By Trista di Genova, The Wild East
I first fell in love with this band’s music in November when they played the after-party at Peacefest. Makes you wonder, ‘Who the heck is this extraordinary band, playing with such zeal and unbelievably infectious energy?’ It begged for some serious questions on the part of The Wild East magazine. Lead singer of Skaraoke’s Thomas Hu satiates some of our curiosity in this interview
Trista: What’s your background life story in a paragraph or so, or as long as you like actually!?
Thomas Hu: I grew up both in Taiwan and America. When I was 15, I started singing playing the trombone in various school bands. After college, I began to play around town and got myself a few gigs here and there. Living the dream!
Trista: How and when did your band get together?
Thomas Hu: Skaraoke started after Spring Scream 2007. I’d always wanted to play ska music and was finally able to find the right people. Most of us were already friends before the band got together.
Trista: Where have you played? What’s your favorite type of gig or venue, and why?
Thomas Hu: We’ve played all kinds of places including bars, pubs, dance clubs, beaches, house parties, weddings, company banquets, national parks, festivals, and such. Every venue is different, but I would have to say, for me, Spring Scream is probably my favorite! I can’t say that for the rest of the band though. I especially enjoy playing at Spring Scream because most of the people there are there to enjoy music. There isn’t [a cover charge] and no one expects anything from the performers so there is no pressure. Well, the only pressure is to actually stay awake and sober enough to rock out on stage! (laughs) Anything goes at Spring Scream! I really enjoy playing for my friends and seeing my friends perform.
Trista: I noticed you and your bandmembers look like bluesmen. Why is that? And do you like the Blues Brothers?
Thomas Hu: Haha! Yes the Blues Brothers are one of my favorite acts! But, no, we dress up not because of the Blues Brothers, but because I think it’s polite to look decent when people pay money to see a performance.
Trista: How did you get into playing ska?
Thomas Hu: I started listening to ska during high school. I had a classmate who was really into ska-punk then, and he showed me a bunch of cool ska-related music. We started a band and played with several other ska bands. It was then I realized that ska shows were really really fun to go to and play at. What other way can a band geek/choir nerd get to look cool on stage and get to rock ‘n’ roll?
Trista: How would you describe Skaraoke’s sound? Ska, with hints of blues, calypso, others….?
Thomas Hu: We do a little bit of swing, ska, latin, reggae, and even some standard jazz. They are all sort of mashed together to make the sounds we produce. It’s better to just to come see us play or listen to our music to find out its elements, influences, and genre. New Skaraoke CD on sale at www.tcmusic.com.tw! Anyone?
Trista: Your other musical influences?
Thomas Hu: I was first exposed to a lot of rock when I was 13. Then, I bought the soundtrack to Stand By Me and fell in love with the oldies! (laughs) Yakaty Yak! I also listened to a lot of Beatles.
After playing in my school’s jazz band, I started to get into big band jazz. Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and several others were big influences. Like every other teenager, I also enjoyed heavy metal, punk rock, classic rock, and whatever else that I could bang my head to. The funny thing was, I also really liked the Broadway musical stuff! I remember listening to Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, and Miss Saigon, a lot. So to me, what I do in Skaraoke is all of these elements bunched together.
Trista: Care to comment, offer observations about the state of the ska, reggae music scene in Taiwan?
Thomas Hu: It’s still in the introductory stages at this moment. We are doing what we can to contribute! There are several others doing it and we will continue to build the scene as more and more people get into it. We live on an island, and we should listen to more island-style music!
Trista: Are there many other ska bands in Taiwan?
Thomas Hu: There are several now. Mary Bites Kerry, High Tide, Hangin’ in the Air, Pops Candy, Shy Kick Apple, The Combobulators, and the Blue Truckers, to name a few.
Trista: What is the process by which you create your awesome music?
Thomas Hu: Some of our happiest songs were written during my saddest moments…! Most of our songs are about having fun, partying, and drinking. Nothing too heavy. I usually come up with a melody and take it to rehearsal and work it out there with the other band members. The process that goes into each song is a little bit different.
Trista: Any upcoming CD releases or upcoming music deals you’d like to tell us about?
Thomas Hu: We released a CD on March 31st called Pride of Asia, on sale at www.tcmusic.com.tw. I t was made in collaboration with an Okinawan band called All Japan Goith. Our release party was quite successful. We are happy with the product!
Currently, we are preparing for a music festival in Beijing that will happen at the end of April. All of us at Skaraoke are super-excited to be able to represent Taiwan at this festival! There are also talks of a trip to Okinawa again this July or August, which should also be very exciting!