The VILLAINS -ska
Label: Skaspot Records
Traditional Up-Tempo Ska from Vancouver BC
Contact DetailsDan Cowan
604 521 0269
The True Story of the Original VILLAINS 1980 - 1986
It is safe to say that very, very few bands in the history of popular music have experienced exploding on to the national music scene like Canada’s VILLAINS. The band was organized by the Front Man / Singer, Count Steve and Sax Player, Tom Perry, in London, UK and then relocated to Vancouver. BC Canada. Shortly after arriving in Vancouver, the band found itself in the middle of an event that made front page headlines and received hourly updates on local and national radio and television.
Performing in front of a packed club in downtown Vancouver, the VILLAINS were arrested on stage in the middle of a set by Canadian Immigration Officers. Picture the band stepping into a paddy-wagon, dressed in full ska / punk gear, tipping their pork pie hats to the photographers. Oh, did I forget to mention that that band were all skinheads? Remember, this was 1980 and a full band of skins was shocking enough and the fact that most of the media was not familiar with the term “Ska” and they weren’t sure how to describe the Villains music added to the buzz. It seems that a local booking agency had snitched off the band to the officials saying they may not have working visas, turns out, they were right.
Ironically, there was a civic strike in Vancouver at the time and the normal immigration detention centre was not available, so incredibly the arrested villains were taken to the local prison, yes, prison. Imagine the apprehension on the band members part as they learn they are headed to prison!!! But somehow the bands reputation had preceded them and the word inside the prison was that these guys were famous musicians and they were received and treated like rock stars including being asked for autographs for the warden’s daughter. This is only the beginning................the band members made their appearance in court and were allowed to voluntarily depart the country and not be deported.
At this point the band hooked up with a Canadian management team who accepted the bands invitation to manage them saying “ We can’t let all this publicity go to waste, that would truly be criminal!”. The proper paperwork and performance contracts for a Canadian Tour were filed with the authorities by the band’s new management and the band was allowed to return legally to Canada.
Get this!! The first concert they played once back in the country was a free show in the prison for the inmates and the guards resulting in another wave of national media attention. The rest, as they say, is Canadian Music History................the VILLAINS next sold out the Fabulous Commodore Ballroom and went on a ska crusade across Canada leaving a wave / ripple effect of ska music and non stop dancing fun times. Setting attendance records and breaking bar sales records at colleges and dance clubs everywhere they played, the VILLAINS received truly amazing media coverage, including coverage in national media like McLean’s Magazine and front page write ups and photos in the entertainment section of the Globe & Mail.
The Villains approached everything with their particular wacky sense of humor ( and mischief) and countered any negative “skinhead” labels by headlining Anti-KKK rallies and performing free concerts for sick kids in hospitals across the nation. These VILLAINS are really the good guys and their biggest crime is forcing you to dance even if you thought you didn’t want to was the by-line. The national press embraced the fun spirit of the band and they went on a unprecedented 5 year run of non stop touring, sold out concerts, impressive merchandise sales and releasing 2 records in the process.
This was all accomplished without the support of a major record label, in fact, the Villains are indie pioneers in Canada by recording and distributing a record on their own label (Skinhead Records) in 1980. The Villains live shows are legendary because of the unpredictable stage antics which have included gaffer taping the sax player to a high chair and shaving his head for an encore, or when they put the 6 ft 6 in. guitarist on stilts making him tall enough for the lead singer to run between his legs. The first several tours featured all floor and side lighting, no over head lights, giving the skinhead band a wild look and put amazing shadows and images on the stage backdrop. The drummer was placed on the far side of the stage to make room in the middle of the stage for the band to run around and dance.
It is also safe to say that in most cases, when the band played a Canadian city for the first time, the audience had never seen anything like the VILLAINS and were inclined to look behind the venue for the spaceship they must have arrived in, thinking they were post industrial tribesmen from planet X...........The press loved to give the VILLAINS nick names like: Ska Na Na, the Blues Brothers of Ska, Pied Pipers of Ska, Skanadian Tour, and even called them a Skamady Act. The excitement and buzz about the VILLAIN’S live performances was not just a result of all the media attention, it was largely because they were a truly great live ska / dance band. The VILLAINS played with such an infectious fun energy that they truly deserved to be mentioned in the same conversation with the world famous ska bands of the era such as The Specials, Madness and Bad Manners.
The Villains quit touring (didn’t break up!) in 1986 as management and band members moved on to pursue other opportunities. The band had experienced some personnel changes over time and had morphed into a Pop Rock band and by the time they released a nationally distributed album on Attic Records called “Go Crazy” they were playing few actual ska songs live. They were still an up tempo dance band but no longer a pure ska band, it was a calculated effort to cross over into the pop radio market and not the first time a ska band failed to make that difficult transition. So, the Villains haven’t played live since 1986 and leave a legacy of headlining the Commodore Ballroom 11 times, selling out the Opera House in Toronto, headlining the #1 dance venue in the world at the time, the Famous Ritz Ballroom in NYC and crazed dancing fans coast to coast.
This web site pays tribute to Canada's original and now legendary kings of Ska - the VILLAINS
Legendary 2nd wave UK / Canadian hi-energy ska band.
Headlined Commodore 11 times & 14 national tours
Released "Life of Crime" EP on Skinhead Records 1980
Released "Go Crazy" LP on Attic Records 1984
Original band topped touring in 1986
|Jock Strap||Sax / Keyboards / Vocals||1979-present|
|Count Steve||Vocal / Steel Drums||1979-present|
|Tom Robertson||Base / Vocals||1979-1984|
|John Jacobs||Drums / Piano||1979-1980|
|Legs||Guitar / Vocals||1979-1986|