Monday, November 26, 2012
Interview With Travis Nelson On The End Of Hub City Stompers & The Re-Birth Of Inspecter 7
Don't call it a comeback! The big ska news here on the east coast of the U.S. over the Thanksgiving weekend was that New Jersey-based Hub City Stompers (HCS) have called it quits. While that news will upset quite a few of the band's die hard fans around the world, the exciting part of the announcement made by HCS lead singer Travis Nelson (Reverend Sinister) was that the death of HCS has given rise to the re-birth of New Jersey ska legends Inspecter 7 (I7)! That's right, beginning in February 2013, the band from whose ashes HCS was spawned way back in 2002, will be back full time and full force. The other good news -- the majority of the HCS line up and HCS music catalogue will be coming right along to the new I7.
I7 were formed a few years after my band Bigger Thomas staked a flag in the ground for New Jersey-styled ska way back in 1988. While we looked to 2-Tone for inspiration, I7 took the genre in a whole new direction. Like us, they embraced the 2-Tone philosophy in look and attitude, but they mixed their ska with a heady dose of punk, hardcore and skinhead sounds and politics. They quickly developed a rabid following in our shared hometown of New Brunswick, New Jersey and soon through regular touring and explosive live shows became one of the premiere American ska bands of the 1990's.
When Inspecter 7 ended in 2001, Nelson wasn't ready to throw in the towel. Instead, he took the best of his original band and honed it in his new band Hub City Stompers. The power and the energy from I7 remained, but now there was humor and witty social commentary that came along with excellent song craft. And so, I fully expect that lessons, song writing experience and showmanship that Nelson and his HCS band mates have gathered along the way the last 10 years will inform the updated I7. I can't wait to see what they have in store for us in 2013. Here are a few of my very favorite HCS songs.
I connected with Nelson right before Thanksgiving to get all the inside information on the decision to end HCS and re-boot I7, who had still played shows sporadically the last few years, but were not a full time band. Here is what he had to say.
What prompted the decision to reform I7 full time and to bring Hub City Stompers to an end?
It's not so much a reformation of Inspecter 7 as it is a resurgence and a return to full time, regular activity as a band after years of limited, local playing out. After some talks between myself and Giuseppe, Inspecter 7's cessation as a regularly active band, which is essentially what prompted me to form Hub City Stompers, has come to an end. I7 is back in full force. It's been an amazing 10 year run for HCS, but Giuseppe and I are ready to join forces on an all out basis again and keep Inspecter 7's 20 year history running strong. Things have come full circle.
Who is the new line-up for the reformed I7?
Myself (Rev Sinister) and Giuseppe Mancini on lead vocals, Jenny Whiskey (of HCS and Professor Plum) of tenor sax and backing vocals, Reggae Bob (of HCS and Predator Dub Assassins) on bass, Rob George (of HCS and Bigger Thomas) on guitar, Pip (of The Heavy Beat and HCS) on drums. We're still sorting out the trombone position, though Adam X will still be involved in a limited capacity, and we are still searching for a keyboard player (if anyone's interested?). We're also talking to King Django (Jeff Baker) about possibly being involved in the line up on either of those instruments.
Are there plans to record a new I7 album? I know you debuted a new song "They Say" at your last show.
There's actually been a new Inspecter 7 album in the works for a few years now, entitled "Escapes & Illusions", which should be out by year's end on Little Dickman Records. And yes, "They Say" is one of the tracks from the new album. We'll also be immediately working on writing a new CD as soon as we're up and running again in early 2013.
HCS explored a very diverse palette of music with ska at its core. Do you plan to keep exploring with I7?
Absolutely. We'd already started doing that in Inspecter 7 on "Banished To Bogeyland" I'd say. And the Hub City Stompers songs and music is what I would have been doing with Inspecter 7 anyway had things not come to a halt with i7 back in 2001. So I always have had the view, and still do, that while it's a good thing to have a base in our sound, we shouldn't pigeon hole ourselves to very few specific formulas or influences.
Are there plans for I7 to tour? When will you debut the new I7?
Absolutely. We're all about getting back on the road. No specifics yet as things are still starting to get booked, but we'll be out and about as much as possible. It's still all i7 old, new, or whatever you want to call it. After our benefit show for Predator in Long Branch on 12/15/12, we'll be back with the new line up full time in February 2013. Still ironing out details for the debut show of the "resurgence" but be on the lookout for an early February show somewhere in the NJ/NYC area.
Will I7 play any HCS songs live ?
Yes, absolutely. It's not just the HCS line up that's being incorporated into i7, but a large part of the HCS music catalogue as well. I of course wouldn't just toss 10 years of music in the garbage, and there is a new HCS CD ("Hater's Dozen") coming out on Stubborn Records soon. So while you're rockin' out to the i7 set you never know when a few HCS favorites will be thrown in there. Even a few Steel Toe Solution songs may pop up from time to time as well. You're essentially looking at a 20 year history of music from the i7 family (i7/hcs/sts) spanning 9 albums (come 2013) all under the Inspecter 7 banner. The show is going to be as nuts as ever.
What do you say to HCS fans who may be disappointed about the end of the band?
I'd suggest they look at the new beginning that this end is ushering in. And I'd say that neither the HCS spirit nor the music is truly dying, as so much of HCS is going to be involved in i7 now, and that the HCS spirit was a continuation of the i7 spirit in the first place. Playing, touring, and traveling with HCS over the last decade, people all over would constantly refer to the relation of the the 3 bands, particularly i7 and HCS, whether I myself was conscious of that relation and connection or not. The circle is closing, and everything will now be encompassed in it.
You've been playing music for 20 years now! What keeps you motivated?
The love of the music, first and foremost. That's what's had me join Inspecter 7 and had me form HCS, while both were respectively formed in periods where ska was in the doldrums. It's never been about the popularity of style or genre, but more so for the love of what we create and play, and for those that do appreciate it. What better way to let it all out and express than by the means of the music you love.
For anyone wanting to catch the last few Hub City Stompers shows:
Friday 11/30 @ IOTA in Arlington, VA
Saturday 12/1 @ Popeye's in Peekskill, NY
Sunday 12/16 @ Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ
To keep up with i7 news, tour schedule, and music, visit the band's Facebook page.