Sunday, April 25, 2010

Duff Gig Review: New York Ska Festival with King Chango, Hub City Stompers, Bigger Thomas, Kofre, Beat Brigade, Skarioca, Floor Kiss, and Skarroneros

First of all, I'm sorry that I've been MIA for the past week. This is the time of year that I am busiest at work and everything else in my life is forced to go on hold (my wife even had a non-life-threatening visit to the ER to be embroidered with stitches and even she didn't want to tell me what happened because of what was going on at the job). And since it all turned out to be a bit more stressful than usual, I was dead beat by the end of day Friday and nearly bailed on going out at all. Fortunately, at my wife's prompting, a friend (thanks, Sid!) convinced me to catch the New York Ska Festival at B.B. King's with King Chango, Hub City Stompers, Bigger Thomas, Kofre, Beat Brigade, Skarioca, Floor Kiss, and Skarroneros--and it helped erase everything that had gone down the week before...[apologies to Across the Aisle for missing their performance at The Knitting Factory the same night...I just didn't have it in me to try to make two different gigs--I owe ya' one, ATA!]

Despite the city's reputation for being a cultural melting pot, this gig was one of the few that I've been to where the Latin ska/rock crowd directly intersected with the mostly Anglo ska scene--the only other time that I recall this happening (and correct me if I'm wrong) was a King Chango-headlined bill at Wetlands in the late 90s and an appearance by Desorden Publico at SOB's around '94 or so. For all the talk and singing--and I believe all of it to be very sincere--about racial unity at so many of the shows I've seen over the years, the New York Ska Festival audience actually embodied it! The crowd was fully integrated, the vibe was great, everyone had a blast, and bands from both ska scenes now have a slew of new fans they probably wouldn't have had without this show (Kofre, sign me up!). From what I've heard from Bigger Thomas' Marc Wasserman, this bill came to be by accident--but what brilliant one!

We arrived too late to catch Floor Kiss and Skarroneros--and only heard a bit of Skarioca, which featured an accordianist and a whole gamut of Latin genres (none of which I'm familiar enough with to write with any authority) mixed in with their ska.

Beat Brigade (featuring original members Carmelo DiBartollo on guitar and vocals; Jack Hoppenstand on guitar; Frank Usamanont on bass; Eric Storckman on trombone; and Dave Barry on keys, who joined the band later in its tenure) stormed the stage next and it was like they had been unearthed from a time capsule (or all of us had been somehow transported back in time)--because we were listening to the pure, uncorrupted sound of mid-80s NYC ska and it gave me chills to hear it. Beat Brigade were fantastic.

The live Beat Brigade videos that I shot below feature Remi Sammy of The Second Step (another essential 80s NYC ska act) on Beat Brigade's "All the Lights Have Gone Out" and the cover of The Second Step's "2 Men in Suit":

I didn't get a chance to shoot a video or two of Kofre (who tore the place up with their high-powered ska, mixed with cool Metallica metal riffs, and you can't resist their pure showmanship--several members of the band donned Mexican wrestling masks when performing!) or Hub City Stompers (who delivered an aggressively tight and spirited set, as always!), since I was talking with Drew Stansall, who is currently the saxophonist for The Specials. Drew got his start with the great Laurel Aitken (they both are from Leicester) and I had the great fortune to work with the Godfather of Ska back in my Moon Records days, so we spent a good deal of time sharing our memories of Laurel--and he was kind enough to answer some questions I've had about Prince Buster, with whom he's also toured. Drew is a terrific guy--make sure to buy him a drink if you bump into him at a show!

Bigger Thomas' set was amazing--both Drew and Nik Torp (another cool cat and Jerry's replacement in The Specials) joined the band for covers of "Nite Klub" and "Monkey Man" (in the video I took, that's Carmelo from Beat Brigade who has jumped on stage to skank), and Roy Radics (a fellow UB40 fan) of The Rudie Crew is the man in yellow toasting during BT's own "Can't Remember My Name":

I bumped into Blanquito Man backstage just before King Chango went on (I haven't seen him in about a decade, so it was terrific to catch up a bit!). Here's a short video of him talking with Roger Apollon, Jr. of Bigger Thomas (dig those "Battlestar Galactica" shades, Chango!)...

King Chango hit the stage just a little before 2:00 am--and my ride back uptown was leaving--so I had to cut out way before their set was done, so here is just a little taste of what they delivered...

Here's hoping that promoters will put together more of these Latin/Anglo ska bills--I want to learn and experience more of the Latin ska acts because they're excellent and I'm completely ignorant of this whole scene. And the cross-pollination of the two scenes will no doubt strengthen the overall state of ska music in NYC--a very good thing, indeed.

Sid Reitzfeld's brother Pete was taking pix all night, so if the photos are posted on-line, I'll make sure to put up a link to them.

+ + + +

Here's a bonus video section, just for kicks, of acts from the New York Ska Festival bill...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Duff Interview: Mark Foggo

Editor's note: Despite being lesser-known in the US (a real shame, actually), Mark Foggo has been B-I-G on the Euro ska scene since the late 80s--revered for his manic (and sometimes maniacal) but always brilliant ska songs; larger-than-life loony persona; and incredible hi-energy live shows. As he prepares to tour this summer and fall in support of his excellent new album MAD (his billionth recording, which will be released on April 17--Record Store Day!--and soon to be reviewed on The Duff Guide to Ska), Mark Foggo was kind enough to take a few moments to answer our inquiries...

DGTS: I’ve been aware of your music since the late 80s (specifically, your track on the “Ska for Ska’s Sake” comp released on Skank Records in 1989), when I was discovering the many incredible British, German, and French ska bands active at that time through the Skank, Pork Pie, and Unicorn labels. Which were some of your favorite bands from that era, and how does the late 80s UK/Euro ska scene compare to today?

Mark Foggo: There were many great ska bands around in the 80s and many great festivals, mainly in the UK and Germany. The ska people used to turn out in huge numbers and we had a real lot of fun meeting and partying with them all. One of my favourite bands of the 80s were The Hotknives. The band was outstanding at that time and featured the main man, Gary Marshall. Sadly, these days the scene is not so big, but fortunately there are a few dedicated ska promoters who keep things moving. We notice there are more and more young kids coming to our shows these days, not particularly ska-looking kids, but maybe more skater. They love ska and we come across them all over Europe, so I reckon the future's bright.

DGTS: Did you grow up listening to ska? What record or experience made you a fan?

MF: I grew up listening to rhythm and blues. My favourite singer was Eric Burdon of The Animals. He had the best screaming soul voice I'd ever heard, and after I'd been to see him (in about 1964 ), I made up my mind what my future was going to be. I progressed from rhythm and blues to punk, and then in about 1979 I discovered ska. There were Specials, Beat, and Bad Manners around then and I loved it all. First, I played punk and ska, and a couple of years later I stopped with the punk in my gigs.

DGTS: What inspired you to form Mark Foggo and the Skasters?

MF: I moved to Holland in 1979, just at the time I got interested in ska. I spent a bit of time playing with different bands, but didn't like the music much, so then I decided to start my own. I brought two guys I'd been playing with in London over to Holland, and the rest I stole out of other bands. We began with the name "Mark Foggo and the Secret Meeting," and later when we released Ska Pig we changed it to "Mark Foggo's Skasters."

DGTS: You're from Liverpool originally--but your label is based in Belgium (and I assume you live there, too). I think I've always thought you were from the Netherlands. Is Foggo a British name or am I just being kind of ignorant in an ugly-American kind of way?

MF: Foggo is a Scottish name, but I'm English, born in Liverpool. Many people think I'm Dutch, but that's because I lived there for many years. I now live in Antwerp in Belgium, which in fact is only 100 miles down the road from Amsterdam in Holland. I'm also only 150 miles from the UK and 100 miles from Germany, so it's a good central place to be.

DGTS: Your songs are oftentimes about everyday experience written from a slightly off-kilter point-of-view (“Bumpy Airlines” and “Cybergirl” come to mind). You've cultivated this madman of ska persona--this, along with the diversity of musical styles that are incorporated in your ska sound, makes me think of Ian Dury. Are you the Ian Dury of ska (is this something you've aspired to)?

MF: There are a variety of musical styles in my songs and that is simply because I've experienced them at some time or other in my life. I was at school in Liverpool during the Beatlemania period (not having been a Beatle fan myself, of course). At much the same time, the Rollin' Stones were out and about, then, like I mentioned, The Animals, The Clash, The Jam, and many many more. All these bands must have had an influence on me in one way or another. And then Tamla Motown, and then the punk thing...and so on. I liked Ian Dury and his songs very much, but I wouldn't regard myself as being Dury-like. I have an active imagination and a cruel sense of humour, that's where the lyrics come from.

DGTS: What is the most unusual experience (good or bad) that you've had performing on stage?

MF: My favourite trick is to disappear from the stage and that's happened quite painfully a number of times. One night in Dublin, Ireland, I didn't notice a gap between the stage and the PA speakers, I fell down between them and nobody had any idea where I'd gone. I've done a lot of damage to my legs from similar falls (alcohol has a part to play), but I guess it's just an occupational hazard.

DGTS: I see from your schedule that you are playing many music festivals in Europe this summer. Which country generally gives you the best reception/reaction? Have you ever done/wanted to do shows in the US?

MF: Germany probably holds the most ska festivals and that's the country we play the most, but there are fantastic festivals all over Europe. Really, I like playing everywhere and I'd love the opportunity to play in the US. We've never found a promoter in the US to put something together for us, so if you're out there ...[Ed.-yes, please get in touch and bring Mark Foggo over!]

DGTS: Which Mark Foggo album is your favorite and why?

MF: My favourite album is always the last one, because the songs are the newest, but if I had to pick one I guess it would be Haircut. I made this album in a different way, working closely together with my good friend and, at that time, keyboard player Dominique Dubois. The songs were all fairly experimental at the time, but I really enjoyed making it.

DGTS: You've begun promoting your excellent new album MAD--so far, how has it been received by the fans?

MF: I'm writing this before the CD MAD is released, so we haven't had too much feedback on the CD as yet. The record company thinks it's great, so that's good and from the people who have heard it, mainly friends, the reaction, as you'd expect, is 100% positive. They wouldn't dare say otherwise.

DGTS: Radical developments in technology over the past decade have drastically altered how recorded music is marketed, distributed, and sold. Is your/your label's strategy to sell this record based on more traditional models or something new? Is the best way to promote a record still to get up on stage and play your songs before an audience?

MF: This CD is released by V2 Records and their strategy is to cover every aspect of it. It's released in the traditional CD format and distributed to shops, it's also made available to download on all the well-known sites, and hopefully we'll make it in vinyl at a later date. There is a single from the CD released and that's distributed to radio digitally, no actual single is pressed as yet. I definitely believe in doing the gigs and presenting the CD to people that way, that's what I live for.

DGTS: How do you feel about music file-sharing?

MF: No comment, it's up to you...

DGTS: Do you have time to follow/are you a fan of other current ska bands?

MF: I'm not a fan of any particular bands. I like many ska bands and play together with many of them, it's always great to hear what other ska people are doing.

DGTS: What is your impression of US ska bands? Do you ever have the opportunity to play with any of them when they tour in Europe?

MF: We did some gigs with Eastern Standard Time not long ago, really enjoyed that band and very nice ska guys. I did a guest spot with Buck and The Toasters the other night, that was fun. Great bunch of ska people, tight sound, always busy spreading the word of ska. I'm busy doing a couple of songs for a new CD with my friend Rob Hoskins and his Nashville ska band AKA Rudie at the moment. There'll be a single ("Shooters") released soon and it's an interesting combination of ska styles. Look out for that one.

DGTS: If you had to choose one album to introduce ska to someone who had no exposure to the music, which one would it be?

MF: I think I'd give them the best of Desmond Dekker, a superb example of great ska rhythms and top vocals. Catchy stuff, gets in your head and never comes out again. Shame he's gone.

DGTS: What's next for Mark Foggo?

MF: This summer, we'll be busy with gigs and festivals all around Europe, then we want to release a live DVD, then play in Japan again, and follow that up with a couple of tours in the US. That'll do for us this year!

Thanks for doing the interview, Mark!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Catch That (N.Y.) Beat!

Thanks to everybody who came out last night to the fantastic N.Y. Beat 25th Anniversary Reunion party at Dusk Lounge. I'll let Marco--who was the driving force behind this whole thing--fill you all in on who showed from which N.Y. Beat bands (there will be lots of pictures, I'm sure). I deejayed from 9:00 pm until a bit after 2:00 am, so I wasn't able to mingle and talk to that many people (though thanks to the peeps who stopped by the DJ booth, including Megg and Ashray of Across the Aisle; King Django; Big Abby from Moon (!); Dave Barry, ex-Second Step, Beat Brigade, and The Toasters; Roger Apollon, Jr. and Chris Malone from Bigger Thomas; Kames Jelly; Pete from Silver Dollar; Andre of The Press; Victor; Kurt "who needs to get hurt," who was one of the original NYC rude boys, hanging out with Sean Dinsmore and Lionel Bernard way before they became the Unity 2; and others I don't mean to omit).

You might be interested to know that of the tracks I played, the ones that compelled several people to come up and ask me who they were hearing included The Drastics' MJ A Rocker (which is available as a free download--though I have a vinyl copy that I ordered through Jump Up and you might be able to find it at Rock and Soul in Manhattan) and preview cuts from RiceRokit's Pidgin English (which will be released by Megalith later this year).

Is a "Ska Face" celebration up next?

Friday, April 9, 2010

NYC Ska Weekend: King Django, Forthrights, Across the Aisle (Fri); and NY Beat 25th Anniversary Reunion Party (Sat)!

Lots going on ska-wise this weekend in NYC. First on Friday nite...

Then Saturday...

All the details about the NY Beat 25th Anniversary Reunion Party can be found here.

And, um, I'm deejaying at this party!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Free New Tune and Spring/Summer Tour Dates from Mustard Plug

To help promote their April tour of the UK and Europe, Mustard Plug is offering--for a limited time, yo!--a free download of their terrific new third-wavish tune "Aye, Aye, Aye". The song is the first new original track recorded by the band since 2007's "In Black and White" album--and has already had its world premiere on on BBC1's "The Punk Show" with DJ Mike Davis on March 29. So download away guilt-free while you can! It will make Dave Kirchgessner happy!

Of note, Mustard Plug will be gigging with such Duff Guide to Ska faves as Dirty Revolution in the UK; The Toasters in Germany; and The Aggrolites in Belgium. And don't miss their US summer festival (!) dates below.


Tue | 4.13.10
Bristol, UK | Croft
with Dirty Revolution, Kenisia, Splutter

Wed | 4.14.10
Manchester, UK | Satan's Hollow
with Random Hand, Dirty Revolution

Thur | 4.15.10
Newcastle, UK | Trillian's
with Random Hand, Dirty Revolution

Fri | 4.16.10
London, UK | Underworld
with Mouthwash, Dirty Revolution, Beat the Red Light

Sat | 4.17.10
Den Haag, Holland | De SuperMarkt

Sun | 4.18.10
Frankfurt, Germany | Nachtleben
with The Toasters, Red Five Point Star

Tue | 4.20.10
Berlin, Germany | Wild At Heart
with Chipko

Thur | 4.22.10
Zurich, Switzerland | Dynamo
with Envy

Sat | 4.24.10
Meerhout, Antwerpen, Belgium | Main Stage
with Bad Religion, Sum 41, Pennywise, AFI, Lit, The Bouncing Souls, 88 Fingers Louie, Zebrahead, Pour Habit, Parkway Drive, H2O, Snapcase, Strike Anywhere, The Aggrolites, Dance Gavin Dance, Despiced Icon, A Wilhelm Scream, The Warriors, 50 Lions, Winds Of Plague, In Fear & Faith, Asking Alexandra, Good Clean Fun, etc.
Tickets at

Sun | 4.25.10
Kingston, UK | Fighting Cocks


Fri | 6.25.10
Rustland, OH | Skatopia
with Fishbone, Meat Puppets, Agent Orange, D.O.A., U.S. Bombs, Murphy's Law, JFA, Dirty Filthy Mugs, Time Again, and more!

[Editor's note: this is not ska-topia, but rather skate-opia, as in a utopia for those who love skateboarding. In case you didn't know, Rustland is in Southeast Ohio, below Columbus, and it is home to The Skateboard Museum! Who knew?]

Sat | 6.26.10
Pomona, CA | Fox Theater
with Fishbone, Big D & The Kids Table, Chris Murray Combo, Assorted Jelly Beans, and tons more!
All ages | bar w/ID

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Specials to Play Free Show at NYC's Summerstage on 8/22/10!

According to an excellent feature article titled "Ska Revivalists Enjoy a Revival" (Oh, the delicious irony, thinks the headline writer!) by David Prince in this Sunday's New York Times Arts section, The Specials will be playing a free Summerstage show in Manhattan's Central Park on August 22nd--leading one to believe that the band may be back in the States to tour later this summer or fall. So if you weren't able to score tickets to either of the sold-out Terminal 5 shows on April 20 and 21, you now have another opportunity to catch the band (it's actually a pretty great outdoor venue--I've caught shows by The Toasters and Laurel Aitken there).

The article provides a decent recap of the band's history; states that Terry Hall's suicide attempt in 2004 (and subsequent treatment for bipolar disorder) helped bring about the 30th Anniversary reunion shows; and deals with the irreconcilable differences between Jerry Dammers and everyone else.

Money quote #1:
But the band’s tour of the United States in 1980 sowed the seeds of its demise. The outing, which began in January at New York’s post-punk hotspot Hurrah, exhausted the band, which had already been on the road for nearly two years straight. “America broke us,” said Horace Panter, 56, the bassist, who pinpoints the beginning of the end to a four-night, eight-show run at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles. “We were so knackered that pharmaceuticals took over."
Money quote #2:
“The ironic thing is that we can do it without Jerry,” Mr. Hall said. “It reminds me a bit of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd or Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. You get this person who’s immersed in what he does but can’t really work with the rest of the band.”

“Every time I walk onstage with this band now,” he added, “I still don’t know what I’m onstage for, apart from it feels important to us and it feel important to the people who are there. That’s the only reason.”

The Return of Skinnerbox, plus The Scofflaws, Eastern Standard Time, The Forthrights, & The Hard Times Sat. Nite!

Just a quick reminder...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Duff Interview: Sean Flowerdew of Pama International

Editor's note: We could give you a bit of background on Sean Flowerdew (pictured at far right) of Pama International, but it might end up ruining the joy of reading his answers to our long list of questions. So, here's all you need to know going in: Sean is the keyboardist and songwriter for this hugely successful UK ska/reggae/soul band--and he's been a mover and shaker on the British scene since he was a teen (!) in the late '80s...

The Duff Guide to Ska: You’re actively promoting Pama International’s new record (its sixth) in the US with Musical Occupation and Lawless Street arranging listening parties and interviews—and the band recently supported The Specials on their sold-out 30th Anniversary tour of the UK. Would it be wrong to infer from all this that Pama International might be opening for The Specials on their April mini-tour of New York City, Los Angeles, the Coachella Festival, and Toronto? (If not, are there any plans to come over on your own at some point in the future?)

Sean Flowerdew: Yes, Gabe Pressure and Jason Lawless are doing a fantastic job spreading the word of our new album Pama Outernational, which will be available properly on 20 April '10 in North America. They're getting us to more people then we've ever reached in the US before, so I'm delighted with the way things are looking.

Sorry to say, we won't be supporting The Specials on their US dates. Not sure who they've got opening for them, but it won't be us. We had a fantastic time on their 30th Anniversary tour, though. We ended up doing over 20 shows with them. Plans are afoot for Pama Intl live in USA. We're looking at coming over and playing the West Coast in Spring 2011 in our own right. Early days on that, but it's looking more possible then ever. Especially with all the promotion building for Outernational.

DGTS: How was Pama International received by the die-hard Specials fans in the UK (who may not have been following the ska scene since the days of 2 Tone)?

SF: It was very cool to see how much The Specials reunion meant to people. To provoke that much feeling is pretty incredible. The diehard fans were there to see their idols. And rightly so, but people warmed to us nicely, and it certainly helped promote Outernational here. We're not a straight up ska or 2 Tone band, we mix styles up, so it's not necessarily what the diehard Specials fans want to hear, but the tour for us was a great success. We won over a lot of people and made a lot more friends.

You're right in saying some of The Specials crowd haven't been following ska since 2 Tone, other then maybe going to see Madness. The ska scene would be much healthier had they, but to be honest there's few ska-influenced bands around that are as good as The Specials. They set a very high standard over here and a lot of bands don't live up to that... some do, but maybe not enough to get all the old Specials and Madness fans along to shows. I don't hear songs being written today on the ska scene that are as good a songs as The Specials wrote. I include Pama Intl in that, but we try with each album to make better records and write better songs. We're getting there. I'm very inspired by the current line-up in the band. Live we're taking it into new areas and never sounded better.

DGTS: Since you know all everyone involved, do you think there is any possibility of reconciliation between Jerry Dammers and the rest of The Specials? Has it all been about a clash of personalities, a struggle over control/leadership of the band, or the nature of the reunion (playing the hits as they were versus writing new material and re-imagining the back catalogue)?

SF: It's not my place to comment on their internal personal business. From an outside point of view though, as a fan and someone who loved the band from childhood...watching their tour and live show Jerry Dammers wasn't missed. Playing the hits live was certainly loved by many many people. And got superb reviews. If they were to enter into the studio though, that might be a different matter...but whether or not Jerry Dammers would bring anything 'special' to any recording anymore I don't know. I haven't heard anything in 25+ years that I rated by him. The Sun Ra thing he's doing now is no more then a glorified covers band. I would love to think The Specials could make another classic album. Why 're-imagine' your classic songs when you could make new classics?

DGTS: You’ve been involved with ska since the 80s with your first (and hugely popular) band The Loafers. [It should be noted here that Pama Intl vocalist Finny was also in The Loafers!-ed.] What are some of the most striking changes (for better or worse) in the UK scene over the years? What do you miss the most?

SF: Even with The Specials and Madness gigging I'd say the ska scene in the UK was bigger back in the late 80s then it is now. The crowds that both bands pull doesn't really filter through to the hardcore ska scene. Ska shows here attract anything from no one to 500 people tops. Back in the late 80s there was a real scene, some great bands and new bands springing up all round the UK... The Forest Hillbillies, Potato 5, the original Hotknives, Maroon Town and Capone & The Bullets were pick of the bunch for me. It was a great time to be in a band. 1989 really was the last time the UK ska scene was a national force. All major press and a lot of TV were covering it. Also, there was a real originality to what the bands were doing. It wasn't all 2 Tone, or ska punk, or traditional ska. It was a real mix of styles, people writing great songs and putting on great live shows. There was a real movement. Bands were being inventive.

I guess that's what I miss the most from the late 80's. Bands don't seem to be as inventive...they just stick to one path, be it skinhead reggae, ska punk, trad ska. It'd be great to see bands mixing the styles up more over here, and working on better songs. There don't seem to be many great songwriters on the scene. I'm painting a bit of a bleak picture over here aren't I? There are some new, younger bands coming through that actually have something to King Blues and bands that have released on my brother's Do The Dog label...Jimmy The Squirrel, Dirty Revolution and Resolution 242. So that's great to hear that a younger generation are singing about things that matter and trying to make a difference. More power to them.

DGTS: How did the anti-gun/knife “Highrise Project” come about?

Michie One and I wrote a song called "Highrise" for the Pama Intl Love Filled Dub Band album, which tackled the issue of knife and gun crime in the UK. I think it's the best piece of work Pama Intl have released. It started getting quite a lot of attention and airplay, so I thought we could try and do some good with it. Using that song as a basis I got other people involved to do versions, like Billy Bragg and Dennis Alcapone. Pretty much everyone involved had been affected by knife and gun crime. Lynval was a victim of a well-documented knife attack. Between the time I asked Dennis Alcapone to get involved and the time of recording him (2 weeks) his stepson was shot dead in a club in London. It's horrific and out of control. I thought for ages about how I could do something. I figured the best thing I could do was to raise awareness for charities that are working with kids daily and doing a lot of good: Kids Company in London and Basement Studios in Bristol. Hopefully we've done that a bit and will continue to do so.

DGTS: Pama International has worked with a number of labels, including Trojan, Asian Man, and Do the Dog—what led you to establish Rockers Revolt?

SF: Pretty much from the start I've had my own labels. I set up Staccato Records to release The Loafers back when I was 17. Then Jamdown Records in the 90's, which released the first three Pama Intl albums and one EP. The Asian Man and Do The Dog deals were either licensing or joint release deals. The album we did for Trojan Records was again a license thing. I look forward to getting the rights back on that one, as they've never accounted to us.

I guess I've always been a bit impatient, and always believed in doing things for myself. Why wait around for someone to do a lesser job? No label is going to believe in my music as much as I do, so I just get on with it. Rockers Revolt is just the latest incarnation/vehicle for me to get my music into the shops and people's homes. A bonus is to release other bands I like. I love what Do The Dog and Asian Man do...same DIY spirit...just get on with business attitude. That's why they've lasted longer than most.

DGTS: What do you think of music file sharing? What do you think will be the new model for selling music might be?

SF: As a format, I don't like digital, but I'm from the days of vinyl and collecting. Today's generation never had that, and downloads/iPods are so much easier. To walk around with 1,000s of songs in your pocket is a great thing. To lose 1,000s of songs when your hard drive goes down is terrifying to me. I like something tangible...vinyl is that. It's far superior sound quality to MP3 and CD.

As for file sharing...I'm undecided. It does bug me that people just take the music for free, but if that leads them onto a gig, or to buy a shirt or album, then I'm not fussed. I view the internet as the biggest radio station ever.

I've a few ideas what the new model for selling music might involve, but until the major labels and manufacturers decide to issue a new form of player/format (like they did with CD and MP3s) we're stuck with MP3s and file sharing. I think in today's market, as a label you've just got to be versatile and give people what they want, be it vinyl, cd or MP3.

DGTS: You and your brother Kevin (The Bakesys and the Do the Dog zine/label) have both been vital players in the UK ska scene for decades—is there something in the Flowerdew genes? What’s the nature of your relationship? Are you guys competitive?

SF: Nothing in our genes I know of! And no, we're not competitive in the slightest. We've got different tastes in ska. Kev's built up a really good label in Do The Dog...and helped to launch a lot of bands. He's released a lot more than I have now. We try to help each other as much as possible, as you'd expect.

DGTS: You’ve been fortunate to work with an extraordinary array of ska stars, such as Laurel Aitken, Dennis Alcapone, Dave & Ansel Collins, Rico Rodriguez, Derrick Morgan, and Dawn Penn. Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with, but haven’t had the chance to?

SF: Yes, I consider myself very fortunate. Not necessarily ska stars, but the list of people I'd like to collaborate with is endless...Marcia Griffiths, Burning Spear, Toots Hibbert, Millie Small, King Jammy (in his Prince Jammy dub days), Mavis Staples, Tina Turner (l'm listening to a lot of Ike & Tina Turner at the moment...I love their versions of "Honky Tonk Woman" and "Proud Mary"), Papa San (my favourite dancehall artist), Steve Cropper, Donald Duck Dunn, Booker T, Pee Wee Ellis, Keith Hudson, Cedric IM Brooks, Ken Boothe, Huey from Fun Lovin Criminals, some 'new' singers here... Anna Stott (from East Park Reggae Collective) and Jewels, both great female singers that I hope to be working with.

DGTS: Do you follow the US ska scene closely? Apart from the American bands you work with through Rockers Revolt (Pietasters, etc.), are you a fan of any other US ska bands?

SF: I loved Bim Skala Bim, especially their debut album. The Untouchables were the first US ska band I heard. Loved their Wild Child album. The Toasters' Pool Shark album that came out in the UK (I think it was their debut and called something different in the US?), although the production sounds really dated now, it had some great songs on it. That's all 80s stuff though, which is the last time I 'followed' what was going on in America. The Aggrolites live are awesome. I like the little I've heard of what J Bonner is doing with his Jani Disc imprint and just heard some good music on Ryhgin Records. I liked the Hors G'lore album Warsaw did. That must of been done sometime in the 90s? Very inventive. Unless something lands on my door mat or a friend recommends it, I don't really get the time to check bands out. I have a huge pile of albums I've bought and not listened to. It's hard to find the time, what with trying to create new music and raising a family.

DGTS: Which UK bands should American ska fans be aware of?

SF: Rebelation have some nice vibes going on. Their recent Berlin Sessions EP on Do The Dog had they're best song to date 'You Will Know'. Also on Do The Dog (this is turning into an ad for my bro's label!), Jimmy The Squirrel...loving their song "How I Go" that's included on their forthcoming album. Not sure when that one's out. I'm going to release a band called Babyhead, who are a hip hop/ska/rock kind of thing. Well worth checking out. Pama Intl's guitarist Lenny Bignell has a great rocksteady project going called The Sidewalk Doctors. He also plays for Acid Jazz soul band Lord Large who are great. The album I put out by Ed Rome is fantastic...King Tubby meets Ian Dury. Very unique and should be a lot bigger then it is.

DGTS: What’s on tap for both Pama International and Rockers Revolt in the coming months (plug away!)?

SF: The next single we're releasing on Rockers Revolt is a version affair...Pama Intl's "I Still Love You More (Bongolian mix)" b/w "Equality & Dub For All (Wrongtom mix)." That's out any day now.

We've got a bunch of albums we're releasing on Rockers Revolt this year: Pama Intl vs. Mad Professor's Outernational in Dub (due October time); Babyhead's Heavy Weather (due out in September '10); Pama Intl vs Wrongtom's Love Filled Dub Band in Dub; and we're going to start a series of cover albums that I'm very excited about. We've also got a series of 7"s planned. Nice collectors edition/hand numbered/heavyweight vinyl. I'd like to make two new albums this year, one with Anna Stott and the other with Jewels. Oh and I've just reissued the first two Pama Intl albums in the UK, with a bunch of bonus tracks on each. People can check the label site out at

Hopefully this will all filter through to USA soon enough. We've now got a website dedicated to all our happenings in North America: Outernational (CD and vinyl) is available there, and there's news of all the listening parties happening through April for the album in San Francisco, San Diego, Washington DC, Austin, LA, Philly, NYC, Chicago and New Orleans. Lots on the go!

On the Pama Intl live front, we're gigging all year in the UK, continuing to promote Outernational. We've got our debut show in Paris on 18 June and our first show in Belgium in May, so we're starting to look abroad a bit.

Outside of all that, I'm doing some keyboards for some new tracks by Sir Horace. Dub instrumentals written by Horace and also some keyboards on The Sidewalk Doctors.

The Duff Guide to Ska is most grateful to Sean for taking the time to answer our questions!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Breaking Ska News (4/1/10)!

Check out these stories "ripped from the headlines" somewhere [insert "Law and Order" sound effect here]:

Gwen Stefani: No Doubt's next album will "establish the fourth wave of ska."

Long-lost, "destroyed" Madness album from 1984 resurfaces.

King Django "reborn" - next project will be "Savior-influenced."

Hat tip to Adam Coozer for the info.