Tuesday, June 26, 2012

THIS JUST IN! Stubborn Records 20th Anniversary shows and releases!


King Django's legendary Stubborn Records celebrates it's 20th Anniversary with shows and goodies and releases...oh my!
Here is the official press release...

~AJH
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New Brunswick, NJ - based Stubborn Records has been celebrating its 20th Anniversary year  with a series of new releases and concerts, bringing New York’s longest-running ska, rocksteady and reggae party, “Version City” to NJ for the first time.  The eclectic and festive party will hit the Crossroads in Garwood on Thursday, August 30th for founder King Django’s Birthday Bash.  Partygoers will enjoy live music all night with old-school rhythm’n’blues, Jamaica ska, rocksteady and reggae from King Django Band, a solo acoustic set by Obi Fernandez (of hard-touring ska band “Westbound Train”), country-swing-ragtime-rhythm’n’blues from Bad Luck Dice , the “rocksteady and roll” sounds of Pennsylvania’s The Snails, the Brooklyn rocksteady/reggae of The Frighteners and the New York Cumbia-Reggae-Hardcore sounds of Radio Armada.

Stubborn Records was founded in New York City in 1992 by international touring artist King Django and defined the sound of East Coast ska, rocksteady and reggae in the 1990's. Django has made his name as a producer, engineer, bandleader, singer, songwriter, arranger, and instrumentalist, having worked with such bands as Rancid, The Slackers, Murphy’s Law, The Toasters and as leader of Stubborn All-Stars and Skinnerbox.  Since re-locating the label office and its Version City Studio to New Brunswick in 2000, Django has continued supporting local and international artists with CD and vinyl releases and consistently promoting  concerts in the New York/New Jersey area.

In honor of the anniversary, the label’s latest full-length release, Victor Rice’s “Dub Discoveries From Version City,” CD features 13 new dub mixes (Jamaican-style psychedelic remixes) of a selection of favorites from the Stubborn Records/Version City Studio archives.  Two new vinyl seven-inch singles (remember 45s?) have also been released in cooperation with Tokyo record label “Ska In The World.”  King Django’s “Anywhere I Roam” (backed by Brooklyn rocksteady outfit The Forthrights) is an infectious romp in a 1960s toasting style reminiscent of UK reggae hero Judge Dread and is backed with a lively ska/early-reggae version of The Clash’s “Career Opportunities” while the second 45 features two previously unreleased tracks by the late UK/Jamaica Punk-Dancehall legend Ari Up.  These three releases are available through the label’s website at www.stubbornrecords.com, while the Victor Rice album and the rest of the Stubborn catalog are available in digital formats through iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon and most other download and streaming services.

May 12 saw a packed crowd at prestigious Brooklyn venue The Knitting Factory for the Stubborn Records 20th Anniversary Party.  The King Django Band will appear at The Old Bay in New Brunswick for the first time on Saturday, Aug. 25.  Version City Party makes its official debut at The Crossroads in Garwood on August 30th and floats to Roxy and Duke’s in Dunellen on Saturday, Nov. 17 featuring the King Django Band, Hub City Stompers and Predator Dub Assassins.

For more information, you can contact Stubborn Records Here





Saturday, June 23, 2012

Skankin' In The Tri-State Part 5 - Show Reviews: The Slackers On A Damn Boat

...so to answer the question from my previous blog, it IS indeed possible to dance on a boat. Even when that boat is a rockin' due to the very flashy thunderstorm happening over the East River that we happened to be floating around in. Not that it mattered. This was not some ordinary booze-cruise.

This was The Slackers.



I'm a Slackers fan. A big one. They are beyond a doubt one of my favorite bands. Ever. Period. I could probably sing you Redlight and Self-Medication from beginning to end without missing a word. They are in my constant iPod rotation, along with the rest of their releases. Vic Ruggiero is one of my most admired artists, both with The Slackers, and in his other collaborations and solo projects. Once this event was on my radar, I was going to get there. No matter what. It's been a rough few months for me for a myriad of reasons. I have not been out too much...and I needed it...but I was more excited for this show than I can remember being for much of anything in a long time.

North Jersey on a Friday in the summer is hell at rush hour. It's only worse trying to get yourself from Morris County to the Holland Tunnel. Three hours later, I was finally within some proximity of where these boats were apparently at. Not that I could find them. In a panic (no way I was missing this damn boat!), I parked my car at the first garage I found and hiked to the docks. I had the nicest garage guy ever who was in as great a mood as I was. This is probably why, in my rush, I forgot to ask him what it was going to cost me.

I met up with my friend Roy Radics of the Rudie Crew at the dock. I was not aware of this, but going to a show with Roy is like going with the mayor. He knows everyone. Or everyone knows him. Not surprising, as his and his band's own delicious breed of NY ska is steadily getting into clubs and ears all over. Plus he is a heck of a nice guy. Which of course made this evening all the better.

I had e-mailed someone off of the Slackers website some time ago to inquire about an interview. I had e-mailed Vic. I had sent notes to twitter and FB accounts. I think I said this before, but I am annoyingly persistent when I want something.

We walked onto the boat and up the stairs to the second level, and Roy stopped to talk to someone. I walked right past Vic Ruggiero and didn't even notice. In my defense, he was dressed as a sailor. I might have drooled a little. Thanks to a stellar introduction, I was able to pull Mr. Ruggiero's ear for a moment or two about this blog, this series, and he gladly agreed to an interview. I am holding you to it, sir. Look! It's in print!



We departed shortly after 8pm, and it was not long after that the Slackers hit the stage. The dance floor immediately filled, and even standing along to the side, I could not help myself but start moving. The Slackers remain one of the best live bands I have ever seen. Let alone in the ska scene itself, where they rank at the absolute top of my list. They are amazing live musicians, ready to ad lib and improvise where needed...even if just for the laugh of it. They don't show up and play a list of studio perfect, cold and compressed tracks, void of sincerity. They show up and throw out things you don't expect to hear, and everything you want to. They covered the Misfits. They threw out Watch This and Have The Time (which I could not help but dance around like a crazy person during).

Outside on the river, the storm kicked up at one point. Lightning streaked across the New York sky, and the boat would tip from side to side. In my head all I could see was Shelly Winters in the Poseidon Adventure. These were BIG tips! Radics and I would laugh and grab the tables (thankfully bolted to the floor) and I would look to the packed dance floor to see the crowd of people shift and grab one another for support. The dancing never stopped though. That's dedication! (or booze...)

The band played two sets, with a fifteen or twenty minute break in between. Though I was disappointed not to hear Make Me Smile, which ranks as one of my top five favorite songs...probably ever...they did a simply fucking fantastic version of David Lee Roth's Just a Gigolo, and an amazing cover of Sam Cooke's Cupid, completely laced and threaded with ska flavor. I had made my way to the front prior to this when Radics was called to the stage to do what he does best on the microphone. It was a ton of fun to watch the mashing of talents, all smiles across the stage. It was like that for the whole show, the whole band. Nothing makes a show better than performers who really, honestly LOVE what they do...and it is evident across the stage at a Slackers show. I stayed up front until the end. Dancing my tush off, and singing right back.



I walked back to the now slowly diluting crowd, and was probably smiling ear to ear. I don't think that dopey grin has left my face yet. I also found myself reminded of how different things are in this scene than others. I have been to a LOT of shows. I listen to all kinds of music, and I love the vibe and the energy of live music. But the ska scene, at least in New York and the East Coast in general is like that of a huge family. You see it in the bands. How much they support one another. They are in the crowds for one another's shows. They are pulling each other up on stage. Smiles all around. But beyond that, it's in the crowds. It's in the fans. Most shows I go to, there is a lot of shoving. When someone wants to get by you in a packed club, they simply push through. It's just the way it is. Impersonal, and cold.

Last night on this boat, I found myself on the sidelines for much of the show, in a direct line between the front door and back doors of the second level of the boat. This simply meant that there was a constant line of people coming through. There were not shoves though. When someone needed to get by, there was a hand on your back or your shoulder to let you know they were there, and an excuse me or a "sorry!" with a smile as they went through. When the boat would tip and someone would bump into you or grab at your for support, there were just smiles and laughter between us. The ska scene is different. And I love it. And I love The Slackers. They gave an amazing show. I am beyond disappointed that I am presently sitting on my couch in pajamas and not back on that boat for the second night's festivities.

By the time I made it back to pick up my very expensively parked car (next time I will pay more attention) from a very jovial attendant (I did appreciate that) I was on my way home. Still smiling. Eagerly awaiting my interviews with this incredible band of scene pioneers. Reminded of the many reasons this music moves me, this scene helped define me, and why so much of my heart is on that dance floor.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Skankin' In The Tri-State Part 4 - Steve Jackson from The Pietasters

Steve Jackson is one of the nicest people I have gotten to meet in this journey called life, and that is the truth. Not only did he take my months of pestering him for an interview for this series with a smile, he was also the first ever phone interview that I did on my weekly radio show. He took time out of his Super Bowl Sunday to take questions from some DJ he never met about goofy shit like where the name "Pietasters" came from and was a gracious gentleman the whole time.



Enter my friend Rob Alapick again. (keeps nosing his way into my blogs) Since he had been nice enough to set up my interview with Steve, I was excited to finally get to thank Mr. Jackson in person at Rob's house deep in the weirds of Pennsylvania when the Pietasters were playing a show with Hub City Stompers and Rudie Crew. I made my way all the way out to his house, which quickly filled with band members, friends, and the like. Steve Jackson shook my hand and was perfectly ready and willing to embark on an interview with yours truly...but it was sound check time...and away everyone went. I took ill that night and missed the show.

This August however, that won't be happening. The Pietasters will be taking to the high seas (or the East River) on August 10th for the Rocks Off Concert Cruise Aboard the Half Moon. Ska, booze, and boats. What could possibly be better than that? I will be there. You can buy me a cocktail.

You can be there too! Buy tickets here!

Founded in Washington DC in 1990 by Steve Jackson, The Pietasters debuted their first self-titled album on Moon Ska Records in 1993 after opening for British ska legends, Bad Manners. Following that were releases on Hellcat, Fueled By Ramen, and Indication Records. It's wonderful to say that here we are, 20 years after that first release, and the Pietasters are still going. Still bringing people to the dance floor, still bringing their brand of ska around the country and beyond, and still gracious enough to humor this girl's love of ska music, the local scene, and giving me an interview. I love The Pietasters. I listen to Girl Take It Easy whenever I am sad. Night Before reminds me of being 18. The whole Oolooloo album is ingrained in my soul. This was, to say the least, quite an honor for me.

Steve Jackson awesomely took some time out to answer some questions for me about the scene, the band, and where it's all headed:

Where do you think ska music is now as compared to 10, 15 or 20  
years ago?

In my opinion, Ska is alive and well, having survived the late 90s marketing feeding frenzy that introduced the mainstream American to this form of music.

20 years ago ska was a little known sub-genre of reggae music.  The first bands I was familiar with were the Two-Tone bands from the UK such as Bad Manners, The Specials, Madness, etc.  Here on the east coast we were lucky to have The Toasters, The Bosstones, The Scofflaws, NY Citizens perform live.  Otherwise it was just DJs spinning tunes for the 25 people in DC who liked that sort of music. In DC the punk and ska scenes mixed well.  DC is a pretty small town when you get down to the local music scene so even if you didn't like HarDCore or ska you'd still go to bar nights or shows with friends because that was all there was to do.

15 years ago was the high water mark for ska music in the mainstream. Bosstones, No Doubt, Sublime and others were selling a lot of albums to a lot of people who, five years earlier, had no idea about this strange subculture.  It was also a time when anyone with a horn or who was in marching band thought they could start a ska band.  We mix a variety of styles into our interpretation of ska, but we tried(try) to be sensitive to where the music came from and what we listened to while growing up.  While there were some successful marriages of punk and ska, there was a lot of crap music around at the time masquerading as ska.

10 years ago the ska ship had sailed.  The record labels had sucked the life out of the ska genre and their marketers had moved on to other styles of music like garage and the umpteenth coming of punk. The best part was that some good bands, the Slackers for example, had survived the successes and excesses of the late 90s.  The carnival ska bands had graduated from high school and moved on to other interests. 
I'm happy to report that there are some great new bands out there  playing their take on ska. The Snails (Philly), The Shifters (DC), The Pressure (Pitt) are but a few of the young bands playing a good version of this style of music today.

What are the biggest changes you have seen since you started?

See above!  Ha ha.  Also, the changes the music industry has seen are pretty amazing.  When we started playing, people would mail cassette mixes to each other.  I had to wait for a month for some fanzine in CA to send me a hand labelled cassette with Hepcat on it.  That is probably the biggest change. But some things remain the same. We still play with local bands who rock out covers of Little Bitch or Skinhead Girl. Timeless songs!

What has been the highlight of your time with the Pietasters?

Getting to play with so many bands that we grew up with, looked up to would have to be the highlight for me.  From The Bosstones, to Joe Strummer, to James Brown, to Ice T, Reverend Horton Heat, Bouncing Souls, Ramones, Chuck Brown, Dave Grohl, Henry Rollins, Skatalites, Toots and the Maytals, Symarip, The Business, and on and on.

Where do you think ska music is headed now?

I don't know.  It'll be interesting to see how the next wave of  
musicians interpret this style of music.  From the beginning, ska was about sharing ideas and pieces of songs. It has always been  
evolving. And even though it's got that damn guitar upbeat it's  
amazing how different the various waves and bands sound.

What do the pietasters have going on for the summer?

We just got back from playing a bunch of beach shows.  That's always a nice part of summer touring.  We're looking forward to playing a fest in NC with The CroMags (Age of Quarrel is a perfect album!), then we head to British Columbia for the Victoria Ska Fest.  We do our annual NYC Boat cruise on Aug 10 (see you there).  We've got a pretty busy summer.  Mixed in with all of these fun shows we're working on some recording.  It's fantastic how much the cost of recording has come down.  So, look forward to some pie-songs in the near future.

See me there, you will, Mr. Jackson. I will be on the boat with my dancing shoes on. Wait...can you dance on a boat?

Of course you can.

Tickets for the NYC Cruise HERE

More information on Victoria Ska Fest HERE

More PIETASTERS goodness HERE


Skankin' In The Tri State Part 3 - Bucket from The Toasters

The Toasters have a special place in my heart. Many nights in the summer days of my late teens were spent flying around with the windows down and Dub 56 blaring from the speakers (...before you ask, purists...BOTH versions). They were partially responsible for pulling me into the wonderful world of third-wave ska  in the NY scene in the first place. Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down has been one of my unofficial theme songs on an average weekday at work for many years. It's also played quite often in my house, and is one of the most dancable songs I know with it's infectious beat. They are East Coast ska scene pioneers and have influenced and help launch a mastery of other bands in their wake. 


Robert Hingley, better and most affectionately known as Bucket to most of us, started the band in New York in 1981 while working at a comic book store. That was long before the ska sound had caught on here in the states the way it has today. The band released albums through the end of the nineties, into the new millennium and continues to tour and play shows to this day, though Bucket remains the only original member. Still, that is a 30 year ska career. Pretty freaking incredible for any musician...let alone a genre of music that is not exactly acknowledged by the mainstream.


He was also the mastermind behind the legendary Moon Ska Records up to 2000 when it disbanded after well over a million and a half copies from The Toasters and other amazing artists in the scene. In 2002, he launched Megalith Records which continues to put out recordings from bands such as the Hub City Stompers, Rudie Crew, Los Skarnales, Victor Rice, and Deals Gone Bad...just to name a few. There are a LOT. It's one thing to be a musician. It's something else entirely to help launch other bands who aspire to walk the roads you have. To call Bucket a legend in the scene is not credit enough for what he has done and what his music has meant to so many people who call the weird and wonderful world of ska music "home".






Bucket was nice enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for the series:




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

I bought my first Ska record in 1964 when I returned to the UK from Africa. That was My Boy Lollipop by Millie Small. I still have that 7". It's as thick as a dinner plate. In England in the late sixties there was a ton of Ska music on the charts and in the discos. From there it was an easy progression through the trojan Explosion to 2-tone. That's what really got me hooked.

2) Who have been your most prominent influences?

Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly------

3) What is your best memory from being a part of the NYC Ska Scene?

Probably putting out the NY Beat compilation in 1986. That was a time when all the bands worked together towards a common goal. We could use some more of that now...

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

Touring in Europe, Australia, China, Japan. Fall and winter tours in the USA. Next year Mexico, Brazil, Russia/Siberia, lots of gigs. As far as music is concerned we are tracking a new 7 inch in Boston next week. 

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

Not in a very good direction. There isn't a regular gig since the Knitting Factory closed. The bands need to get together and make something happen in Manhattan as the Brooklyn-centric scene just isn't cutting it.

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

Going to Australia. It's the only continent that I haven't been to. I probably won't want to come back. I am also working on a beer festival BREWDOWN with Kevin Lyman. That is going to be a lot of fun.




It;s always fascinating to me to hear from an artist what they think about the scene that they helped to create and define as to where it is headed. It's why it remains a consistent question as I request (pester) folks for interviews and write these pieces on this scene. Ska music has grown and evolved quite a bit in the last 50 years, and each location within the music itself has created it's own sound...it's own vibe...it's own separate definition of ska music. Be it fused with other genres...a punk rock sound, a dancehall sound, rocksteady, straight reggae. It is all like a wonderful recipe that brings us to the clubs, to the dance floors. You can hear NY Ska in the Toasters. Buckets voice is a beacon to the scene. To hear Bucket himself say that the scene needs to come together, dammit...we NEED to come together!


If the younger bands in the tri-state area have anything to do with it, I think Bucket will be damn proud. 


I would be happy for another 30 years of Toasters shows. I will still be dragging my tush to the floor. I will still be singing along with I Wasn't Going To Call You Anyway in my car as I sit in North Jersey traffic, dreaming of better times had at a ska show. The scene needs more like the Toasters. The industry needs more like Bucket.