Los Angeles has one of the best ska scenes in the country. A huge part of that is because, in LA’s Latino neighborhoods, ska is really popular. Over the past decade, festivals like Los Angeles Skawars & L.A. Skacore Invasion have brought thousands of kids out to local parks and underground spaces to skank with all their might and sing along to their favorite bands. These festivals are strictly DIY and showcase mostly local bilingual ska bands, as well as groups from Mexico, and occasionally bands from the larger US ska scene. And at the heart of this vibrant ska scene is Clemente Ruiz.
Clemente would rather not refer to himself as a promoter. He prefers to think of what he does as event production. Besides he does a whole lot more than just put on shows. He drums in the ska-punk band La Resistencia, and he’s involved with various sides of the music industry, like audio engineering, photography, and content creation. With the live shows, he never got into it to make money; it was born out of necessity. In the early 2000s, the LA Latino ska bands were playing backyard parties and random one-off spaces. When they’d approach big venues, they were told, “We don’t book Spanish rock here.” Rather than get discouraged, they built their own scene.
And what a scene it is! I visited Los Angeles Skawars in 2015 and was blown away by how much fun it was, and how fresh the music felt. I couldn’t believe that literally thousands of kids were at a mostly-local ska festival, and excited about it—in 2015! It gave me so much hope about the future of ska.
On this episode of In Defense of Ska, we talk to Clemente about how this scene got started, and why it grew into such a healthy, consistent scene (as opposed to something trendy like what happened to ska in Orange County in the 90s.) We also talk about his ongoing working relationship with Travis Barker, The Deftones, Pepe Aguilar—and that one time he got to work with Post Malone. He also brings up that time he played drums with Stevie Wonder.
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