Sunday, September 30, 2012

Next Electric Avenue Show: Destroy Babylon and The Frightnrs on 10/13/12!

The next Electric Avenue show coming up on Saturday, October 13, 2012 is "A Night of Reggae" that features Destroy Babylon (roots reggae from Boston) and The Frightnrs (rub-a-dub from Brooklyn). Both bands are nothing less than stellar--and you'll be able to catch them at the incredibly low price of $5.00 (someone just asked me, "what can you do in New York City for five bucks?"--well, you can see two amazing reggae acts perform live and up close!). This is going to be one of those gigs that you'll wanna kick yourself in the rear if you miss it...

If you don't know about Destroy Babylon, you should check out The Duff Guide to Ska review of their latest album, Long Live the Vortex, here.

The Duff Guide to Ska review of The Frightnrs' EP can be read here.

Hope to see you at this show!

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gaz's Rockin' Blues in LA!

Two words: incredibly jealous! (If you are anywhere in the LA area, this is an absolute must!)

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If you're unfamiliar with Gaz, make sure to check out this post I wrote a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bigger Thomas Recording Songs for New EP/Track for City Gardens Documentary Soundtrack

In NYC ska news, we're psyched to let you know that Bigger Thomas are prepping a set of new songs for an EP to be released digitally (and possibly on vinyl) early next year. Basic tracks will be recorded in New Jersey and then Bigger Thomas will work with Agent Jay of The Slackers on vocals, horns, and all other overdubs at his studio in Brooklyn.

The Duff Guide to Ska has been lucky enough to hear rough demos of two of these new tracks Bigger Thomas tracks--"Super Moon" and "Weird Lenses"--and is stoked to report that they're fantastic and will be sure to please fans of the band's super-charged, 2 Tone-influenced NYC ska sound.

In related news, an instrumental version of "Super Moon" will be featured on the soundtrack of the upcoming City Gardens documentary Riot On The Dancefloor (The Story of Randy Now and City Gardens), which includes interviews with Roger Apollon, Jr. and Marc Wasserman (since Bigger Thomas played this Trenton, NJ venue back in the late 80s/early 90s, along with other ska bands like The Toasters and The NY Citizens).

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Here are two videos of Bigger Thomas in action, performing "Simple Man" and "Can't Remember My Name" with Roy Radics of The Rudie Crew at the recent Electric Avenue show at Characters NYC:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Version City Tour w/King Django, The Snails, Matt MacLeod (of The Heavy Beat)

This winter, some of the best musicians on the US ska scene are banding together under King Django's Version City Party Tour and bringing the ska to the people. King Django, The Snails, and Matt MacLeod (of The Heavy Beat) will hit I-95 bound for the Sunshine State (with stops along the way). The VCP press release lays it all out:
By popular demand, New York’s long-standing Reggae, Rocksteady and Ska party (active in various forms since 1997) is taking it on the road for the first time. The “Version City” tour is a compact six-piece revue in three acts featuring diverse and fresh blends of Jamaican roots music--reggae, rocksteady, and ska--peppered with American rhythm & blues and soul. The show will open with a set from Matt MacLeod, soulful vocalist and keyboardist of The Heavy Beat, with backing from The Snails. Matt will then switch to bass for The Snails’ own set, fronted by the dynamic singer/guitarist Todd Fausnacht. For the finale, King Django will take the helm and lead the troop through a wide selection of material from his long and diverse career.
For a preview of each band's music, check out the Version City Party Tour SoundCloud page.

Version City Party Tour

Thursday, December 20: BlueBeat DC, Washington, DC
Sunday, December 30: New Brooklyn Tavern, West Columbia, SC
Saturday, January 5: Propaganda, Lake Worth, FL
Sunday, January 6: Captain Hiram's Resort, Sebastian, FL
Monday, January 7: Five Points Lounge: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Wednesday, January 9: Rackem Billiards, Cape Coral, FL
Saturday, January 12: The Atlantic, Gainesville, FL
Monday, January 14: The Handlebar, Pensicola, FL

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Toasters Sign with Phoenix City Records and are Set to Play 2013 London International Ska Festival!

Here is the big news from Sean Flowerdew at Phoenix City Records:
The latest band to sign to the Phoenix City/Cherry Red label is America's longest running and arguably most influential ska band, The Toasters. Formed in 1981 on Lower East Side of Manhattan, their fusion of 2 Tone and New York punk and rock ignited the US music scene, resonated around the world and is now regarded as the precusor to the Third Wave of Ska.

Over the last three decades, The Toasters have played in over 50 countries, from Siberia to Istanbul, Peking to Rio and back, laying down the tracks for others to follow. They have sold over a million copies of their 12 albums, been produced and mentored by Joe Jackson, and are cited as one of CBGBs' 20 core bands alongside their with personal heroes The Ramones.

The Toasters continue to celebrate their 30th year with tours of Indonesia, China, Australia, USA and will return to the UK in March 2013 to perform at the London International Ska Festival.  
To join in the celebrations, Phoenix City/Cherry Redwill be issuing two Toasters albums. The first 30th Anniversary is superb 20 song collection charting their career so far and the second is the reissue of their classic debut album Pool Shark with 8 bonus tracks.
Both albums are out on 22nd October and are available exclusively to preorder now at

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Preview the New Dr. Ring Ding Album "Piping Hot"!

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Dr. Ring Ding Ska-Vaganza's Piping Hot will be released this November. The CD will be out on Pork Pie Records, the vinyl on Buenritmo, and Jump Up will release two vinyl singles with exclusive tracks from the same sessions.

Check out our recent interview with Dr. Ring Ding here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Preview the New King Hammond Single "Rude Boy Rock"

Here's the skinny on the excellent new and very limited-editon King Hammond 7" single, "Rude Boy Rock," which is coming out this October:
"The disc is a white label, 100 only that will be individually signed to the buyer. It will also come with a "Rude Boy Rock" badge.The flip side is a song by Sammy Buzz, "I Got it on Vinyl." N.1. Records is now concentrating on just vinyl releases now mainly due to the increase of people downloading or 'burning' discs. Being of an age, I'm old school. I like my vinyl and in the coming months will be releasing more white label singles. I know in some ways it's cutting my own throat a bit, but for a while King Hammond and CDs are having a trial separation, but you can still get the four albums I have released in the last two years from www.king

Anyone who is interested in picking up one of these singles should get in touch with King Hammond via his Facebook page.

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Regular readers of The Duff Guide to Ska know that we are very much anti-music file sharing, so we can't blame KH for going the analog route for now.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Duff Review: 2000 Tons of TNT "Reggae Mysteria"

Self-released CD (contact the band for a copy)
Digital via Bandcamp

(Review by Steve Shafer)

Taking their name from a G.G. All Stars skinhead reggae cut, SoCal's 2000 Tons of TNT have dropped an exceedingly smart and powerful debut--Reggae Mysteria--that mixes the soulful/funky/latin dirty reggae of The BeatdownThe Caroloregians, and The Bullets with the revved up, rough-around-the-edges garage rock of old skool bands like The Fleshtones or The Lyres.

In keeping with the spirit and form of late 60s JA and UK skinhead reggae, Reggae Mysteria contains a healthy serving of pack-the-dancefloor instrumental tracks (see "Reggae Mysteria," "Cougar Communion," or the incredible "Theme for Ambu"--someday, I'd like a tune this good written about me!), moodier set pieces ("Tiger Uppercut," "Electric Pyramid," and "Rabo de Toro" ["Oxtail Stew"]), and a series of fantastic vocal cuts that are more about evoking emotional states of mind than conveying linear stories or political points of view.

The journey depicted in "How Long Will It Take" is being undertaken either to atone for one's offenses or is an attempt to outrun their consequences--though the singer ends up feeling tortured either way: "Headed west/Need some time/to clear my head/Body breaks/Mind it sleeps/Get no rest/How long will it take before I get there?/How long will my mind know these regrets?" The loping, almost-Western reggae feel of the song conjures up Cinema-scope images of our (anti-)hero trekking through the bleak wilderness on horseback toward whatever fate has in store for him. (The tension-filled, Spanish-language track "¿Adónde Vamos?" then poses the question, "where do we go?")

"I'm Feeling Lonely" relates how people can haunt you long after they've withdrawn their love and presence from your life: "I never thought I'd know this feeling so well/Like an old friend/it listens to the stories I tell/I know you're long gone baby/I'm still under your spell..." This isn't a self-pitying song--more like the protagonist is stunned to find himself at this odd place in life (even though countless people in the past, present, and future have been/are/will be there) and even more surprised to still be wanting someone who outright abandoned them. But sometimes love is just like that--a desire/fixation on what you just can't have.

The singer in "Cleansing Sound" believes in the power of redemption through reggae and is doing his best to spread the good word like the musical equivalent of an Elmer Gantry-like, tent-revival evangelist minister: "From Phoenix down to New Orleans/Wall Street up to Aberdeen/This sound is traveling with the wind/It's coming round to cleanse your sins/It's alright now baby, just let it flow/Some people think they speak the truth/Blood and bone dagger and tooth/But I see them through their cheap facade/I'm gonna knock 'em dead like it's my job." This is performance as baptismal ritual; music as holy water; and musician as preacher traveling the land and fighting the forces of darkness, while enlightening the people and revealing the truth.

In an album crammed with excellent tracks, "Shot in the Dark" (which has nothing to do with the Henry Mancini "Pink Panther"-related soundtrack song of the same name covered by both The Scofflaws and The Skatalites) stands out as a dark gem of a song that incorporates grandiose rude boy tougher-than-tough/dreader-than-dread bravado with freaky, wild-eyed, end-of-days paranoia: "Shot in the dark/Knife in the back/Arrow in heart/Your teeth in my neck/I'm breaking the chains/A bottle of beer/Telling my people/oh, the ending is near/I can't stand it..." I keep coming back to this magnificent track, as it captures the invincibility, defiance, alienation, and bad-ass know-it-all-ness of youth like few others out there. (Derrick Morgan, you've been put on notice.)

You may not be familiar with the band, but 2000 Tons of TNT's Reggae Mysteria is an album all fans of ska and reggae should get to know--and will definitely come to treasure. Without a doubt, this one is marked for the DGTS "best of 2012 releases" category!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2012 Montreal Ska Festival Boasts NYC Night with Victor Rice, The Forthrights, and The Rudie Crew!!

God, if I had a less complicated, responsibility-filled life, I would point the family station wagon due North and head straight up the NY State Thruway until I hit the Canadian border and beyond in order to experience the 2012 Montreal Ska Festival, which takes place between October 11th and 14th (see image at right for all of the glorious details).

Of particular note, this year there is a NYC night (!) featuring some of the finest bands Gotham has to offer: Victor Rice (who actually may be more Brazilian right now that New Yorker!), The Forthrights, and The Rudie Crew (plus Agent Jay of The Slackers is DJing each night of the festival).

Canadian acts that I would love to catch include Prince Perry, The Beatdown, The Planet Smashers, and Mitch Girio (currently of Prince Perry and formerly of the late and very great King Apparatus). If any of these bands are thinking about coming down to the NYC, I could perhaps hook them up with a gig at a certain monthly ska night called Electric Avenue (...just sayin'!).

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For some background on the festival (which is organized by a non-profit group staffed by volunteers), check out this interview I did last year with one of the festival's co-founders, Valerie Desnoyers, as well as festival volunteer/performer/booster, Lorraine Muller (of The Fabulous Lolo, Lo and the Magnetics, and The Kingpins).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Duff Interview: Dr. Ring Ding (on his New Album "Piping Hot")!

Editor's Note: I first encountered Dr. Ring Ding's music when I was working for Moon Records and Bucket passed along Dr. Ring Ding and the Senior Allstars' "Dandimite" album and told me that it was going to be one of the label's releases that year (Moon had licensed it from Grover Records, as we would with their follow-up record, "Ram Di Dance"). When I popped it in the CD player, I was immediately blown away by the super-charged, yet authentically vintage sounding ska coming out of the speakers--and this band was from Germany? It was some of the best traditional ska I had ever heard (and their first two albums remain amongst the finest produced during the Third Wave of ska). While I was never fortunate enough to catch Dr. Ring Ding and the Senior Allstars performing live, I did have the pleasure of meeting and seeing Dr. Ring Ding on stage when he toured and played t-bone with The Toasters in the late 90s (Bob Timm of The Hard Times still has a picture somewhere of Richie and me in the Moon offices...). The good Doctor has a new traditional ska album titled "Piping Hot" coming out this fall and Richie was kind enough to take the time to reply to our questions.

The Duff Guide to Ska: It seems like a lot of your recent work has focused on dancehall instead of ska. Why did you decide to bring Dr. Ring Ding back into the ska fold at this point in time?

Dr. Ring Ding: I am pretty aware that it looks that way. As a matter of fact, I do not really focus on musical styles. I focus, of course, on the individual projects I am working on, but that is regardless of style.

I have done a lot of reggae and dancehall recordings and shows in the past, but also many other types of music, many of them not under the name of Dr. Ring Ding. If people hear more from me in dancehall, it is possibly due to the fact that it spreads faster, as the community is possibly bigger than, let’s say, the ska community.

There have been some ska recordings over the last few years. One album with Kingston Kitchen, comprising members of the Rotterdam Ska Jazz Foundation and myself. Then more recently a new album of El Bosso and die Ping Pongs (the ska band in which I first started playing), as well as some guest appearances on other bands’ albums and singles. Apart from that, I have also worked as a producer for several ska bands.

Then, it is always cheaper to record some rhythm tracks (with a satisfying sound) for a dancehall tune on your computer instead of having to book a studio and record a whole band, especially in a time when neither a music consumer nor a record label is willing to put out money for a recording. Therefore, it is true that a bigger part of the Dr. Ring Ding productions of the past few years are within the dancehall genre, as I would not like to compromise sound quality and musicianship too much. I have done a large number of ska shows though, with Kingston Kitchen, El Bosso, and also a project called “The Rock Steady Revue.”

Anyway, I really felt the urge to record a new ska album (under the name of Dr. Ring Ding) after I had played a bunch of shows last December with the Bartenders from Warsaw and Shots in the Dark from Rome. I have asked a few of my favorite fellow musicians if they would like to participate in the project, and luckily, all of them said yes. I am grateful.

DGTS: What should your ska fans expect on the new album? Can you tell us about the bands backing you--and are there any special guests?

DRD: The new album is entitled Piping Hot and the name of my ska outfit is Dr. Ring Ding Ska-Vaganza. I am really continuing what we started with the Dandimite album in 1995 (with Dr. Ring Ding and the Senior Allstars). It is traditional ska, most of it original compositions--the few covers are instrumental versions of two folk songs (one German, one Catalan)--and a pop song from the 80s.

The wonderful musicians playing are the Freedom Street Band, who provide the basic tracks (drums, bass, piano, guitar). They are a reggae backing band from Barcelona and usually accompany me on my dancehall shows in Catalonia, Spain, Southern France, etc., as they do for the likes of Tippa Irie, Chucky Star, and a number of Spanish artists. But they also can play ska and have backed people like Derrick Morgan, Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, etc.

Then there are some German friends on there, Markus Dassmann on guitar and organ--he played in the Senior Allstars and we share the stage in many different projects. Mathias Demmer from The Busters plays a multitude of wind instruments--saxophones, clarinet, flutes, etc. More horns come from Genís Bou (from the fantastic Gramophone Allstars) and Bruno Calvo, a young, exceptionally talented trumpet player. Some more extra people on backing vocals: Stephanie K. (an American jazz singer), Congalero Marcus Passlick (was also on Dandimite, etc.), and I am happy to have Doreen Shaffer sing a duet with me.

DGTS: When will Piping Hot be released and who is releasing it?

DRD: I guess it will be out in October. The CD will be on Pork Pie Records, the vinyl on Buenritmo, and Jump Up will release two vinyl singles with exclusive tracks from the same sessions.

DGTS: Are there any plans for some live Dr. Ring Ding dates in the USA at any point soon?

DRD: Plans no, but it’s been already been four years since I last played in the USA, and I get pretty itchy feet, to be honest. Any promoter reading this interested in bringing me over?

DGTS: What's the German ska scene like right now? Who are some of the better bands that US fans should track down?

DRD: Funny how I always get asked this question. I believe the answer has been the same over the last 20 years… There are some of the old veterans still doing it, and they are definitely worth to be listened to – bands like The Busters for instance. And I am happy to see that there are young and new bands coming out of the woodwork continuously, too. One of my favorites are The Magic Touch (although they are more rocksteady/dirty reggae than ska).

DGTS: El Bosso und die Ping Pongs just released a new album this year--how did you first become involved with El Bosso und die Ping Pongs and what led to the new record? (And while so many other German ska bands at the time--The Busters, No Sports, etc.--were singing in English, why did the band stick with your native language?)

DRD: The band was made up from pupils of my school (but for one). They had played a show at some school festival there. I saw it, I loved it, and asked if I could join. I could, and this is how I started to learn about this music. That was in 1987, when I was 16 or 17…

We split somewhere in the early 90s, but had a few revival shows every four years or such, and then we decided at some point to loosely play together again every now and then. That made the bandleader/songwriter/guitarist Skacus eager enough to compose and record an album’s worth of material – hey presto!

We kind of always kept faithful to the concept of using German in our songs. On one hand, due to the main songwriter’s bad English (and good German), on the other hand, it made us stick out from the rest – so why change a winning concept?

DGTS: The early 90s ska scene in Germany was pretty hot (Busters, No Sports, Skaos, Butlers, Bleichreiz)--what are some of your fondest memories from those days?

DRD: First of all, these were my first years on the road – that is always something special and the music will always remain in my memory as the soundtrack of my Sturm-und-Drang period. The many festivals we played, sharing the bill with the above mentioned, were like big family meetings. And also getting to know some of the bands we had on record, listening to them play live, was great. The Toasters, The Trojans, Desmond Dekker

DGTS: What are some of your proudest moments/accomplishments with Dr. Ring Ding and the Senior Allstars?

I am really happy that playing this music actively got me deeper into the matter. Getting to know the veterans of ska, playing with them live, recording with them (such as Doreen Shaffer, Lord Tanamo, Judge Dread, etc). Playing in a country for the first time, releasing albums, having them released in different countries, getting people to sing your songs – all that is really satisfying for a musician.

DGTS: What record or experience was your first introduction to ska/reggae music?

DRD: Some of the music I had heard without knowing what it was. I knew Madness’ version of “One Step Beyond” and “Night Boat To Cairo” from the radio, but had no idea what the genre was called. I enjoyed listening, though. I had also heard some reggae, but didn’t quite like it at that time. Everything started when I joined El Bosso and die Ping Pongs. The bassist gave me some music to listen to: The Specials, The Selecter, The Beat, more Madness, and some old stuff, like The Skatalites and some compilations on Trojan Records. I found a few reggae albums in some boxes left over from the last bazaar in the basement of our church, one of which (Burning Spear’s Social Living) is still my favorite to date. I started buying ska and reggae records myself, Desmond Dekker, Toots and the Maytals, The Ethiopians… and when I finally went to see a show of Desmond Dekker in my home town, it was clear that I would from now on be a diehard reggae and ska fan. I also started listening to Mutabaruka and LKJ at that time and learned a lot about the language.

DGTS: Which ska/reggae musicians and releases are your favorites (and why)?

DRD: Anything from Toots and the Maytals – one of my first and still one of my favorites.

Anything from Desmond Dekker. A fan since I saw him live.

Burning Spear: Social Living. Roots reggae at its best. Great production.

I am fascinated by Ken Boothe – after a dozen of albums, many hours in the car together, and having him seen live numerous times, I still can’t put my finger on it.

Winston Francis – a wonderful singer and a wonderful person. And totally underrated.

The Skatalites – how can you not love them? I was lucky and privileged enough to join them for two weeks as a trombonist a few years back.

The ska recordings of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. Great!

Prince Buster – a real teacher.

Hepcat – loved them from the first moment I heard them.

Dancehall artists like Josey Wales, Yellowman, then Admiral Bailey and Cutty Ranks; and from England, Tippa Irie and Macka B. They have influenced me a lot.

Damn, this list is getting long…

DGTS: What else is in store for Dr. Ring Ding this year (plug away, baby)?

DRD: There are a few releases coming up. Besides the ska album, the will be one in computerized dancehall style of the late 80s, produced by Dreadsquad from Poland, whom with I have already worked on a bunch of singles. Then a reggae album with the Sharp Axe Band (and guests), my backing band in Germany. Then there is still one album in the pipeline for Stubborn Records, produced by King Django, and I am also working on a French project… and all this is only Dr. Ring Ding, mind you.

Other than that, more shows hopefully – I love to explore new countries and come back to see old friends in the ones I have already been to.

Monday, September 3, 2012

September Electric Avenue Show w/Beat Brigade, Bigger Thomas, and Doomsday!

Now that everyone's back from their summer vacation/mindset and we once again have your attention, make sure to come to our next Electric Avenue show...