Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Interview with Roger Lomas - 2Tone Producer

Roger Lomas, who is best known for his production work with 2 Tone bands The Selecter, Bad Manners and The Bodysnachers achieving 18 hit singles along the way, was also an extremely successful musician in his earlier years as lead guitarist of Coventry band The Sorrows, who in addition to achieving chart success in the UK & Europe were hugely popular in Italy where in the mid sixties at the tender age of 17 worked & lived in Rome performing on sell-out stadium tours & TV shows. Although officially ‘hanging-up’ his guitar in 1979 as his record production career took off he returned to the stage briefly for a four month period in 1989 to perform 60 shows & several TV appearances after joining the extremely successful 60’s band The Fortunes.

This interview was conducted by Paul Williams who is a 2Tone afficianado and lives in the UK and can also be found on his My Space web site .

PW - You were a big part of the music scene in Coventry before you started your production work. It seems Coventry has always been a hive of musical activity, something was bound to take off at some stage, so was it any surprise about the success of 2Tone?
RL - Not surprised at all ... I was working with The Specials in early 1979 doing their front of house sound, it was obvious to anyone attending their gigs that they were going to make it.
PW - What was it like in Coventry at the time of 2Tone's coming?
RL- I can't remember 2Tone being a bigger buzz in Coventry than anywhere else.

PW- How did you come to produce the b-side of The Specials "Gangsters", "The Selecter"?
RL - I actually recorded "The Selecter" in 1977 in my small 4 track studio at the end of my garden. Neol Davies was a friend of mine way before 2Tone. He wrote "The Selecter" (previously titled "The Kingston Affair") and couldn't afford to make a demo, so asked me to help out. After hearing the track I thought we should try our best to record a 'master' rather than a demo, as the song obviously had masses of potential.

PW- Was it good working with the Selecter? Especially as the tracks you produced were hits?
RL - It's always good to be confident that the work you are producing is going to sell and I was totally confident that The Selecter's records would be hits, however, their constant bickering and differences of opinions did not make it a pleasurable experience.

PW - What's your verdict of the sound of the "Celebrate The Bullet" album? Was it what you aimed for?
RL - I love the sound of "Celebrate The Bullet" although at the time I had absolutely no preconceived idea of how the album should sound.

PW- You became principally famous for being the Bad Manners man. Was that a manic time working with them?
RL - Working with Bad Manners was fantastic. Rarely a dull moment. We mostly went into a studio with not much of an idea what was going to come out, but thankfully the chemistry between us all somehow made it work.

PW - Was it your idea for putting Desmond Dekker and four Coventry based Specials together for "King Of Kings"? and do you think the record deserved the criticism it got?
RL- I was asked by Trojan Records to record an album with Desmond Dekker, but not his band, so I thought it would be a good idea to team him up with as many members of The Specials as possible. The four members who played on the record (Lynval Golding, Roddy Radiation, Neville Staple & Horace Panter) were the only members of The Specials (at that time) who were prepared to work with each other and as they were the majority (four out of seven members) of a band that equally own the name, they were legally entitled to use the name The Specials alongside Desmond Dekker. So if the criticism you are referring to, is regarding the use of the name, then NO, I don't believe it was deserved, as they only did what thousands of other bands do to help maintain their careers ... They worked for it !!!

PW - Were The Specials albums "Skinhead Girl" and "Conquering Ruler" good to work on? and a good idea in essence?
RL -They were both good albums to work on, but a good idea in essence? in hindsight ... possibly not.

PW - You got a grammy for the Jamaican ET album for Lee Perry. Was that the highlight of your career or just one of many?
RL- Highlight of my career? Definitely! Grammy's don't come along every day, although as you suggest, one of many.

PW - You've worked with lots of good artists, who are your favourites?
RL - No favourites. When you are in the lucky position of earning a successful living from your hobby every job is satisfying, although there are a few people (no names mentioned) who I would not choose to work with again.

PW - What music do you listen to for your own enjoyment?
RL - I don't listen to music for enjoyment and haven't done so since I was a teenager. I get all of my musical satisfaction from working in music.

PW - Have you any plans to produce more Ska tracks in the future?
RL - No plans to record any Ska tracks, at the moment...

PW - Should the seven original Specials have reformed when the chance came in 2004?
RL - There are only two reasons, in my opinion, why any band reforms; one, because they want to (for a variety of reasons) or two, the main reason, because they need to financially. In the case of The Specials, I don't think any of them particularly want to reform, for any reason, but some of them could do with a few extra quid in their pockets. Therein lies the problem for The Specials. Because of what The Specials were all about in the first place, I don't think they could be seen to be getting back together for monetary reasons.

PW - Do you still produce your own music? do you keep your hand in, so to speak, as a musician yourself?
RL - I very rarely "keep my hand in" as a musician these days. I should do really I suppose. Haven't produced any of my own music for years.

PW - Who's your favourite 2Tone band and why?
RL - Again, no favourites, I love 'em all.

PW - Do you think 2Tone should be celebrated more in Coventry like Liverpool are proud of The Beatles & Merseybeat etc. The 2Tone label had a massive effect on the UK music scene and was responsible for spawning probably one of the last true youth movements this country has seen?
RL -YES!! Coventry should celebrate 2Tone more than they do at present, BUT, if the truth be known, the majority of 2Tone band members do not give a shit about Coventry anymore. If they did and made their presence known in Coventry a bit more, then maybe the powers that be in Coventry would do more to remind the people of Coventry about 2Tone. Not that they haven't tried in the past though, a couple of years ago Coventry City Council tried to organise a huge concert/party at the city's SkyDome Arena to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of 2Tone. They (the Council) had even cancelled the annual New Years Eve celebrations to fund it. Obviously, how can you celebrate such an event without the band members themselves? Unfortunately, The Specials declined to appear, neither as a band or as individuals. How could the Council possibly hold a concert of this size without the main players? Inevitably, it was cancelled. A huge disappointment to Coventry 2Tone fans.

PW - Anything big musically ever going to break out from Coventry again? Do you keep an eye on the city's music scene?
RL - Who knows? I Don't keep a musical eye on the local scene as much as I should.

PW - What are you working on at the moment production wise?
RL - Most of my time these days is producing, recording and sometimes remixing the audio for 'live' music DVDs most of which are also released as 'live' CDs. Recent projects included: Echo & The Bunnymen, Happy Mondays, ELO (remix), The Bluetones, Ozzy Osbourne, The Farm, Bad Manners, The Beat, The Tubes, Hazel O'Connor etc.

PW - Thanks for your time Rog. Any final words for up and coming ska bands looking to capture the right sound?
RL- Yes! Ditch the black & white cheques and pork pie hats and do your own thing! Leave the old image to the original 2Tone bands..

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