Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mark Foggo - The Hardest Working Man In Ska

Chances are that if you live in Holland or anywhere on the European Continent, you are very familiar with Mr Mark Foggo and his band The Skasters. Here in the U.S. his contribution to ska music over the last 25 years has gone overlooked and unnoticed, but I would like to change that. In fact his second LP "State Of Mind" from 1984 has been on constant rotation on my iPod. Above all Foggo is a ska missionary and I admire his tenacity and his never ending quest of playing and supporting ska music where ever he goes.

Mark Foggo is a dynamic performer and his music is best described as modern, bizarre, non-influenced, up tempo ska. Born in Liverpool, England, Foggo began his musical career at the age of fourteen but moved south to London a few years later to seek his fame and fortune as a guitar player. He played around the London pub circuit with a number of different bands, playing mostly rhythm and blues or punk music. He was signed as a solo artist to Polydor and recorded his first album "Speeding My Life Away". The album was a hit and got worldwide radio airplay. Following the release of his first LP, he recorded "State Of Mind" in 1984. This was to be his last album as a solo artist. Following its release he embarked on putting together a backing band (The Skasters), so that in his words, "People would know what kind of music we played."

The next album Mark Foggo released was "Ska Pig" in 1989. The album was a huge hit with ska fans in Europe and today the album is considered to be a classic in the genre. After "Ska Pig" Mark Foggo released many more cd's and singles and through numerous television and radio appearances he has built up a big following on the European club circuit. Over the years the band has played over a thousand gigs making him the hardest working man in ska.

Here is a video of an interview and performance of Mark Foggo's Skasters:

Here is an online interview Mark did with a French ska magazine called I Believe In Myself in 2006 that should provide a bit more insight about him for those who remain unfamiliar with him:

How did you start playing together?
Began in 1979 under the name of Mark Foggo and the Secret Meeting, Only one member remains from the early days and that is Paul Berding (Sax). In 1987 We released "Ska Pig" and changed the name to Mark Foggo's Skasters, so it was clearer to people what kind of music we played. There have been a lot of changes to the band since then and the present line up can be found on our website.

In which other bands have you played / still play? Can you talk about it?
I have another band (The Babyshakers) which is a 4 piece rock and roll / Ska style. We have released one cd (Shake the Baby) and next month will release a new 4 track mini cd (Living on Alcohol).

What are your lyrics about?

I write lyrics about anything that comes to mind. "Car On A Train" is about a disaster in the Channel Tunnel, which came to me one time while travelling through there. "Lovely Day For A Hanging" is complete nonsense, but it's amazing what some people can read into it. I think I was drunk when I wrote it. I get all sorts of opinions about what it might mean. "The Religious Song" is just demonstrating how bored i get with religion.

How long have you been playing together now? How many albums have you released? What is your best/worst remember? Do you think that the ska scene has changed a lot? If you think so, could you explain it?
We have released about 10 albums / cds and I am working on a new one now which I hope to release before the end of the year. Again the complete list of releases is on the website. My favourite cd was Haircut, I think because it has my favourite songs on and it was a lot of fun to record. I recorded it not with all the Skasters but just with the keyboard player who is Dominique Dubois. He is a Frenchman from Paris now living in Amsterdam and we have been good friends for many years. My worst album was Weapons and Guitars, hopefully now unavailable. I was given money by EMI records to record an album, but it could not be Ska. I recorded a shit rock album and went on holiday with the rest of the money. Afterwards it was straight back to ska.

How would you define your style?
I believe we have a style of our own, maybe a bit based on the 2 tone era. I don't have any particular favourite bands or influences, I prefer to do things the way I feel them at the time and that's why the style changes from cd to cd.

Do you think that we are in front of a ska / reggae revival today? Or do you believe that ska has never died?
Ska music never dies! There are new bands and styles around all the time. I'm not a huge fan of cover bands, I like ska musicians to create something of their own rather than try to copy something that can not be improved on. If you wanna hear real Jamaican ska, go and see The Skatalites. Originality is what will keep ska music alive. Ska punk is not for me personally but if some like it, that can't be bad.

If ska has never died, the audience has changed, today its very diversified. What do you think about it?

There are many different styles of people who come to our gigs, hippies, heavy metal, pyschobillies. I don't care who comes as long as they get into what they hear. Ska is not a clothes fashion, it's a musical style and the more people who appreciate it the better. There are many more young ska people at our gigs in Holland and Germany these days and that's good. Ska , the next generation.

How do you do to be so energetic on stage? A magic potion maybe?
I'm very active on stage because ska music excites me so much I get mad! I use no drugs, it's all natural energy. After the show I like a couple of large Jack Daniels and a cigarette to wind down.

Mark Foggo's Skasters are currently on tour in the EU. If you live in Holland or Germany be sure to try and catch him. You can check out his tour dates here.

Here is a track list of Mark Foggo's "State of Mind" album from 1984. It happens to be a new favorite of mine.

A State of Mind
You Know Who
Miss Understanding
Hold on to your Hat
Cest La Vie
You Never Asked
The Choice
The Innocence Of Youth
I Do
Seems Like Years
Very Busy

Mark Foggo - State Of Mind

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