Heads up, dancing shoes on, The Selecter are back with a bang; At the end of May they released their download only single ‘Big In The Body, Small In The Mind’ a good anti-fascist song that heralded the band into 2011, expect the next single a cover of ; Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’ soon and a new studio album ‘Made In Britain’ to follow in the very near future. So, not much for Steve Janes to talk to lead singer Pauline Black about.
In October 2010 The Selecter returned to the live arena to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their seminal debut album, ‘Too Much Pressure’, by performing the whole album live at the “Sinners Day Festival”, Ethias Stadium, Hasselt, Belgium. A highly successful capacity audience was treated to the same adventure at Bloomsbury Ballroom in London in November 2010.
‘Too Much Pressure’ was originally released by the influential band back in February 1980, The debut album remains a classic touchstone for a generation of Ska lovers, but now performed with a host of new songs more generations are bound to fall for The Selecter’s sound, their style and engaging narrative. Mixing punk, ska and reggae, ‘Too Much Pressure’ successfully reflected the social and political issues of the early Thatcher years in Britain and gave a voice to disaffected youth across the racial divide.
The good news is, the band are back. 2011 see the band, fronted by the original singing duo of the female icon of the 2-tone era Pauline Black & ‘DeKilla’ himself, Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson. Tour classic hits like ‘Three Minute Hero’, ‘Missing Words’, ‘On My Radio’,’James Bond’ and of course ‘Too Much Pressure’ will be joined by new songs, the first of which ‘Big In The Body, Small In The Mind’, has been released as a download single on May 30th, thus heralding the return of one of the most vital, visceral and important Ska acts ever, who promise to deliver stunning ‘live’ performances for both old and new 2-tone fans.
With The Selecter back in the studio recording songs for further singles and the news that older 2-toners have been waiting to hear, there will be a new 2011 studio album entitled ‘Made In Britain’ and in ‘Black By Design’ Pauline Black’s biography due August 4th this year; things are looking good for all ska fans.
So Selecter in 2011, time for a band lineup; Lead Vox: Pauline Black; Lead Vox: Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson; Drums: Winston Marche; Guitar: Anthony Harty; Keyboards: Greg Coulson; Bass: John Thompson; Horns: Neil Pyzer & Orlando LaRose. Put together this talented crew are set to rock your world.
With Guitars catch up with lead vocalist, actress and now biographer, Pauline Black – the plan, if there is one, is to take on all of the different subjects surrounding and leading to The Selecter…
To paraphrase a little, The band, to celebrate Selecter’s 30th Anniversary you must have spent some time locked in rehearsal rooms, as I know just how well your first couple of shows went – I had excited writers telling me they did not know “just how good they were gonna be!”
“Two separate promoters approached us to do two shows, one in Belgium at the Sinner’s Day Festival & one at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in London in April 2010. Gaps Hendrikson and I agreed to do them, ostensibly to celebrate the 30th anniversary of 2-tone with a performance of our first Selecter album, “Too Much Pressure”. Rehearsals began in Sept 2010 in Coventry. It was an extraordinary time rehearsing material from the album that we hadn’t done together for almost 30 years, but it was also surprisingly easy to slip back into our former camaderie and duet singing style, even after so many years. The 8 piece band really rose to the occasion and both shows were fantastic and well received by the fans.”
You got back together as a live force, last year to mark your 30th anniversary of the ‘Too Much Pressure’ album, now, with tour dates longer than an eight year-old’s Christmas list, the single, the ‘Too Much Pressure’ Tour. Not forgetting the book you appear to be in ‘full flow’. Sorry for the ramble, but how has it been?
“After the autumn shows in 2010, we decided to stay together and re-build the reputation of The Selecter as an exciting ‘live’ act. But we wanted to achieve more than that. For us it is not just enough to get back together and play our hits, we wanted to challenge ourselves, just to see if it was possible for us to come up with new material that said something about our feelings and observations about now. The 2-tone movement in 2011 should stand for something beyond just nostalgia, particularly since we live in troubled, recessionary times again, very similar to the period when the 2-tone movement began in 1979. We felt for the band to make a credible comeback, and then it was necessary to with a new album.”
When did you start demoing songs for the new release or should that be releases?
“We started demoing new material in Feb-March 2011. It was one of those times when the songs just seemed to write themselves. We wanted an upbeat album, almost a “Too Much Pressure” album for the 2nd decade of the new millennium. I hope “Made In Britain” fulfils that brief.”
“That’s why we have responded to David Cameron’s out of touch pronouncement about multiculturalism by writing ‘Made In Britain’. The Selecter are a product of that multicultural “experiment”, as was indeed the 2-tone movement and as far a we can see, it is alive and well and thriving in Britain and much of the rest of the world. Only the ConDems haven’t woken up to that fact yet!”
How was it having The Selecter back again?
“Amazing. Currently The Selecter is a fully functioning creative unit, with a great ‘live’ show and hopefully a future which is not just re-hashing the hits.”
Apart from the band, any familiar faces behind the mixing desk? Where did the band record?
“The band recorded in London at Vocaphone Records studio. Neil Pyzer who is band MD and also plays in the distinctive Selecter horn section was at the controls.”
Was it a good experience being back in the studio?
“Recording was surprisingly stress free. I’d already worked with Neil in 2009-2010 recording a solo album “Pigment Of My Imagination” which will be out around Christmas time 2011. I really enjoyed that experience, so recording a new Selecter album with Neil was a no-brainer.”
Did you find writing and recording new songs came easily, as it did in the 2-Tone ‘Too Much Pressure’ days?
“We very much wanted to re-create the energy of the Too Much Pressure album. I think we have succeeded.”
How has the single ‘Big In The Body, Small In The Mind’, which is a great instant return to top form in my humble view, gone so far – I know it’s only been available as a download single for two weeks now, have you had much feedback?
“All the feedback from the single has been positive. It was No.1 on the Amazon hot new releases download chart for almost 2 weeks; it is currently No.5 (as of June 13th). That’s a tremendous achievement for us. This single was meant to be our “calling card”, an opportunity just to let fans know that we were serious about performing again as The Selecter and more importantly that we still thought we had something to say musically & artistically. The distinctive artwork by original 2-tone artist John ‘Teflon” Sims, has been an added bonus for the single. John has also completed artwork for our next single “Back To Black”, our take on the Amy Winehouse song, and he will also design the sleeve for the vinyl album release for “Made In Britain”. The designs are influenced by the work of Gardar Eide Einarrson, a contemporary Norwegian artist, who also enjoys working in black and white.”
Are their plans for another single?
“Our next single is a cover of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’. She has said many times how much she loves 2-tone and indeed has recorded several ska covers, so we decided to return the favour. It is a very Selecter “take” on the song.”
How is it playing Too Much Pressure, in its entirety, that’s 13 songs in my estimation ending with ‘James Bond’? Did it bring many memories of the wonderful time in the early 80’s? You inspired me as a school kid that life was not so bad as I am positive most of a generation enjoyed your 2Tone debut album.
“It’s great to be playing the album alongside new material and some songs from ‘Celebrate The Bullet” album too. It’s a good feeling to know that fans still remember the songs on Too Much Pressure and enjoy singing along with them, both in the UK and in Europe, as recent tours in Italy, Holland and Belgium have proved.”
What does that time, the 2-tone label, Jerry Dammers in the wake of riots and what seemed to be a power struggle between Thatcher, the miners, the police, unions, and then there were the national front clowns, Amnesty, Unite… I could go on – but in the face of troubled times, such inspiring music from the Midlands…
“Without Jerry Dammers there wouldn’t have been a 2-tone label or movement. All the bands that recorded on that now legendary label owe him a profound debt of gratitude. It gave us a platform to suggest that celebrating those things that unite us as opposed to those that divide us is of paramount importance in taking on the wider social, political and cultural issues that beset us in 1979 and continue to be troublesome in 2011.”
Do you still see any of “-Tone Records roster, like The Specials, Bad Manners, Bodysnatchers or The Beat?
“I am still in touch with Neville Staple, Ranking Roger, Dave Wakeling, Rhoda Dakar & Roddy Radiation.”
By the way not sure if the band has seen that advert with Madness for a brand of lager in which they ‘perform’ ‘Baggy Trousers’ amusing it is… but please,,, please… don’t do a Lemmy (Motorhead) and record a “chilled out” version of On My Radio or ‘Missing Words’ it’s not big, not clever and you will most probably put someone’s eye out! As my mum used to say.
“I daresay that they were offered a shed load of money for their services. I doubt whether the same offer will be extended to The Selecter, so fortunately our principles will never have to be tested in the commercial world. I can’t imagine ever doing a slowed down version of any of our songs- it wouldn’t seem natural.”
Finally although the main headline to this hopeful interview will read The Selecter The Return, I feel I must have a pop at this country’s so called prime minster; for anyone to suggest, like a sixth form experiment, that “Multi-culturalism, as an experiment is over” What the… Divisive and dangerous, yet no media organization shouted foul! Is it just me that found this speech to be unacceptable?
“No, the Selecter did too! That’s why we have responded to David Cameron’s out of touch pronouncement about multiculturalism by writing “Made In Britain”. The Selecter are a product of that multicultural “experiment”, as was indeed the 2-tone movement and as far a we can see, it is alive and well and thriving in Britain and much of the rest of the world. Only the ConDems haven’t woken up to that fact yet.