As OC Music News has been sharing the bands of the upcoming Lost in the ‘80s Beach Party, we had the pleasure of chatting with Jerry Miller, Dave Cassell, and Jack Sneddon of iconic ska band, The Untouchables.
The Untouchables hit it big with hits like “Free Yourself,” “Agent Double O Soul,” and “Wild Child,” The Untouchables are considered America’s first ska band. They played the Los Angeles scene and their residency at the Roxy allowed them to show off their incredible sonic skills and epic performances. Their 1985 debut album “Wild Child” drew fans outside of California, and out of the US, with “What’s Gone Wrong” and “I Spy (For the F.B.I.).”
The mod/soul/ska-pioneers are fronted by the legendary Jerry Miller. In 2021, I was fortunate to speak with the man himself and by the end of the call, I was a huge fan of the guy. The rumors about his kind personality are true. He had suffered some health setbacks, but now, he sounds stronger than ever. He has been taking care of himself both physically and mentally, and is so excited to be back on stage.
For their fans, and fans of the general, they were beyond ecstatic when the band released the single “Hooked On Feeling” (B.J. Thomas cover) last year for the Specialized Project. Up next, Lost ’80s Beach Party.
Traci: Lost in the ‘80s is next month! Who are you looking forward to seeing?
Jerry: Basically, everybody. I love the bands and to play together, to show off to each other, and feed off each other. And of course, our fans. It’s a win- win. Things are going really well with us. We’re buckling down, getting rehearsals in.
Traci: How was touring last year?
Jerry: The crowds have been great, very interested in us still. I enjoy connecting with the fans. I feel blessed in that respect, so many great bands on this show and so many great fans. I feel blessed that people are still interested.
Traci: Do you use social media to connect with them as well?
Jerry: Yes, I am trying to take advantage of social media and what it has to offer. Everybody is kind of an expert, and wants to get their opinion out, (laughing) but it’s really cool to connect.
Traci: How are you? Are you taking care of yourself?
Jerry: Yes, I’m feeling good, doing my dialysis, following doctor’s orders, eating right, feeling good and blessed that I have family and friends behind me. I could not ask for more.
Traci: Last year, you told me about a special song you were writing that out of the pandemic and you could not wait to share it with the world. Have you been able to work on it or other new tunes?
Jerry: We’re working on new things, and that one song is on the front burner, not back burner. I am hoping to work new songs into sets. I think [that song] is still relevant. I had friends help arrange it, brought it to the band, and shared it with friends. So far everyone loves it and it will probably be next song. But we are also working up some other new songs. We want to get them out to people play. I think they are good songs, people that have listened love them, so I’m chomping at the bit to get them out. Of course, we want to get them out right.
Traci: I am going to be talking to two of your band members: Dave and Jack. Any gossip on them? (laughing)
Jerry: Oh, man. Good guys. Dave has been with the band about seven or eight years. Jack is godsend. Really on point. The horn section, well, the whole band is a godsend and I’m so happy to have them. They are such good players. Our drummer has been with us for 20 years, and he and our bass player feed off each other. They work really well and just make us a better band. It is old school and new outlook on everything and I feel so blessed. I can’t wait for fans to see us and for us see them. Life is good!
UT guitarist Dave Cassell grew up in L.A. County and has been in bands since his teen years. While living in the Los Angeles area, his ska band, The Fudogs, had a special visitor during a practice session that changed his life.
Traci: Did you know about The Untouchables?
Dave: When I was in high school, I was an Untouchables fan. I remember going to see them at Magic Mountain and I was blown away by this group of people having this party on stage. They were just so awesome. Then years later [at a band rehearsal], our drummer told us Jerry was going to come over and I just remember seeing him coming through the door; he seemed to have this star quality, this aura. He just has this presence. You can see it now because when we play places, the way people gravitate toward him; just want to make contact with him. He’s got this certain quality.
Traci: When I talked to Jerry last year, he said how it’s been amazing with the crowds the past few years because of all the different ages; kids, teenagers, and adults. He’s been so excited to see that. So that’s very cool to me that you liked the band in your youth, and then you are part of it as an adult.
Dave: Yeah, it’s really interesting to see, and talking about the aura thing. We played a show in San Diego and this crowd of kids came up – I say kids, but they were in their early 20s or late teens – but they had record sleeves they wanted us to sign and all this stuff, and they crowd around Jerry. There’s definitely fans that are, in a way new fans. Older fans still come out, of course, but there’s younger generations gravitating towards it. The music is kind of timeless, in that sense.
Traci: What happened between Jerry coming to your band practice that you joined The Untouchables?
Dave: Jerry came to one of our rehearsals and kind of from that point forward, I want to say it was about eight years ago, that kind of came about. Jerry would sit in for a few songs with my old band for fun. Then there was a time where his guitar player was not able to make a gig, so he asked if I would sit in. I think it was right around 2013, 2014. After that gig, I got a call not long after that when Jerry asked, “Hey, would you be interested in playing guitar?” At that time, the band had two guitar players, but the band is now one guitar player and horns really take a lot of the melodic part of the band. People just love horns. I love horns. And we have this really awesome horn section. These guys are just so on point. They’re young, too, which is interesting because our band member’s ages span 40 years or something like that. They’re really good, they’re just great to play with. The fun of playing with this band is that everybody in the band is so good, just really talented musicians who really love to play.
Traci: What else do you enjoy about playing in UT?
Dave: What’s so cool about playing in The Untouchables is the variety of music, from a guitar player’s perspective, the styles and variety of music that you get to play. Being in The Untouchables, it’s so unlike any other that I could think of because many bands kind of have a genre that they hit and they kind of stay within those parameters, and that’s cool. I love tons of bands that do that. But what makes playing with UT; you can hit reggae, ska, soul. There’s even some rock and stuff in there. And it just hits on so many levels that you can play so many different things, so many different guitar sounds and tones and styles within one show. I think that’s what I really love about playing The Untouchables songs.
Traci: Do you also sing?
Dave: I sing one of the songs, and I’m honored to be lucky enough to sing “What’s Gone Wrong” with the band because it’s such a classic hit. Also, playing with The Untouchables is just, this band I was a fan of, I get to pay tribute to guitar players past, specifically Clyde Grimes. He’s the guy who wrote most of the songs and he’s the original guy that put that sound in there. I only got to meet him once and he had really encouraging words and was all around nice guy. He was complimentary and when I met him, he said something to the effect of “It’s good to see that you’re kind of doing what we did, but kind of giving it your own spin as well because what would be the point of you playing exactly what I did?” I was really flattered by that and just thought, “Wow, what an amazing thing to say as a former guitar player, as the original guitar player who wrote these songs.”
One of the newer band members is Jack Sneddon. Another SoCal native, he grew up in Huntington Beach and started learning music as a kid. In middle school, he picked up the trombone and has been doing that ever since, through college and as a teacher. No wonder Miller says he is on point!
Traci: How did you end up in The Untouchables?
Jack: Their manager, Kathy, saw me playing with another group in Orange County at the Garden App, and she stalked me on the Internet (laughing) and called me up and asked if I was interested in auditioning. I think the first time I met everybody was at a gig and it became my first gig. It was fun. It was crazy. I’ve been with group since then.
Traci: This Catalina event is obviously a big ‘80s event. Are there other bands there that you’re stoked to see and play with?
Jack: We had so many bands on that lineup. It’s such a stacked weekend. A Flock of Seagulls, The Beat. I love seeing English Beat. That’ll be fun. We played with them a couple of times. I always love seeing them.
Traci: Are you guys doing any of the Lost ‘80s 20th Anniversary dates?
Jack: I know we’re doing San Diego and Bakersfield, the 25th and 27th of August.
Traci: What do you love about being in the band?
Jack: I had heard some of the music before joining, but then when I listened to all the music, I loved the music and I fell in love with it even more once I joined. It’s so much fun, this music is so special and it’s so much fun to play. I’m so happy to be a part of this group and so happy to have two other amazing horn players are killer players, and we get the chance to play with such an amazing group. It really has been such a cool opportunity for us. Just an honor to be here.
Indeed, The Untouchables are full of talented musicians, fun to see and dance to, so we expect to see you on Catalina. In addition to UT, you’ll enjoy Oingo Boingo Former Members, A Flock of Seagulls, English Beat, Missing Persons, Annabella’s Bow Wow Wow, Dramarama, Wally Palmar of the Romantics, Tommy Tutone, Stacey Q, Trans-X, Naked Eyes, Josie Cotton, Shannon, Musical Youth, Kon Kan, and Burning Sensations.
Tickets are on sale now for the May 27-29 event. In addition to regular tickets, VIP and cabana passes are available, but keep in mind, they sold out in 2021!