Human Skab is a proto-grunge, psychotic, post-apocalyptic, hardcore punk rock blues band from Elma, Washington, led by Travis Roberts since 1986. Roberts fronted the group as a young child during the mid-1980s, accompanied by his siblings, friends, and cousin Frankie, and the music that they created and recorded as a result of the young boy’s adventures and creative explorations gathered a dedicated following in the cassette underground. “I’m not doin’ this for the money, I’m on a mission,” he said in a 1987 interview with SPIN magazine. “I have a message for the world. It’s not just playin’ guitars good that is important. It’s all the things that you do.”
It all began at a family campout one evening when Travis was eight years old. Travis notes, “It was in the mid-eighties at Belfair State Park, when my Cousin Franky asked me, ‘So when are you going to start your band?’ I had at the time no recollection of any plans to start a band, but I jumped right on the bandwagon so to speak and replied, ‘I already have a band. It’s called the Alley Cats but I think I want to change the name.’ Franky thought the Alley Cats was a fine name but when I told him I wanted to change it to Human Skid he began laughing hysterically. Before he finished laughing I exclaimed, ‘No, I want to be the Human Skab!’ This was almost too much for Cousin Franky to take and he placed his hands over his face and threw his head back laughing uncontrollably in approval. Reflecting back I often think of the Human Skab as less of a band and more of an idea. I sometimes claim that I called us the Human Skab because we were like blood platelets laying ourselves down to Skab over the wounds of Humanity, and in a way maybe we were. But truthfully, as a child, I played so hard that I was usually covered with several large scabs at a time. So my mother took to calling me the Human Skab. ‘Well, do you have any songs?’ asked Franky. ‘I have one, but it will take all of us to do it. It is called, Bodies Will Get Down.’ I answered. The accompanying music was simply the balled fists of my entire extended family pounding on the tops of picnic tables and making sound effects with our voices and mouths. There was something tribal about the whole experience. Also, some deep bonding that was not, I believe, experienced through more traditional ‘American’ family events. Everyone was caught up in the moment–smiling, laughing–as we pounded, played out, and danced. ‘Bodies will get down! Bodies will get down! Bodies will get down by the street! Bodies will get down by the street. . . Before you can get there first. AAHH!!!’ The chanting was loud. After ten o’clock a park ranger came and asked us to keep the noise down as complaints had come in from several other campsites. So our party came to an end that night. But as for the Human Skab…that was only the beginning. . . .”
And so, from the days of his infancy, Travis has been possessed by an ancient warrior spirit. True to his word, his musical mission continues to this day. After serving in the military and then returning home, Travis decided to reconstruct the band and continue the message of his music. Human Skab held their first reunion tour in December 2009, after which Travis noted: “The thing that appealed to me about playing music both when I was young as well as now is that within my music I find a freedom unparalleled within the confines of everyday American life. Since pre-history music has played an integral part in the human experience. Not just listening to music but creating it. Unfortunately, capitalism has stolen this aspect of humanity from most people living behind the bars of consumerist systems. If you want music, just pop in a CD or turn on your IPOD. Let the pros make the tunes. In my house we are taking music back. No subject is taboo, no methods are right or wrong, just feel the music emanate from the Multiverse and go with it, translate it.”
The music is raw, un-bridled, in-your-face, and true to life; it is an awakening.
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