88.1 KDHX DJ Spotlight: JJ Loy of Ska’s the Limit
Every Saturday night JJ Loy keeps the two-decade run of Ska’s the Limit bouncing from one foot to the other.
Joe Duepner: How long have you been at KDHX?
JJ Loy: About three and a half years now.
You started out doing the show?
Yeah, I’d done a ska-themed podcast that Paul Stark (previous host for 16 years) knew about. Paul stepped down to do the Musical Merry-Go-Round show and he told KDHX that he was going to end Ska’s the Limit. A few people said they didn’t want the show to go away as it was a weekend staple. I was on the list of possible hosts, and when they asked me if I wanted it, and I took it. So I didn’t have to go through a lot of the rigmarole that other hosts have.
I mean they did stick me on in the middle of the night for about a year to prove I could do it, but other than that…
Where did the logo come from? I really like it.
I had that designed. Before Ska’s the Limit had the standard checkerboard thing. It was done by Steve Kitchen from Combination13. He does skate decks and album covers for bands. He did it up real nice.
The way you said Ska’s the Limit, are you not a fan of the name?
Well I feel like it’s kind of a joke name.
But a lot of ska bands are pun names.
That’s a trend that’s kind of ending though. I think that did the scene a kind of disservice. You’d have trouble selling yourself today if your name was the Veal Skallipinis or something. There’s a lot of stigma attached to the word ska as well even though the music the current scene is playing isn’t the kind of ska that people hate.
Which would be what?
You know, ska punk has probably got the worst reputation. I’m thinking the Reel Big Fishes and No Doubts. The ones with the really big names are the ones that make people think, “Yeah I know what ska is now and I hate it.” It’s not that I hate the name, but it’s more that I think I could find a more fitting one. Honestly I play only about half ska. Mostly it’s Jamaican and retro music. Most of the bands that you would call a ska band are playing more reggae than ska. So I think it’s not a fair descriptor.
So this fourth wave of ska, it’s more back to roots?
There was an argument about that for a while. It doesn’t seem to be a wave anymore. There aren’t peaks or breaks, just a steady movement. I think the Internet has kind of normalized the popularity of genres. It’s not such a flash in the pan or revival to revile or to backlash. I’d say for 10 years now it’s been steady growth. At least on the early reggae scene. Not so much regarding the ska punk stuff.
Do you have any favorite local ska bands?
Local is not really happening too much. Murder City, they’re in a really good place right now. They’ve been around for 20 years or so. They play a wide variety of styles and get the show going.
So yeah, you got them, and a couple of post-Sublime kind of reggae bands, but they don’t really do the ska thing. They do a different vibe. So while Murder City can handle it, I’d really much rather hear what some high school or college kids would do. I’d like to get a more youth-driven scene. Bands like the Pinstripes in Cincinnati, the Dropsteppers in Minneapolis, or the Green Room Rockers in Lafayette, Ind. are killing it right now.
What do you think helps them do that? Maybe better mass transit so that it’d be easier for kids that can’t drive to get together?
I don’t know if there’s anything the city could change. I think it might be an attitude about ska in St. Louis. I’ve definitely picked up that the Urge and MU330 had such an impact on what St. Louis thinks ska music; the kids who want to go out and rock do the punk thing and not the ska thing. Maybe they perceive it as more modern.
So maybe it would have been better for the scene if the Urge never existed?
No, no, no. Ha ha ha ha. But I do think the current scene is not really happening. A lot of bands have trouble getting in here. The current ska scene has not been represented in St. Louis for 10 years or so — Ska’s the Limit notwithstanding. Paul did a great job. Bands that were inspired by the Hellcat kind of vibe just never really took off in St. Louis. I guess I could try and do my part more and try to work with venues to get things going.
Is that really your responsibility?
Well no, it’s not my responsibility. But I know the bands that deserve to be here and the bands that are passing us on tour. So who else could notice it more than me? It’s tough because once I take on that role, suddenly I’m the middle man between the band and the venue.
And you’re not getting paid.
And I’m not getting paid. And everyone looks at me when things fall apart. I didn’t know how it all worked, and when I found out I thought, my this is a terrible system.
Do you have a favorite live show you’ve ever seen?
The Slackers are my favorite to see live. Their instrumentation is out of control. If you know their songs even a little you can hear what they do differently. Each time it’s a different take. Different solos, they almost take a jam approach to ska.
Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
Mister, Mister was my first tape. But the first thing I ever bought that I’m not embarrassed about would be the Violent Femmes.
Do you have a favorite horn riff of all time?
I did end up going with the Skatalites’ “Man on the Street” as my opening tune for the show. That’s always been a good riff. MU330 always has good horn hooks.
What forms of media do you pull from for your show? Vinyl, tape, CD?
I try to avoid vinyl for the most part. I have a rough enough flow as it is. Just trying to keep it as smooth as I can. I have a nice bit of software on my computer that eliminates most dead air. So I mostly rip things to my computer. CDs are always my fall back, but mostly I try to keep it on the laptop.
Do you ever play things off YouTube?
I rip a lot of things off there. Like when the Specials were on Jimmy Fallon. I used that. If it’s something that’s unique and well-recorded I’ve got no problems putting that on the air.
So has having your own show enriched your relationship with music?
In a way. It’s really solidified ska. I was just a ska fan before my initial podcast. Now I’m a ska guy. I am now attached to it. In a sense I didn’t expect to be so involved in the scene, for good or bad. I spend so much time listening to ska that I don’t get time to listen to other music that I like. I’m so detached from current music. That’s good and bad too.
Like dubstep. It’s huge with the kids right now. It was sold to me as a Jamaican derivative so I tried to get in on it. I went looking all day and I could not find a single dubstep tune that was good.
How is dubstep Jamaican derivative?
Well the word dub I guess. It’s dub effects and not really reggae. I do feel like I’ve gotten more close minded too though. In the late ’90s I appreciated jungle and drum and bass for its connection to Jamaica with the broken beat and so on. But with dubstep I can’t even find it. I can’t even find a little hook or anything that makes it worth it. I always thought I wouldn’t be one of those people that got out of touch.
Ska has taken over my life, for better or worse.
JJ Loy hosts Ska’s the Limit, every Saturday, 7-9 p.m. Central, on 88.1 KDHX.