MUSIC : One Reason to Reach for the Ska : Skankin' Pickle is a busy practitioner of a dance-happy genre that has taken root in California and that seems to be getting bigger.


Skankin' Pickle, six road dogs out of the Bay Area in a van, will be stopping by the Underground in Santa Barbara to headline tonight's ska fest. Expect a whole lotta skankin'--that's kinder, gentler dancing that attracts considerably more females and fewer elbows.

The band's first album, "Skafunkrastapunk," should provide more than enough clues as to what they're all about. That 1991 release has sold 15,000 copies so far, while the second album has sold 13,000. But the new one, "Sing Along With Skankin' Pickle" has already sold more than 10,000 copies since its release in September and can be heard on over 200 radio stations. All are available on their own Dill Records label.

Ever since the British introduced ska music to the world about 15 years ago with bands such as the Specials, the Selector, the English Beat and Madness, the genre has especially taken root in the Golden State. The Untouchables and Fishbone were pioneering California ska bands. Locally, the Ska Daddyz and the Upbeat have kept alive that dance-crazy beat with that happening horn section. Judging by the success of the Pickle people, ska seems to be getting bigger and sweatier than ever.

The Pickle party includes Mike Park (vocals and sax), Chuck Phelps (drums), Lars Nylander (trombone and vocals), Lynette Knackstedt (guitar and vocals), Gerry Lundquist (trombone) and Ian Miller (bass). The guitarist discussed the Pickle's progress during a recent phoner.

Did the band really play 267 gigs last year?

Yeah, 267 dates seems pretty accurate, but that's the only way to get our music out there. We try and be consistent--we're on the road all year around. We're doing something we really want to do. So far, we've had pretty good response with the new one--it's in the 50s on the CMJ Radio Top 150 chart, plus it's getting lots of radio play.

Are the critics right once, are you guys just like Fishbone?

I would say it's like ska music, ska punk, or something like that with some zany stage antics. There's some funk, too, but not old-school funk, but with a harder edge. We usually get compared a lot to Fishbone because we pretty much just go crazy with a lot of crazy antics on stage.

What do you get for joining the Skankin' Pickle fan club?

I'm not too sure, Mike gets all the mail. But we put out newsletters, and we keep our prices low for our merchandise. We've made three tours so far all the way to the East Coast. We have fans everywhere. We drew 800 in Denver recently, and we usually get two or three hundred people anywhere.

Who's to blame for all this?

We started the band about five years ago when we were all students at DeAnza Junior College. Basically, we got together because we all knew Mike. Two days later we played a gig in San Jose and actually got paid.

Who's to blame for the funny name?

Mike was just sitting in class one day, doodling, putting legs on all sorts of odd things. Then he drew legs on a pickle, and that was it.

The band prefers all-ages shows?

Oh yeah, always. For the most part, it seems stupid to put an age limit on live music. Underage kids are more responsive to the music, and they're never shy when it comes to dancing. Music should be for all ages.

Do the people skank or slam?

It's a little bit of both sometimes, but it can be a problem. If the kids get too rambunctious, sometimes we'll make the next song a little mellower. Punk is always angry, and everybody seems pissed off.

What's the plan?

If a good offer comes along, I'm sure we'd talk about it. Right now, we're into building up our label. We just signed a band from Hawaii, the Tantra Monsters. We were brought over to Hawaii a few times, played with them a few times, and just became friends.

Why go see your band?

You should come and see us if you want to have a good time and not worry about stuff. We have songs about serious stuff, but with a humorous edge. We're not depressing, and you can skank around and lose some weight.


* WHAT: Skankin' Pickle, Tantra Monsters, Nutmeg.

* WHERE: Underground, 110 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara.

* WHEN: Tonight, 9 p.m.

* HOW MUCH: $8.

* CALL: 965-5050

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