Monday, October 12, 2009

Duff Guide to Ska Interview: Bucket of The Toasters - Ska is Dead/Is Ska Dead?

Since The Toasters are soon heading Stateside for a string of dates (including a gig in NYC at the Knitting Factory on October 30) prior to co-headlining the Ska is Dead 4 Tour, we thought this might be a good time to catch up with Bucket, who just finished a tour of the UK...

The Duff Guide to Ska: How was the gig in Birmingham playing with Roddy Radiation and Neol Davies [Toasters' bassist Andy Pearson is friends with both]?

Bucket: Well, unfortunately Roddy had to bag because he had the flu, but playing with Neol was awesome! He jumped up in the encore to play Toasterized versions of "The Selecter" and "On My Radio." After the show, I asked him when the last time was that he played those tunes out live. 1994 was the answer--incredible! Great gig that night and maybe we will be able to feature Neol again on some gigs in 2010.

DGTS: The UK ska scene seems to be kickin’—with a lot of really politically active bands (Resolution 242, Dirty Revolution, etc.). Is this what you found on your recent UK tour?

Bucket: Well for sure there are a lot of bands and I'd include King Blues, Dub City Rockers, and the reformed King Prawn on that list. However, it appears to me that there isn't really the same kind of network that exists in the USA. There are some great spots to play and a lot of people into the music, both new fans and from the old school, but it appears to me that the scene could benefit if everybody pulled together in the same direction!

DGTS: Have you been able to/wanted to catch any of The Specials or Madness shows?

Bucket: No and yes. The Specials are making some waves and I hope that they can cross the Atlantic next year. I was surprised that there wasn't more buzz on the Madness record, but having it leaked to the P2P sites before the official release didn't help--there is so much goodwill out there for those two bands that I hope that it can lead to a general upsurge in the scene.

DGTS: What will The Toasters’ line-up be for the second half of the Ska is Dead Tour this fall?

Bucket: Myself; Andy Pearson (The Beat/Roddy Radiation) on bass; Jesse Hayes (Westbound Train/Void Union) on drums; Sander Loog (Rude Rich/Beatbusters) on sax; and Cooper Barton (newbie) on trombone. We have been working with Arjen, Remco and Dim from Rotterdam Ska Jazz in Europe.

DGTS: Why is there no NYC date on Ska is Dead 4? No room at the inn, so to speak?

Bucket: Apparently the date fell on the wrong weekend. Let's not forget that most of the decent clubs in NYC are now closed. So places like B.B. King's, Irving Plaza, etc. get to call the shots. It actually works out for me, as The Toasters get to play a smaller club night at the new Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, but SID got squeezed out.

DGTS: Is ska still dead in the US (to me it seems like it is doing pretty well as an underground scene—kind of like it was around ’92 or ’93)?

Bucket: Down, but not out. I'd say yours is a fairly accurate frame of reference, although I would certainly like to see more bands coming up through the ranks, as it were.

DGTS: Are there any plans to record a new Toasters album soon?

Bucket: Not soon. I am still of the mindset that resources are better spent developing the touring and that's why we are continuing to play all those places that other bands cannot reach! For example, the recording/pressing expenses for One More Bullet have still not been recouped. So that gives you an idea of how far the sales of recorded music have fallen. The piracy rate here in Spain, for example, is 97% and that gives you an idea of what we are up against. My view is that you have to allow individual releases as much breathing space as possible, and it's a mistake to crowd releases together. Bands that cannot get on the road are really looking down a dead end street these days. Having said that, we do have a couple new tunes that will be recorded soon as part of a vinyl project in the USA.

DGTS: The expanded/enhanced re-issues of The Toasters albums on Megalith continue…Hard Band for Dead is coming out as 2 Tone Army soon—are there unreleased tracks, remixes, etc. in The Toasters’ archives for New York Fever and Thrill Me Up?

Bucket: Yeah, that's already out in the UK. Jeremy [Patton] did a great job digging out the enhanced tracks and making new artwork. There are indeed unreleased tracks for New York Fever. As for Thrill Me Up, that had already been enhanced [and released on Moon in the 90s], so we will have to dig deeper into the archives for that release. We are putting those back catalogue, out-of-print, titles out at a rate of one or two per year, and eventually we will have everything repackaged at Megalith.

DGTS: The Toasters have been touring internationally since, what, 1989? Is there any place left on Earth that you haven’t played, but wanted to?

Bucket: Australia. We still need to find a bona fide promoter there.

DGTS: You were quoted recently as saying that you’d only stop touring if you didn’t find it “fun” anymore. What keeps you coming back for more? A general wanderlust? The emotional charge/reaction you get from playing before an audience? Free beer?

Bucket: Well, it's true to say that there aren't many jobs where you get paid to drink free beer. Fortunately, I have one of those! For me, ska music is always best sampled live. It's not possible to distill the essence of a live show into the studio, and that's why some of my favourite releases are live albums, despite the drop in sound quality. The audience is a huge, integral part of the music and so it's always a charge to go to somewhere exotic, like Colombia coming up, or Istanbul last year, and hear people tell me about how they have been waiting 20 years to see The Toasters. It's fans like that who keep this genre alive and so as long as they keep coming, then I'll keep playing. Besides, at this point, I am unemployable in any other sector and having a 9-5 would probably kill me...

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The Toasters' US Tour Dates Pre-Ska is Dead Tour

19th Norman, OK: The Deli
20th Tulsa, OK: The Marquee
21st Kansas City, MO: The Riot Room
22nd Minneapolis, MN: Triple Rock
23rd Milwaukee, WI: Miramar Theatre
24th Mt. Pleasant, MI: Rubbles
25th Morgantown, WV: 123 Pleasant St.
26th State College, PA: The Brewery
27th Wilkes-Barre, PA: Café Metropolis
28th New Haven, CT: Café Nine
29th Poughkeepsie, NY: The Loft at the Chance
30th Brooklyn, NY: The Knitting Factory
31st Syracuse, NY: Funk 'N Waffles

1st Lemoyne, PA: Championship Records
2nd Lousiville, KY: Skull Valley
3rd Springfield, IL: Black Sheep

For Ska is Dead 4 tour dates, click here.


ReadJunk said...

Cool interview. I'll be seeing Bucket & The Toasters and Ska is Dead in crappy NJ Nov. 15th. You going?

Steve from Moon said...

Thanks. I think I'm going to catch them at The Knitting Factory on 10/30. Much easier for me to get to...and I don't have to worry about making it back home with a few drinks in me.

Stevo said...

Well I played keyboards on stage with Neol, Gaps & Aitch of the Selecter in 2008 & we played On My Radio, Too Much Pressure, Murder, Train to Skaville, 3 Minute hero, James Bond, Selecter, Missing Words & Carry go bring come, so maybe Neol was being economical with the truth?