Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Specials New Guitarist Is...

The Specials convened in London this past week to begin rehearsals for their upcoming fall tour of the U.K. which kicks off in Norwich on October 30th and debuted their new guitarist, who will be replacing original band member Roddy Byers, who announced he was leaving the band in February

A few pictures of the band in the studio have appeared online showing vocalist Terry Hall, guitarist Lynval Golding, bassist Horace Panter and drummer John Bradbury hard at work with long-time touring band members keyboardist Nik Torp, trumpeter Jon Reed and trombonist Tim Smart. Joining them was Matt McManamon, the former singer and guitarist of The Dead 60's. [UPDATE: I just learned that McManamon will only be joining the band for their Isle of Wight show in June; Steve Craddock will play all the UK tour shows this fall.]

Though their has been no official announcement from the band about McManamon joining their ranks, the photos and band insiders have confirmed that he will be performing with the band for the Isle of Wight show this June.  Earlier this spring, the band seemed to have settled on Steve Cradock, lead guitarist and founding member of Ocean Colour Scene and a member of Paul Weller's backing band, and he will join the band for their UK tour this fall..  

The Dead 60's were heavily influenced by The Specials, playing an inspired combination of dub reggae infused with rockabilly and ska.  Their use of organ, bass and drums always hit a chord with me.  In fact, the band served as an excellent substitute for many of us pining away for The Specials during the mid-2000's.  He should serve as a great guitar foil for Golding and a worthy back-up vocalist for Hall. Give the Dead 60's homage to The Specials "You're Not The Law" and "Ghostfaced Killer" a spin and imagine the possibilities for the live show and dare I say new music!

The Dead 60's recorded a close to perfect perfect rendition of Ghost Town before they broke-up, which means McManamon already knows all the notes and the words!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Venezuela's Ska Superstars Desorden Publico Kick Off Rare U.S. Tour!

I'm extremely excited to report that Venezuela's ska superstars Desorden Publico are kicking off a rare four city, U.S. tour which will include stops in Orlando on June 5th, Miami on June 6th. a show here in New York at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on Sunday June 8th and one last show in Washington D.C. on June 9th.

For the uninitiated, imagine if Madness or The Specials had emerged in Venezuela. And while the band was founded in 1985 just as 2-Tone peaked, they had trouble imitating the 2-Tone sound too closely. It just didn't work for musicians steeped in local Latin rhythms, culture and beats. The music of Desorden Publico has continued to evolve, thanks to near relentless playing and recording during the past two decades. The band has a dozen or so releases to their name and have had platinum sales, #1 and top 10 hits. They have tours that have taken them all over Latin America, North America and Europe. Still having trouble wrapping your head around a Venezuelan ska band? Give "Musica De Fiesta" from the band's most recent album "Los Contrarios" a spin to get a sense of their sound and energy:

José Luis "Caplís" Chacín is the bassist and one of the founding members of Desorden Publico. Like me, he is a 2-Tone devotee. Though we lived thousands of miles part, our love of 2-Tone and the impact it has had on us throughout our lives is striking.

Chacín's love of ska and 2 Tone started in Caracas in the early 80's, when as a heavy metal loving teen he was given The Specials first album. It set him and his band mates along the path to starting one of the very first South American ska bands. Now after nearly 30 years of popularity and success in Latin America, including eight studio albums, several greatest hit releases and live performance in over 30 countries, Desorden Público have reached superstar status throughout South America. Taking their name from Venezuelan military police trucks that had 'Orden Publico' [Public Order] written on the side, the band's name is political, but it is more tongue-in-cheek and humorous about advocating any serious form of public disorder.

I had the chance to interview Chacín a few years ago and I've included excerpts from that interview below:

What was it like growing up in Caracas, Venezuela in the early 80's?
It was great! I was born in 1964 and it means that I really had the eighties as my very influential years. Thank God it wasn't the 70´s!

Finding music in Venezuela in the 80's wasn't an easy task, so we had to beg every friend, every father or mother or relatives, who were travelling outside, to buy the new releases, and when you buy 2 or 3 LP´s and try to transport them in a luggage it´s kind of a nightmare.

Well, the thing is that here in our country many good and bad things came as an avalanche: Heavy metal, Punk Rock, New Wave, Hard Core, New Cool, Post Punk, Ska, Reggae. And before becoming musicians we were DJ´s of our own Sound System called ASEO URBANO. It was the only one in Caracas that specialized in New Wave, Punk and of course Ska, so we were the natural Sound System at the gigs of many new acts of the underground Punk scene of Caracas.

How did that experience effect you socially, politically and musically?
Being a teenager, here in Caracas in the 80´s was incredible. In a certain way Venezuela was for many years (in the decade of the 70´s) a country drunk on Petrodollars (money from the sales of oil), so we had an incredible “Bonanza” where the most of our government leaders were super corrupted. But suddenly, a serious crisis brought a hard fall of the prices of oil and our economy began to feel the consequences of many years of bad guidance. So suddenly we started to know a different country with a cost of living that was more and more expensive every day.

This was a perfect time for many young people to realize that too many things were going wrong in our country, and some of us started to open our eyes and do our own criteria of the society. Now we also had the lyrics of people like The Clash, Dead Kennedy's, Sex Pistols, The Specials, and also Latin American artists like Ruben Blades, Ali Primera, Soledad Bravo to help start to make sense of our own lives and Venezuelan society. We became critics and non-conformists with our reality. And we started this band!

Most people I've spoken to who are into ska remember the exact moment when they fell in love with it. How did it happen for you?
I remember I was a kid loved Disco Music to Heavy Metal. (I loved the first era of Van Halen, and still like it). But after 3 or 4 years of hard rock, I started to listen New Wave music: Devo, The B-52´s, Oingo Boingo, Wall of Voodoo, XTC, Joe Jackson, The Jam. One day I was working as a DJ at our Sound System and a good friend gave me a very badly recorded cassette of the first LP of The Specials. The first song 'A Message To You Rudy' was immediately the biggest revelation of lure lives. We didn´t understand what kind of music this was. I remember I had listened to the first two Madness albums but I could not engage with their version of ska. But The Specials definitely was the BOMB! An ATOMIC Bomb in our minds.

What was your first ska album you bought?
After I listened to that tape, I immediately order that first album by The Specials and when a good friend gave it to me, I just couldn´t believe how good the whole album was. Even today I still feel that sensation of how GREAT and how good that first album is.

How did you go from being introduced to ska music to starting Desorden Publico in 1985?
We were tired of waiting for the start of a ska band in our city. We finally decided to form our own band and we sold many of the equipments of our Sound System in order to save money to buy our first used instruments.

When did you decide to become a bass player? Did you play the bass before you were into ska?
At the same moment we decided to form DESORDEN PÚBLICO...

Can you explain what your band name means for readers who don't speak Spanish? Does it have a social or political connotation?
DESORDEN PUBLICO = PUBLIC DISORDER. It was a joke against the military trucks with the name of PUBLIC ORDER on the side. There are a very repressive institution here in our city

Fashion was such a huge part of the ska scenes here in in the U.S. in the 80's. Can you describe the importance of fashion in the Venezuelan and South American ska scene?
Here in Venezuela, especially in Caracas in the 80's, you could see Punks, Rockers, Rastas and of course Trendy's. There was not an Ska scene, so when we started to use our suits, we were like strange birds in this jungle! We didn´t look like Punks, Rockers nor Rastas and we had to explain that we were Rude Boys, hahahahahaha!

Your band tours the world regularly. Can you share any unusual stories about any live shows the band played that were particularly memorable?
Wow! There are many, many good and bad experiences, but talking about good ones, the fact of being in a same stage with people like Prince Buster, Jerry Dammers, Ray Barreto, Ruben Blades,The B-52's, The Selecter, Ranking Roger and his version of The Beat. To be backstage with all the guys from Madness, thanks to the courtesy of my very good friend Coolie Ranx and all the guys from The Pilfers, that was magic!

I remember meeting Paul Weller in New York City. He was a very nice guy to me and my wife. Another magical moment in my life was the time I found the one and only Andy Summers of The Police totally lost in the corridors of the radio station where we have our radio show.

Last year, I was walking on the streets of Berlin visiting the best record stores, and to my surprise, I saw a very tall man walking just in front of me. It was none other than one of my all time musical heroes: Joe Jackson! This was great!

What was it like for the band to tour the U.S.? What kind of reception did you get from American ska audiences?
We were helped by our good friend Bucket from The Toasters and that was a good introduction for us to the North American ska audiences. It also helped that we had many good friends in New York and Boston, and many of them were at our first gigs. This helped provide the impression that the audience knew who were were! Hahahaha!

In those early tours, we also had the chance to do things for the Latin American market in the USA and also for the American public into the Ska scene. Surprisingly, I must say the reception we received from Ska audiences was 1000 times better than the reception we had from Spanish speakers! During that time most of the people from Latin America in New York were Mexicans, Puerto Ricans or Dominicans and those audiences were a bit hostile with bands from other Latin countries.

Information for the show in Brooklyn is available via Facebook and tickets are available through Ticketmaster.  I hope to see a few of you there!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Radio Riddler Release "Purple Reggae" -- Album Of Prince Covers Features Suggs, Ali Campbell and Sinead O'Connor

I'm proud to say that I am a huge Prince fan (I even stuck with him through that period of time when he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol). The 'Purple Rain' film and album still remain defining touchstones of my late adolescence and early adulthood. I saw the film the day it opened thirty years ago, during the summer of 1984 and I never got tired of hearing 'When Doves Cry' played on the radio at the David's Cookies store I worked that summer (and that song was in HEAVY radio rotation).

As such, I've been eagerly awaiting the release of "Purple Reggae" by Radio Riddler ( which includes the duo of Fast and Frank Benbini of Fun Lovin Criminals (FLC), who are reggae remix producers in their spare time).  After nearly five years, they have finally released their reggae tribute to Prince and the 'Purple Rain' album in its entirety, The album  features a variety of guest vocalists including Suggs of Madness who performs "Let's Go Crazy," former UB4O singer Ali Campbell singing 'Purple Rain," and Sinead O'Connor who takes on "I Would Die 4 U." The sleeper tracks for me include the duet between Hollie Cook and Benbini on "The Beautiful Ones" and "Computer Blue" which features members of The Specials touring horn section.

Though originally from New York and best known here for 'Scooby Snacks',  FLC was never fully embraced by American audiences, though the UK and most of Europe really took the band to their hearts. The band members in turn always seemed to understand and tap into a uniquely European, and especially British, sense of humor.

 Having worked to produce reggae remixes for a variety of artists, the Radio Riddler 'Purple Rain' project is a extension of their love of all things reggae and of Prince in particular. According to an interview that FLC drummer Frank Benbini did, "Purple Reggae" has been a true labor of love that originally came about as a lark and took on a life of its own.
Yeah, across the board. It was one of those things where we love reggae, and we have a reggae remix outfit called Radio Riddler. We’ve remixed a lot of people…Lily Allen, Coldplay…you know, we’ve done a lot of remixes for a lot of people. So we thought, what can we do? He went – “Why don’t we do the soundtrack to ‘Purple Rain’?” I was like – “That won’t work, that won’t happen, it just won’t work”. He was like – “Well, let’s give it a go”, and he did the first one, ‘Purple Rain’, he got the beats ready and sent it to me, and I was like – “Fuck! It sounds great!” Then I got a lot of my hometown players, brass sections, people from The Specials playing on there. I sang all the songs but then it was like – “Let’s get some guest artists on it”. So I started to approach different people and one person I approached was Sinéad O'Connor. She hasn’t sung a Prince song since ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ which was an international number one so I didn’t think she’d go for it. But she did, and did a version of ‘I Would Die 4 U’. Amazing. Then we’ve got Plan B, he’s doing one, Madness are doing one, the singer from UB40’s doing one. So, yeah, that’s a great little project we’ve got going.
The album release was delayed in part to complications in getting publishing approval from Prince and his camp, who are notoriously picky about anyone recording covers of his back catalog.  That said, the Purple one finally signed off and the tracks have just been released. Have a listen to preview tracks below: