Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ye Ole Anti-Ska Bandwagon

From "Sucky Moments in Music" by Bryan J. Sutter (in Playback:stl, an online review of pop culture from the St. Louis area)...

Ska | Somewhere in America there are ska bands living past the genre's freshness date, which expired somewhere around the time your sister got a sun tattooed around her navel. Ska punk, non-secular and third wave still roam the streets like diseased dogs, trying to convince our youth to buy checkered belts and Less Than Jake CDs from Hot Topic. We've turned a blind eye on the thousands of children who go to sleep hungry every night; we cannot turn our back on this. We lose this battle, we lose our humanity.

The words are mildly amusing (if not sloppily assembled--diseased dogs hawking ska wares from Hot Topic?), but their meaning hurts.

Then again, his ignorance on the topic bores me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reburial: 7 Wonders of the World Music

While I was poking around the internet looking for info on an upcoming "Shots in the Dark" posting I'm writing on the Japanese "Christma-ska" album (that I helped put together for Tachyon/Moon Ska Tokyo Records back in 1997), I came across the following update that I sent out for 7 Wonders, almost nine years ago to the day. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here; you should view it through an historical lens--a blast from the ska past during a particularly bleak time for American ska, when it stumbled back underground (like almost six feet under) after its glorious bender in the 90s...

7 Wonders of the World Music, Ltd.



All of us at 7 Wonders thank you for your support of our humble little e-label over the past year, and we look forward to serving you in the coming years. We wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Kwanzaa, depending on your perspective! To paraphrase Django's contribution to the Japanese release "Christma-ska": "Whether you're Christian, Muslim, or Jew, I wish the world to you." Nuff said.

7 Wonders is thrilled to announce that soon we will have four exclusive new dubs from the Stubborn All-Stars for sale on the site. King Django has been hard at work in the newly relocated Version City studio concocting these dread dub versions for 7 Wonders. We've already listened to all of them ("Star Struck," "Acuity," "Scrubbing Bubbles," and "Dragon Master") and they are magnificent. While you're licking your chops in anticipation, check out some free mp3s that Stubborn Records have put up on the net for your listening pleasure from Skinnerbox ( http://www.mp3.com/skinnerbox ) and the Stubborn All-Stars ( http://www.mp3.com/stubbornallstars ). Happy downloading.

Buford O’Sullivan’s brand, spanking new album (available exclusively on 7 Wonders), "The Sexy Eye" is ready for purchase from 7 Wonders. "The Sexy Eye" features 11 new remarkable Buford songs about things that matter to regular folks like you and me (some titles from the album: "My Girlfriend is in the Shower," "What Do You Want to Do Tonight," "Sitting With a Good Friend," and "Loser Nation")! To listen to RealAudio samples of "The Sexy Eye" album or download a free Buford O'Sullivan dub mp3, go to: http://www.7wow.com/cgi-bin/7wow.cgi?command=print&page=bio/buford.html . "The Sexy Eye" also features downloadable artwork in PDF format that you can print out for your CD jewel case, should you decide to burn the files onto a CD.

Mark your calendar, enter it into your PDA, scrawl it on the back of your hand: NY Ska Jazz Ensemble will be playing the Knitting Factory in NYC on Friday, January 5th with the great King Django. This is a great way to celebrate the New Year (and here's hoping that '01 is a kinder year to ska than the last!), so show up with bells on. The NYSJE/King Django show is sponsored by 7 Wonders and Read Magazine, and this promises to be one stellar night of ska and reggae!

NYSJE are hot off their latest European tour, where all of their shows but two were sold-out. The band has undergone some personnel changes and is now hotter and tighter than ever (get to the show and find out for yourself if this boast is true). In other NYSJE news, the band is working on securing the release and distribution of their superfine "Live in Europe" CD in the US and Canada (right now, it's only available, like, in Europe).

KING DJANGO will be hitting the road this January for a tour of the East Coast (check the dates listed below and go to the Stubborn website at http://www.stubbornrecords.com for info), and Hellcat Records will be releasing King Django's new album in the near future.

Sunday January 14, ALL AGES! 3pm-?
King Django Band
Rathskellar (Philly Ska)
Foil (Jersey reggae-rock)
$6 to enter
Court Tavern, 124 Church St. New Brunswick, NJ 732-545-7265
info: http://www.courttavern.com/directions.html


FRI JAN 5: KNITTING FACTORY, NYC (with New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble)

The Speakeasies have some shows coming up, just prior to their going into the studio to record their debut album with The Slackers’ Vic Ruggeiro producing. If you’re in the area, get to these gigs:

Dec. 23 at Cafe Eclipse, Concord, NH (special Speakeasies acoustic set)
Dec. 28 at Toadstool Harry's, Killington, VT (plus live interview on Planet Ska Radio)
January 2001: NYC (TBA)

The Orange Street bio page and the band's six mp3s from their demo have been permanently removed from the 7 Wonders site. Originally, when the contract between 7 Wonders and two members of the band was negotiated and signed, a third, key member of the band inadvertently was not consulted. When this person recently found out about the deal, they requested that these tracks be taken off the site, and we have complied with their wishes. Everyone at 7 Wonders is a bit disappointed not to be able to offer these remarkable songs, but we understand the issues involved, and wish the very best to all of the ex-members of Orange Street.

Continuing with my Prince Buster obsession, please note that several of the Prince's long out-of-print productions have been re-issued by Prince Buster's Records Shack: "Fly Flying Ska," "The Outlaw," and his great 70's dub album, "The Message Dub Wise." These Prince Buster releases and more can be found at Reggae Express, http://www.reggaeexpress.com (thanks to Joshua Tatman for the tip)...Jump Up Records ( http://www.jumpuprecords.com ) continues to release all sorts of exceptional US ska, reggae, soul, punk, and mod albums, plus they carry a slew of essential, hard-to-find ska imports from all over the world, including CD's and LP's from Germany's Grover Records, UK's Trojan, and Japan's Phalanx Records (all at reasonable prices!). I guarantee that you'll find something to your liking, and Chuck's label certainly deserves your support...The new UK-only Bad Manners retrospective of their early work on Magnet Records, titled "Magnetism," is simply outstanding, and one can hear why the band was hugely popular in the UK and Europe during the 2-Tone era (my faves include "Walking in the Sunshine," "Just a Feeling," and "Inner London Violence")...Chris Murray ( http://www.chrismurray.net ), aka Venice Shoreline Chris, as well as singer for the recently revived King Apparatus, will be touring with The Slackers in February (NYC is on the 18th at Wetlands). His new album, titled "4-Trackaganza!," is scheduled for release on Asian Man Records in January, and we can't wait to hear it. (BTW, Asian Man also re-issued the two King Apparatus CD's; their debut album is one of the finer ska CD's of the 90's.)...And by now it is no longer breaking news (and it certainly is not unexpected), but in case you haven't heard, Moon Ska Records is filing Chapter 7 the week before Christmas. I worked for Moon from 1991 through 1999 and will always be grateful for my experience there. It was a hell of a ride. We wish all the best to Buck and Brett in their future endeavors, and they should know that Moon will not be soon forgotten by ska fans around the globe.

If you are anywhere near the venues listed below, do what you have to in order to see these bands! Support live ska music made by some of the best bands out there...

- Saturday, December 23rd
The Cooler
Jammyland X-mas Party
w/Skavoovie & the Epitones, Rocksteady 7, the Nods
The Cooler
416 West 14th Street, NYC
212 229 0785

- Wednesday, December 27th
w/The Toasters
Theater of the Living Arts
Philadelphia, PA

- Friday, December 22 @ Monterey Deli
8:00 PM
1515 Main St, Sarasota, Florida 941-366-9788

- Saturday, December 23 @ Monterey Deli
9:00 PM
1515 Main St Sarasota, Florida 941-966-9788

- Thursday, December 28 @ Five O'clock Club
10:00 PM
1930 Hillview St, Sarasota, Florida 941-366-5555

- the Strangeways w/ Rocksteady@8
Friday, December 29 @ The Orpheum
8:00 PM
Ybor City, Tampa, FL
All original SKA show. Rudies unite! $5 cover.

A quick note to all dj’s and music reviewers who are part of the 7 Wonders promotional program: we have new promo tracks available from Capone & The Bullets (Scottish 2-Tone ska), Winston Irie (NYC roots reggae), Provibes/HP Setter/Dr. Ring Ding (German reggae/toasting), Subatomic Sound System (NYC electronica), Take 5 (Boston trad ska/jazz), Zimbobway’s King Kingston Orchestra (SoCal trad ska/jazz), Strikkly Vikkly (NYC dub), Buford O’Sullivan (NYC ska/reggae/dub), Los Mas Valientes (NYC latin jazz), and Rick Faulkner (NYC jazz). Thanks for your support for our bands and their music!

If you are a net dj or music reviewer and would like to receive promo 7 Wonders mp3s, email steve@7wow.com and we’ll hook you up (it’s simple and fun!).


7 Wonders is looking to work with more ska, reggae and dub bands. Our contracts are equitable, our royalties are excellent – and we can promote and sell your music to a worldwide ska and reggae audience. Interested parties should contact Steve at info@7wow.com and/or send some music and info to:

Steve Shafer
7 Wonders of the World Music, Ltd.
PO Box 6699
New York, NY 10128

PS: If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, please send an email to info@7wow.com and we will remove you immediately.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Duff Review: Babylove and the van Dangos - Lovers Choice

Megalith Records

Despite a moniker that might seem a bit soft to American sensibilities, Babylove and the van Dangos, whose members hail from Denmark and Germany, deliver a righteous mix of vintage ska, rocksteady, reggae, and Motown ("A Brand New Beat") that will appeal to all fans of the good Dr. Ring Ding and the Senior Allstars (see Ram di Dance or Dandimite). Lovers Choice, their second album, contains a wealth of superbly smooth (thanks to singer Daniel "Babylove" Broman's wonderfully warm and rich tone) and excellently produced tunes, and features some terrific duets with sometime Skatalites singer Doreen Shaffer, who is in great form on the love song "Number One," and ex-Toasters/Pilfers frontman Coolie Ranx, who brings some noise to the stinging dressing down of "Big, Big Baboon." (Also of note, Victor Rice produced the kick ass dubs that form the Alpha--"A Dubbly Day"--and Omega--"Dub to the Fire"--of this album.)

"Coin in the Hat"--ostensibly a song about busking--could be read as a plea (or veiled threat?) to all the music file sharers out there who keep musicians from earning a decent living off their craft: "So put a coin in the hat for me Mr. Good Tune...So how come you don't want to pay for my sweat and tears?/You know a singer can't pay no bills with kind words and cheers-No!...Just imagine what carpenter and baker would say/working ten, twelve, sixteen hours, but still get no pay/So think next time when someone play/what the world would be like if music fade away..." The awesome R&B-ish "Stormy Weather" (about facing life without one's soulmate and having no illusions about it) sweet sells a barrel full of cliches straight up and convincingly (I bought 'em): "Rats have left a sinking ship/I stand with whitening knuckles at the wheel/waiting for the hull to rip/as the sharks close in for the kill...So it seems/like I'm in for stormy weather/and it seems that I'll have to face it on my own/and it seems that since we can't be together/there won't be any sunshine for awhile..." An essential song to help pick you up when nothing seems like it ever could be set right.

"Big, Big Baboon," whose sound strongly echos Lord Tanamo and Derek Morgan, is a song about "the king of all the fools": "Now you can dress up in tie or dress up in shirt/your monkey butt is showing, we know what you're worth/Big Baboon, you're nothing but a goon!" A perfect valentine to the pompous, bombastic, miscreant in your life (we all have at least one!). "So Long, Copenhagen," which wouldn't be out of place in UB40's setlist, is full of regret about leaving a city that you unexpectedly fell in love with, but "this stone's got to roll again." You, on the other hand, won't be sorry if you stick close to Babylove and the van Dangos, as wherever they are heading will be one fantastic trip...

Grade: B+/A-

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Anger Management League: Clashed by the AML

Scorcha Records (Germany)

Yeah, this came out awhile ago and I'm way behind on reviewing albums that have come out much more recently--but I really dig Clashed by the AML and am compelled to write about it (so, sue me). This record (it's an import only available on vinyl; in the US you can buy it from Jump Up) is split between Clash covers on Side A (all circa 1977--the year zero of punk rock, when Strummer and Jones were trying to out punk the Sex Pistols) and, on the flip side, quite good a few good skinhead reggae originals mixed in with a dub of "London's Burning" and a smart acoustic version of Lee Perry's "Police and Thieves" (which, of course, The Clash covered on their debut). Anyone who's read England's Dreaming can tell you about reggae's huge impact on punk, and The Clash in particular--and since The Clash increasingly incorporated this genre into their songwriting with each subsequent release, culminating in the bloated but brilliant Sandinista!, it makes perfect sense for the AML to re-visit The Clash's first batch of punk songs via The Upsetters.

Alternately channeling--but not imitating--Operation Ivy ("London's Burning," "White Riot") and The Aggrolites ("Janie Jones," "Career Opportunities"), even a Skaboom-era Toasters (on the excellent "Mr. Hyde Park Dub," AKA "London's Burning"), the Anger Management League do The Clash justice with these cuts. Even the blistering "1977," a song that wanted to wipe the (white) rock'n'roll history slate clean ("No Elvis, Beatles, or The Rolling Stones...in 1977!") gets a jazzy revamp with sax and Hammond organ. The AML's Clash covers aren't revelatory, but they're damn good and fun--and a good a reason as any for you to buy this album.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Duff Interview: Jean-Pierre Boutellier and the Madness 30th Anniversary Tribute Album

To mark the 30th anniversary (!) of the release of Madness' first single and their debut album One Step Beyond... (both in 1979), mega-fan Jean-Pierre Boutellier is assembling a Madness tribute album that will be released on Big 8 Records in the spring of 2009. As you will read below, JP is no stranger to the French ska scene--he's managed a few ska bands (like Les Frelons, who were featured on several Unicorn "Skankin' Round the World" compilations in the late 80s/early 90s); produced two French ska comps, including one for Moon; hosted a plethora of ska radio shows; and published the long-running Skanews zine (JP was kind enough to remind me of an interview he did with me in 2000, when I was running 7 Wonders of the World Music, which can be found here).

To date, JP's Madness tribute album features some big brand-name acts on the scene, such as Dr. Ring Ding, King Django, Desorden Publico, "Rocksteady" Freddie Reiter (of the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble), as well as Nouvelle Vague (a pop group that covers New Wave and post-punk songs in a lounge style) and a slew of newer European, South American, and Australian ska bands. Considering the extraordinary array of brilliant ska and pop songs that Madness created over the past three decades, this record should be a winner and we can't wait to hear it!

Thanks to JP for taking the time to do this interview, both in English and French (DGTS's first bilingual interview)!

Duff Guide To Ska: On the Madness tribute album's Facebook, page, you state that the band is aware that you are putting together this compilation and has essentially given you their blessing. Which members of Madness have you been in touch with and what has been their reaction to this project? And will they have any involvement in the release of this record?

Jean-Pierre Boutellier: First thanks a lot for this interview.

Let's introduce myself for your readers. I am Jean-Pierre Boutellier, 42 years old. I run the http://french-mis.be French non-official Madness fan club. In the past, I managed some Ska Reggae bands like Les Frelons (1988-1991). I also produced some [French ska] samplers like Skappellation for Moon Ska/Moon Ska Europe in 1999 and It's a Frenchy Ska Reggae Party 3 in 2001. I also worked on a paper skazine called "Skanews" between 1993 to 2002 (I put the interviews and reviews on http://skanews.net) and released Ska radio show called "Skanews" on several Independent French FM and web radios between 1984 to 2003.

Madness is my favourite band since 1979. I wanted to do something for the 30th anniversary of the first Madness hit, "The Prince"... Madness gave me since 29 years lot of emotion and more! Madness, it's like a brother for me, who give me energy when I am sad, and give me more happiness when I am top of form... So, I wanted to do something to pay tribute to this great band. My first idea was to release a remix album of some of Madness tunes and send the CD to the members...But Jérome Lanvin who run Big 8 Records in France (Big 8 Records produced some bands like Jah On Slide and Cherry Boop and the Sound Makers and some Ska samplers as So Precious Ska) ask me to work on a Madness tribute album.

I send an e-mail to Garry Blackburn, Madness' manager. He send me an e-mail to tell me: "Thanks for the amazing job you do on the Madness info service (French MIS). The band are very flattered by your idea (Madness tribute album) and wish you all the best with the project".

No, Madness members are not involved on the release of this record. But some musicians (very good friends to Madness members) will play on this record!

Heu... perhaps we will receive a Madness cover by the Maddies under a nickname! Who knows? Imagine Chris on vocals, Carl on piano, Mike on bass, Suggs on guitar... it will be great, but, JP, please, stop dreaming!

I am also very happy that the MIS Online/Madness Central (UK and US fan clubs featuring members of all the world) is also involved on this project... They will record some "surprises" for this tribute album.

The artwork of the cover and the booklet will be release by Mister B and Sean Gaskin.

In fact, it's important to say that all the rights of the songs will be paid to Sacem/SDRM in France, who distribute the writers, artists etc. royalties via MCPS/PRS, copyright control etc...

When I said yes to Jérome Lanvin to work on the band choice for this sampler, I said to him that it is very important to me that the all the rights will be paid and that all the bands will a have a deal. I saw too much problems about this (money, deals...) in the past with other labels. Jérome is a serious man, so no problems to me to work with him on this record.

About the bands and the covers. We can't say to a band that we put it on the sampler if we have not listen to their cover (demo version in the first time or final mix for the bands who have recorded a Madness song in the past). We have received many tracks and for some we have said yes, it's alright, your version will be on the tribute album and you will have a deal etc... and for some we have said no (for different reasons)

Merci beaucoup de m'interviewer.

Je me présente pour vos lectrices et lecteurs. Je m'appelle Jean-Pierre Boutellier, j'ai 42 ans. je m'occupe du site http://french-mis.be fan-club francophone non offciel du groupe Madness. Dans le passé, j'ai managé des groupes Ska reggae dont les Frelons (de 1988 à 1991), travaillé sur plusieurs compilations dont Skappellation pour Moon Ska/Moon Ska Europe en 1999 et It's a Frenchy Ska Reggae Party 3 en 2001. J'ai édité un fanzine Ska, "Skanews" entre 1993 et 2002 et produit une émission de radio Ska sur différentes FM et web radios françophones entre 1984 et 2003.

Madness est mon groupe préféré depuis 1979. je voulias absolument faire quelque chose pour les 30 ans du premier tube de Madness, "The Prince" en 2009. Madness m'a donné beaucoup de bonnes vibrations durant 29 ans. Madness, c'est un peu comme le grand frère que je n'ai jamais eu. Ce groupe par sa musique m'a donné de l'énergie quand j'étais pas bien, et plus de pêche encore quand j'étais en gand forme. Donc je voulais, en retour, leur rendre hommage. Ma première idée était de remixer plusieurs de leurs morceaux de de leur envoyer le CD. mais Jérome Lanvin du label Big 8 Records (production de groupes comme Jah On Slide et Cherry Boop and the Sound Makers ou de compils Ska comme So Precious Ska) m'a proposé de travailler sur le Madness tribute album.

J'ai envoyé un mail au manager de Madness, Garry Blackburn, Il m'a répondu dans la positive, me disant que le groupe était très flatté par ce projet.

Aucun membre de Madness n'est impliqué dans ce projet. Mais certains musiciens très amis du groupe y participent.

Mais...peut-être allons-nous recevoir un titre enregistré par les maddies sous un faux nom... Imaginez Chris au chant, Carl au piano, Mike à la basse... Se serait génial! Mais, bon, c'est beau de rêver! Lol.

Je suis très heureux que le MIS Online/Madness Central (fan club anglais et US réunissant des membres du monde entier) participe aussi à ce projet avec l'enregistrement de plusieurs surprises pour le disque.

La pochette et les dessins du livret vont être réalisés par Mister B et Sean Gaskin.

C'est très important pour moi de dire que tous les droits des chansons de ce disque seront payés à la SACEM/SDRM en France qui s'occupera de la redistribution à MCPS/PRS, copyright control etc...

Quand j'ai dis à Jérome que j'étais d'accord pour travailler sur le choix des groupes/morceaux pour cette compilation, je lui ai précisé qu'il était très important pour moi que tous les droits soient payés et que les groupes aient un contrat. Jérome est quelqu'un de sérieux, donc pas de problèmes de ce côté là, j'ai confirmé le fait que je bosserais sur ce disque.

Au sujet des groupes et des reprises. nous ne pouvons dire à un groupe qu'il sera sur le disque si nous n'avons pas écouté sa reprise (en premier lieu une démo). nous avons reçu de nombreux titres. Pour certains groupes nous avons dit "oui", pour d'autres "non".

DGTS: Of the tracks you are receiving, are they mostly faithful covers of Madness tunes or are the ska bands doing their own interpretations--changing the songs a bit to reflect their own particular style of ska? And which Madness song have the bands wanted to cover the most?

JP: The idea is very simple: try to find bands all over the world who want to release a very own cover of a Madness song.

I don't want to do a Ska sampler. Madness is not a Ska band. It's a band who like to put time to time some Ska and Reggae spices on their music! I am not happy when on radios the DJ say: "It was 'Our House,' a big Ska hit by the best UK Ska band, Madness."

If "Our House" is a Ska tune, "Let's Dance" by David Bowie is a big rap hit!

I don't want on this record "clone covers" (I have lot of respect to all the Madness tribute bands in UK, but it was too simple and not exciting to put songs by these bands).

I think it will be great to have several styles...imagine "Los Palmas 7" in a 60s Ska style, "Mrs. Hutchinson" or "Our House" in Latin Salsa Style, "My Girl" in a great pop style sung by a woman, "Johnny The Horse" sung in Italian, "The Opuim Eaters" in Electro Dub style or "You Said" in a today Brit Rock Pop style!

No problems with the covers, we send list of "free" tracks to the bands. Also, bands are very imaginative. It's a great good surprise for me to see bands who want to cover songs like "Never Ask Twice" or "Day On The Town."

At time we try to find bands who want to do very own covers of "Embarrassment" or "Shut Up."

L'idée est très simple, trouver des groupe du monde entier qui veulent reprendre dans leur propre style un titre de Madness.

Je n'ai jamais eu l'idée de faire une compilation Ska. Madness n'est pas un groupe de Ska. C'est un groupe qui de temps en temps épice sa musique de sons Ska ou Reggae. Je suis outré quand j'entends à la radio l'animateur dire "C'était le plus grand groupe Ska anglais Madness dans l'un de ses tubes Ska "Our House." Si "Our House" est un morceau Ska, "Let's Dance" de David Bowie est un tube rap!

Je ne veux pas non plus d'un tribute avec des morceaux "Clonés." J'ai beaucoup de respect pour les Madness tribute bands anglais, mais les mettre sur cette compilation aurait été trop facile et pas assez original.

Je pense qu'il faut laisser libre cours à l'imagination des groupes quant à l'interprétation de leur reprise. Imaginez "Los Palmas 7" en version 60's Ska, "Our House" ou "Mrs. Hutchinson" en version Salsa Latino, "The Opium eaters" en Electro Dub!

Nous recherchons actuellement des groupes pour reprendre à leur manière "Embarrassment" et "Shut Up."

DGTS: From what you've heard so far, do you have any favorite covers that have been submitted for inclusion on the album?

JP: I love all of them...but I am very happy for the JAG version of "You Said." Very own version! Kick the ass... I think it will be a massive hit, if the band put the video on MTV2!

Je les aime toutes! Mais je suis envoûté par la version de "You Said" par JAG. Un vrai coup de pied dans le cul! Si la vidéo passe sur MTV2, je suis sûr que se sera un véritable tube!

DGTS: What is your all-time favorite Madness song? And how did you come to be such a huge fan of the band?

JP: I love all the Madness tracks, except the melody of "Memories"...don't know why! My favourite album is The Rise and Fall. Favorites songs: "Embarrassment," "NW5," "Johnny The Horse," "You Said," "Samantha," "Missing You," "Give Me a Reason," "Bingo," "Dust Devil," "Sarah's Song"...stop!

J'aime tous les titres de Madness sauf la mélodie de "Memories"... Je ne sais pas pourquoi! Mon album préféré est The Rise and Fall. Mes titres favoris: "Embarrassment," "NW5," "Johnny The Horse," "You Said," "Samantha," "Missing You," "Give Me a Reason," "Bingo," "Dust Devil," "Sarah's Song"...stop!

DGTS: It seems like the majority of bands involved in this project are European. Are you expecting more contributions from American ska bands? (If not, why do you think there hasn't been more interest on this side of the Atlantic?)

JP: Lot of European bands, but some of South America, like Niko Costello, Desorden Publico, and Inspector.

From USA we will have King Django with a great version of "Night Boat To Cairo" and Freddie of NYSJE who played as Freddy Loco. Perhaps more from US soon, but lot of US (very popular in all the world) bands want many dollars before the release of the sampler!

We also have bands from Down Under.

You can find all the news, photos, videos, listen to some tracks of the Madness tribute album on our Facebook page.

Oui, beaucoup de groupes Européens. Plusieurs aussi d'Amérique du Sud comme Niko Costello, Desorden Publico, et Inspector.

Pour les Etats-Unis, King Django reprend de très belle manière "Night Boat To Cairo" et Freddie du New York Ska Jazz Ensemble joue de la flûte sur le morceau de Freddy Loco. Il y aura peut-être d'autres groupes US. mais de nombreux groupes américains très connu nous ont demandé beaucoup de Dollars avant la sortie du disque pour qu'ils jouent dessus !!

Vous pouvez trouver toutes les informations, photos, vidéos, titres à écouter du Madness tribute album sur Facebook.

DGTS: Will the Madness tribute album be distributed in the United States?

JP: Don't know at yet. I hope so. I think it will be on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Je ne le sais pas encore. Je pense qu'il sera en vente sur Amazon.com et Amazon.co.uk.

DGTS: Since you're a massive Madness fan with connections to the band, do you have any idea when The Liberty of Norton Folgate [their brand new album] will be released?

JP: Madness have work on this album since around three years. I have listen to lots of tracks of this record (live versions) and I can say that the band done a great work. I think it will be a masterpiece like The Rise and Fall. I think the band wait until 2009 to release this record. 2009 will be a great year for Madness fans...30th anniversary! Records, concerts, surprises!

Madness a travaillé sur cet album pendant près de 3 ans. J'ai écouté de nombreux titres en version live de cet album et je peux dire que le groupe a fait de l'excellent travail. Je pense que se sera un Chef d'oeuvre tout comme l'était The Rise and Fall. Le disque sortira certainement en 2009 pour les 30 ans du groupe. 2009 sera une belle année pour les fans de Madness: disques, concerts, surprises...

Again thanks a lot for this interview. The Madness tribute album will be out in spring 2009. Bands who want to be involved in this project can contact us as soon as possible at jp-boutellier@wanadoo.fr or big8records_productionska@orange.fr.

The deadline to receive final mix tracks: 15th Janury 2009.

Encore merci pour cette interview. l'album en Hommage à Madness sortira au printemps 2009. Les groupes qui veulent particper à ce disque doivent nous contacter rapidement aux adresses suivantes: jp-boutellier@wanadoo.fr or big8records_productionska@orange.fr.

Date limite de réception des morceaux mixés: 15 janvier 2009.

You Said

From the upcoming 30th Anniversary Madness Tribute Album on Big 8 Records (spring 2009).

Monday, November 17, 2008

OMG! Preview of New RiceRokit Video! Betrayal of a Genuine Heart!

"Betrayal of a Genuine Heart" (Preview)

Stay tuned for the rest...

I'm still waiting for a video of "Dull Boy." Whaddaysay?

Our shameless promotion of this album knows no bounds.

Ska Tunes for Our Times, Version 2

Dave Barker
"What a Confusion"

U Roy
"Earthquake" ("What a Confusion" version)

"What a confusion on this land
Man will soon start eating man

While the grass is growing
The horses are starving
Cost of living rising
While poverty flowing
And now that Jah book has been opened
From A to Z
Brothers killing brothers just for a piece of bread
just for a cent, he'll 'move your head

What a confusion on this land
Man will soon start eating man

This is the hand of Jah writing on the wall
United we stand, but divided we fall
Now let this be a lesson for one and all

What a confusion on this land
Man will soon start eating man

The fat is laughing, while the meager is crying
Believe it or not brothers, I'm not lying

What a confusion on this land
Man will soon start eating man"

Despite the depressingly gruesome lyrics, it's a beautiful, soulful song. And Scratch conveys Rasta Babylon Revelation Time Dread like no one else...

As I mentioned in the comments section of recent The Trojans post, the Dave Barker/Selecter version of this song is really worth tracking down. It's on "Cruel Britannia," a very underrated Selecter album, which was released in 1998 on Snapper and re-released on Moon Ska World in 2004. You can listen to a sample of this song on CD Baby. While you are there, make sure to check out "The Viper," its version "Lyrical Sniper," and their cover of Delroy Wilson's "Better Must Come." Good stuff.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ska Tunes for Our Times

The Trojans
"Brother, Can You Spare a Pound?"
From The Trojan's Skalatitude album (released in 1992 on Gaz's Rockin' Records).

This is a cover of the Depression-era hit, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," with lyrics by Yip Harburg and music by Jay Gorney.

It's a melancholy tune to begin with, but it's all the more sorrowful with Gaz's melodica in the mix.

Monday, November 10, 2008

America Goes 2-Tone!

Seeing President-elect Barack Obama and his family on stage in Chicago on election night as they embraced Vice-President-elect Joe Biden and his family was such an extraordinarily powerful image, as was the wonderfully multiracial crown in Grant Park--images that are not seen nearly enough in the media and pop culture in the United States.

And it reminded me of the daring symbolism of so many of the 2-Tone era bands (particularly The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter), who promoted tolerance and racial harmony/unity simply by hitting the stage and playing music together, during a time in the UK when the National Front was on the rise and violent attacks on non-whites (Brits and immigrants alike) were commonplace. We've come a long way since 1979, but I still remember reading an interview Bucket did in the late 90s talking about how it was still a strong and provocative statement for the multiracial Toasters to perform in certain parts of the USA...

In high school, I caught onto ska music just after 2-Tone collapsed, as the surviving bands were expanding their sound (see The English Beat's Special Beat Service and the Special AKA's "Free Nelson Mandela") and I worked my way back to the proper 2-Tone albums, as well as some vintage ska from The Skatalites and Prince Buster. The music drew me in immediately, but the image of these integrated bands (including UB40, whom I saw live many times) influenced me enormously, too (particularly, since most of the British New Wave acts I was into were lily white). Growing up, my parents had taught me the evils of racism (they had been actively involved in the Civil Rights movement in the 60s), so it wasn't like I needed this lesson, but it was cool to have these values that I strongly believed in reinforced and celebrated in the pop culture I happily consumed every day.

I've heard a lot of pundits opine that Obama "transcends race," as if white Americans who support him are oblivous to race. (The subtext is that the only way white folks could vote for Obama is by denying his ethnicity completely--that, or he somehow tricked us with all his fancy words and smooth talk!) C'mon! Obama is a BLACK American and he is embraced by his fellow Americans (white, black, brown, etc.) for the totality of who he is--the content of his character, the depth of his intellect, as well as the color of his skin. We know he is black and we're okay with that. Obama is different from some of us, but we're not afraid of "the other one" as McCain so demeaningly referred to Obama in one of the debates. Diversity doesn't scare us because we know better: we're a stronger, smarter, and healthier nation for it.

One of the overt goals of 2-Tone was to normalize racial integration--black and white people making music together was no big thang, so we all should be able to live, work, and play together! And a lot of us got the message and incorporated it into our lives. Now, with the election of Barack Obama, my kids and generations of kids to follow, will find it perfectly normal for a black man to be the President of the United States (and will see him on TV, hear about him from their parents, and read about him in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and in their history books)--an extraordinary development for a country founded on the principals of freedom and equality (We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...), so long retarded in its evolution by its long and ugly history of slavery, institutionalized racism, and pigheaded ignorance. Obama will serve as our kids' 2-Tone image and message (hey, he's literally 2-Tone!), one that's very much overdue.

Our society has finally caught up with our ideals (okay, we're not perfect yet, but we're working on it). I've never been prouder of my country or happier to be an American.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ska Gig Alert: The Dance Bash with The English Beat (Providence, RI)

If you are in the New England area on Saturday, November 15th and have some extra scratch in your pocket, you might want to head to Providence, RI for The Dance Bash at The Foundry, a fundraiser to benefit Save the Bay (an environmental organization dedicated to "protect, restore, and explore Narragansett Bay and its watershed"). The featured performers at this benefit are The English Beat (really Dave Wakeling, who is big into environmental causes, particularly clean ocean waters), with the Cobra-Matics (rockabilly, featuring the guitarist from the Royal Crowns) opening. This is The English Beat's only gig on the East Coast this fall (except for one in Teaneck, NJ at Mexicali Live), so this is the time to catch them!

Here's the deal: it's $75 for an open bar, a dessert bar, and the show. Doors for this ticket level (The Dance Bash) are at 9:00 pm. So, for your hard-earned cash, you can catch two great bands; drink all you want; load up on sweets, and help keep the Narragansett Bay clean! Sounds like a bargain to me!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Duff Man in the Street: 3 Floors of Ska at the Knitting Factory, 11/1/08

Had I been a more diligent blogger, this post would be more of a show review (and I would have ended up actually seeing more of the bands that played last night). Seriously, I had the best of intentions...I brought my mini-tape recorder for interviews and my digital camera to capture some bands in action! Instead of making our way from floor to floor, catching some of the acts that I've been meaning to see, Adam and I spent most of the night in the sub-basement--with all the ska merch tables (hey, Mr. Keyboard player from Westbound Train who sold me the cool Rasta colors belt for $5, I asked for the one with the Lion of Judah buckle not the plain one!), the DJ (who was spinning a surprising amount of Clash and Yellowman & Fathead), and an easily accessible barkeep--chatting with a lot of peeps from my Moon Records daze that I haven't seen in far too many years. And at some point late in the night, I ended up behind the Megalith merch table, digging around in the semi-darkness for size medium Toasters shirts in the Rubbermaid bins and pushing the RiceRokit "Hang Loose" CD on anyone within earshot (Kendo, I sold a bunch, dude!), while Megalith man Jeremy Patton hit the head (Bucket told me that Jeremy was the "new me," i.e.: he is at Megalith what I was at Moon). Weird piece of trivia: we figured out last night that Jeremy was the first person to purchase some songs from my old digital-download only label, 7 Wonders of the World Music.

What I can report is that there were about 800+ fans in attendance, and Adam and I managed to catch most of Void Union's set in one of the smaller rooms (after trying to see the Hub City Stompers--who sounded great, btw--in the jammed mainstage space). I'm happy to report that Void Union put on a fantastic live show, with a good mix of vintage-ska style original instrumentals (like "The Long Road") and songs featuring the guest singer Hayley Jane (pictured in the top picture, with a cool Betty Grable tattoo on her arm), who is a really gifted frontwoman, and drummer Jesse Hayes (also pictured in the top photo). I'm working on a review of their debut CD, which I'll post in the near future...

Thanks to Buck for getting us in the club and Shay for the hospitality!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ska Gig Alert: 3 Floors of Ska at the Knitting Factory

If you are anywhere in the NYC area this Saturday night (November 1st), you might want to head down to the Knitting Factory for the 3 Floors of Ska show, with The Toasters and Pietasters as headliners (haven't seen either band in, like, forever). It's an all ages show (!) and the doors open at 7:00 pm.

Gonna be there lurking in the back with my beer, pretending not to be an old man in the crowd. Between work and the family, I don't get out that much anymore (jeez, I've become a stupid cliche...). There also may be a few more ex-Moon Records folks in attendance, like my good friend Adam "Coozer Files" Coozer. We'll talk about our fears of a world-wide zombie takeover and reminisce about the good days of the third wave and the awesomeness of working at Moon.

I'm interested in seeing the Green Room Rockers and Void Union, as I've heard lots of good things about both bands through the grapevine. I'll try to write up a show review if I get my act together...

I have a whole bunch of new ska and reggae CDs to review, too, if I ever find the time. Last night, I was writing up a short review of Prince Fatty's "Survival of the Fattest" (I picked it up when it was released last spring, but it's still worth reviewing), while freezing my butt off during my son's (outdoor) hockey practice...I squeeze in The Duff Guide to Ska when I can...

I should get one of those signs that says "One of these days I'm gonna get organezized". - T. Bickle

Oh, and Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Duff Interview: Kendo from RiceRokit

Just who the heck is this Kendo guy that keeps popping up on the Duff Guide, you may be asking yourself. Well, he is the mad brain genius behind RiceRokit, a Southern California ska act that has created what this blogger thinks may be one of the best ska albums of 2008 (read the official Duff Guide to Ska review of RiceRokit's "Hang Loose" here). The Duff Guide to Ska thanks him for taking a break in his intake of horror and sci-fi movies (and other pop culture vehicles) to spend a few moments replying to some random questions bouncing around our head.

The Duff Guide to Ska: Before I first listened to "Hang Loose," I expected a bunch of sunshiny ska songs all about finding the perfect wave and chasing beach bunnies in the surf. But what I discovered is a kind of a dark album with a depth that is unusual for the ska scene. What was going on in your life when you wrote these songs (or what inspired them)?

Kendo: Sincere thanks for the kind words.

While it's true I was very lucky to be able to grow up seeking that elusive Pipeline barrel, and making-out with some nubile, salty ladies--once seriously discovering music, I grew extremely restless in the Hawaiian 'paradise' (or "Krypton," as we call it--seems like there's actually more GRAVITY there, and somehow many physical tasks seem to require much more effort--it's probably the HEAT--you either resist it, or succumb to it. Sadly, none of us ever actually turn out to be Superman...).

So even then, I was writing songs (with my industrial/heavy metal/punk rock band, 'minor blow') about darker things like thwarted love, conspiracies, revolution, and nuclear apocalypse (it was the 80's after all), and after dropping out of high school and dabbling early in some studies at the UH, my band and I done 'runnoft' to Hollywood--still teenagers, and now amidst a new kind of darkness--the music-scene/'war-zone' of Los Angeles.

Years of battling in the underground, indie-music clubs of LA, as well as a lengthy stint (and some hair-raising adventures) performing around third-world Asia, definitely colored the sound and perspective a bit, beyond the reefs and sunshine of the early days.

And so when I finally stumbled into playing ska and reggae with Dubcat, I was coming to it from very much a ROCK point-of-view--something that blended fairly well with the punk-influenced sound of the LBDA guys, and a style that even seemed to lend a pretty nice garage-y touch to Half Pint's set, when we'd occasionally back him up as well.

Obviously, the Sublime fellas (some of whom of course formed Dubcat) were famous for their dark imagery and sort-of sinister Long Beach reputation--however, I do try to consciously make a point to purposely AVOID that specific brand of subject matter, not only to just keep it real and endeavor to be myself, but also with the sincere intention of approaching subjects as much as possible (though they themselves may be dark and sometimes disturbing) from a place of POSITIVITY.

Hence the lyrical focus on elements of social and political commentary, as well as the satirical nature of RiceRokit's imagery, marketing and promotion. Vive la REVOLUTION!!!

DGTS: I've read that you created "Hang Loose" as a concept album. Can you elaborate on this--why you chose to put together an album this way, and how the songs relate to each other--what's the overarching story?

Kendo: Rumors and hearsay!!! Although maybe we should market this like Crispin Glover's infamous "The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be," and have people leave phone messages regarding what they think it all means...?

Wait a minute--now you've got me thinking there's some sort of relation to the songs--after all, as our good Doc Jung alludes with his "acausal connecting principle": aren't many things incoincidentally connected? Sing it, Sting--SYNCHRONICITY!!!

Seriously though--if there's anything linking the tunes, it's probably in their tendency to try to paint very 'visual' pictures and imagery, lyrically and musically--from a blue-haired lady with "little frog tattoos" on her toes, to that creepy, "wicked" carnival scenery, to the nocturnal, lunar cycle of the Wolfman, to riding a Big Wheel down the carpeted corridors of the Overlook Hotel, ya know?

Of course there is something to be said for the ability of those farther removed, to observe more of the big picture than the creator of the piece, who may be too close to the work--"Pretty Things," "Dance with You," "Betrayal," and "Dinner," are each and all about different, specific, female friends of the past. So there very well may be a type of pattern emerging.

Either that, or I just have a soft spot for the ladies...who doesn't?

DGTS: I love all the pop culture references ("The Shining," "Something Wicked This Way Comes," "Saturday Night Fever," werewolves, etc.) in many of your songs. Growing up, did you spend all your free time devouring movies? And which ones became your all-time favorites?

Kendo: Thanks, braddah!!! Yeah as a kid, I was definitely a movie-nut--and running off to Hollywood didn't help to cure me of that addiction, either. Still spend all my time keeping up with flicks--foreign and domestic (huge into Hong Kong cinema, and Japanese chanbara and anime as well). There's truly an unhealthy amount of movie-related trivia crammed into my cranium--actors' and directors' names, production details, score composers--it's very, very sad.

I do derive a whole lot of influence and inspiration from film, though. I believe a good flick can really cause a tremendous amount of people to THINK...and most importantly, like all great art--make them FEEL. That's how it works for me, anyways...I do deeply enjoy the medium!!!

My top 3 all-time favorites: "Blade Runner" (Ridley Scott), "Seven Samurai" (Akira Kurosawa), and "Princess Mononoke" (Hayao Miyazaki).

DGTS: "Hang Loose" has been released in Japan. How did this come about, and is RiceRokit going to be able to tour there? (For that matter, will you ever play NYC?)

Kendo: MySpace, MySpace, MySpace. I cannot say enough GOOD THINGS about that fricken site, mang!!! Brilliant, that--no longer does one have to lug about promo kits, demos, etc...ET VOILA--it's all on that bloody page!!! A Godsend, really.

Not only did I come upon Megalith Records' wonderful "3 Floors of Ska" show on there (which eventually led to our signing with the fantastic label), but our good man Bruce Pavey of Global Cooling in Japan also initially contacted us on the site as well--he had been referred to us by the guys at Long Beach Records, which we really appreciate, too.

Yeah, MySpace--very grateful for it. Thanks, Tom!!!

As far as touring goes--there has definitely been talk of such stuff, since the very beginning (and more of it recently, in relation to our upcoming European distribution of 'Pidgin English'). However, both our record deals (and CD pressings) are practically BRAND NEW, and I do imagine there will be a need to recoup a bit of the costs before we head out--anyways, that's what the SUITS keep telling us (except in Bucket's case, it's a really dapper, fitted, 60's-cut suit with a cool, skinny tie). !D

Regarding playing in Gotham--the original '3 Floors' show is out of the Knitting Factory over there, and I could foresee us making it out for that, with all the stars aligning correctly...

Regardless, I've got the travel bug pretty bad, what with my history of Asian hijinks, and some of the fun Dubcat plane trips with Half Pint. Even went on a month-long journey throughout Europe last year to do some serious reconnaissance for upcoming touring in that vicinity.

I'm extremely intent on seeing more of this big, beautiful world (including those 7 Wonders you're familiar with), so I've definitely got the feeling we'll make it happen one way or another--with a QUICKNESS.

DGTS: What were you doing before you hooked up with Dubcat (and how did you come to be in that band)?

Kendo: I had just moved back to LA in 2003, after a 9-month stint back in the motherland of Honolulu (spent surfing, contemplating my existence, and replenishing my power$, which had been sufficiently drained by a couple of years cruising for record deals around the Orient).

Upon returning to the city, I promptly grabbed a used board and paddled out at my favorite local spot called "Zero's," just north of Zuma Beach, and of course out in the water as usual was my oldest and best surfing buddy David Fuentes (bassist of LA ska veterans Hepcat--and who 'Hang Loose' is dedicated to). Lucky I ran into him there, as I had lost his number with all the traveling I'd been doing...

David had been trying to teach me the beauty of this "ska" music-thing for years (way back, he even got me out to the home of original Hepcat guitarist Lino Trujillo, to teach me how to REALLY play reggae--basically so David could have me try out for Hepcat--Lino was taking some time off for a bit, back then).

So while I was catching up with me ol' braddah, he told me that he was involved in a project with some of the guys from Sublime and Long Beach Dub Allstars, along with Hepcat founder Deston Berry on keys--they were calling this band, "Dubcat," and they needed a guitarist.

All my gear was still on a barge from Hawaii, so to go try out, I had to borrow an axe and amp from another one of our local Zero's surfer-bros, Corey Little--so I showed up to play reggae music with these guys, using a Gibson SG (Angus Young from AC/DC's signature axe) and a half Marshall stack. They thought I was showing up for the Iron Maiden audition--so rad!!!

DGTS: What can we expect on your next album, "Pidgin English?" Why did you choose this title? Is it another concept album?

Kendo: Since recording 'Hang Loose,' and playing those songs live for a while now, I'd definitely like to think that I've sort-of figured out much more of RiceRokit's sound, with the fun hybridization of the 2-tone elements, the 80's new-wave sensibilities, and of course that "Long Beach sound," still very much a part of it as well.

So on 'Pidgin,' I think you'll find a much more focused style--I feel like I really had my "formula" figured out for this one, and recording (while definitely intense and time-consuming) moved forward relatively confidently this time around.

The sound does branch-out a bit from the fairly straightforward 'Hang Loose' however, in the added elements of 80's vintage analog keyboard solos and tones. Also used a lot of delay on the drums, to give some of the tunes that Stewart Copeland 'Police' vibe, and even threw in a fun, Electro-Theremin solo in "Bela Lugosi."

Speaking of which--there are 2 cover songs on this one, and before the official pressing next Spring, I may even want to add another one. As strange as it might sound, I think I might be trying to mold RiceRokit into the modern-day UB40 of ska!!!

Regarding the title, 'Pidgin English'--for each CD, I try to come up with a phrase that is not only a Hawaiian reference, but is also made up of English words that will be understood by the majority of all the 'haoles' (mainlanders), hahaha--I'm "hapa-haole" (half-caucasian) myself, so I might understand the necessity to communicate in a language that can be easily understood by the masses.

"Hang Loose," obviously refers to the Hawaiian "shaka" hand sign (with the thumb and pinky extended), and the "Pidgin English" I'm referring to, is the slang-filled, heavily accented version of English that the indigenous people of Hawaii speak--just as Jamaican people have their "patois" language as well.

Uh-oh--the "concept album" suspicion again... Another reason these tracks may seem linked, is that (a lot of folks might not know), the original, underground versions of the RiceRokit CDs have various INTERLUDE tracks, consisting of movie samples, music, and other such nonsense. These tracks were not included on the official Megalith/Global Cooling pressings, as Hollywood's army of lawyers would surely have pounced upon us like the rabid vultures they are (of course NOT including our own entertainment attorney, and great friend!!!).

DGTS: Which ska/reggae bands on the Southern California scene do you think are worth checking out?

Kendo: Down here in San Diego, my favorite local band is SD vets, Skanic--just the most versatile, professional, slick group, with a deep understanding of a wide spectrum of reggae and ska music, I think.

Then a little while back, we had a memorial show for David down here, and this other surfer buddy that would come down from Santa Barbara and surf with us at Zero's--Oreo--played with his band The Upbeat. I had heard about them for years, but that was the first time I'd ever actually saw them, and they totally BLEW ME AWAY. Real pros, and nice aloha shirts, too.

Also Jesse Wagner (who filled in a few times on vocals in Dubcat) and his band The Aggrolites have been blowing up lately, and they most definitely deserve it. As far as I'm concerned, that band is the BAR of professionalism that's been raised--and that (and higher) is the level of performance that I endeavor to persevere to reach and maintain with RiceRokit.

I mean in my opinion, if you're not going to go FULL ON like those guys, then just go home. Otherwise, just try coming out half-assed directly following an Aggrolites set, and see what happens to the crowd. Ba-bye.

Lastly if they can be considered a So. Cal. band (since Mr. Wakeling lives near LA now), The English Beat (or 'The Beat,' in England) are one of my major 2-tone heroes that definitely continue to RAWK the Cali scene with those fantastic songs.

DGTS: Apart from the release of "Pidgin English," what plans do you have for RiceRokit for the next year or so?

Kendo: Since it seems in this era, some of the most efficient and successful methods of marketing and promotion are internet-based, we'll continue with more of the YouTube videos for sure. And now that the recording is complete, we've been fine-tuning the live show as well (concentrating fairly heavily on vocal harmonies), so making some important shows really COUNT is certainly part of the equation.

And touring? When the money starts looking right, and the powers-that-be give the thumbs up--our bags are already packed.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kid British-Manchester's Best New Hope for UK Ska?

Kid British describe themselves as "a gooey mixture of The Specials, Outkast, Madness, De La Soul, Gorillaz, The Streets, and Blur." (Hey, I like all of these bands, tell me more!) Take a listen to three of their tunes, "Elizabeth," "Sunny Days," and "Rum Boy," on the Kid British MySpace page and see what you think.

Most obviously, there is a heavy Madness and Specials-as-channeled-through-Damon Albarn/Blur influence, which I personally dig. Ska on the pop tip (yes, "Sunny Days" does remind one of ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky," a song I'll be bold enough to admit liking)--it crawls into your head and lives there happily for a while. Kid British is definitely something worthwhile to listen to--in its own right and while you wait for Madness' new album, The Liberty of Norton Folgate, which is supposed to come out exactly when? (While we wait impatiently, Suggs has apparently been filming a travelogue about Italy for British TV: Suggs's Italian Job.)

I hate the whole "next big thing" crap hype (hey, it helped kill US ska and Moon Records at the end of the 90s..once bitten, right?), but these guys sound like they might be able to deliver on their promise. Their first single is going to be released on October 27th in the UK on Another Music=Another Kitchen Records (don't miss the Buzzcocks reference there, folks) and distributed by Mercury/Universal. I don't know if this will be available as an import in the US, but perhaps we can buy it on iTunes? Their album is slated for release in spring 2009.

Read a bit more about the band in these articles from the Guardian and the BBC.

The Specials' Neville Staple to Pen Autobiography

Not to be outdone by Sir Horace Gentleman, The Specials' Neville Staple recently sold the rights to his autobiography, titled "Original Rude Boy," to Aurum Press in England. His tome should hit the bookstore shelves in 2010. In the press release, his editor at Aurum, Sam Harrison, gushes:

'I'm absolutely delighted Aurum are publishing Nev's autobiography. He's a legend. Not just in the history of Ska, but in the history of Pop per se. With its insider's view of The Specials and the Transatlantic post-punk music scene; not to mention its often harrowing, frequently hilarious account of growing up the wrong side of the law in Seventies Britain, ORIGINAL RUDE BOY promises to be the must-read memoir of Summer 2010.'

The press release also hypes Neville as the "godfather of ska." I have a great deal of respect for Neville, but that's a bit of a stretch, isn't it? The spirit of Laurel Aitken might want to have a word with his publicist...

I hope this one's as enjoyable a read as Sir Horace Panter's "Ska'd for Life."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shots in the Dark: The Potato 5 - "Floyd Lloyd and the Potato 5 Meet Laurel Aitken" and "True Fact"

Editor's note: Shots in the Dark spotlights third-wave ska releases that should have been massive hits on the scene but, due to bad timing, poor luck, or a fickle record-buying public, were lost in the fray.

The Band: The Potato 5, an extraordinary Skatalites-styled ska group from London that featured a rotating line-up of singers in its all too brief history (1983-1989), including Floyd Lloyd Seivright, Laurel "The Godfather of Ska" Aitken, and Spyder Johnson (who went on to drum for the Nutty Boys--an early '90s ska band formed by Madness' Lee Thompson and Chris Foreman).

The Sound: Floyd Lloyd and the Potato 5 Meet Laurel Aitken is brilliant, vintage-style ska (in the vein of the Skatalites, Derrick Morgan, Prince Buster, and, not surprisingly, Laurel Aitken). True Fact tries to modernize their sound in an attempt to catch the attention of those beyond the ska crowd, with mixed results.

The Releases: Floyd Lloyd and the Potato Five Meet Laurel Aitken, produced by Gaz Mayall of The Trojans (and originally released on Gaz's Rockin' Records), is a classic album that should be in every ska fan's collection--it's that essential. Released in 1987, long after 2-Tone imploded, but during a rebirth of the UK ska scene that spawned such contemporaries as The Deltones (formed by ex-Bodysnatchers Sarah Jane Owen and Penny Layton), The Loafers, The Trojans, Maroon Town, The Riffs, as well as the latest incarnation of Bad Manners (the only 2-Tone-era group that never really disbanded), this album established the Potato 5 as the undisputed leaders of the UK ska scene (and introduced Laurel Aitken to a whole new generation of ska fans--which re-ignited his career and led to a string of new albums, re-issued collections of his singles from the 60s and 70s, and live appearances that continued unabated until his death in 2005). Floyd Lloyd and the Potato Five Meet Laurel Aitken is stunning from start to finish.

Side A features a mix of tunes written by Floyd Lloyd (who also sings) and the Potato 5's guitarist Martin Aberdeen, including the anti-aparthied/pro-peace and justice rave-up "Tear Up"; the infectiously danceable instrumentals "Jessie Jackson" and "Spin on Your Head"; the melancholy, but cooly encouraging "Big City" ("The city is a big, big, place/Don't let it get to you/Don't let it change your point of view...You've got to keep yourself together/Keep on truckin'..."); and the awesome spaghetti western-inspired instrumental "Western Special" that would make Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, et al proud.

Laurel Aitken owns Side B, with a string of self-penned songs that instantly became some of his trademark Third Wave ska hits in the 1990s: "Sally Brown" (which Bad Manners subsequently covered on their Return of the Ugly album), "Mad About You," and "Sahara." "Sally Brown" in particular is incredibly catchy, with lyrics that will have you singing along everytime you hear it: "Make me tell you 'bout Sally Brown/Sally Brown is a girl in town/She don't mess around/Sally Brown is a slick chick/If you mess around with Sally/She hits you with a cookoomacka stick/Coo-coo-coo-coo-coo-koo-macka stick/She's gonna hit you with a cookoomacka stick!" Laurel is at the top of his game here (as he would be for the rest of his career); the songs are amazing and his performances (as well as the Potato 5's) are brilliantly honest and masterful. "Meet Laurel Aitken" and you'll see that his title as "The Godfather of Ska" is more than well deserved.

True Fact, produced by Specials, Madness, and Rico Rodriguez collaborator Dick Cuthell (and released on Rackit Records in 1988), is more problematic and something of a letdown. The songs--all still trad-leaning ska--are good (mostly the ones written by the Potato 5's Paul Hickson and Martin Aberdeen) to great (those composed by Laurel), but the disconcertingly robotic-sounding rhythm section (really the drums--and synthesized drums are sometimes used here to poor effect) really clashes with the organic sound of the horn section--marring many of the songs on this record. Having said that, sometimes the formula works well (mostly with Laurel's tracks, as his songwriting is vastly superior in several cases), as on tracks like the awesome Hitchcockian "Dial M for Murder" (I always thought the line "You picked me pocket/You know it was a rackit" was "You picked me pocket/You know it was erotic," but I guess that's just me being me), "Burning Fire" ("Burning flames of fire/To your musical desire/Ska Flames!"), "Got to Go," and "Heman vs Skeletor" (hey, it was still the '80s!). The Rocksteady Party repackaging of True Fact, which is widely available now (the True Fact LP I have is long out-of-print and my CD of this album was pressed in Japan) includes their great cover of "Do the Jerk" (with Spyder on vocals) and the "I swear the Skatalites wrote this" instrumental "Re-Burial" from their last 1989 single (both cuts bump up the overall quality of this record a couple of notches).

The Ugly Reality:While the Potato 5 were enormously popular on the UK and European ska scenes, they made only minor inroads in the US, particularly because the late '80s ska scene was small, regionalized, disorganized, and very much underground (and to top it off, no internet to connect us all yet, man!). After a brutal tour of the US in late 1989 (I think I saw a CBGB's ad in the Village Voice that had them on the bill, but by then I had already missed the gig!), the band called it quits. Our big loss...

The Grades: Meet Laurel Aitken:A+; True Fact:B; Rocksteady Party:B+

The Floyd Lloyd and the Potato 5 Meet Laurel Aitken CD is available from Grover Records in Germany (you can also sample tracks and buy it from iTunes), while True Fact has been repackaged as Rocksteady Party on Magnum Music and can be listened to and purchased from iTunes (and is available on CD as well).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mojo Does The Ska: Johnny Moore and the almost there Specials

The November 2008 issue of Mojo Magazine (with the Combat Rock- era Clash on the cover) features two ska articles of note: a decent obit for Skatalites' trumpeter Johnny Moore by Lee Perry/reggae expert David Katz, and a piece on The Specials minus Jerry Dammers' (aka "Terry Hall and Friends") performance at Bestival on the Isle of Wight, in early September. (Terry Hall and Friends played "Gangsters" and then the whole debut album, but swapped "Stupid Marriage" for "Rat Race")

Mojo dubs the band "The Partial AKA" and prints Dammers' reaction to the whole deal, which wasn't exactly glowing:
They did a fantastic job, but I think one of the reasons that I was excluded and didn't want to take part was because I had expressed the opinion that the real Specials would never do a gig where the real Specials fans couldn't even get in--Bestival was already sold out. I went, and it was very weird for me. Without my influence it felt like they were playing themselves a bit, it was too much of a 'fun' thing, a bit of a 'stars of the '80s' nostalgia vibe, not what a real reunion would have been at all. There was something missing, but unfortunately I'm the only person who really knows what that is. The subtleties in the music were a bit lost on them. "Doesn't Make It Alright" should have had the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, but compare it to the record and the heart and soul was a bit lacking. The best excuse for a reunion is if you can do some really good new music. The guy playing keyboards pulled his cap over his face so you couldn't see it wasn't me, which says it all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Megalith Records to Release RiceRokit's Pidgin English in Spring 2009

I received an e-mail from Kendo and TeamRokit a few days ago that passed along the news that Pidgin English, RiceRokit's follow-up to their outstanding Hang Loose CD, is slated to be released on Megalith Records in spring 2009.

Apparently Kendo's fanboy obsession with horror movies continues to find a healthy outlet in his music--he included a cut from Pidgin English to preview: RiceRokit's terrific cover of Bauhaus' classic goth track "Bela Lugosi's Dead" (definitely one song I never expected to receive a ska makeover). For anyone who isn't familiar with Bela Lugosi, he was an actor best known for his seminal portrayal of Dracula in the 1932 version of this film (a role he reprised for the equally great Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948) and for subsequent B horror films for Universal Pictures and others (Murders in the Rue Morgue, Island of Lost Souls, The Raven, Son of Frankenstein). Late in his life, he worked with bizarro filmmaker Ed Wood (Martin Landau portrayed Lugosi in Tim Burton's film of the same name), appearing in Glen or Glenda and the truly awful and almost unwatchable Plan 9 from Outer Space.

While I'm biding my time until Pidgin English sees the light of day, perhaps Megalith will release Hang Loose on vinyl? It deserves this kind of treatment. Jeremy? Buck?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Are You There Jah? It's Me, Rudy!

This bizarre, yet strangely endearing video by the long-defunct Christian rock band Sonseed (they, we, all of us are the, um, 'seed' of Jesus?) has been making the rounds and many of you, no doubt, have seen it. But just in case you haven't...

There is just so much awesomeness here ("He [Jesus] is like a mountie/He always gets his man/and he'll zap you anyway he can...Zap!") that I don't know where to begin.

Sonseed: "Jesus is a Friend of Mine"

Apparently, this is a real video from the early 80s of Sonseed's performance on a religious talk show titled "The First Estate" that aired on WNBC in NYC on Sunday mornings.

For some much needed context, Dougsploitation has a recent interview with Sonseed singer, Sal Polichetti, here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Only Limits We Set (What Can We Get Away With?)

Call me old-fashioned, but I fondly remember a time when people paid bands for the music they made. All in all, it was a pretty reasonable deal. Musicians wrote a bunch a songs; went into a recording studio, put it all down on tape, and the tracks were then mixed and mastered and printed onto LPs, cassettes, and CDs by record companies--who then made sure that these recordings found their way into record stores and were reviewed in magazines, played on the radio and/or music video shows; and often supported the band as they toured in support of the recording. The fan would hear the song/see the video/go to the show and then head off to the record store to purchase a copy of the LP, cassette, or CD for their own personal enjoyment. And some musicians could actually make an okay, even decent, living off of being a musician.

Sure there were problems with this arrangement. For example, CDs were way overpriced (considering they cost only a few dollars to manufacture--much less if you are printing them in massive quantities); some labels hacked away at their artists' royalties by nickeling and diming them to death; indie bands and labels had great difficulty getting their releases distributed; and forget getting your record played on commercial radio without some form of payola. The list of legitimate gripes was long and sordid. I should know, I was part of the music industry for a decade and saw the good, the bad, and the ugly. (For the record, Moon should be filed under 'good.')

But when you distilled it all down to its essence, music fans paid bands to own a recorded copy of their music.

[Yes, back in the day, some people would make a couple of cassette or CD copies of an album for their friends--copyright law actually makes allowances for you to make a few copies of an album you've bought to give, not sell, to your buds--but nowadays any idiot can rip a CD and put a perfect digital copy on the web for potentially millions of strangers to download without any of them paying a penny to the band/label. This is very different from making a copy just for your friend and it is illegal.]

After all, one of the cornerstones of a capitalistic society like ours is that whenever someone creates something unique to sell in the marketplace, he or she is protected by a copyright that gives them ownership and complete control of their creation. This allows them to license or manufacture and sell authorized copies of their original idea--and go after those who create pirated or bootleg versions of something they own.

So, what changed this basic equation? The brave new world of the internet didn't void all copyright laws--it just made it easier to cheat the musician (and in many cases, their record label--well, what's left of them) out of the money that they're due. It's that simple.

Whenever someone rips a CD and uploads it on the internet via some file sharing site like Rapidshare (making it possible for thousands, hundreds of thousands, or potentially millions of people anywhere in the world, to download a copy of an album for free), he/she is a) violating the band's copyright and, b) denying them income that could help them continue to function as musicians and produce more music that he/she supposedly likes and wants.

I could go on about how musicians have bills to pay like the rest of us (you know, rent, food, gas, health insurance--the basics) and how music file sharing can be particularly devastating for bands involved with small, underground music scenes, like ska's, which have limited numbers of potential album buyers to begin with, but you get the gist of my argument.

So don't be an ass. Do the right thing (legally, ethically, and morally) and buy a band's album from iTunes or their CD from their website or head to your local indie record store and maybe even accidentally come across some other albums that you didn't even know you wanted...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Duff Review: RiceRokit -- Hang Loose

When I first heard RiceRokit's Hang Loose (released on Megalith Records), my first thought was that its compelling mix of guitar-driven modern ska, rock, reggae, and hip hop did Sublime one better (by a long shot, actually). So I found it kind of appropriate that it turns out that Kendo (singer, songwriter, guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer--who also self-produced the album, well, I might add) used to be in Dubcat, which was comprised of members of Hepcat, the Long Beach Dub Allstars, and, wait for it, Sublime (d'oh!). This release probably won't go down too well with ska traditionalists (there is turntable scratching throughout--a nice touch, actually!), but if your musical horizons are a bit broader, you'll find a stellar album jam-packed with well-crafted, catchy tunes.

For a record titled Hang Loose by a Hawaiian-born surfer, there sure is a lot of anxiety and tension, conflict between good and evil, and temptation of the flesh in this batch of songs. And the inevitability of death and decay is always present. "All the Pretty Things," which Kendo sings practically in falsetto, laments the fact that beauty is ephemeral, even though he's very much in the now, lusting after a hot lady ("Your pretty voice/your pretty style/just like a movie star/And just the way/you wear your jeans/makes me believe in God!/Why do all the pretty things/always fade away?"). Backed by a driving ska beat, "Dull Boy" is written from the point of view of Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining, as he slowly loses his mind and becomes the mad, killer caretaker ("I get the feeling that something's on the other side of this door/I could have sworn that I've been here in this place before/Feels like I've been here before/All work and no play/makes Jack a dull boy"). Work is trying to write the book; play is "chopping his family to bits."

"Dance with You" (catch the video below) is pure pop-reggae-skank perfection as he's torn between the intense physical desire he feels for this woman and the complete absence of love for her in his heart ("Girl, I could dance with you/but you're not my dream girl/You're nothing.../nothing like that," which directly quotes a John Travolta line in "Saturday Night Fever"). And I don't think 'dance' here means dancing, if you catch my drift. "Dinner and a Movie" savors the thrilling emotional high (hopefully) you've experienced at some point in your life when you've just start dating a certain special someone and it seems like nothing can go wrong (and you want this amazingly surreal feeling to last forever). "Monkey See, Monkey Do" subtly admonishes the listener that we need to set better examples for each other and the impressionable. The menacing "Something Wicked" directly references Ray Bradbury's fantasy/horror novel "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (where an evil carnival comes to a small Midwestern town, led by Mr. Dark--most likely the devil--who tempts people by granting people the power to indulge their innermost fantasies, but they end up trapped as freaks in his sideshow), while "Howling at the Moon," with its nice touches of country-ish guitar amidst the mid-tempo skank, warns the listener to "run for your life/if you wanna to survive," because he's going to sink his bad werewolf teeth into you. The reggae-fied cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand" (essentially a song about how everything in life is transitory) gets the Kendo touch and is all the better for it. As you can see, there are some pretty interesting things going on in Kendo's head that he's happy to share with us (can't wait to hear what he's got in store for us with his follow-up CD, Pidgin English).

I have the feeling that I'll keep coming back to this record for a long time, since the more I listen to it, the better it gets. Hands down, RiceRokit's Hang Loose is one of the best, fully realized, and unique debut CDs I've heard--making it one of the top ska/reggae albums of 2008. Be sure to pick it up.

Grade: A

RiceRokit's "Dance with You" Video

Monday, September 22, 2008

Caribbean Moonstomp Preview with Jump Up Records' Boss Man Chuck Wren

DGTS: What motivated you to put together the Caribbean Moonstomp at this point in time? Are you seeing a significant uptick in the popularity of ska in Chicago and the Midwest--or this more of a 'it's the label's fifteenth anniversary, so we're going throw a party?'

Chuck Wren: Basically, I think it's important to throw an event at these milestones in the label's history. We're pretty much the only label that has lasted this many years that has actually released new music in EVERY year of our existence. We never went dormant--we kept going! Yes, ska and reggae shows do pretty good here in Chicago. And bands like Deal's Gone Bad are finally getting the recognition they deserve on a national scale. But I didn't want to do a weekend with the same old bands time and time again--I wanted to do an event. That's why I decided to fly in Roy Ellis and do a one off show in Chicago. Roy is a living legend--and now that labels like Hellcat are making the "skinhead reggae" sound more well known, I figured it was time to bring in one of the genre's top marquee artists!

DGTS: What's your connection with Roy Ellis and how did you convince him to headline the festival? Is he one of your all time ska/skinhead reggae faves?

CW: Well, we released Roy's ("aka MR SYMARIP") album here in the states. Of course, getting into ska and reagge in the 80s you were heavily exposed to the skinhead subculture. Bands like SYMARIP were so influential with the 2-Tone generation, etc. And Roy's voice is still top notch and he is full of enthusiasm--just see his performances on YouTube. He was a natural choice--and I had been trying to get him to come to the states for the past two years!

DGTS: The other acts on each night's bill are all pretty incredible; how did you come to select them--are these some of you favorite acts on the scene, or were they the ones that were available and willing to participate?

CW: The list was longer! But, of course, not everyone can come. We were glad to have Eastern Standard Time step up to the plate to play and back Roy--and the whole Monkey (Jump Up will release their trad album this year) backing Dr. Ring Ding and then dragging his ass back to Cali for a full tour--well, that was some amazing timing and it worked out perfectly! The Large and in Charge band was my wacky idea because every year the indie rock festival, Pitchfork got seminal artists to play a specific classic album side. Public Enemy did "It Takes A Nation of Millions," Sonic Youth did "Daydream Nation"....why the hell can't the 1998 lineup of Deal's Gone Bad do their first album "Large and in Charge?" Now that's FUN!

DGTS: How many people are you expecting to show up at the Caribbean Moonstomp?

CW: If I had that information before each event, I would be a rich man that sleeps well! We picked the new Bottom Lounge because it can hold over 500 people comfortably--so let's go for that! Tickets are selling great, people seem to be traveling from all across the USA, so we hope that this will be quite huge!

DGTS: What's coming down the Jump Up Records pipeline for the next few months?

CW: New Pressure Cooker, Dub Is A Weapon, and who knows? I take each day as it comes! Thanks for the interest--come all to Chicago! Plenty of cheap motels on Lincoln Avenue!

* * * *

The Jump Up Records' Caribbean Moonstomp Fest is taking place on Friday, October 3rd; Saturday, October 4th; and Sunday, October 5th at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago. Details can be found at Jump Up Records; tickets may be purchased at www.mpshows.com.

Thanks to Chuck Wren for taking the time to do this interview. If you can, go see these bands!