“THE SKATALITES are heralding their return to Australia with the celebration of their 50th anniversary. It’s rare that a band can boast of this milestone achievement but THE SKATALITES are more than a band; they are an institution, made up of a collective of some of Jamaica’s finest musicians who not only defined the sound of ska in the 50’s and 60’s but influenced and inspired a number of generations and bands both on their own turf and around the world.”
We had massive problems doing this interview, the phone reception where Ken was in South America was not the best and he was traveling in a car. So the interview is a little distorted and his answers sometimes difficult to understand.
Hi Ken, how are you doing? Great How are you? Not bad thanks
Fifty years in the music business is a long time, I was going to ask….the cliché question…. where do artists still find the motivation to make music and perform as long as that but I am going to ask you how your partners still allow you to keep going?
(Huge connection problems here ) Had to repeat the last part 3 times.)
Ken answered what he though first I was asked for the first question. We get our energy from the crowd are you are it is mutually reciprocating process are all sometimes with the scheduling and the travelling it’s tiring but when we get up there and we play our music are you, we get the energy from the crowd. People just live music so much you know.
But what I was actually asking is how your partners or wives let you keep letting your tour.
Oh! hahaha! Great question! (Laughing) Well that’s very difficult to answer. It takes a very special person for that. It would be like having a partner in the military, when people were away for extended periods of time. But now we have the technology, video chats and all kind of stuff it’s better. Once in awhile we bring our wives. Typically there be someone that comes along with us, who wants to travel with us. Some of the wifes say are you going to that country, Australia I, Wanna come along! But in reality they have to deal with a schedule that we have when sometimes we play it three in the morning and we have to take a flight out of that time before we go to bed. We arrived in the city and we have to try and sleep in the day time so it doesn’t work out for me personally. Typically the people that come with us feel sorry that they did because it is not a vacation. People say you are going on tour and are you going to this country and that country. We say to people usually come along with us and see what it’s like to change hotel rooms 40 times in a row and see how many clean clothes you have at end of the tour.( Laughing) Good One!
There are not many bands that can claim that they have been together for 50 years…. In fact I can’t think of one…. For all the young Aussie bands here what advice can you give to them that you have learnt?
Well it has a lot to do with liking this lifestyle. We don’t know of any other way of life. We were talking about this last night, I went touring with band for the last 26 years, I quit my day job in 1988 that the time I returned to the band, so it is hard for me to look back for a normal life. So I guess that they definitely need motivation. I guess that the young bands have to have a love of the music.
Tell us about South America where you are now.
Well right now we could come back here in three months and played the same shows, the crowd is that enthusiastic, it is one of our most enthusiastic audiences. They expect us at least once a year,, and that’s not enough for some people who comment on our Facebook page. “Like when are you coming back”, and for us it’s hard to fit it all in. There was a problem with our Facebook page a few years ago we had to restart it, we have almost 200,000 likes again and that’s just from the small amount of time. So as I said before every country that we go to we make new fans and new friends and we look forward to going back to our friends again.
Tell us about being the “God Father of Ska”
Well l there is a huge amount of respect for us with so many other bands. We are finding that there are so many bands fighting over who wants to support us on this 50th anniversary tour. Which is quite funny. There are so many bands out there now that play ska music because they can’t play regular jazz. It’s really hard to try and make a living as a jazz player. There is no market for any more. So a lot of these bands are frustrated jazz musicians and they come out and play ska. At least this way they can come out and play the instrument that they want to play and this type of music is so much more enthusiastic than jazz.
Your music has been said to be very therapeutic for many people all over the world. I usually listen to Reel Big Fish and Less than Jake, do you think that these bands would not exist if was not for your band?
Oh for sure, you personally that stuff is not my cup of tea, I would hardly describe that as relaxing. (Laughing) Each to its own! (Laughing) I don’t like it when the bands play the music to fast. It just changes the whole vibe. It changes the whole aspects of it. I like the slower SKA because it has swing and soul. You can still dance to partner with that. The faster music like less than Jake, I just don’t particularly enjoy that. Each to its own! But my mum does her aerobics to the album called African roots, which is a Skatalites record that was released in the 70s and it’s mostly reggae and it is a perfect tempo to do her aerobics to. Reggae in general has so many different aspects.
So I guess I need to say thanks heaps for that, as the live shows I have seen with them are insane and amongst my favourite shows of all time. . as do my two teenagers! (laughing)
So are there any other bands that you think that other newest sound of Ska?
Oh very much, there is a few bands in every country. In South America, where we go every year there is a band called Santiago Downbeat , they are 12 piece band and now so enthusiastic about Ska. They are so good on stage they dress up in suits and are really great musically. They are a bunch of kids that went to music school together. This is a band that they started as she students but now they have graduated, they have just done their first tour of Europe. It is amazing that they could do that to come up with the funds to fly 12 people and all their equipment to Europe. They had to of have two vans to get the equipment everywhere, there would have had to have a huge amount of hotel rooms. It’s tough out there. I wish them all the best, I am a huge fan of them, they are inspiring to us because they have taken SKA to another level too. There are a lot of other bands out there doing this.
At this point I can not work out what Ken said as the line went static and then we were cut off. I rang back, and Ken apologised, but it was in South America where reception is not the best!
Are the crowds so far on your tour been a younger crowd or an older crowd reliving the concerts of their youth?
Um I am not sure if I really understood the question but typically the audiences are all different ages. Some people came to our concerts not knowing what music was like that it’s hard for anybody to listen to our music without starting to dance.
Do you have meet and greets after the show? I am not sure if that’s being officially scheduled but typically we try and mingle, we go up to where we sell Merch and hang out there and sign autographs. We are a friendly group we are not stuffy and hide from our fans.
Are you taking any time to relax down here? See some sights? We have a festival on 13 December than on the 14th we have a day off and then the 15th is actually my birthday, and the 16th is a day off. I was hoping that we could go to Alice Springs. That is the place of the strongly that I would like to see the most. I am not sure what we’re going to do but I’m definitely looking forward to my days off.
This part is inaudible, but he did say he wanted to see Koala Bear’s.
We did see some wallabies on the side of the road and it was funny because we thought our people waiting for a bus. (Laughing) I asked my friend what are those people waiting for and I said no there wallabies and I was like WHAT???
We had a chat then about how far Uluru is from Alice Springs and I gave him some touristy advice. Also about Koala’s not being bears.
I was born in the 70’s so it is an honor to interview someone as experienced as you in the music industry. Really appreciate you taking the time to have a chat and I wish you all the best for the tour, and I look forward to meeting you in Melbourne. Thank you for your time Ken.
Yeah come up and say Hi, I would love to meet you.
Wait where are you exactly? Melbourne. Great there are a few gigs there.
Great Looking forward to meeting you.
Australian and New Zealand Tour December 2014
Friday 5th – Auckland – Kings Arms
Saturday 6th – Wellington – Bodega
Sunday 7th – Christchurch – Churchills
Wednesday 10th – Adelaide – The Gov
Thursday 11th – Brisbane – The Zoo
Friday 12th – Sydney – The Basement
Saturday 13th – Meredith Music Festival
Wednesday 17th – Melbourne – Caravan Club
Thursday 18th – Melbourne – Corner Hotel
Friday 19th – Sydney – Factory Theatre