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MUSIC: Ventura County | ROCKTALK

Sound of Survival

Ska Daddyz have left their rowdy days behind to become more focused and professional.


So what's the sound of Oxnard's primo surfing community, Silver Strand? It's the roar of perfect tubes crashing on the shore, where "duuuuude" is a three-syllable word. It's also the howl of foreign fin-heads fleeing for their worthless lives once the territorial locals find the visitors have the wrong ZIP Code.

Besides all these waterlogged wahoos, the Strand has a strong (and loud) musical tradition that stretches to the early '80s, when hard-core bands used to scare each others' parents. Groups such as Agression, Ill Repute, Stalag 17, Dr. Know and the rest came to be known collectively as Nardcore, a takeoff on their Oxnard roots.

The successor to this genre is none other than Ska Daddyz, survivors of six long, hard years on the local scene. Now with a new self-titled album, the band will have a CD-release party Saturday night at Bombay Bar & Grill in Ventura.

Three members of Ska Daddyz have survived--guitar player Darren "Zorba" Cruz, sax player and lead singer Jess Leedy and keyboardist Billy Davis. The three former Ska Daddyz--Blake Cruz, Paul Shinn and Dustin Maddelone--are mainstays of No Regrets. Other current Ska Daddyz include Alan Lomax on trumpet, Jimmy Chastain on bass and Dave "Red" McLaughlin on drums.

"This version is the version," said Cruz before a recent Santa Barbara gig. "I don't think we'll be making any more changes. This group has been together for about a year-and-a-half. I'm the captain and I think we're finally getting there. We're a new band, a happy band."

When describing the current setup, the other veteran Ska Daddyz used a couple of shocking p-words--practice, polished and professional--not usually associated with Ska Daddyz. "We practice," said Leedy. "This band is polished and stronger than ever. The Ska Daddyz have been through more than any band's ever been through, but we've held together."

"There's probably more of a professional work ethic and a somewhat stable environment," said Davis. "We're not as distracted by different things, like we were before. We're more band-oriented, better musicians and more focused."

So now that the band appears to be in order, the Great Identity Crisis of 1998 also has been solved and all the band shirts have the right names on them.

"We were the Ska Daddyz, then the Daddyz and then the Ska Daddyz," said Cruz. "We thought the 'ska' tag would hurt us as far as getting over the top. The Daddyz name lasted about two whole gigs, but people still called us the Ska Daddyz. Hey, Papa-Nata changed its name about 10 times."

But Ska Daddyz hasn't changed its sound much. The band plays frantic dance music interspersed with tasty solos by Cruz, whose mom taught him guitar. "Our music is based around ska but we're not a traditional ska band like, say, the Upbeat," he said.

The new album is all Ska Daddyz originals, plus a famous cover song. The Ska Daddyz version of "Hotel California" is getting some airplay on local radio station KJEE in Montecito. "Recording 'Hotel California' was just a shot in the dark," said the guitar player. "We weren't even planning to do it, but we had been kicking it around, and now that song has become our hit."

The Ska Daddyz, who used to play at the Bombay seemingly every weekend, now take road trips to the Bay Area and the border. Cruz explains, "The local scene is kind of changing for us. We're becoming a Santa Barbara band. We've done everything there is to do in Ventura, there's no scene in Oxnard and now we're playing places in Santa Barbara where we weren't really accepted before. We have no reputation up there. It's a fresh start."


Ska Daddyz at Bombay Bar & Grill, 143 California St., Ventura; Saturday, 9 p.m. $10. (805) 643-4404. Band hotline: (888) 380-8434.

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