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NIGHT LIFE / THE CLUB SCENE

Ska-Daddyz Make Waves

June 03, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Remember the TV show, "The Courtship of Eddie's Father"? Well, Eddie was child actor Brandon Cruz, later the lead screamer of Dr. Know. His tube dad, Bill Bixby, went on to become the Incredible Hulk, but that's another story. This story is about the musicianship of Eddie's little brother, Darren Cruz, and his new band, the Ska-Daddyz.

They'll be making people dance Saturday night at the Bermuda Triangle in Ventura. Opening will be Finnhead.

Ska-Daddyz hail from the Silver Strand in Oxnard, which has had a strong--and loud--musical tradition going back more than a decade, when all sorts of hard-core punk bands used to scare each other's parents. Groups such as Agression, Dr. Know, Ill Repute and Stalag 13 collectively became known as Nardcore.

"We're all from the Strand and we all surf," said Cruz the younger. "Everybody in the band surfs, and I don't mean surf geeks, but shredders--real contest shredders. The Nardcore scene goes back to the days of skinheads before they were racists."

Well, it's a good thing there are still waves, because, according to this shredder/guitarist, there really aren't a lot of places to play around his hometown.

"Oxnard is dead," said Cruz, who probably won't get quoted in the next tourism brochure. "Totally dead. There's nowhere to play and nobody's doing anything at all. Champs has music on weekends but it's like classic rock, like Dusty Rose or Red Dragon for the older crowd."

Cruz also takes issue with a heretofore unheard of complaint made by a bar owner: too crowded. This is sort of like the dancers complaining about free beer.

"We played Champs once and we had 300 people in there," he said. The bar owners "thought it was too crowded. We've played Ernie's, a little place down on Mountain View a few times, but that's it."

The Ska-Daddyz first reared their saltwater-logged noggins in January, when Capricorns the world over were feeling older. But with seven band members, each of whom gets one-seventh of the take after a gig . . . well, let's just say that everybody still has a day job.

Perhaps feeling existential about seeing their names in the paper are Cruz's even younger brother Blake, the rhythm guitarist; Dustin Maddelone, who sings; Jess Leedy, adding backup vocals and playing sax; bass player Paul Shinn on bass, who shows off his not-inconsiderable tattoo collection; Billy Davis, in his first band and playing keyboards, and Phil Pollock hitting the drums.

"Three of us--Dustin, Jess and myself--used to be in the Irie Ites, but we quit to start something a little more original and a little more upbeat," Cruz said. "Ska music is different than reggae in that it's more energized, which gets the crowd more into the band's energy.

"When we did reggae," he said, "the crowd would sit down and zone out. Nobody was sweating or drinking enough beer. I think ska and the mod thing are coming back."

The band already knows more than two dozen songs, about three-quarters of them originals. The singers aren't going to make anyone forget the Temptations, but Maddelone and Leedy can get pretty frantic about dancing. In short, the Ska-Daddys have power to spare.

Also, not surprisingly, some of the band's originals have surf themes, such as "Wave Rider" and "Nine-Foot Gun." The group also does songs by the Specials and Bad Manners plus raging versions of "Ranking Full Stop" by the English Beat and "(I'm Not) Your Steppin' Stone" by those Monkees.

"I think there's a lot of feeling in our music," Cruz said. "It's great being up there expressing myself and watching people sweating and dancing. On the other hand, being in a band is like having six girlfriends with six different attitudes and trying to be true to them all."

The next step?

"We want to get into the studio," Cruz said, "make a tape, get some gigs, maybe go to Santa Barbara."

The usual.

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