As everyone knows, the Skateful Dead are a force to be reckoned with in the international roller derby community. But they bring more to the track than grit, grace and sheer athleticism. With their next Kingston bout fast approaching this Saturday, Rogue Warriors investigative reporter Bluestocking sat down with Skateful Dead captains Frigger Skater and Coop du Jour to talk about zombies, derby, love, and life.
Skateful Dead captains Frigger Skater and Coop du Jour. Photo credit (and apologies to) Cat London.
BLUESTOCKING: Thanks for talking with me today. In the past several years, the Skateful Dead have become a beloved Kingston institution—your popularity knows no bounds. Where did the idea to start an all-zombie team come from, and why roller derby?
FRIGGER SKATER: Hey, well, derby is just fun, and we love to play! But the idea to form a team originally came from a desire to gain some positive visibility and acceptance for the undead in our society. There’s a lot of anti-undead sentiment out there. Even if most people know better by now than to make jokes about undead individuals just shambling around moaning “brains, brains,” they still don’t necessarily recognize the richness and diversity of the undead community. We hope that the Dead can be ambassadors for the sport of roller derby in the undead community as well as ambassadors of the undead in the derby community. But it’s not always easy to occupy that role.
BLUESTOCKING: What are some of the frustrating stereotypes that you face as a zombie team?
FRIGGER: First of all, people call us zombies, which is just wrong. The term is undead.
FRIGGER: And then they’ll ask us if we’re slow zombies, like in Night of the Living Dead, or fast zombies, like in World War Z. But of course it’s very offensive to suggest that there are only two types of undead. Undead individuals come in all shapes and sizes; we are fast and slow; we have a multitude of interests and talents. That’s why roller derby is such a perfect sport for us: there’s such an acceptance—a celebration—of different personalities and body types and levels of aliveness in this sport. When we’re playing we don’t say “Hey, this opposing jammer is fast so we’ll send out our fast undead” or “We need to slow down the pack so we’re sending out our line of Night of the Living Dead undead”—we say “Send Newey and Improved, send Smackniss Evermean, send Polly Slamory.” We’re all individuals and we all contribute differently to the team.
BLUESTOCKING: Do we have a long way to go before people accept undead individuals as an essential part of society?
FRIGGER: (sighs) You know, it’s been a long lurch to acceptance for us. We’re just tired of people acting as if undead issues are entirely different from other social concerns. Like, you get all these blogs talking about what to do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. You do what you would do in any other widespread socio-economic catastrophe: Educate yourself. Reach out. Listen.
BLUESTOCKING: Would you say our culture’s current obsession with undead individuals like yourselves is actually a displacement of widespread alienation and despair resulting from the climate of mindless consumerism inherent in the capitalist oligarchy which effectively constitutes our so-called democratic political structure?
FRIGGER: Yes, definitely. But at least it helps us sell our merchandise, which helps to fund training and travel for the Kingston Derby Girls as a league. We have stylish T-shirts available at our bouts in all sizes, and in both fitted and unisex styles. I’m not going to say that wearing a Skateful Dead shirt, or any other fantastic KDG merch, will protect you in a zombie apocalypse…
BLUESTOCKING: …but it just might save your life?
FRIGGER: No, I’m not going to say that.
BLUESTOCKING: Are you ready for the next bout?
FRIGGER: Oh, definitely! But I doubt they’re ready for us! We’ll be playing Lindsay Roller Derby June 21st right here in Kingston at the Memorial Centre. It’s a double-header with our league-mates the Disloyalists, who are playing the Durham Derby Devils. $10 in advance, $15 at the door, doors open at 6 pm. It’s going to be a great game. We’re going to win it for ourselves and for the undead everywhere.
BLUESTOCKING: I’ll certainly be there cheering you on. Coop du Jour, you’ve been pretty quiet. Do you have anything to add?
BLUESTOCKING: The more you know. Thanks for talking to us, and good luck on the 21st.
FRIGGER: It’s been a pleasure.