Toasters Celebrate Three Decades of Ska and Counting
Not many bands get the privilege of working alongside musicians and producers they love. The Toasters are one such band to have done so (creating record labels Moon Ska Records in the '80s and Megalith in the 2000s), and they've been doing it that way for going on 35 years. Born in 1981, they were developing a sound straight out of the British ska persuasion of the late '70s and early '80s -- bands like The English Beat and The Selecter.
Guitarist and singer Robert "Bucket" Hingley tells New Times that of the two two-tone acts, "[The] Selecter was [his] favourite as they were more on the reggae tip, wrote more of their own songs and had an awesome guitar player: Neol Davies."
At the same time, Hingley was adding a twist of soul/rhythm and blues flavor -- Chuck Berry, Motown artists, and the like -- that he had been listening to since childhood.
Back when Hingley was developing the band out of his comic book store in New York City, The Toasters found themselves playing a gig with punk legends Bad Brains. According to Hingley, they even had the assistance of friend and producer Joe Jackson on some of their earlier albums, including their first release. Jackson himself would eventually work with them further by bringing his sax as his alter ego Stanley Turpentine.
"[Jackson] was also a huge help with the song-crafting and direction the band took at an early juncture," Hingley says.
The Toasters have also had their share of fame during the '90s ska craze. Two of their popular jams, "Two Tone Army" and "Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down," appeared in a couple of TV shows. They also toured with bands like Less Than Jake, Five Iron Frenzy, and The Blue Meanies. Moon Ska Records folded in 2000, and, a couple of years later, Megalith Records was founded in Oklahoma. Two years later, Hingley moved to Valencia, Spain. He feels that there is a "much stronger traditional [ska] scene in Europe" and that shows are extremely fun out there.
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