I'm extremely excited to report that Venezuela's ska superstars Desorden Publico
are kicking off a rare four city, U.S. tour which will include stops in Orlando on June 5th, Miami on June 6th. a show here in New York at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on Sunday June 8th
and one last show in Washington D.C. on June 9th.
For the uninitiated, imagine if Madness or The Specials had emerged in Venezuela. And while the band was founded in 1985 just as 2-Tone peaked, they had trouble imitating the 2-Tone sound too closely. It just didn't work for musicians steeped in local Latin rhythms, culture and beats. The music of Desorden Publico has continued to evolve, thanks to near relentless playing and recording during the past two decades. The band has a dozen or so releases to their name and have had platinum sales, #1 and top 10 hits. They have tours that have taken them all over Latin America, North America and Europe. Still having trouble wrapping your head around a Venezuelan ska band? Give "Musica De Fiesta" from the band's most recent album "Los Contrarios" a spin to get a sense of their sound and energy:
José Luis "Caplís" Chacín is the bassist and one of the founding members of Desorden Publico. Like me, he is a 2-Tone devotee. Though we lived thousands of miles part, our love of 2-Tone and the impact it has had on us throughout our lives is striking.
Chacín's love of ska and 2 Tone started in Caracas in the early 80's, when as a heavy metal loving teen he was given The Specials first album. It set him and his band mates along the path to starting one of the very first South American ska bands. Now after nearly 30 years of popularity and success in Latin America, including eight studio albums, several greatest hit releases and live performance in over 30 countries, Desorden Público have reached superstar status throughout South America. Taking their name from Venezuelan military police trucks that had 'Orden Publico' [Public Order] written on the side, the band's name is political, but it is more tongue-in-cheek and humorous about advocating any serious form of public disorder.
I had the chance to interview Chacín a few years ago and I've included excerpts from that interview below:
What was it like growing up in Caracas, Venezuela in the early 80's?
It was great! I was born in 1964 and it means that I really had the eighties as my very influential years. Thank God it wasn't the 70´s!
Finding music in Venezuela in the 80's wasn't an easy task, so we had to beg every friend, every father or mother or relatives, who were travelling outside, to buy the new releases, and when you buy 2 or 3 LP´s and try to transport them in a luggage it´s kind of a nightmare.
Well, the thing is that here in our country many good and bad things came as an avalanche: Heavy metal, Punk Rock, New Wave, Hard Core, New Cool, Post Punk, Ska, Reggae. And before becoming musicians we were DJ´s of our own Sound System called ASEO URBANO. It was the only one in Caracas that specialized in New Wave, Punk and of course Ska, so we were the natural Sound System at the gigs of many new acts of the underground Punk scene of Caracas.
How did that experience effect you socially, politically and musically?
Being a teenager, here in Caracas in the 80´s was incredible. In a certain way Venezuela was for many years (in the decade of the 70´s) a country drunk on Petrodollars (money from the sales of oil), so we had an incredible “Bonanza” where the most of our government leaders were super corrupted. But suddenly, a serious crisis brought a hard fall of the prices of oil and our economy began to feel the consequences of many years of bad guidance. So suddenly we started to know a different country with a cost of living that was more and more expensive every day.
This was a perfect time for many young people to realize that too many things were going wrong in our country, and some of us started to open our eyes and do our own criteria of the society. Now we also had the lyrics of people like The Clash, Dead Kennedy's, Sex Pistols, The Specials, and also Latin American artists like Ruben Blades, Ali Primera, Soledad Bravo to help start to make sense of our own lives and Venezuelan society. We became critics and non-conformists with our reality. And we started this band!
Most people I've spoken to who are into ska remember the exact moment when they fell in love with it. How did it happen for you?
I remember I was a kid loved Disco Music to Heavy Metal. (I loved the first era of Van Halen, and still like it). But after 3 or 4 years of hard rock, I started to listen New Wave music: Devo, The B-52´s, Oingo Boingo, Wall of Voodoo, XTC, Joe Jackson, The Jam. One day I was working as a DJ at our Sound System and a good friend gave me a very badly recorded cassette of the first LP of The Specials. The first song 'A Message To You Rudy' was immediately the biggest revelation of lure lives. We didn´t understand what kind of music this was. I remember I had listened to the first two Madness albums but I could not engage with their version of ska. But The Specials definitely was the BOMB! An ATOMIC Bomb in our minds.
What was your first ska album you bought?
After I listened to that tape, I immediately order that first album by The Specials and when a good friend gave it to me, I just couldn´t believe how good the whole album was. Even today I still feel that sensation of how GREAT and how good that first album is.
How did you go from being introduced to ska music to starting Desorden Publico in 1985?
We were tired of waiting for the start of a ska band in our city. We finally decided to form our own band and we sold many of the equipments of our Sound System in order to save money to buy our first used instruments.
When did you decide to become a bass player? Did you play the bass before you were into ska?
At the same moment we decided to form DESORDEN PÚBLICO...
Can you explain what your band name means for readers who don't speak Spanish? Does it have a social or political connotation?
DESORDEN PUBLICO = PUBLIC DISORDER. It was a joke against the military trucks with the name of PUBLIC ORDER on the side. There are a very repressive institution here in our city
Fashion was such a huge part of the ska scenes here in in the U.S. in the 80's. Can you describe the importance of fashion in the Venezuelan and South American ska scene?
Here in Venezuela, especially in Caracas in the 80's, you could see Punks, Rockers, Rastas and of course Trendy's. There was not an Ska scene, so when we started to use our suits, we were like strange birds in this jungle! We didn´t look like Punks, Rockers nor Rastas and we had to explain that we were Rude Boys, hahahahahaha!
Your band tours the world regularly. Can you share any unusual stories about any live shows the band played that were particularly memorable?
Wow! There are many, many good and bad experiences, but talking about good ones, the fact of being in a same stage with people like Prince Buster, Jerry Dammers, Ray Barreto, Ruben Blades,The B-52's, The Selecter, Ranking Roger and his version of The Beat. To be backstage with all the guys from Madness, thanks to the courtesy of my very good friend Coolie Ranx and all the guys from The Pilfers, that was magic!
I remember meeting Paul Weller in New York City. He was a very nice guy to me and my wife. Another magical moment in my life was the time I found the one and only Andy Summers of The Police totally lost in the corridors of the radio station where we have our radio show.
Last year, I was walking on the streets of Berlin visiting the best record stores, and to my surprise, I saw a very tall man walking just in front of me. It was none other than one of my all time musical heroes: Joe Jackson! This was great!
What was it like for the band to tour the U.S.? What kind of reception did you get from American ska audiences?
We were helped by our good friend Bucket from The Toasters and that was a good introduction for us to the North American ska audiences. It also helped that we had many good friends in New York and Boston, and many of them were at our first gigs. This helped provide the impression that the audience knew who were were! Hahahaha!
In those early tours, we also had the chance to do things for the Latin American market in the USA and also for the American public into the Ska scene. Surprisingly, I must say the reception we received from Ska audiences was 1000 times better than the reception we had from Spanish speakers! During that time most of the people from Latin America in New York were Mexicans, Puerto Ricans or Dominicans and those audiences were a bit hostile with bands from other Latin countries.
Information for the show in Brooklyn is available via Facebook
and tickets are available through Ticketmaster
. I hope to see a few of you there!