1. London's Burning
Interview with Pauline Black
Our latest featured band are 2 Tone and Ska pioneers, The Selecter. Back on tour with a new album for 2013, we took the chance to speak to Pauline Black, and jumped at the chance to share an exclusive track from the brilliant new album, "London's Burning". Read on for interview, tour dates and more.
What can we expect from your new album "String Theory", and why the scientific title?
Well it's not really a scientific title in that sense, I mean it's scientific in the respect that string theory means that everyone is made of the same stuff, vibrating strings, that's the universe, everything that we can see, everything that we know about, and probably everything beyond that. I think the way that we've tried to interpret that, is that it feeds very well into our whole ethos of multi-culturalism, which if you like is a movement on from 2 Tone, and also, we feel we are tied to our past. We have this back catalogue of songs, which is where people know us from, "On My Radio", "Too Much Pressure", "Missing Words", "Three Minute Hero", and obviously people want to group us into that whole heritage band thing, because they love those songs, but we felt it wasn't good enough to get back together and trot out the hits. We actually wanted to say something about the times that we live in. We felt that 2 Tone meant something - a great deal to us, and we feel that the same kind of issues that were around, racism, sexism are still here, and we wanted to put our stamp on it, and what we had to say about today. A band worth its salt should be saying something about what's going on today.
How does touring with The Selecter in 2013, compare to touring between 79-82?
It's a lot more comfortable. I prefer touring now. The band is in a good format at the moment, the people are really like minded, it's great being back with Gaps Hendrickson, and that whole male/female duo at the front is unique within any of the 2 tone bands that recorded on 2 Tone, and it allows us to explore a wider range of issues, themes and music generally, because you have the different registers of voice so it can be that much more interesting, much more interplay.
The last date of the UK tour looks like a Coventry homecoming gig. What are your feelings about Coventry three decades on from the 2 Tone era?
I've always liked Coventry. I think it's a good place for me. I grew up in Essex, and I wasn't too happy with Essex back then, I don't really know what it's like now. But as soon as I came here to go to university, I felt really comfortable, and I stayed here - and that's a long time.
You Tweeted an amazing photo a couple of weeks ago, of yourself along with Debbie Harry, Viv Albertine, Chrissie Hynde, Siouxsie Sioux and Poly Styrene. Do you remember how such a photo opportunity came about?
Well that photo was done for New Musical News which was a newspaper that came into being because I think the journalists at NME were on strike. They wanted to put a woman on the front cover, but we all know that the music business, especially in those days, was slightly misogynistic, and they didn't really feel that any one woman was big enough to carry the front cover of a rock paper, so they decided upon the six of us there. I guess we were the women that were around at that time that sort of ticked all the boxes. The main person I remember from that photo shoot was Viv Albertine, and Poly Styrene who was a big hero of mine, but it was great to meet people like Debbie Harry. The Selecter did gigs with Blondie at Hammersmith Odeon back in those days, and they always had one eye on what we were doing with 2 Tone, because we shared a record company, and to be in the company of someone like Siouxsie or Chrissie Hynde was really cool.
Looking at the six of you in that photo, you were all such iconic role models for young women, each in your own very distinct way. How do you feel about the way the music industry currently promotes its young female artists?
It is different these days. There are a lot more female artists and there are a lot more female artists doing a range of different things. What I like to see is young women who do the whole bit, they write songs as well as perform. What's not to like?
You're often referred to as the "Queen of Ska". Do you find that title flattering, or a bit trite, given everything you've done to stand up to racism and sexism throughout your career?
Well I don't go around calling myself that, if people want to call me that, they can call me whatever they like. They probably call me a lot worse, so I'm really not that worried. I think the worth of what you do is in the music that you make and the performances that you give for people.
Once the String Theory Tour is over - what's next for yourself, and The Selecter ?
After the twenty dates here are over we're going out to the states, and we're at Coachella Festival, over the two weekends there and then we're doing other dates along the West Coast. For us, we're going back to America after quite a long time - so there's a lot of people out there, Ska fans and other people who are really excited about it, and it's a chance for me to promote my book "Black By Design" in new places, so I'm really excited about that too.
It’s been two years since pop/ska/2-tone legends The Selecter reunited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their iconic debut album “Too Much Pressure”, which featured the classic hits “On My Radio”, “Missing Words”, “Three Minute Hero” and “The Whisper”. During that time, the band continued touring in UK and Europe, re-building their fanbase and garnering excellent reviews. Now, not content just to rest on their heritage status, they wanted to say something about current times.
The 2-tone ethos so strong in their past, was pushed further in the recording studio encompassing a new theme - multiculturalism - on their critically acclaimed album “Made In Britain”, released in 2012 and the guiding spirit of their 20-date March 2012 tour. An immediate re-connection with their core audience was made and enjoyed. The Selecter played not only to the 2-tone faithful, but new fans coming on board for the first time, eager to embrace this new inclusive spin on 2-tone ideas.
2013 promises to consolidate their hard work & fresh-thinking, connecting their past, present and future, before they head off to America the following month for a major festival appearance.
A UK tour will be supported by a new studio album, “String Theory”, a collection of ten new songs, all of which connect with their past, while saying something about today.
Recording began on String Theory immediately after their ‘Made In Britain Tour 2012’, with Producer/engineer Neil Pyzer once again at the helm. Many of the new songs beg to be played live and will get an outing on the “String Theory Tour 2013”, alongside the band’s classic back catalogue. “String Theory” is due for release in February 2013 on Vocaphone Records.
String Theory will be available on-line, but most importantly at their shows, where lead singers Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson are always proud to get out in the foyer, both before and after the show, to meet their fans, sell their album, discuss the direction of their music and most importantly seek to connect with those who have supported them through many turbulent musical years. Fans are often surprised to see such ‘hands on’ action from a band with such a long legacy, but they believe that it is the only way to follow the invisible string that links their ideas and work.
How long is a piece of string? As far as The Selecter needs to carry on the discussion about our changing world in which racism and sexism should have no place.
String Theory Tour dates - March 2013
Thu 28 Feb - Sub Rooms, Stroud *
Fri 01 Mar - Fleece, Bristol *
Sat 02 Mar - Phoenix, Exeter
Sun 03 Mar - Academy 2, Liverpool *
Thu 07 Mar - Academy 2, Newcastle *
Fri 08 Mar - Oran Mor, Glasgow *
Sat 09 Mar - Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh *
Sun 10 Mar - Academy 2, Sheffield *
Thu 14 Mar - Wedgewood Rms, Portsmouth
Fri 15 Mar - Corn Exchange, Hertford
Sat 16 Mar - Robin 2, Wolverhampton
Sun 17 Mar - The Globe, Cardiff *
Thu 21 Mar - The Waterfront, Norwich
Fri 22 Mar - East Quay, Whitstable *
Sat 23 Mar - Assembly Hall, London * & Special Guests TBA
Sun 24 Mar - Concorde 2, Brighton *
Thu 28 Mar - Arts Centre, Colchester *
Fri 29 Mar - Brudenell, Leeds *
Sat 30 Mar - Rock City, Nottingham *
Sun 31 Mar - Auditorium, Ricoh, Coventry *
* Talisman Supporting
For more information about The Selecter's String Theory Tour go to www.theselecter.net