An interview with Kym Clift of the Donkey Show
By Abram Jones from www.ruderoots.com 2001
The Donkey Show was a fun Caribbean-sounding Ska band in Southern California in the eighties. They introduced many people to the music and were in the unique position of being one of the founding bands of the "California Ska Sound", a precursor to what some would call the third wave. Kym and I have been talking about doing an interview since last March and finally got around to doing it.
Abram:How did the Donkey Show start, and what spelled its end?
Kym Clift:I believe it started with a crazy idea in Dave's head--he was the man... In 1985 or 86 when I hooked up with the band I think the boys (Matt and Dave for sure) had been practicing for a couple of months. They knew a few tunes, but I don't think the name "the Donkey Show" was settled upon. I could be wrong though.
And as far as the end is concerned, honestly, the band retired for many reasons; one being the fact that we were all branching out in different ways creativley as musicians. I know that sounds like such a stereotypical answer, but it's the truth. Oftentimes this leads to successful bands, you know, creating a unique sound from a variety of influences, but unfortunately for the Donkey Show, I feel it was partly responsible for the demise of the band. we were all pretty young, stubborn, and eager to explore new opportunities. Although I was very dissapointed, I knew it was for the best. We quit while we were ahead and I would much rather do that then sell out, perform half-heartedly, or play shitty music.
AJ:When you were playing back then, and influencing a successive generation of Ska musicians and fans, did you feel like you were creating a certain kind of sound?
KC:Hmmm, I don't quite understand the question. Certainly I feel the Donkey Show created a new sound that was unique to the scene at the time--that's how we attempted to differentiate ourseves...but as a whole I can't really say.
AJ:How often did John Roy play with you?
KC:I don't really know. Maybe twice?
AJ:So, John and Creedy have gone to Unsteady (with a little helpfrom you on "Tightrope"), Dave Hillyard is now with the Slackers. What have other members of the band gone on to do?
KC: Of all of the guys, I still see Creedy the most. Creedy continues to dabble in different stuff now and again, but I think he's mainly focused on his family and career. Dave, last I heard, was doing well. He was a professor, as a matter of fact, I heard he got his Ph.D and was actually Dr. Hillyard. I have not seen him for a few years, so besides doing the Slackers thing and touring with Rancid I am not sure what he's currently up to. Although I haven't seen Kent recently, Creedy still does, so I get the scoop from him. Anyway, Kent is engaged, playing with like 4 different bands and started his own business of some sort. Matt I hear is some math genius and teaching college kids. He was in some power pop band, but I don't know if he still is or not. As life ticks by, the time between visits gets longer and longer, but as sappy as this may sound, there will always be that special bond inside all of us that no matter how ever long it's been will always be there.
AJ: Everyone and his brother has been inquiring about rumors concerning a Donkey Show reunion show. You've told me before that no one from the band would do that. Is that so?
KC: I'm fairly certain that no one from the band would be into doing that. I'm sure it would be a blast, but I doubt there is even a remote possibility. I'm pretty sure I can speak for the majority of us.
AJ:What was it like recording with the Equators, who had previously influenced the Donkey Show?
KC: Man, honestly, I can't really remember. I mean, I can't say I had these overwhelming emotions or anything. It was cool, you know, we had a good time, played some good music.... he was a very sweet man. so was Laurel Aitken too, for that matter.
AJ:Last issue was "Women of Ska Month" at Rude Roots. Do you have anything in particular to say about being a woman in Ska?
KC: It was fun while it lasted??
AJ:I mean, any difficulties or advantages presented by being a member of the fairer sex?
KC: I like how you say that..."fairer sex". I'd say mostly advantages. Except for touring. I was pretty much one of the boys. Definitely no real advantages there.
AJ:What kinds of music do you enjoy now? Where do you think Ska will be in ten years?
KC: Hmm, let's see... I enjoy just about everything, although I am not a real fan of a lot of the music I hear on the radio. That last show I went to was the Stiff Little Fingers--absolutely fabulous. I went and saw Joe Strummer and John Doe recently too, that was really neat--total legends. As far as Ska in ten years--tough question. It will probably continue to evolve and new sounds will be incorporated into songs making the "new ska" what it is, but ska ain't ska, without the backbone of it's origin--its roots. And of course, that rhythm.
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