Monday, October 28, 2013

MOTB Exclusive: Interview with Horace Panter of The Specials About His New Musical Project -- The Uptown Ska Collective

The Specials bassist Horace Panter has just announced plans to launch a brand new ska and reggae musical project he has christened The Uptown Ska Collective. According to Panter, “I have wanted to get a band like this together for years; the seductive quality of these rhythms is irresistible ... it is impossible to stay still while this music is playing.” Using the core of the additional musicians from The Specials (keyboards and horn section), he has put together the ultimate modern ska band.

The band will feature Panter on bass, with members of The Specials touring band -- Jon Read (trumpet), Tim Smart (trombone), Nikolaj Torp (keyboards), Drew Stansall (tenor saxophone) along with Dave Anderson of The Beautiful South (drums) and Tony Looby  (alto saxophone) and Stan Samuel (guitar) of The Pressure Tennants. According to Panter, most of the songs performed by the band will be ska/reggae instrumentals, though guest vocalists are expected to join.

“The guys I’m using are seasoned musicians; they all know one another so the musical rapport is amazing and, like me, they live and breathe this stuff,” said Panter. ‘This stuff’ is classic ska, based around the work of the legendary Skatalites out of Kingston Jamaica’s Alpha School. It also ventures into reggae, citing the majestic compositions of Rico Rodriguez, another Alpha alumni and original Specials stalwart. “I want to find a new audience for this music; to my mind it belongs on World Music stages on balmy sunny evenings. It’s the musical equivalent of sunshine, the sexiest music in the world!”

I recently connected with Panter who took time to answer a broad array of questions about his life in ska and the motivation behind his new band.

What are your earliest memories related to hearing 60’s ska and reggae music?
Being intimidated by hulking skinheads at local youth club discos when I was 16. They seemed to hate all the pop stuff, but danced very aggressively (I thought) when ‘The Liquidator’ or ‘Return of the Django’ was played!

Do you remember the first ska record you ever bought?
Intensified’ - a compilation LP purchased whilst in The Specials as an educational aid I suppose.

You write in your memoir "Ska'd For Life" that Lynval Golding gave you a reggae bass lesson when you first joined a nascent version of The Specials. What are your top 3 ska or reggae bass lines to perform?
I Shot the Sheriff’. That’s not a bass line, it’s a symphony! There was a track on one ‘I Roy’ album I used to play but I can’t for the life of me tell you what it’s called. Also, a lot of bass on Burning Spear’s ‘Marcus Garvey’ (Sly & Robbie plus the Barrett Brothers).

I've previously written about the story behind the recording of "Ghost Town." I'm particularly interested in the way the song was recorded in the studio with John Collins. Can you share a bit about the recording and production techniques that resulted in the very Sly and Robbie sound that you and John Bradbury were able to get?
‘Ghost Town’ was recorded in a tiny basement room on the studio drum kit on 8-track. The bass went into the board direct. I had an amp (my V4B and 8 x 10) in the room, but it was only used for monitoring. The ‘sound’ was achieved in the mixing process. John Collins reduced the whole thing to 2-tracks and mixed it in his living room in Tottenham, London, where he used to make his own dub material. I think a lot of ‘the sound’ came from that, rather than the recording process itself.

Can you tell me a bit about how you, John Bradbury and Nikolaj Torp connected with M.I.A. on a live performance of "It Takes A Muscle" on Later With Jools Holland a few years ago?
M.I.A. ... She was offered a Jools Holland spot and said she’d like to do it on the proviso that The Specials backed her. Lynval lives in Seattle, so he wasn’t available. It wasn’t a Roddy tune, so that left Brad and I. Initially, Brad was sceptical about doing it but I was very keen. I’d wanted Brand and I do do ‘rhythm section for hire’ for a while and this seemed a good way to start. Nikolaj was the obvious choice for keyboards and his talent for arranging was an asset to the session. It was a very ‘seat of your pants’ performance. Maya was very nervous; she doesn’t do ‘singing’ - she’s a rapper. I really enjoyed it.

What inspired you to found the Uptown Ska Collective? Between touring with The Specials and your work as an artist, how have you found the time for a new project?
I’ve always wanted to form a ‘traditional’ ska band. I had one in Coventry about ten years ago, while I was still teaching and we did a few gigs but it was difficult to get ten people to be in the same place at the same time, let alone do shows that paid anything like decent money. I originally asked Brad if he wanted to do it with me but he declined. Having played with Nikolaj, Tim (trombone), Jon (trumpet) and Drew (saxophone) for four years, we’d got to know one another pretty well and it was only a short step to getting the thing together. Strange, the older I get, the busier I seem to be!

Can you share a few songs from the band’s set list?
We’ll be doing mainly Skatalites stuff: ‘Confucius’, ‘Occupation’, ‘Storm Warning’; some keyboard stuff for Nikolaj to shine: Jackie Mittoo’s ‘Killer Diller’, plus some Rico tunes, for example ‘Africa’. We intend to have ‘guest vocalists’ as well. I’d like to do some tunes that haven’t had a ska treatment too. I’d like to find a new audience for this music. There are a lot of ‘world music’ stages at festivals in the UK and Europe. Since the tunnel under the English Channel has been built, it’s a lot easier to get to Europe!

Do you have any plans to tour beyond your debut show in London in November? If so, may I suggest a double bill featuring your band and Lee Thompson's Ska Orchestra!
The November show is basically to showcase the band and get a buzz going. We’ll then do a short tour of small UK venues in the Spring and a dozen or so festivals (The Specials notwithstanding) in the summer. The festival-goer is our target audience for this project. As far as Lee Thompson’s Ska Orchestra is concerned, fine! We’ll play with anyone - but they’d better watch out!

The Uptown Ska Collective will debut at the 229 Club in Great Portland Street, London, on November 29, 2013. This is a small venue so tickets will be limited. Thereafter, the band will announce tour dates.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Suggs Autobiography "That Close" Now Available!

Today marks the publication of the much anticipated autobiography of Madness front man Suggs. The 400 pager takes readers on a journey form Suggs's early life growing up on a North London council estate, through the early days of Punk and 2-Tone, to the eighties, when Madness became the biggest selling singles band of the decade. Along the way he shares what it's like to go globetrotting with your best friends, to sign away your entire song rights 'in perpetuity' and cause an earthquake in Finsbury Park.

Below is a clip from the audio book on Suggs’ school years.

"That Close" is available via Amazon (hardcover and Kindle versions) in the U.S. and the U.K.  Suggs will be doing a number of events to promote the book including in-store book signings in the U.K. His one one-man show comes to London in December:  More information available here.

Suggs' publisher has been kind enough to make extracts of the book available for perusing here.  Definitely a great teaser that will no doubt lure you into purchasing the tome!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Roddy Radiation & Lynval Golding Announce California Tour Dates!

Brothers in arms from The Specials, Roddy "Radiation" Byers and Lynval Golding have just announced they are playing a west coast tour of the U.S. during the month of November! If you missed The Specials on their most recent North American tour this past summer, then you now have a chance to catch the two as they play stripped down versions of the band's best known songs.

Not sure what to expect? Check out video from earlier this summer when Roddy and Lynval played an intimate solo show here in New York City that my ska blogging partner Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska) and I organized as part of our Electric Avenue ska showcases.

According to Lynval, this was the very first time that he and Roddy had ever performed together like this, and while Roddy joked that it should be the last time! "Hey Little Rich Girl," and "Rat Race" which were penned by Byers, and particularly "Doesn't Make It Alright" (which Lynval sent out to George Zimmerman) took on a haunting and emotional quality. The fact that the band's U.S. tour is very likely it's last and that the overall future of the band who have been playing together since reuniting nearly 4 years ago is uncertain, added to the poignancy and power of these versions of the songs.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Selecter To Perform 'Too Much Pressure" 2014 UK Tour To Celebrate 35th Anniversary Of Album Release

The Selecter (who are currently on tour with PIL in the U.K.) have just announced a 35th Anniversary "Too Much Pressure" UK tour next spring to celebrate the release of the seminal 2-Tone album in 1979.

The band will perform all the songs from the album, followed by an extended encore of classic and contemporary songs. Since the band have re-formed, they have never played the album in its entirety, so this is being billed as a special gift to the band's fans, who’ve supported them over the past three years. Tickets for the tour are now on sale. Here's to hoping that the band decides to bring this tour back to North America at some point.

TOO MUCH PRESSURE 2014 UK Tour dates

27 - Guildhall, Gloucester
28 - Princess Pavilion, Falmouth

1 - O2 Academy 2, Liverpool
2 - O2 Academy 2, Sheffield
6 - Komedia, Bath
7 - Pavilion, Exmouth
8 - Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
9 - O2 Academy 2, Oxford
13 - O2 Academy 2, Birmingham
14 - 229, London
15 - The Globe, Cardiff
16 - Old Firestation, Bournemouth
20 - Assembly, Leamington Spa
21 - Rock City, Nottingham
22 - Brudenell, Leeds
23 - Sub 89, Reading
28 - Brickyard, Carlisle
29 – Scotland TBC
30 - Scotland TBC

3 - The Square, Harlow
4 - Open, Norwich
5 - Concorde 2, Brighton
11 - Band On The Wall, Manchester
12 - The Grand, Clitheroe
13 - O2 Academy 2, Newcastle

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Next Electric Avenue Show: The Scofflaws, Across The Aisle and Rude Boy George on Saturday, October 19, 2013

The next Electric Avenue show will kick off on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at Characters NYC in the heart of midtown Manhattan with a headlining set by NYC ska icons The Scofflaws, pop/punk/ska upstarts Across The Aisle and the return of Rude Boy George, which is a new musical project that I am part of with other members of my band Bigger Thomas, The Toasters and Across The Aisle, that performs ska, reggae and rocksteady versions of 80's new wave songs. Doors are at 9 pm and the cover is a super low $10!

Check out videos of each band below including The Scofflaws performing "Nude Beach," Across The Aisle performing "Better Off" and Rude Boy George performing a soulful rocksteady version of "Tempted" by Squeeze.

Electric Avenue is a partnership between myself and my fellow New York City ska blogging pal Steve Shafer (Duff Guide To Ska who also happens to be a member of Rude Boy George). We have teamed up to present monthly ska and reggae shows at Characters NYC, a midtown Manhattan Irish pub (243 West 54th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue in Manhattan) with a big back room ideally suited for live music.

Since last fall, we've been undertaking this labor of love--doing it for free (the bands split 100% of the cover, nobody else takes a cut)--to support ska bands and their fans, and have some fun in the process. Electric Avenue shows already have featured some of the best acts on the Northeastern U.S. ska scene, including King Django (NJ), The Snails (Philadelphia), The Frightnrs (Brooklyn), Destroy Babylon (Massachusetts), Bigger Thomas (NY/NJ), Beat Brigade (NY), Doomsday! (NY), Los Skarronerros (Brooklyn), The Pandemics (Long Island), The Scofflaws (Long Island), The Bullbuckers (Wilmington, DE), The Reggay Lords (Brooklyn), The Copacetics (Providence, RI) and The Rudie Crew (NY) and The Royal Swindle (New Haven, CT). This summer we were blessed to have Roddy Radiation and Lynval Golding of The Specials perform a solo show for us.

The Facebook Electric Avenue event page can be found here. And take a moment to "like" the Electric Avenue FB page, so you keep up on our shows.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pauline Black: The Queen Of Ska Interviewed On WNYC Radio

While in New York late last month, Pauline Black of The Selecter stopped by the venerable New York radio station WNYC for an interview with Sound Check host John Schaefer. The interview was posted late last week a few days after the bands triumphant show at the Grammercy Theatre.

Black is in fine form during the nearly 20 minute interview touching on her experiences being adopted, the appeal of Motown music on her as a teen and her life and times in one of 2 Tone's leading band.

Have a listen to the interview below and read excerpts below:

Interview Highlights

Pauline Black, on how being adopted shaped her:

I do still consider myself, to a certain extent, to be an outsider. I'm mixed-race. My father was Nigerian, my mother was Jewish. I was adopted by working-class white parents in London. By the time I was four years old I was ready to go to school so they had to tell me something because, you know, kids always point out the elephant in the room. I was definitely the elephant in the room in the school I went to. It didn't come as a a shock necessarily. It did make me think. Obviously, it gives you identity issues I suppose as you grow into teenage years. Everybody has identity problems at that time. Not knowing your mother or your father - your real mother or father- it does tend to make you a little more insecure than you would normally be.

On how Motown appealed to her as a teenager:

It was like the information was coming from America about what it meant to be Black. I mean, James Brown named the nation Black and I thought, 'Yep, that's for me.' .... The video of [Aretha Franklin] strutting down the street singing ["Respect"] at full voice to a little Black kid in Britain, that meant a lot.

On The Selecter's new album String Theory:

On Made In Britain [we were] saying 'whatever color you are, we're here. Somehow we have to deal with each other, and that is the future, and what comes out of that.' String Theory is really just taking it on and thinking about my scientific background. String Theory would suggest that we're all made of the same stuff, these little vibrating strings are all the way through the universe. That's what connects us. It seemed to be this lovely connect with our past, this string that we were following from 1979 to present day. Really saying, that we are all the same. All we have to do is embrace the fact that at the end of the day we all are human beings and the best thing we can do is stop ourselves from messing this planet up more than we have already.