have done better commercially.

*After Conversation, you seemed to fade away… only releasing limited cassettes and hiding from the spotlight. What happened?
I didn’t intend to fade away, and I certainly wasn’t hiding from the spotlight. What actually happened was that I just became less well known than I had been, and that occurred in steps.

First, we lost momentum because there were three years and four months between the release of my first and second album. When the second album ended up being such a different type of record than the first, that hurt us commercially. Also, the record company didn’t do much at all to support the record. Then, when IRS Records dropped me in 1984, my band and I did a West Coast tour of California to try and get a new record deal. When no other record company was interested in signing Skafish, my band, I, and manager parted ways. From that point, I ended up being out there on my own.

I worked extremely hard around Chicago and Northwest Indiana, performing consistently from 1983 through October 1, 1994. Most of that was done as a solo show, and I briefly had two different bands, one in 1987, and the other in 1994. I was also in a cover band in South Chicago with Skafish keyboardist Javier Cruz. I wrote so many songs, and in 1983, I started making recordings, mostly on my own

I released a cassette project in 1988 called “Limited Series Cassette,” and another cassette only release in 1992 called “Best Kept Secrets.” Because this was long before the Internet, neither of them sold much at the time, because they were only available locally. I feel that there are some excellent songs on both of those projects. In fact, the drummer for several tracks was Jeff Ward, who went on to play for Nine Inch Nails, and Ministry. My backing singers, Nadima, went on to sing for Aretha Franklin.

*You were off the radar for some years… until the internet has (re)discovered your legacy and you came back. Now you got a blog, a compilation album (What’s This?) and a Jazz Christmas album… Why did it take so long to have you back in the saddle?
Although people may not have been aware of it, I have always been consistently involved in my musical career. Whether I was composing, recording, working on my voice, exercising, dancing, or trying to do business deals, everything finally came together to release the two records you’re speaking of. 

 Skafish3

When I was able to release “Tidings of Comfort and Joy – A Jazz Piano Trio Christmas,” in 2006, and “What’s This? 1976-1979,” in 2008, that gave me a larger degree of visibility. Because of the internet, that visibility has been international.

*After all these years, what have you learned about life?
There’s so much that I could say about all I’ve learned about life. That could be a very long book, lol! I will say that my life has unfolded in a radically different way than I ever thought it would when I was a teenager. My spiritual path has been crucial to this evolution, and I definitely have a more broad view of the world now. I understand the connectedness in everything, versus just being the outsider misfit teenager who wanted to boldly take over the world through my revolutionary art.

*And what have you learned about music business?
The music business is in rough shape right now. Thanks to social networking and the Internet, it is possible for an artist to be more in control of their own work than ever before. The “Conversation” album is a perfect example of what happens when an artist is not in control of their own art.

*Do you feel like a highly overlooked artist?
I’m still waiting for an accurate version of the history of Skafish to be written. I’ve mentioned this on my blog already.

The revisionist approach to musical history, especially in Chicago, has been extreme. I have been surprised that people who weren’t there back in the day could just come along and make things up, change the facts, put their own personal spin on it, present it as history, and that no one would challenge what they’re saying.

For me, I just tell the truth about what really has happened, and keep moving forward. I have been having this reoccurring dream for decades that I’m on the verge of graduating from high school, but somehow, I can’t, and then, I’m stuck in limbo without a diploma. It always feels existential and hopeless in the dream….

SKAFISH INTERVIEW by Alberto Díaz

Published December 2011 issue, Ruta 66 Magazine (Spain)

 

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