ERIN BARDWELL COLLECTIVE
1. You have founded your own record label, and have released a cd (erin bardwell collective). What can we expect as second release? Will it be all ska and reggae in the future?
The second Pop-A-Top release will either be a Dub & Version album of The E B Collective (produced by Johnny Rench) or the new CD by Recoldo Fleming recorded in Kingston Jamaica.
At the moment the idea is to keep the label reggae and ska influenced and related. But we are trying to avoid the modern ska sound because I feel there are many labels already around catering for this market. We are going for more of a rocksteady / dub / blue beat styled sound.
2. There seems to be a crowd for tribute bands in England. Why did you decide to do the Specials cover band ? And why do you have never toured in Europe?
Yes tribute bands of all kinds are still very popular in the UK. There is a huge audience for this type of entertainment. But at the same time there is a reaction against it, because people tend to look for something more exciting, something fresh, something original, just something more alternative. So the bands around at the moment doing their own thing are supported well too.
I just had this passion to start a Specials tribute band (no-one was doing one at the time – the late 1990’s.) Not just a band doing Specials covers, but the proper live thing, a full 7 piece plus two horns for the visual effect. Nine guys with the write look. As well as the clothes it was important to get the instruments right. The Vox organ, the light coloured Telecaster, the Pearl drum kit, being in the right stage positions, blacking out my teeth to look more like Jerry Dammers. Having fun with it too. Tribute bands who overlook their make of instruments can fall short of completion, as it all ads to the look and the sound. The Ludwig Beatles had a left handed Paul McCartney look-a-like playing a ‘Hofner Violin’ bass guitar. You have stuff like that to live up to. Just sounding authentic is not enough. Attention to detail is important, but too intense and came with its limitations, so it was probably inevitable I left after 3 years.
One of the best bunches of people I have ever been in a band with. So glad I did it. I wanted it to be a proper tribute, something that I would have paid to see if I had been in the audience. We also jumped into a van and travelled up and down the country on tour, staying in hotels and stuff, which was brilliant fun. Something I wished The Skanxters had done, but we didn’t get the chance.
Background – We hired a black and white TV for the first time in 1979 so I got to see The Specials on programmes like Top Of The Pops. When the 2-Tone tour came to Swindon, my dad and his mate put up some posters round town in exchange for a couple of free tickets for the gig. I was sure I was coming along to the show too, until my mum introduced me to my baby sitter. I was so disappointed, but I was too young to go. Their debut LP quickly found its way into our record collection, and I eventually managed to see the band live in 1980 when I was just 7 years old. They changed my life forever. They encouraged my interest in West Indian music in general, and sent me in a positive, decisive direction when it came to fashion and thinking. So I guess I have The Specials to thank for that.
Our name had a double meaning. It was the title of their second album and we were doing “more” of the Specials’ songs (hoping to continue the spirit of the music for a little while longer.) But you probably realise this I’m sure!
We didn’t tour in Europe because we didn’t know the right promoters. It was never offered to us. No body contacted us about playing Europe. We were very busy in the UK when I was in it, so we didn’t get much time to think about touring abroad. Cyprus almost happened but it fell through. By the time we’d built up our name I had left anyway. They are still going and say they would love to play Europe.
3. Tell us more about The Skanxters. As far as I know you had a demo tape out. Have you had released anything else?
The Skanxters were together for about eight years. We started about 1990/91 time through to 1998/99. We released a demo tape, a 12” vinyl EP and a CD album. We received radio airplay, got some good press coverage and had a faithful live gig following around the UK. The Skanxters sound changed and matured over the years due to hard work and healthy line-up changes. We tried to concentrate on our own songs and pushed our original tunes, but also played quite a few cover versions at the live shows. I suppose our sound at the time was a poppy take on the 80’s 2-Tone style with elements of 60’s/70’s ska and reggae creeping in. This created a modern 90’s ska sound and scene, which many other bands were part of at the time. The Skanxters existed in that era somewhere in between the late ‘80’s ska revival and the late ‘90’s ska/punk boom.
For further information on The Skanxters there is a history booklet available from email@example.com simply entitled “History of The Skanxters”.
JAN 1993 – 'Spark In The Dark' (cassette/demo) 250 copies pressed.
Day Like Today/King Arthur/ Whose Afraid Of The Dark/.
People May Think. Cat.no.SKANX1
MAR 1994 – 'Knights On The Run' (12" vinyl E.P.) 926 copies pressed.
King Arthur/Fat and Ugly/Stupid Place To Be/Shantyville.
FEB 1998 – 'Call It A Crime' (C.D.album) 500 copies pressed.
Go Crazy/All The Wrong Things/Segregation/
Susan Never Never Wrong/ U31/Names and Fools/
I'll Never Know/Just Another Nightmare/Natty Dread/Call It A Crime.
July 1995 – Stay Sharp vol. 2 (Step One). Song: Stupid Place To Be. cat.no.STEPCD063
Feb 1996 – The Gangsters Of Ska (Step One). Song: Fat And Ugly. cat.no.STEPCD071
April 1998 – A Full English Breakfast (T-Leaf). Song: Just Another Nightmare. Cat.no.TLCD299
Jan 1999 – Mad Dogs And Englishmen( Do The Dog). Song: I'll Never Know. Cat.no.?
4. You did a tour in the Caribbean with the Unity reggae band back in '99. Tell us more about the band. Have you played the holiday resorts?
In late 1998 early 1999 Recoldo Fleming formed a spin off band from The Skanxters with Erin Bardwell and Andy Paton. Ex- Skanxters bass player Dean Sartain and ex Roundabout drummer/percussionist Matty Bane were added to the line-up. Lots of new original reggae tunes were written and rehearsed. Some UK shows were played (Feb-Mar ’99) under the name of Unity in preparation for a Caribbean tour. We were billed as “The UK Skanxters” when we arrived in the West Indies (April ’99) because The Skanxters CD had received airplay there, so it made sense to add some old Skanxters songs to the set and it also meant that more people would know who we were. We played some shows on the Island of Anguilla in the Eastern Caribbean in beach bars to locals and American tourists. After 2 weeks we returned back to England to play one more home concert (May ’99). Then we disbanded, so that myself, Matty & Dean could concentrate on the Specials tribute band idea. Unity was always going to be a “project” and not an ongoing band.
5. You have also started your own sound system called "Shocks of Mighty". You have a good Toaster? And what is your current top ten with the sound system?
Yes, our toaster is Nevil Banton, who has been on the music scene since the 1980’s. He was born in 1966 – the transitional year between ska and rocksteady.
Current Top 10
Jesse James – Laurel Aitken
Jamaican Ska – Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
I’m Still In Love (12” version) – Marcia Aitken & Trinity
Sit & Wonder – Prince Buster
Burning Bush – The Aggrolites
Mix Up Girl – The Creations
Borderline Dub (Ali Baba Version) – King Tubby
Girl Town Ska – Baba Brooks
Jack The Ripper – Harry J
Annie Pama – The Bunny Lee Allstars
6. Your current band is The Erin Bardwell Collective. What is the idea behind the band?
By 2001 I was writing songs again and the need to do original material became priority number one. Come September of the same year the recording sessions had started. The recordings were based around having musicians I had met over the years on my songs. I also teamed up with other songwriters to come up with some ideas and put their tunes together to make up a reggae album. It ended up being a huge collective and I ended up producing it all in a way I thought sounded good. The idea of a record label also progressed at this time. By 2003 an album of 13 songs was ready to release. Soon after a live line up version of The EB Collective emerged and we played some UK gigs in 2004.
7. What is coming in the future?
Just concentrating on getting some new releases out on Pop-A-Top as soon as possible.
Organise some more gigs.
I am currently writing some more new songs for a Volume 2 album.
Get the two pop videos finished.
8. The Collective has appeared at tv and you have done a video. Do you think it will be played? Are there any tv stations interested in ska & reggae bands?
Yes, The EB Collective appeared on ITV in the UK in June 2004. We backed Recoldo Fleming singing his song Hypocrite which is a song from his new CD which is out soon. They filmed a gig and they also did an interview with myself and it was good exposure.
There are two pop videos being worked on but they are not finished yet.
Some TV stations and TV shows will feature ska and reggae bands. But there are no specific programmes dedicated to that genre. Ska and reggae is generally much more accepted nowadays in the music world. So television reflects that trend. With programmes like BBC2’s “Later with Jools Holland” the future looks good. In the past couple of years they have featured people like Toots & The Maytals, Desmond Dekker, Prince Buster, Madness, Georgie Fame and Jimmy Cliff.
UK radio shows are far more ska friendly than the TV networks.