A lot of genre descriptors get tossed around when referencing SKUNGK. People look back on the rap/rock crossover bands of the ‘90s and 2000s and use terms like, “rapcore”, “rap rock”, “nu metal”, “rap metal”, etc.
When I was brand-new to this scene, I found myself at Runwayz A LOT my first full summer of going to local shows. Looking back, this was probably the summer of 2000 or 2001. Runwayz was the indoor/outdoor venue by the airport in Cheektowaga for those who don’t recall, or never get to experience it. I’m told that the outdoor stage still exists, but it’s been repurposed.
Anyway, that was my first SKUNGK experience. They played the indoor stage that summer and completely destroyed the standing room with their stage presence and volume alone. At first, I talked shit to myself over seeing two vocalists on stage. When I was younger, I always had a thing about that, but I’ve learned to stop prejudging bands with more than one standalone vocalist. At the time, I was expecting one singer doing all the work, while the other guy just held the mic, jumping around to hype the crowd, maybe tossing out a syllable or two. NOPE. SKUNGK was as devastating as they come for this genre. My tastes have certainly evolved over the last twenty years, but I will always have a special place in my heart for the bands that forged this style of the rap/rock crossover. In fact, I remember hearing Linkin Park for the first time when Hybrid Theory had first dropped, wishing they sounded more like SKUNGK.
If you recall this band from yesteryear, check your CD stashes for the following gems before continuing with this read:
So, the two folks I have to thank for making this interview possible are Steve Davus Jr. (bass), and Dan Nelligan (drums, current drummer of STEMM). These guys got together and did their own rendition of the Time Warp, revisiting their time in SKUNGK, while also (hopefully) finding some closure. Let’s get into it:
When it comes to Skungk, I have only a few memories from Showplace Theater and Runwayz from about 20 years ago. I had one of your albums back then, the one with the gears on the cover. I don’t even remember the name. Back then, Louis was singing for STEMM, so I thought there was a cool rap metal vibe happening in Buffalo. I was really into that style back then. Not so much anymore, but what rap metal and nu metal bands accomplished back then will always impress me.
My immediate questions are pretty standard: How did the band start? How did you come up with the name? Did you always have two singers? (I remember there being two at Runwayz.) Who are some of your favorite bands of that style? I guess what I’m really asking is who your biggest influences were at the time versus now when it comes to making music.
I’m sorry this took so long, I’m lazy. Also had to get with Dan Nelligan and try to remember the details. I believe he may be emailing you as well, because I wasn’t around for the band disolving and all.
What I can tell you is that SKUNgK was formed in the summer of 1997, in North Collins by Dan Nelligan-drums, Ed Warnes (Tooter)-vocals, Matthew Ayers-vocals, and Michael Perry (Muff)-DJ. They quickly realized that they needed someone to play bass/guitar, Dan called me as we had been friends since about the age of 14 and knew that I played. We wrote 3 songs and started the search for a guitar player, there were a few candidates that just didn’t pan out, then I contacted a friend who had just left Yellow #5 and that’s where Eric Nussbickle-guitar came into the picture. We were on our way.
So let me back up and answer some of your other questions.
We tossed around several names like Louie’s Uzi and Bad Monkey, then someone just came up with Skunk, and I will take credit for coming up with the final spelling “SKUNgK” because we were heavy with a “little g thrown in” for good measure.
We had two singers for most of the time that the band was around, Tooter left eventually and then it was just Matt.
We all had different influences, and I think it showed up in the music, aside from liking the usual suspects like KORN, DEFTONES, LIMP BIZKIT, Dan and I grew up with bands like AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Morbid Angel, Carcass, Deicide, Death and so on. I was also a fan of hair bands like Extreme and Saigon Kick as well as Run DMC, Beastie Boys, and Naughty By Nature.
Matt and Muff were Wu Tang fans as well as RATM and Tooter was a fan of all music, that guy could go Hardcore, Punk, Metal and Hip Hop. Eric did lean a little more towards the hardcore scene.
There were other members, we picked up a second guitar player John Anderson, to me that was pretty much the line up that got it all done, we were unstoppable at that point, we were doing quite well.
Shortly after we made Status Symbol, our second album (I am going to send you pictures of the three albums that are out there in a few minutes) I was kicked out of the band, I had rent to pay and worked a lot of hours at my concrete job, the reason I was given was that I didn’t seem to be into it, and was missing practices. I was crushed, but I sucked it up and wanted to remain friends with the guys, that was the end of my tenure in SKUNgK.
I was replaced by Rob Dalimonte, who was also a friend and I still consider him to be that to this day, I’ve worked on other projects with him as well afterword.
He was later replaced by Steve Crowel.
The final member change was Eric and John being replaced by Pete Samulski, but I don’t know what led to that.
So that’s a long winded history, we played a lot of shows at places like The Continental, The Atomic, Kenzies, The Showplace Theatre, Sanctuary, many VFW and American Legion halls, we played in Erie PA, Providence RI, some hemp festival in the state of Maine, Youngstown OH. With bands like Incubus, Static X, Bloodlet, Lethargy, and I don’t really remember all of them.
I know you were also in DROPgOD and a few other projects. I’d love for you to talk about those here. Anyone in Skungk, DROPgOD, or any of your other projects with the availability can chime in on these by the way. Throughout your history as a musician in Buffalo, what shows/venues have stood out the most to you? What other bands in the scene stood out the most to you? What did you think was better about the scene then versus now? What do you think was worse back then that has since improved?
So moving on with your questions, I was in other bands too, I was in DROPGOD twice, first on second guitar then on bass when the asked me back, I played bass with Red Eyed Stare for a bit, then kind of took a break for a couple years, came back and formed A Phoenix Rising where I played lead guitar we had a decent run, went on to form One’s Own Blood where I played bass, then after that it was straight up bar cover bands Four Barrel (rhythm guitar) and Second Identity (bass) playin’ all yer Tom Petty favorites (laughs)
Right now I’ve given up the cover band game, I am now involved in a studio project with Bob Beiber called Tat’n Celt – this stuff is good, you will be hearing it.
Shows and venues that have stood out to me throughout history? My beloved Continental! We played a million shows there, I left a lot of blood on that stage. I also worked there and made many good friends there. Some of the bands that stood out to me back then were MOTHERBIRTH, YELLOW #5, EVIL RUFUS K, DROPGOD, @ (yes that was a band, and they were incredible), Teased To A Beatdown, there were so many, and we were all friends, we all went to each other’s shows, I would meet the MOTHERBIRTH guys down town and hang out at a Red Eyed Stare show, the scene was good.
I can’t tell you what the scene is like now, I’m not a part of it but I just hope that it’s not taking itself too seriously, I hope that it’s taking the time to enjoy itself, form bonds and friendships, create lifelong memories because that’s what it’s about, not success, not popularity, just love of the moment.
Anyway that’s my dad moment for y’all.