Being Good At Ska, Like A Plumber Is Good At Plumbing

12 February 2016 | 12:32 pm | Brynn Davies

"Ska is definitely on the upstroke. Get it?"

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Anyone born post '95 know about ska? That cool-as melting pot of reggae vibes, jazz, a little rhythm and blues and a touch of calypso. Basically — for us who know/remember it — it's funky shit, and hasn't fallen into obscurity so much as undergone a number of facelifts over the years.

After seemingly falling off the planet when reggae split into its own distinctive genre in the '60s, ska didn't come up for air again until 1980, when the revival gained traction through England and parts of the USA. Today, ska has mixed with punk rock to create a third wave, and riding it through is Dan Potthast: the Yank that fronted MU330 which he co-founded during the late '80s, and who currently tours with his own Santa Cruz-based ska collective. He's red-blooded proof that the genre is alive and well.

"Be passionate and do your best and people will find out about you and appreciate you."

"I guess it's gone up and down through the years, but I feel like whether ska is 'popular' at the moment or not, the one constant is that if there's a good band out there, people will find them," he muses.

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People did find him recently… on their property. Potthast just wrapped up a 63-date living room tour across the US and Canada "all in people's living rooms, back yards, attics, basements, and garages" and "basically ate barbeque for three straight months". Despite gaining "a bit of weight", the intimacy of the experience left him with a newfound love of the food-gig combo. "There is something basic and primal about breaking bread with people that connects us with our humanity, and it was great to do that every night. It's a great formula. Share food then share music. People are awesome," he said.

Potthast has also been busy working on a new solo record set to drop in a few months called To The Lions — on coloured vinyl none the less! As soon as that goes, his ten-piece ska band will start recording a new album at the end of March. And if that's not enough, he's reviving the older stuff: "Sharkanoid is recording a new full length in late April. I've been demoing the tunes this week, and Ted Moll from MU330 will be playing drums on this record. But wait! There's more… MU330 recorded a new song over the holidays, and will probably lay down basic tracks for another new tune in late April during the Sharkanoid session. I'm not sure where these songs will wind up, but it's the first time we've written and recorded music together in about 15 years, and it's been exciting to see that process happen again."

With so many fingers in as many pies, it almost seems like Potthast is single-handedly holding up ska through 2016. But he's content to play the genre rather than predict where it's going to go next. "Ska is definitely on the upstroke. Get it? Actually… I don't really feel like it's my job to follow or predict trends or shifts in what people like or don't like, or if a genre is good are bad, or where people's opinions are headed, or what other people are going to create or record.

"So if you play ska, be good at it. Just like if you're a plumber, or a banker or a racecar driver… Be passionate and do your best and people will find out about you and appreciate you."