The world’s only ‘Ski-tar’ is still rockin’ the slopes

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on March 3, 2010 6:30 pm

Squaw Valley, CA — Twenty six years ago, the first modern-day commercial ski music was born with the release of a six-song vinyl EP titled ‘Ski Patrol’ by a band of the same name. The following winter’s ski resort and club tour included a variety of on-stage antics, and the introduction of the original ski guitar, the “Ski-Tar.”

Eric T. Brandt, a.k.a. ‘Eric T’., who produced the album and wrote most of the songs saw the need for a ski music sound and got the inspiration for the Ski-tar after spending two years with the Surf Punks.

“Drew Steele (of the Surf Punks) had a guitar that he made out of a skateboard that he used to ride around on stage,” says Brandt. “I immediately set out to build a ski guitar that I could play on stage.”

The Ski-tar is made from an original late-70’s Travis Bean TB1000S. The Travis Bean guitars, which utilized a unique, one-piece aluminum neck-to-bridge design, allowed Brandt to connect a pair of skis to the neck section without creating a situation that would constantly put the guitar out of tune due to the length and extension of the skis.

“We found a pair of Head Rocket kids skis at the LA Ski Show, cut them in half and routed out the bases to make room for the electronics,” explained Brandt. “Lo and behold, the thing plays great. It’s got a very bright and gritty sound. Perfect for the style of music we’re playing.”

The Ski-tar has appeared on stage hundreds of times during Brandt’s travels, from LA clubs like Madame Wongs and Trancas, to ski resorts around the west including Snow Summit and Squaw Valley USA, where Brandt now lives and works. The Ski-tar was also seen on MTV’s Basement Tapes and in Warren Miller’s infamous movie “Steep and Deep” in an early 80’s music video for the song “Flyin’ High” which Brandt penned for the film.

“I had been shooting film for Warren Miller and took the opportunity to propose the concept of ski music to him,” says Brandt. “Being the entrepreneur that he is, he said ‘OK, let’s go shoot a music video, and we’ll put it in the movie (Steep and Deep).”

Within a couple of weeks, Brandt and a few members of his band joined Warren and producer Don Brolin in Mammoth, where they shot the on-snow segments for the music video. A few months later, Brandt submitted the video to MTV’s Basement Tapes competition, where it aired nationally.

“It was pretty hilarious,” he says. “We lost to a video for a song called ‘Rats on a Budget’.

Brandt, who founded Lake Tahoe television and media company Tahoe TV in 2005, recalls his original intent in producing the first songs as “an opportunity to celebrate the fun, good people, and good times which draw us to the snow. They’re silly songs about skiing and by no means serious music,” Brandt says.

The Ski-tar still gets attention at gigs with Brandt’s local Tahoe band of nearly twenty years, the Beer Gardeners. Most recently he played the Ski-tar at an anniversary party for Squaw Valley passholders in December.

Brandt released a remixed CD collection of his ski music tunes in 2004. The nine songs, six of which were included on the 1984 EP “Ski Patrol”, all are based on Brandt and his co-writers’ experiences on and off the snow and although penned years ago, they still ring true in a timeless fashion. With a clear nod to L.A.’s 80′s band the Surf Punks, songs like “Rocks”, “Unwanted Binding Release”, and “Liftline Pileup”, take a high-energy, edgy sound and combine it with sort of ‘sit-com’ style lyrics, poking fun at skiers’ situations and attitudes. Lighter, more mellow acoustic fare, “Mellow Daddy Skier”, finds a young skier trying to keep up with his dad, and “Last Night at Rosie’s” takes a ‘morning-after’ look at a ski-town party scene. Two songs, “Short Skis Suck” and “Ski Naked” jump out and scream to be potential skier party anthems. The tracks were masterfully salvaged from old analog tapes in a myriad of formats and molded into a warm, punchy sonic blend by North Lake Tahoe producer/engineer Blake Beeman.

A definite gift item for any winter sports lover, it is available online at www.skimusic.com   and on iTunes. 

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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