Thursday, May 10, 2012

Skankin' in the Tri-State Part 2 - Roy Radics from The Rudie Crew


A few months back, my friend and show promoter Rob Alapick dragged me out of my apartment to a show at the Stanhope House. It was down the street from me, and he promised me The Toasters. Even in my weepy state, I figured that was just what I needed to cheer me up. I ran into some good friends (pretty standard for a ska show) and was sitting around hunched over my diet coke licking my wounds, when out of the corner of the club I heard them hit the stage. Who in the world is this and why have I not heard them?! My feet were immediately tapping all over the floor. I forgot I was cranky.

Rob informed me…this is The Rudie Crew. (to his credit, he had told me I would like them…)
I was blown away! The bass lines and the horns grab you immediately, but then in comes the vocals with this fresh dancehall sound, and you are hooked. I was hooked. This is great, tight, danceable ska. This is summer nights in sweaty clubs, ants in your pants on the dance floor, fast-talking ska flavor. THIS is the sound that has been missing! If you can catch Rudie Crew live, and you can manage to stand there and not dance, I don’t know what to do with you and you are probably lacking a soul. This is the music that grabs you by your soul and drags you to the floor. It’s exciting, vibrant, beat-heavy, brassy ska with an authentic and warm reggae flavor. It’s funky and energized, but soulful and grooving. But the thing that caught me the most was that they have a sound all their own underneath all those essential ska/reggae components.

This is not a ragtag bunch of thrown together characters either. The Rudie Crew is comprised of professional musicians from across oceans and scenes. They have seen years and many a lineup change since their 2003 debut, Invasion. Seems to me they found the perfect formula now. El Husey brings the tenor sax and vocals, and Dan Dulin with trumpet and vocals. Both started this train in ska fusion pioneers Skinnerbox.  Add in Chris Malone on trombone and vocals, Phil Wartell on that grooving bass, BeatBlast rocking drums, Dean Wartell handling keys, and Dave Parsons on guitar. Singer Roy Radics brings a JA/UK flavor to ice the top of the whole production. What you end up with is a tight ska sound with dancehall flavor and reggae groove. The Rudie Crew is it’s own sound, it’s own vibe, it’s own taste of this scene…and it’s not only fun on the floor. It’s intelligent and exciting in your ears. It's impossible to listen to and sit still. Try it. I dare you.



2011’s release This Is Skragga! Is a perfect example of this unique take on a familiar sound. “Propaganda” opens it up, and throws you in, full force. See if you are not singing along on your second listen through…”Propaganda Propaganda…!” The brass is clean and funky, and I love the guitar work and the bass lines. My favorite track is “Pretty Girl”. It’s in my headphones right now, and I am not hiding the fact that I would rather be dancing than sitting at this desk. Hear this live? Forget it. This is why I go to ska shows. This feeling. This groove. A sound that gets inside and lights you up, makes your legs and your hips move. The Rudie Crew nails it, and I am left aching for a show.


I was able to catch up with singer and heck of a nice guy, Roy Radics, for an interview and got to delve into what the band was up to as well as the story behind his own unique style. I don’t review or chase down anyone for an interview that I don’t genuinely like anyway, but I was really excited to do a profile on these guys! I am fascinated with this sound, and Radics was happy to let me grab him for a few questions.

What attracted you to this music and this scene in the first place?

As a child growing up in the UK from a Caribbean heritage, I always loved music and my brothers used to play a lot of original ska and reggae along with other genres…but it’s the feel of ska and reggae that grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, and I never looked back. What fueled the fire was we used to go to these parties that my uncle would throw and he had the best record collection. Prince Buster, John Holt to Stax and R&B and Reggae… So I would often sit on the stairs waiting for the ska and reggae to drop so I could nod my head feel the vibration. Later it got to a point where I would imitate the singers, especially the MCs. Then the Two Tone scene hit and I was smitten and could relate. I could really appreciate the hard edge punky style mixed with the Ska & Reggae. I often used to think they brought it out especially for me. 
To cut a long story short, I started listening to a lot of Two-Tone and original ska and reggae, and began writing my own stuff and practicing my early MC style from the dancehall era of Super Cat, Early B and many more (I could list all but it would be pages long) to cap it off the local sound systems like Saxon Sound, Unity and Sir Coxsone steered towards us English youth, chatting our own unique style and interweaving it with a faststyle chat. Finally I came to New York and started following Moon records, The Toasters etc and met up with El from the Rudie Crew at Wetlands. We talked and clicked, next minute I was the MC for a song or two before taking over and becoming the Lead singer and MC .....my respect will always go out to El Husey ,Dan Dulin and Buck from the Toasters who always believed in me..... 

What are you working on now? Shows in the works? Music coming out?

Well last year we finished our brand new album "This is Skragga" for Megalith Records which we are heavily promoting, and trying to venture out on Mini Tours so everyone can hear our unique style. We are writing and putting together ideas as we speak for new material so by next year we can come with yet another new album (hopefully). Now and again I work with P-dub on solo stuff so that’s all been happening. This weekend we are honored to be part of King Django's Stubborn Records label celebrates its 20th anniversary show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. We are so happy to be there as good friends playing on this night (not to be missed) And we have a special guest playing with us on this night so don't miss it! Other than that, we plan on taking the road again in September, but I don’t have specifics as yet. 

 Where do you see the ska scene in NY headed as we move on from 2012?

I think it’s healthy right now and shows promise of rising up from the ashes, as it’s always threatened. The Brooklyn scene is really growing and as I don't have a ska crystal ball one can only predict healthy things, and let’s keep this growing and getting stronger !!!!  

What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?

Booking shows, going on the road, taking a little break,  …but really it’s all about writing new material and doing shows so we can spread the word that the Rudites are coming ....That’s our internal alias…The Rudites ...... 

Count me in as part of the Rudites faithful, Mr. Radics. I am hooked, and I will be there as they dance all over this scene and yours this summer. Roy Radics may not have a ska crystal ball, but I can tell you as a fan that only good will come of this sound and this vibe.The ska scene IS healthy, and it is busting it's way back up from the underground. The Rudie Crew might very well be manning the jackhammer... 


You can catch The Rudie Crew at the Stubborn Records 20th Anniversary show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, this Saturday May 12th. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. That is a promise!


More info about the show HERE:

Get your tickets to the show HERE:

~AJH

Friday, May 4, 2012

Skankin' in the Tri-State Part 1...King Django...

...hunting season is now open...and all DJ's are fair game...


Can I tell you how many times we used to crank The Stubborn All-Star's "Open Season" in my younger days? I first heard it on a "Give Em' The Boot" compilation I think I found at Hot Topic, somewhere in the 90's. The 90's are a blur. I still find myself quoting it, playing it regularly on my radio show (it often opens my show, because how appropriate is that?), and probably annoying the ever loving HELL out of the people who live above where we presently broadcast from in Stroudsburg, PA with my obnoxious, loud singing and dancing. Of course I do this song no justice. The Stubborn All-Stars were led by none other than King Django. I have been chasing this gentleman for weeks. I can be really annoying when I want something, and he finally gave in.


When it came time for me to launch my summer ska series on my radio show and my blog, I wanted to focus on the NYC scene...which of course branches into New Jersey and Pennsylvania, because who the fuck can still afford to live in the city? Besides...Jersey has taylor ham. New York and it's scene has a particular vibe to it. The music that came out of it, and continues to come out of it, is a breed all it's own in it's flavor and it's energy, and the ska and reggae scene is no exception. But anyone who knows this area knows it bleeds into Jersey via bridges, tunnels, and speakers, and Jersey is where I call home. Head on South a bit, and you land in New Brunswick. Rutgers, fat-cats, and King Django's Version City Studios. It's a magical land of ska, reggae, rocksteady, and the like expertly threaded together by King Django himself, also the home of his own legendary Stubborn Records.


It's an honor for me to include anyone in this series who did as much for the scene as Django has, and continues to do. He is a pioneer in the NewYork ska scene going back to the 80's. Whether it is his own projects, as a contributor, or helping to record and produce fellow musicians in the scene, he continues to put his stamp on the music that still brings people to the sweaty dance floor to this day. It's also an honor to be able to profile someone who's music was and continues to be in my own ears as much as his has. Be it with Stubborn All-Stars or Skinnerbox. Plus the countless artists who's work he was a contributor to...Murphy's Law, The Slackers, The Toasters, and Rancid, just to name a few.


Look at this crazy discography!


Next weekend, Django's Stubborn Records label celebrates it's 20th anniversary with a show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. Performances by Django himself an others set this show up to be something not to be missed. I caught up with the man himself and was able to hold him down long enough to answer some questions for me.

What have you been up to? What are you working on?
King Django: I have been up to my eyeballs!  The Stubborn Records label is celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, with a HUGE party happening on May 12 at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. In honor of the anniversary, we've just released two new 45s in cooperation with Ska In The World Records from Tokyo Japan.  One is a new mix of  "Anywhere I Roam" with my friends the Forthrights, backed with a fun ska cover version of "Career Opportunities" originally by The Clash.  The other is some crazy electro-dancehall-roots music (Forward backed with Rescue Mission) I did with my good friend Ari Up, who is no longer with us.  I'm glad we were finally able to get that one out.  And yesterday, we just got in the first CD celebrating our 20th Anniversary- Victor Rice's "Dub Discoveries From Version City" which is fresh, new dub versions of a great, eclectic sampling of our whole catalog, going way, way back.


In the studio,  I've been very busy doing a lot of recording, mixing and mastering for other bands and artists.  Most recently I have been working on an EP with The Snails from Pennsylvania, with whom I have recently played a bunch of shows.  Did some recording, mixing and mastering for some of my friends in Staten Island called "Not From Concentrate" for their upcoming EP. I mixed several tunes for the Forthrights next release, and am mixing a showcase album for CHX Sound System from Quebec City!  In between, I have been working on my next album, which is getting close to finished.  That's going to be really fun, it features a lot of my friends from all over the place. 


What kickstarted your entrance to ska/reggae music?
King Django: I was originally introduced to the 2-Tone sound in the end of the 1970s!  After that I quickly became enamored of Jamaican music. I was not a musician at that time.  I started playing trombone specifically to play ska and reggae music!

Where do you think ska music is headed in 2012 and moving forward?
King Django: I have no idea whatsoever!  I'm a bit old-fashioned.  I tend to really listen to older music in general, and when it comes to ska and reggae, I am still most interested in the original Jamaican sounds.  I think the trend for a while has been this rock-infused version of "early reggae" but I have been hearing the stirrings of a return to the traditional ska sound...  There are only two kinds of music, at the end of the day!

What are you most excited for in the coming months?
King Django: After the Anniversary party, I am super-excited about finishing up my new album!  Then I get to move on to finishing the new Hub City Stompers record and the Dr Ring Ding Version City album!!!  Also really excited to start rehearsing new and different material with the King Django band!  We're looking around for different venues to float the Version City party to, so I think it's going to be a really fun summer, fall and winter this year!



No matter where it is headed in the future, I think the ska scene can count on the continued contributions of this multifaceted gentleman and his talents to be there fueling the fire, and that is a win for everyone. I for one am ready for the next chapter.

If you are wise, you will get yourself to the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn May 12th for the Stubborn Records Anniversary Party. Expect performances from The King Django Septet, Hub City Stompers, Rudie Crew, Skinnerbox, The Heavy Beat, and more. Pull on your best trousers, and get yourself on the floor.  


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

...Skankin' in the Tri-State

I am a child of the NY Ska scene.

Well, I am a young adult of the scene anyway. My high school boyfriend exposed me to this wonderful world in the mid-90's and I have been a devotee ever since the first time I got kicked out of a ska show at The Wetlands for underage drinking.
Fast forward to 2012, a few grey hairs, and I can still be found blasting The Slackers any given afternoon on my agonizing North Jersey commute. It's happy music that reminds me of summer days and sweaty dance floors. Shows without egos. Horns, beer, and guys wearing suits and sunglasses.
This summer, as I book my Slackers and Pietasters Booze Cruise tickets, I will be interviewing, show reviewing, and more or less harassing as much of the modern scene as I can for a summer series on the scene itself...what it was, what it is, and what it is poised to become.

...bring your pork pie hat, your best trousers, and let's dance...

~AJH

...Don Ryan, one folked up experience in Tangle Town...

I have had this song stuck in my head for a week.

Seriously, I wake up singing it.

This Town, by Don Ryan.


I got an e-mail a few weeks back from this gentleman. He sent me this video. I opened it up, gave it a good listen, and it has been stuck in my head ever since. I have posted it on Facebook. I have e-mailed it to friends. It's been blasted in my car speakers. I have said it before, it takes a lot to knock my socks off, especially musically. I am not easily impressed, and I see through the glitz and polish quite easily. But this...this is the real thing. Don Ryan is different. This is real music. This is real good music.

I downloaded the whole album, Tangle Town, after giving this video a few good spins in my headphones. Usually when it comes down to needing to review music, I find the best possible method for me is to listen to it in my car. I spend a lot of time in my car. I am a commuter. A hardened, foul-mouthed North Jersey highway commuter. We are our own breed. If not for music, I would probably have had a Michael Douglas Falling Down moment a long time ago. That being said, music for me is best absorbed through the ears and into the brain (and soul) in the car. Onto my thumb drive went Mr. Ryan, and into my Kia went the thumb drive.



I have been bouncing this music around in my speakers now for a couple weeks, and the first time I listened to it, I actually went into work late because the song Living Avenue was not done playing, and I could not turn it off. Imagine the folk sounds of a later Jim Croce having a love child with the deep soul of Jeff Buckley, and you are still not even close. It's gorgeous and deep. Full and thick with something I can't seem to touch, but I can still feel. I fell in love with this song immediately. It's a gentle mix of simple guitar and vocals with these low vocal backgrounds. Drums come in, background noise comes in, it all fills out and takes you somewhere else entirely. And singable. Sing along with it.

A Mouse in God's County is another favorite of mine on this album. It has a flavor like that of This Town, but a little more fevered and with great lyrics and intensity. Somewhere between the songs on this album, you feel transferred somewhere else entirely. It's like being sucked into some strange dust bowl depression era carnival with this man as your guide...your only link back to the modern world. And he seems to straddle that line with a sly smirk on his face the whole time. It's a great trip. I can't seem to get it out of my car speakers, my computer headphones, or my head in general. When I like something, I listen to it to death. I am killing this album as we speak.

Now take the song Maybe You Were Right. A strange journey into an almost hallucinogenic ride at some distorted county fair. But it's beautiful. Don Ryan has a way of singing over all the strings that keeps it normal even when it seems headed in that trippy Beatles-after-Dylan-showed-them-weed direction. It's really amazing what he does with the layers of sound on this album. Every time you listen, you will notice something you didn't hear before. It's dark, but it's truthful and beautiful.

Don Ryan mixes it all up. He takes older styles of music, various instruments, and basic folk sounds and threads them all together into this great sound. There is so much variation between the songs as well. Little bits and blurbs. Then the song will start, and just take you away. It's not straight folk all the way through, though you can hear and taste that in On Our Way Home and Down and Out...which has amazing lyrics. It's not straight tripped-out carnival music, though you will get that feel all the way through the album in small doses and surprises mid-song. It's got that noir-pop flavor mixed in.

There is a taste of Buckley. A taste of Waits. But this is all Don Ryan. A strange trip to another time and place. Beautiful and haunted. Driving along with this in my speakers, I find myself watching the world go buy with different eyes. I can't wait to catch him live and feel the vibe in the room. Well done, Mr. Ryan.

GET THE MUSIC HERE

FOLLOW DON RYAN HERE

~AJH