Rude Boy Keeping ska Alive
The Ottawa Sun
February 4, 1999
by Joshua Ostroff
The original rude boy was a Jamaican gangsta, bent on lootin’ and shootin’ and skankin’ to ska music.
But the island rude boy subculture of the mid ’60s — before ska (a combination of traditional Jamaican mento and New Orleans R&B slowed down its dance beat to become reggae — remains an integral part of modern ska.
“The whole meaning has changed,” explains Andy Gorham, organ player for local ska band Rude Boy. “In a Jamaican community, a rude boy is still a gangbanger of some kind. But you check out websites and it’s white kids in college from Minnesota.
“It’s become more of a style, a ska fan as opposed to someone who’s up to drug dealing and gun running.”
The altered meaning makes sense in the context of Ottawa band, comprised of five ska fanatics from local acts Jivewires, Chickhead, Stone Soul Picnic and the now-defunct Jimmy George.
But the band does feel some affinity to the original rude boy culture that was sparked by economic depression, homelessness and unemployment.
“Our leader Scott Amey was living in the slums of Halifax. I used to live in a ghetto in Toronto. All of us have had nowhere to live in the past. Do we have a right to do this? Do we have a right to call oursleves that? We sure as hell do.”
Nevertheless, they faced some criticism at the start for appropriating the Rude Boy name and image.
“We did get some flak from some of the Jamaican players in town who were a little apprehensive,” says Gorham. “But I’ve played with most of those guys in various reggae bands and once they heard the music and what we’re about, they sort of came around.
“We’re not authentic Jamaican ska, we love it and we try to incorporate those elements, but we’re not authentic British second wave either. When it really comes down to it, it’s only a band. We don’t have that much of a political statement.”
The band began about two years ago on the cusp of Ottawa’s brief flirtation with theneo-ska revival. The Cave and Zaphod Beblebrox both brgan ska nights and after Jimmy George wound up its long-running Sunday night residency at the Duke of Somerset, Rude Boy took over for half a year.
With swing winning the battle for retrominded hearts and dance shoes, ska has returned to its simmering underground status.
But Rude Boy is enjoying its status as “pretty much the only game in town.” Tomorrow night at Perfect Strangers they will be releasing their debut CD Shut Up and Dance, a combination of covers, rearrangement and originals.
This album could have come out 30 years ago. There’s no trickery or anything on it. It’s organic and natural and analogue.”
The sound is a mix of first and second wave ska — the first being the original Jamaican and teh second the late ’70s British version brought to the island by Jamaican immigrants and popularized by Madness, The Specials, English Beat and 2-Tone Records.
But Gorham says the band is not simply reliving the past — despite their aversion to contemporary third-wave ska popularized by groups like Reel Big Fish, Mighty Mighty Boss Tones and Rancid.
“I don’t hear anything that I would call new,” he argues. “Frank Zappa wrote there isn’t anything new coming out of music. It’s just cutting and pasting and putting it in a new order.”
Catch the infection of Rude Boy
The Kingston-Whig Standard
April 22, 1999
by Christina Varga
One of the best words to describe ska music is the overly used “infectious”.
But with ska, infectious works on different levels – from the different musical styles that have influenced ska to its spread across the ocean, but especially because of its relentlessly upbeat, jump-up, make-you-feel-like-you-can-keep-going-despite-heartache-and-injustice quality.
“A lot of us in the late ’70s and early ’80s were huge fans of the Specials,” said Scott Amey, lead singer for Rude Boy, a ska band from Ottawa playing at the Toucan tomorrow night.
The band — Amey, trombonist Steve Berndt, Hammond-organ player Andy Gorham, bassist Colin Burns and drummer Matt Wood — recently signed with Stomp records.
Rude Boy’s first CD, Shut Up and Dance, sticks to traditional ska stylings, even on unexpected covers, like Kiss’ Detroit Rock City, which, of couse, they called Detroit Ska City.
Jumped The Ocean
Ska is the mid-50s precursor to reggae and combines island rhythms with New Orleans R&B and became the music of Jamaican independence in the ’60s. When it jumped across the ocean, it became the music of British working-class youth in the ’80s. The English Beat, for instance, emerged out of that tradition.
As music reflecting the gangsta culture of Jamaican rude boys as well as the punk culture of angry, disenfranchised British youth, ska naturally deals with violence.
“People had few choices and a lot of violence in their lives. But they found a higher joy through song,” said Amey about the seeming paradox of angry music that has a warm, tropical tone.
It’s also obvious these guys are having fun.
Superspy — a song appropriate to our paranoid, X-files-obsessed age — plays with the hectic rhythm of pursuit and the organ whine of slinking through alleys, along with the muted microphone voice of secret missions.
Bang Bang, has shades of the theme from the Jamaican movie The Harder They Come (the harder they fall).
The band covers a range from Laurel Atkins’ Sally Brown to Edwin Starr’s War.
Its live show also features a lot of their original tunes: The lyricist for the band is singer Amey, and the musicians write their own parts.
We’re not afraid to have attitude,” says Amey. “We’re trying to bend the sound.”
The musicians all have at least 10 years of musical experience in a variety of styles – from jazz to blues to rock.
Amey says they like the agression of the rock influence and will even throw in a couple of polka or funk riffs.
As another ska revival revs up, Rude Boy is out to have a good time, saying that if they’re not having fun, the audience won’t.
The Toucan’s narrow space is a good fit for skanking — the up-and-down jump that is the preferred method of dancing to ska — an excited oh-oh-pick-me movement that perfectly reflects the infectious enthusiasm of the music.
Rude Boy at last puts Ottawa on the ska map
While ska percolates in other Canadian cities, it’s taken longer for Ottawa to tune in to the clipped guitars, bright horns and syncopated rhythms of ska’s reggae-pop blend.
In its heyday, ska was an offshoot of Britain’s early ’80s punk scene, but it’s recently had another surge in popularity, from the club level on up to the likes of Rancid and No Doubt.
Ottawa hasn’t had a serious ska band since the Skatterbrains. Until now.
Rude Boy has just recorded its first CD, Shut Up and Dance. With local musical all-stars (including keyboardist Andy Gorham, Jimmy George bassist Colin Burns and The Jivewires Steve Berndt), and a full slate of original songs and cover material, Rude Boy is set to fill Ottawa’s ska gap.
Headed by singer-songwriter Scott Amey, a longtime ska fan, Rude Boy cam together about two years ago, when Amey discovered other musicians just as crazy about the style.
“We’ve always loved ska, everybody in the band,” says keyboardist Andy Gorham.
Rude Boy developed its taut, old-school energy during five months of Sunday night gigs at the Duke of Somerset last year. That spirit is evident on the disc, though not a lot of time or money was spent recording.
The CD-release party is tomorrow at Perfect Strangers, 211 Rideau St. Showtime is around 10 p.m.; a cover charge will apply.
Behind the beat with Rude Boy
by Erica Beauchesne
So the scene where you live isn’t exactly thriving.
What do you do?
You can flee the city to find what you’re looking for somewhere else.
Or you can take matters into your own hands — start your own band, encourage others to do so too, put out a CD, book shows… do something and make a difference.
Rude Boy opted for the latter. A simple, yet gutsy approach to any problem: If you can’t beat ’em, change ’em.
That DIY energy is captured on Shut Up and Dance, Rude Boy’s debut CD. The album suggests a variety of influences.
“If I had to compare our sound to anything, I’d compare it to things that were happening in the early ’80s”, Rude Boy frontman Scott Amey suggests.
The music speaks for itself. As does the band’s choice of covers, which vary from Laurel Aitken’s Sally Brown to an interseting ska version of Edwin Starr’s War and, yes, Detroit Ska City — Amey’s personal tribute to KISS, the band that first inspired him to pick up an instrument and play music.
Apart from those that recall the grand ol’ Skatterbrains, Ottawans are only now getting their first does of local ska… and lovin’ it.
“Out audience ranges from late teens to people as old as 72,” Amey boasts.
Amey informs us that Rude Boy is a long-intended “project” that was put off a number of times, until it finally fell into place a couple of years ago.
“I just said, ‘We’re all in the same bar, my practice space is two doors down, let’s try it.’ We did, and after that, it just became infectious for everyone involved,” Amey recalls.
Almost all of Rude Boy’s members have a notable musical history. They’ve been affiliated with, or remain involved with, a number of local and east coast bands, including Jimmy George and The Jivewires.
Of course, cynics will label the sextet as trying to capitalize on the recent ska revival.
But, as Amey explains, “the people who are trying to capitalize on it are the clubs who aren’t interested in booking live music. They’ll have ska and swing DJs for some time, but when it doesn’t fly they’ll forget about it.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’re doing it for our own reasons. We’re not trying to cash in on anything. It’s not a flash in the pan for us.”
As for those inevitable comparisons, Amey reminds us the “the impression of ska varies from person to person — simply because there’s been three revivals over the past 15 years.
“That’s why I don’t really like to tag us as being a ska band. Pop influences are pretty strong in our music. So to put us on the same plane as say, The Bosstones and Rancid, it's an injustice to them as much as it is to ourselves. We share a similar beat, but stylistically it is a different music.”
Ultimately, the band’s intentions are as simple and positive as Rude Boy’s message. “it’s all about having a good time,” Amey stresses. “Providing happy, fun, danceable, entertaining music.”
Ottawa's Westfest skanks with Rude Boy
The Ottawa Citizen
June 15, 2009
by Lynn Saxberg
“Rudeboy was another nice surprise in the all-Ottawa lineup. The verteran ska band has blown off the cobwebs and freshened up their attack, with singer Scott Amey together with Trombonist Steve Berndt, forming a snazzy frontline. Their sound was crisp and clean, and the bright brassy beat inspired some enthusiastic dancing in the crowd.
Rudeboy has been on a comeback in recent months somehow attracting the attention of KISS mogul Gene Simmons, who was perported to be considering signing the band to his label. In tribute to making it to Gene's radar, the band played a terrific version of Detroit Rock City.”
Rude Boy Kissed
The Ottawa Sun
September 16, 2009
by Dennis Armstrong
Sometimes, making it big isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Just ask Rudeboy, the local ska band caught the attention of KISS's Gene Simmons, who thought the band had potential to make it big after listening to their two CD's.
It was more than they had ever hoped to hear. But then the bubble burst when the tongued one asked them what their gag was.
Gag? At first they thought he was referring to something he saw on Just For Laughs.
But Simmons, one of rock's best marketing visionaries, said if a band wanted to succeed they had to sell their brand as well as their music.
In the case of KISS, a band known for their multiple gags, it was the costumes, fireworks and girls.
Sadly, Rudeboy didn't have a “gag”. No exploding reefers or dreadlocked dancers. All five members in the band- Scott Amey, Matt Wood, Colin Burns, Marshall Stack and Steve Berndt- presumed their music, original tunes and covers of Bob Marley, The Specials, Toots and The Maytals and other Jamaican classics, were gag enough for the band. Even their ska version of KISS's Detroit Rock City wasn't enough to interest Simmons.
“His idea of a hook for a band is KISS and we're not KISS,” says Berndt.
Still, having a star in their corner galvanized the band to work harder and think bigger.
They got new mamagement in Toronto, which led to a mini tour in March, opening for The English Beat's Dave Wakeling. After, Berndt joined Detroit R&B legends The Funk Brothers for a tour.
Since then, they've been playing nonstop as well as recording their third album, launching their new website rudeboy.ca and are working on a east coast tour as well as a date at the Rainbow Nov. 13.
“We’ve been in high gear since hearing from Simmons,” Berndt says. “The band is raring to go.”
As well as being a full-time jazz musician, Berndt also fronts the swing band The Jivewires, who have been put on hiatus while Berndt focuses on Rudeboy.
“Even though the ska scene has gone underground, there are lots of talented bands. We’re happy to be among the top Canadian ska bands and seeing more of our country. Maybe we'll find our gag,” he says with a laugh.
Just ask Gene Simmons.