Imagine it’s 1993; Whitney Houston’s, “I Will Always Love You” tops the billboard charts, the year’s most popular baby names are “Michael” and “Jessica”, the top two movies are, “Jurassic Park” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” while everyone’s favorite color is plaid. You grab a newly released CD recommended to you from the clerk at your local underground record store and your world changes.
You get home and when you put on this new CD your jaw just drops. Opening the album is a clip from “Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke” followed by some medium tempo tunes then a hefty, “LET’S GO!” and the music jumps into this insane frenzy of punk rock, quick ska horns, and some of the fastest lyrical content you will ever hear.
It’s simply amazing… it’s not like anything you’ve ever heard before. It’s something you can’t wait to hear more of. It’s Voodoo Glow Skulls and your introduction to a genre called ska-core is a song called INSUBORDINATION!
INSUBORDINATION from the album titled, WHO IS, THIS IS?
VOODOO GLOW SKULLS, “VGS” or simply “VOODOO” as nick-named by their fans, is an American ska-punk band formed in 1988 in Riverside, California by brothers Frank, Eddie, and Jorge Casillas and friend Jerry O’Neill. That’s what Wikipedia says, but that description really short changes their impact on what they mean to the world of music.
In the 50’s artists like Prince Buster were instrumental in the creation of the genre known as ska in Jamaica. Ska was a pre-cursor to reggae and dance hall. It was giving a re-birth in the 80’s by English bands like The Specials, Madness and The English Beat. It was the late 80’s to early 90’s that brought ska home to to this side of the pond. It was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones that opened our eyes and ears. For most ska fans on the west coast, Voodoo re-invigorated their love for this genre.
There’s no doubt that The Bosstones are the standard, but ask anyone in SoCal or Central and South America; for most… there’s one word that captures the genre of skacore, the word is VOODOO!
So what is skacore? It’s a subset of ska, a sub-genre so-to-speak. The Urban Dictionary describes it as: Ska music – as hard as ska can get: A mix of ska and punk or rock: Punk/Rock with a ska influence: Fast songs, throaty vocals, ska guitars/instruments, with extreme brass elements: Punk songs with upbeat ska guitars.
In other words, it’s high-velocity kick-ass ska tunes with heavy horns.
VOODOO in those early days with lead singer Frank Casillas
(Photo by Michelle Alvarez)
Like most bands starting out, VGS first played at backyard parties and anywhere they could pick up a gig. As their sound developed they created a wide-ranging fan base. Before you knew it, they were playing on very large stages with the who’s who of the ska world; and just about every kick-ass festival . Those festivals weren’t just here in the states… they were worldwide.
Over the years, their fan base has developed into an enormous following, which includes fans from all age groups and walks of life. Consequently, VGS has turned into a global phenomenon. Their contributions to the Latin community as it relates to inspiring young musicians is immeasurable.
SHOOT THE MOON from the album titled, FIRME
Throughout their past 30+ years, VOODOO has been through multiple world tours, releasing 10 albums, including one album re-done in Spanish, around a whopping 32 compilations, including feature films such as “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “Bio Dome,” “Godmoney,” and a variety of the Lucha Underground TV series.
The true measure of of how influential a band is would be the impact they’ve had on other bands. That being said, some of most respected bands out there are the Warped Tour legends, and VOODOO is one of those iconic Warped Tour bands.
Truth is, even in 2020, they’re still touring and giving their fans the most entertaining shows you can find anywhere. However, like most touring bands, there Spring/Summer dates that have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
CHARLIE BROWN from the album titled, FIRME
As with most successful bands that have a sense of longevity, there have been line-up changes. The most difficult for the band and their fans came in 2017. That’s when they parted ways with their brother, and lead vocalist, Frank Casillas. For many of their fans, they weren’t sure if the band would recover from this, or if they would support a new singer. Luckily, as with most things in life, time has a way to heal all wounds.
The remaining band members thought long and hard about their next step. Their decision was to tap in Efrem Schultz (from Death By Stereo & Manic Hispanic) to take over the mic for them. It wasn’t clear at the time for how long, but Efram was happy to help keep their legacy alive. Like Rome Ramirez of Sublime with Rome, Schultz wanted to give the VGS fans a way to still see this band and help provide a live experience for the fan base.
VOODOO in 2019 on the Winter Tour with Rev Horton Heat
(Photo by Jason Cook)
There’s no crystal ball to tell us what the band dynamic will be in years to come, but for now, it’s kick-ass VOODOO!
Schultz first fronted the band at the “Punk’s Not Dead” fest in August of 2017. Schultz did very well, truth is their fans were just so happy to see VOODOO back at it, and with a lead singer they could relate to, and they knew he related to the,m. It took a year, but at Surf City Blitz, VOODOO put on an incredible set in front of 40,000 concertgoers, Needless to say, VGS was back on top of the world.
VOODOO in 2018 at Surf City Blitz
(Photo by Jason Cook)
VOODOO today features, Efram Schultz-lead vocals, Eddie Casillas-guitar, Jorge Cassilas- bass, Steve reese-drums, Eric Fazzini-sax, and Jose Pazsoldan-trombone. Collectively, the band is electric and still IS as tight as ever.
It was recently announced that there will be a vOODOO tribute album coming out featuring all Voodoo Glow Skulls covers. The album will be released May 5th , that’s right… on Cinco de Mayo. The album will be put out by Smelvis Records. Bands featured include CodeName: Rocky, Sailor’s Song Book, Matamoska among a few others.
Recently, I spoke with one of the biggest VOODOO fans alive, Jared Palazzolo, guitarist/singer of Knock Out and tribute album contributing band, Sailor’s Song Book. This is what he had to say on how VOODOO GLOW SKULLS changed his life:
“I grew up going to basically any VGS show that I could get into when I was a kid. They were local legends and inspired me so much. When I was in high school, I started a band called Knock-Out and the only place I wanted to go record was at Dogrun Studios with Eddie Casillas from VGS. He took us in and helped us out with our first 6-song demo and then to our surprise started getting us on a local Voodoo Show.”
Palazzolo went on to say “we pretty much thought we had peaked at that point, but because of Eddies’ encouragement and belief in us… we came right back and did our first full-length album back at Dogrun. By this point we had gotten to know the rest of the guys and they became like big brothers to us.”
He finished by saying “They added us to a West Coast tour where Frank Casillas took over management for our band and added us on their Label “California Street Music.” They took us out on tour after paving the way for us to live out a crazy dream that was never expected; especially being from Riverside. Thanks to these guys we got to see the world and I owe everything to them. I love these guys more than I could ever put in writing.”
Jared finished up be telling me that, “Closet Monster” has always been one of his favorite VDGS songs and, “They are one of the few bands that I can honestly say have an entire discography that is ALL good.”
We highly agree, Jared!
Look out for The VOODOO GLOW SKULLS Tribute Album on Cinco De Mayo
On SMELVIS RECORDS
Trying to escape the concrete jungle is a life long task