Interview: Ska bands gear up to come to Penn Festival

Ealing Times: The Selecter The Selecter

PENN Festival is now in its third year. Following the gallons of rain and mud last year organisers are hoping for a drier affair at this month's event, which will see a host of established bands and new music coming to the two stages. For ska fans there is plenty to see including The Beat, The Selecter and Neville Staple. Pauline Black from The Selecter talked to Freetime about her 33 year career, followed by a brief chat with Neville Staple from The Specials.

Pauline Black, 59, first hit the music scene in 1979 with The Selecter. They were part of the English 2 Tone ska revival of the late 1970s and had hits such as On My Radio and Too Much Pressure.

The band has come and gone over the years but it is very much back at the moment and will be entertaining crowds at Penn Festival.

Speaking from her home in Coventry she said: "I like family friendly things which are well organised and the scenery is pretty."

The Selecter formed again a couple of years ago with Pauline and Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson.

They decided to write new material, which was received well and they have just come back from America and in October will be supporting Public Image Ltd on their UK tour.

Pauline said: "We are just enjoying ourselves over the summer, doing festivals if we get asked and if we want to play at.

"Put it this way- I don't like standing up to my knees in mud or having to don wellies."

Ska originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and combines a mix of music genres. Ska gigs are known to be very energetic with lots of jumping around to the uplifting music.

Pauline said: "We do keep ourselves really fit. There is an expectation that comes with going to a 2 tone gig.

"Anybody who plays this kind of gig- it is dance music and very energetic.

"Standing there in your cardi and slippers isn't really our thing.

"I enjoy keeping fit- I will not go quietly."

As well as currently writing a novel called The Last Supper (Pauline has got to about 76, 000 words at the moment) she has been busy writing new music too.

She said: "Over the past couple of years we have written two new albums. They have been very well received.

"It kind of leads onto other things. People can look at the band in a new way- it is not just about all the older stuff. Of course we are very proud of the old hits too."

And she said it is, of course, very different to the early days when she started.

She said: "You have got to remember we were doing most of the years without the likes of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

"Often you get back from a gig and it is all over Facebook before you get home.

"I find it extraordinary. In our day you would have to wait for NME to come out and even then you might not be in it.

"Everybody is a reviewer these days."

And she said it is good to see a resurgence of reggae arts from the late 70s to the early 80s, and ska music still seems to be doing well.

Pauline said: "I think they still think ska music and 2 tone music is cool enough to like. It is kind of underground, it is dance and so it can be related to in that way.

"It goes with a cool fashion- obviously Fred Perry- it has got a coolness factor to it."

So what has been her favourite performance lately: She said: "Certainly going out in April; to do Coachella festival was absolutely fantastic. Just to be asked to do it was great. It is so brilliantly organised and there is so much to see. The audience were really nice and reviewed really well. It was just a great experience.

"I really didn't think in my late 50s I would be having such an experience."

And in the relatively smallish city of Coventry she often bumps into Neville Staple, a singer for the two-tone ska band, The Specials.

He will also be performing at Penn and I spoke to him while he was recording his new album.

I asked if he had done Penn Festival before. He said: "I have done so many festivals I can't remember. I can't wait to fill the rest of the year up with festivals. "I love them. There is a large diversity of people with all different types of music.

"People can see me on my own- judge for themselves whether I am going to be any good or not.

"They can enjoy themselves as I enjoy myself on stage. It is interpreted across to them."

He said his music is nothing like The Specials and for him it is all about entertaining people.

What does he think about the ska scene in the UK? He said: "It is picking back up. The younger generation seem to be getting more into it."

Penn Festival is at The Big Park, Horsemoor Lane, Penn Street on July 20 and 21. Nick Heyward, Black Box and The Beat perform will also perform, as well as many other bands. T

ickets range from £29 for day tickets to £54 for a weekend ticket. The shops selling the tickets, with no booking fees, are: Ruby Moon,63 Castle Street, High Wycombe; Penn: Londis, School Road (opposite Duck Pond); Old Beaconsfield: Rickys News, 71 Wycombe End; Amersham: The Record Shop, 5 Woodside Road; Cookham: Station Hill Deli, 1 Station Hill. For more details go to www.pennfestival.com

For more leisure stories including what's on, gigs and food reviews click here.

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