We‘ve been working on bringing you this issue for quite some time, and we’re stoked that it’s finally here! A little while back, Dan Tope got to meet with the man himself… The Boss… Mr. Symarip… Roy Ellis!!! It truly is an honor to have him grace the cover of our zine!
So, it’s summertime. The beer flows like wine. Perfect time for moonstompin’ I must say. Enjoy this issue that touches on the other side of beloved subculture… reggae, ska, and soul.
Life is good! Let’s catch up with Esperanza, The Fuss, So Long Liberty, and Pickabar.
On The Nod Radio Show w/ Dave Coop. THE FIRST NAME IN PUNK ROCK RADIO! Dave spins the best in old school and modern punk, Bruja gets the best interviews around in our scene, and Smash The Discos brings a 30 min. STREET ROCK BLOCK. Join us on our two hour show brought to you by Los Anarchy Radio on the YORADIO network. “Like” us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/onthenodradio/ for show times. Download the free YORADIO app from your playstore, or visit www.yoradio.com and click on Los Anarchy Radio!
And never fear. If ya miss the show and need a way to kill 30 minutes, you can catch prior segments of Smash The Discos STREET ROCK BLOCK at https://m.mixcloud.com/smashthediscos/smash-the-discos-street-rock-block-at-on-the-nod-radio/.
Interview By: Dan Tope
The Boss is back! That’s right. Mr. Roy Ellis, aka Mr. Symarip, still stomping after all these years. With an extensive discography, it is hard to summarize just what an impact he has had on the music scene. He started off as the singer of the Pyramids, then Symarip, a solo career as Roy Ellis, and then as Mr. Symarip. He has been brining rhythm to the world for almost half a century. Symarip claims the title of the first skinhead reggae band, and original moon stompers. He’s been on top of the music charts, and toured all over the world. I am completely honored to have had the opportunity to do this interview, so here he is, the often imitated, but never duplicated, the boss skinhead himself: Roy Ellis
How did you first get involved in playing music?
Roy: Already brilliant as a ten-years old solo singer in the Children -Gospel choir in the Baptist Church in Kingston Jamaica. After coming to England at 14 years old, I still wanted to sing, so I met a guy called Sonny Burke in 1965 who was looking for young talent. I’ve written 2 songs, one is called “Another Man”, and other “Mr. Wang” instrumental, and from there on my music career takes off up to this day and that’s how it was!!
I have heard rumors that the name Symarip is a word play on name The Pyramids, but what is the real story behind the name Symarip? And how many names has the band had over the years?
Roy: The real story behind that, when we recorded “Skinhead Moonstomp” as Pyramids, we were still under contract with President Records, so we couldn’t used the name Pyramids. We came up with the idea to spell the name Pyramids backward without the D and it pronounced Symarip. We saw that it fits in well, so we used it, and that’s how the name Symarip was born!! You asked about the deferent names. Well, the first name of the band was called The Bees, then Pyramids, then Zubaba, and all the other names was all alias names from different record company to rip you off. That’s what they do!!!
[Zubaba, one of the names used by the band also worldwide known as Symarip, playing an instrumental tune on Sidney Poitier’s film ‘A Warm December’.]
Being the first skinhead reggae band, what were some of your major influences?
Roy: It’s so very hard to describe. I love music, and there are so many singers that influences me. One is James Brown. Two is Ray Charles, etc. But, I must say there’re two Trombone players from Jamaica, the late Don Drummond and Rico Rodriquez. They got me playing the Trombone.
Of course I love the classics, but I think my personal favorite song of yours is “Come On And Dance With Me”, but what is your favorite song to play?
Roy: I have no favorite songs. They are all my favorite because I wrote them all, and that’s all I can say!!
You have been playing iconic music for over 47 years now. Who are some of your favorite artists you have been able to share the stage with?
Roy: It’s very difficult to say. I love all artists because you can always learn something from all of them. But in the 70s, up the 90`s, I’ve share the stage Ben E. King, Percy Sledge, Johnney Nash, The Who, Cèline Dion, Phil Collins, Tina Turner, Jimmy Cliff, Anastacia, and many of the Swiss and Germany artists.
Congratulations on “Skinhead Moonstomp” being released 8 times in 47 years and selling over a million copies! That is quite an achievement! What would you consider your crowning achievement in your musical career?
Roy: Good question! The only thing I have achieved in my musical career is my name!! The name Roy Ellis, aka Mr. Symarip, is known all over the world. I got some chicken feed to pay my bills. Sorry to put it like this, but it is like this up til this day!! Eh, eh, eh, rip off from left to right.
What are your thoughts about the reggae music culture of today?
Roy: My answer to this question is, “As long I live the subculture, Jamaican Music, or Skinhead Reggae, will never die!”
Thank you so much for your time. Do you have any final words for our readers? What can we expect from you in the future?
Roy: The final words I’ve got say, is to keep on stomping. Wait for the new recording of Skinhead Moon Stomp. If all goes well with my health, etc., a new album will be out in 2018, so look out for it.
Thank you for all your questions.
Roy Ellis aka Mr. Symarp Jah Bless!!
Interview by: Dan Tope
Esperanza are from Glasgow, Scotland, and will keep you dancing to the beat. This 9-piece ska ensemble keeps the dance floor moving with catchy riffs and a full horn section. Their driving bass lines keep flowing as the guitar picks up, and horns kick in. Then, you can sing along to the lyrics. This band is full of energy, and during my brief stay in Scotland they were highly recommended. So lace up your boots, let down your braces, and move your feet to the upbeat sounds of Esperanza.
How did the band start, and who is in Esperanza?
Jason placed an advert on Gumtree at the same time Jake was forming a band with an old friend of his. Fate really! The current line up is : Jake – vocals, Rab – guitar/ vocals, Jason -drums, Jess – bass, John – keys, Fraser – trombone, Lynsey – alto sax, Brian – tenor sax, Reagin – trumpet Band started as an advert on Gumtree (I think)
How would you describe your sound, and what are some of your major influences?
Glasgow ska! We all have very different influences, so we like to think we have a pretty unique sound. Obviously, ska is the main sound, but there are bits of punk, reggae, indie, and some quite poppy riffs.
I have heard Esperanza referred to as the “Scottish Specials”. What do you think about that?
We have never consciously tried to imitate anyone, but we take that comment as a compliment. The Specials are one of the greatest bands of all time. They’ve had a huge influence on British music and British Ska. They’ve had a huge influence on all of us in different ways. We are not worthy to be compared to them, but if others think we are like them, then that’s very flattering indeed. At different times, we’ve had the privilege of supporting Jerry Dammers, (The Specials keyboard player and chief song writer), Terry Hall (The Specials vocalist), Roddie Radiation (The Specials lead guitarist), and Neville Staple (The Specials vocalist). So, The Specials have a very special place in our heart.
How has Esperanza evolved over the years both musically and as a band?
Personnel in the band had changed over time. For example, the current 4 piece brass section (trumpet, trombone, tenor sax and alto sax) is now bigger than ever. The current brass section is capable of producing a huge sound which is fantastic at live gigs. After many years, we now have the luxury of having regular band members, and others, who can step in when needed.
Musically, the band has developed. We’re still sticking to our Ska roots, but these days the beat can be a little funkier, punkier, or a bit more rocky at times. For example, during the chorus in “Between TheSheets“, rhythm switches between a regular off-beat skank to a straight 4-on-the-floor rock beat. “Glimmer”, which we frequently open with, is also quite rocky in places although it still keeps the off beat skank. Although individual members bring the initial song ideas to the band, it’s a full band effort to create the full sound. This could be why there is a such a variety to the sound.
“Pontiac Skank” and “One Man Down” are some of my favorite Esperanza songs. What are your favorite songs that you play, and why?
We have a lot of new material, so it’s great fun to play those songs as not everyone quite knows them yet. However, it is always a great feeling when people know the songs and sing along. There’s something very exciting about that, as there is such a variety in the songs it means that everybody, band members and followers, have a favourite.
How would you describe the music scene in Glasgow to those of us who have not yet experienced it?
There’s a vibrant ska scene in Glasgow, and in Scotland in general, which has been around for many years now. It survives thanks to the large number of people who love ska music and want to hear it live, the way it should be heard. Thankfully, there are many venues in Glasgow such as Rum Shack, McHuill’s, and Audio who want to put on live ska music.
What can we expect from Esperanza in the future?
Well, we’ve almost got an album’s worth of new songs, so we’ll be working on that. This year we have been out of Scotland more than any other year. Hopefully, we can keep building on that and maybe even travel further than England.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. Do you have any final words for the readers?
Keep on skanking. Keep it live.
Interview By: Dan Tope
The Fuss is Washington DC’s premiere ska and rocksteady act. From their extensive horn section, to the back up singers, this band is solid. They have a smooth take on early reggae that is the perfect match for fans of Trojan reggae and soul. With Mrs. Andi Leo on the lead vocals, just sit back and let the music take you back in a time machine to when music had soul and rhythms you can groove to. I am not able to get home to DC as much as I would like, but every time I do The Fuss is at the top of my list of who to see. But, in addition to excellent music, their dedication continues in setting up Blue Beat DC; a monthly reggae night, and what is quickly becoming the largest annual ska and reggae festival on the planet, the Super NoVa Ska Festival. If you haven’t heard of them, do yourself a favor and check them out.
So, let’s start off with how the band started. Who is in The Fuss?
Andi Leo – Lead Vocals, Michael Cuesta – Guitar, Julia Robey Christian – Vocals, Adam Grise – Trumpet, Megan Nortrup – Sax, Vocals, John Buck – Bass, Vocals Mike Corvasce – Keyboards, Keith Duncan – Trombone, Jeremy Caesar – Drums.
How would you describe your music and musical style?
Ska, Rocksteady, and early-Reggae paying homage to music of 1960’s Jamaica and the British Mod scene.
One of my favorite songs is “Struggle”. It just has a relaxed rocksteady sound and does a good job showcasing the horn section. What are some of your favorite songs, and why?
Struggle is from our first 6-song EP released in May 2016. Written in the style of 1960s shuffle, the song addresses the stress many of us face with stagnant wages in an increasingly complicated economy…ayyy. We’ll leave it at “You shouldn’t have to struggle, when you’re working so hard!” We’ve also been really focused on our new material. Over the last year we’ve written and recorded a new album’s worth of songs, which is on track to be released on Jump Up Records in June 2018. We’re really happy with the way the record turned out, and all the songs on it, so it’s hard to narrow down just a few tracks – a bit of a Sophie’s Choice. From the new album, “Old Testament” is a minor key instrumental that nicely shows off the horns. “Nothing You Need” is a personal take on modern day materialism. “Riot” is a politically-charged slap in the face that’s a blast to play live. Those are just a few, and we think the whole album is worth checking out. Hopefully everyone likes it as much as we liked making it!
☆☆☆Check out “Struggle”
CLICK HERE: https://thefussdc.bandcamp.com/track/struggle
The Fuss is from Washington DC. What can you share with us about your hometown?
A couple things. First, DC is ever-changing, yet we have a long prominent history with underground music. Whether it be Chuck Brown with Go-Go, Bad Brains, or Dischord with Punk and Hardcore, or The Pietasters who helped usher Ska into the mainstream during the 90s, you can’t really do anything in this area without having DC’s music history in the back of your head. Second, DC inhabitants are really transient by nature. People move here, and move away, all the time. The effects of this cannot be understated. From an audience perspective, there’s a level of instability here that doesn’t exist in other established cities and their respective music scenes. We have a ‘live in the moment’ kind of vibe which can be equally exhilarating and frightening at the same time. The benefit though, is with an influx of new people come with new perspectives and influences. Within our own band, we’ve reaped the rewards from members joining who are not native to the area.
You have a catchy sound and great rhythms. What are some of your major influences?
As a female-centric group playing in the style of 60s Jamaican music, we have to give credit to the females acts who broke barriers and paved the way back then. Specifically, Phyllis Dillon, The Gaylettes, Doreen Shaffer, and Millie Smalls are direct influences. Obviously, most Ska, Rocksteady, and Skinhead Reggae in general are styles of music we’re big fans of. However, we are a band of 9 individuals who bring their own personal influences to the table, so beyond the core of Ska and Reggae, you can sense other slight influences whether it be Motown, Punk, early-New Wave, or Jazz.
☆☆☆Check out “We’re Going Out☆☆☆
So, you are involved in setting up a monthly reggae night in DC called Blue Beat DC, and the Super NoVa Ska festival every year. Could you please tell readers about these events you’re involved in?
Blue Beat DC is our monthly Ska and Reggae community showcase held at the Wonderland Ballroom every third Thursday. We book local and touring bands with really no prerequisite except they have to play some form of Ska or Reggae. We usually charge 5-10 dollars at the door and give 100% of the door money to the bands. It’s a labor of love, but it’s a lot of fun, and BBDC has steadily become the focal point of DC Ska and Reggae. A great place for musicians and fans to co-mingle and network.
The quick history of Blue Beat DC goes back to Los Angeles in the 2000s. Chris Murray and Brian Dixon hosted a legendary, bi-weekly Ska and Reggae night known as the Blue Beat Lounge at the now defunct LA Knitting Factory where our trombone player, Keith Duncan, would regularly frequent, and eventually would play with some of his bands from San Diego. After moving to DC in the late 2000s (and also noting Dave Simon from Deals Gone Bad had created a Blue Beat Chicago), Duncan asked Chris Murray if he could co-opt the Blue Beat name to do something similar here in DC. Chris accepted and BBDC has been a DC staple for 8 years. SuperNova is a festival held in Fredericksburg, VA and run by Tim Receuver. We don’t have much to do with SuperNova except we played it last year, and did some help promoting the event at Blue Beat DC for this year’s festival. Duncan also helps DJ and MC the event.
What can we expect from The Fuss in the future?
We’re always up to something. The new album, Ourselves, will be out very soon (June 2018) on Jump Up Records, and we plan on touring and playing in support of it as much as possible upon release. We just finalized some weekend tour dates up the mid-atlantic/northern East Coast with our friends, The Freecoasters, which will kick off in June. A few of us have already started thinking about the next album, so we’ll naturally be writing new songs. You can always catch a few of us running the door and hanging out every third Thursday at Blue Beat.
Thank you for your time, do you have any last words for our readers?
Have a bitchin’ Summer. Thanks for having us in Smash the Discos!
Super NoVa Ska Fest: https://www.facebook.com/SuperNovaSka/
Blue Beat DC: https://www.facebook.com/BlueBeatDC/
AUDIOFIX by Dan Tope
Original ska, reggae, and soul music is still alive and kicking. I have been to reggae nights around the world, from Scotland, Hawaii, Korea, and all over the continental United States. Much like the dance halls of 1969, the “Selectors” or DJ’s who spin the vinyl and keep the dance floor bumping and the spirit alive, this issue’s Audio Fix is with record selector of Legion SPQR, and the singer /front man of 45 Adapters, DJ Pickabar. Here is a taste of what he is spinning.
There’s nothing like the feeling of hearing a perfect tune for the first time. It’s like a drug. You’re just a kid walking around thinking about video games, or candy, or whatever kids are into these days. Then you hear that first song that really speaks to you. It hits you like a lightning bolt and you just need to hear it over and over until you drive everyone around you crazy. Maybe it’s the wild vocals, or the sound of the buzzing guitar, or the thumping beat that hits you in the gut. But, that’s just the beginning. Once you’ve had that feeling you never stop chasing it. Eventually, you want to share that feeling with other people. They have to hear this song! Then one day you’re standing behind turntables and you drop the needle on a song you are in love with. Boom! The dancefloor explodes and there are girls in tight skirts shaking their butts and smiling ear-to-ear beaming in your direction. Now you’re really hooked. ~ Pickabar.
Selector Fix: Pickabar
It changes every day, so I’ll pick some of the tunes that killed at my last DJ gig at War At The Shore Festival in Asbury Park. In no particular order:
Sonny Warner – Bell Bottom Blue Jeans
Kind of a trivia song that always makes ears perks up. Luckily, it’s also a dance floor filler.
Robert Thomas – Salvation
A groove that literally cannot be denied. If you hear this tune and you don’t start moving, you may already be dead.
The Upsetters – Dry Acid
Lee Perry is my favorite all time musician. I could have listed a hundred Upsetter tunes.
The Ethiopians – Everything Crash
The haunting vocal harmonies that The Ethiopians are known for on full display. Perfect tune to cool down the crowd a bit after a bunch of uptempo songs. You’ve got to let the dancers breathe a little bit.
Maytones – Loving Reggae
Just a great, great tune that’s great for bridging between soul and reggae sets. I usually follow this up with the Maytones “Loving Reggae” which is a reggae version of the same tune. That Maytones song was probably the first skinhead reggae song I fell in love with.
Jackie Edwards – My Love And I
Pickabar (Legion SPQR)
Interview By: Dan Tope
So Long Liberty is one of my favorite newer ska bands. They have a great energy, and they are solid guys to boot. They have a fresh take on the classic early two-tone ska sound, with upbeat rhythms and slight punk rock edge. Although a relatively new band, the members are long time veterans of the music scene and show no signs of stopping. Although I don’t get out as much as I want to anymore, it is always a treat to get to catch them live.
Lets start off with who is in the band, and what other bands have you all played in?
The band is Joe Nettleton on keyboard, Tom Fay on drums, Pete Kwiecinski on bass, and Shane Alsop on Guitar and vocals. Pete and Tom used to play together in a punk band called The Distributors. Joe has been in a ton of bands, but most recently he was the drummer for a great CT. punk band called Blastmat. Joe is also the longtime drummer for Forced Reality. Shane was the guitarist in the ska bands Flip YA For Real, and Distance No Object.
The band started off as the Excitement Gang and slowly evolved into So Long Liberty. Can you tell us a little about the Excitement Gang and the transition to So Long Liberty?
The Excitement Gang was something new for me. I had never sang in my other bands (not even on backing vocals) and I wanted to get free of relying on other people to make the songs happen the way I was envisioning them. I had no idea what my voice was, or if I could even write lyrics to the songs I was writing. So, I started a new band with people I didn’t know to try it out. My plan was always to be a trio. Anyone that has ever been in a band knows that the less people in the band, the easier everything is. But, after writing and developing our style, I started to realize that we needed something else to fill out our sound. I’m not a good enough guitar player to do anything complicated while I’m singing, so we tried adding horns, which was a horrible idea for us. It didn’t fit at all. Then we added a second guitar, which I really liked, but the person didn’t work out. Then Pete met Joe, at a pool party of all places, and they got talking about the band and he came and tried out, and it worked! We spent a few years as The Excitement Gang, but once we cemented our lineup, and sound, it was time to refocus and a new name was a good way for us to do that.
How would you describe the music scene in Connecticut?
The music scene in CT is really not one scene. It’s all broken down, almost exactly by genre, into small scene islands. All the punk bands play shows together, all the indie bands do shows together, etc… So, on any given show you can see bands from all over the state, but aren’t likely to see bands playing more than one or two types of music. It’s a shame because I really like mixed bills. There doesn’t seem to be as many new bands as there used to be, but the upside is that when a new group does pop up, there is a lot of excitement and support. The people coming out to the shows are awesome, so it make playing shows great. There are less venues for local original music than ever in our state, but the ones we do have are awesome, and treat the bands and fans with respect.
One of my favorite songs you play is “95 North”. What is your favorite song, and why?
I really like “95 North” as well. Its really fun to play, and has that keyboard sound like police sirens chasing you. It’s a great driving song, lots of energy. It’s a coming home song. It’s about recognizing the things you love about your home and not the things you hate.
I really enjoyed the punk version of the Jimmy Cliff song you played. I haven’t heard to many punk versions of reggae songs. What led you to do the song the way you did? (Sorry, I was drunk and can’t remember the name of the song).
The song is “The Harder They Come”. We just wanted to make it our own. I was listening to “Waiting Room” by Fugazi on the way to practice, and I thought, “We should do a reggae song this way”, and it just fit! (Disclaimer: it sounds nothing like fugazi. We aren’t that cool). So many people have the idea that ska music is joke songs and Hawaiian shirts, and reggae music is for hippies and potheads. But the truth is that ska and reggae music, at its roots, is rebel music, street music, and revolution music. That makes it a perfect marriage with punk and hardcore.
Can you tell us a little about the song “Cadaver Dogs”, and what it is about?
It’s about how every generation destroys itself as it gets older. All the spirit of rebellion and truth disappears and is left in rubble and wreckage as youth is passed on to the next generation. But, not everyone forgets or moves on. Those of us that can’t let it go, or refuse to forget, keep fighting and searching for others like us.
What can we expect next from So Long Liberty?
We are going back into the studio in spring. A new album this summer with a more focused sound. We are planning on more videos, so keep an eye on YouTube for those. If you come out to the shows, you can expect to have a good time with us.
Thank you for your time, do you have any last words for our readers?
Ska came first. And, go to as many local shows as you can. Bring your friends, or go alone and make new ones. Thanks, Shane
Find Them on Bandcamp: https://solongliberty.bandcamp.com/releases
Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SoLongLiberty/
Well, that was one Hell of a Dan issue! Perfect tunes to jam out your summer to! Thanks to Roy Ellis, Esperanza, Pickabar, The Fuss, and So Long Liberty for taking a moment to shoot the shit with us.
Don’t forget to get your free digital downloads of Smash The Discos ‘Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock, Vol. 1 & 2 at https://smashthediscos.bandcamp.com
Keep on Moonstompin‘