In this electronic age of blogs, Websites and the immediacy of Google searches in keeping up with bands and music, its almost impossible to fathom the pre-historic era of the music fanzine and its importance in promoting bands and keeping fans up-to-date and informed. The rise and subsequent explosion of ska in the U.S. in the mid and late-1980's (and to an extent its resurgence in the UK and Europe at the same time) was chronicled by an ever shifting assortment of ska fanzines that served as a lifeline to ska fans around the U.S. and U.K.
Here in New York City, the ska scene of the 80's was diligently covered by Jeff Baker (AKA King Django) who also played Trombone and sang with The Boilers (and later Skinnerbox and Stubborn All-Stars). Baker's fanzine titled 'Rude Awakening' offered fans interviews and inside information on the comings and goings of the scene. As I help to plan a reunion of NYC ska bands who appeared on the N.Y Beat!: Hit & Run compilation, the interview provides a further look inside the growth of the scene and the young bands fueling its popularity.
I recently came across a scanned copy of a 5-page interview Baker conducted with Rob 'Bucket' Hingley that appeared in Rude Awakening. The interview which appears to be from 1986-87 based on the line-up of the band mentioned, provides great historical information about the genesis of The Toasters as well as the early days of the New York ska scene from Hingley's perspective. I was interested to learn that Hingley had a ska/reggae band in the UK called I-Witness (that had a song in the charts!) before he arrived in New York in 1982 and that he was struck by how young most of the other ska bands in New York were at the time (most were 16-18 years old and still in high school).
Hingley also mentions how he came to meet Joe Jackson who later produced the first album by The Toasters under the fake name Stanley Turpentine (to avoid any problems with A&M Records) and also shares his thoughts on the rest of the ska scene including Second Step, Beat Brigade, The Boilers and A-Kings. The full interview is below. Click each page to see a larger, readable version of the interview.
The American and New York ska scenes also generated interest in the U.K. in the mid-80's. This interest was stoked by a deal that Moon Records signed with Roddy Moreno's Ska Records to distribute albums by The Toasters, The Boilers, Shot Black & White and Detroit's Gangster Fun in the U.K. A U.K.-based skazine called Skankin' USA included a detailed article about the U.S. ska scene of the 80's, focusing on U.S. bands that had albums for sale in the U.K. Though I don't have details, it's likely the article was written by someone at Ska Records. Even without a date or details, it makes for great reading and there are fantastic pictures of The Untouchables, Shot Black & White, Bimskalabim and Gangster Fun.