By Daniel Kohn
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Photo by Jeanne RiceThe waitress has finally brought out lunch, but for the next three hours, Tazy Phyllipz and his half brother Albino Brown (we'll spare you their not-as-colorful real names) will barely touch their food. Not that they're not hungry, not that there's some small, hairy critter crawling through their pasta or anything. It's just that chowing down —even for some quick nibbles—means they'd both have to stop talking long enough to chew.
They areradio guys, so they're naturally hard to shut up. And they have a lotto talk about. For on this very Jan. 12 afternoon 10 years ago, Tazy and Albino innocently birthed a show on KUCI (UC Irvine's anemic-signaled college station at 88.9 FM) they called The Ska Parade, a program that would go on to spark OC's '90s ska craze, give first-ever radio spins to No Doubt and Sublime, host more than 300 live in-studio performances, and expose an untold number of ears to bands (both local and non) that would never have been able to get heard on any commercial, non-college frequency —and definitelynot on KROQ.The Ska Parade has evolved over its first decade, moving from a strict ska playlist to one that features the fast-rising indie-rock/ emo scene. Despite its title, The Ska Parade is no longer 100 percent ska, routinely playing bands that run the stylistic gamut from Ozomatli to Gwar to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band to At the Drive-In (though ska still gets generous play).
Tazy, too, at least on this day, has changed: gone are the thick-rimmed black glasses, once his trademark, replaced by contact lenses, a short beard/mustache combo and a slickly spliced 'do that makes him look like the winner of a Dana Rohrabacher look-alike contest. For his part, Albino sports a hipster soul patch on his chin and is so passionate about tunes and bands that it's hard to imagine him discussing anything else.
"It's kind of amazing how far you can take something," says Tazy, reflecting on the show's double-digit birthday. "If you had told me 10 years ago that we'd be playing 17 different styles of music on a show called Ska Parade—let alone have live bands—I would've said you were crazy. But you hit a point where the music does change—and it ischanging."
Albino pipes up. "Ten years, and look how strong we're going," he says. "We've had some major ups and downs, but we're still here. We're discovering new bands every day that excite us. Even if their music may not be of the best recording quality, we usually can see their potential."
It's been told before, but the short history of The Ska Parade goes like this: Tazy was a jazz snob until Albino dragged him to a Dance Hall Crashers/Let's Go Bowling gig in 1989. Also on the bill were the New York Citizens, a young, traditional ska band that would change Tazy's perception of a music he figured was limited to the kind of poppy, two-tone skank rhythms made famous by such late '70s/early '80s groups as Madness.
"Here were these guys my age playing essentially a jazz-type thing over a ska rhythm—improvising!—and the crowd wasn't made up of people five times older than me," Tazy remembers. He eventually got into other new ska bands via Albino's extensive record collection.
Tazy was then a music major at UCI with a jazz show on KUCI. He and Albino got the idea to make a radio documentary about ska, focusing on its history as well as on the younger ska bands that were springing up (a spurt some were calling "revival" ska, as in a revival of two-tone; Tazy takes credit for coining the "third-wave" term that would stick). The documentary aired on KUCI in November 1989 and became the most listened-to program in KUCI's history at the time, says Tazy, thanks to several advance plugs on an OC music-video show and healthy word-of-mouth. Spurred by the response, Tazy applied to do a ska show—The Ska Parade—which debuted two months later.
By the brothers' account, their humble, weak-signaled college-radio show became an instant smash, attracting such a rabid, loyal following from what was then a fairly underground scene that people from as far away as Riverside and San Diego would drive to Irvine and park across the street from the campus at the In-N-Out Burger, just to listen. "Folks used to tell me that if the wind was blowing the right way, they'd take hangers and do all sorts of crazy extension things with their radio wires to pick it up," Albino says. (These days, they can save themselves the gas money and get it live on the Net: www.kuci.org/listen.html.)
At first, The Ska Parade was mostly Tazy and Albino spinning their favorite records, but soon they started bringing guests into the studio to play live on the air. With the exception of their first, all 477 shows have been preserved on tape, which has become quite a valuable archive. The first performance of No Doubt doing "Just a Girl," half a year before Tragic Kingdom came out? They've got it. An extremely rare, exclusive set from Fugazi, who never, everdo radio? Got that, too. The first public broadcast of Sublime's "Wrong Way" (not to mention "Date Rape," which, through Tazy's efforts while interning at KROQ in 1995, helped get the band signed to MCA)? Yup. And volumes more.