Gaz Mayall and Buster Bloodvessel
Interview by Abram Jones

While your host was in the UK he caught up with Gaz Mayall, frontman to the Trojans, creator of Celtic Ska and compiler of several awesome Ska compilations in recent years at his club in Soho, Gaz's Rockin' Blues. The James Hunter Trio, a Ska-influenced blues act was the featured band of the night and they were sounding just fine. Unlike certain American acts would have responded, Gaz accepted my request for an interview without blinking an eye, even though all I had was a disposable camera and a notepad. Feeling thoroughly outclassed by the well-dressed girl already interviewing him with a handheld minidisc recorder I asked him anyway; he sent me back to the VIP dungeon, and who should be in there but Buster Bloodvessel!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaz said, "Oi, this is Buster Bloodvessel from Bad Manners. Buster, warm this guy up while I go take care of a few things". And just like that, I was interviewing yet another living institution. Would this have happened in L.A.? I dont' think so! Unfortunately I had no questions prepared for Buster so I had to think fast. I knew about his recent tour and near-death experience but wanted to see if he would offer anything:

Abram Jones: How did the recent tour round out?

Buster Bloodvessel: The end of the tour was in Italy, where I collapsed onstage with a hernia. This was around Christmastime. (In the background, "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie is playing. Bad Manners is famous for covering it in the two-tone favorite "My Girl Lollipop" and we sing a few bars.) I may go back on tour soon, it depends on whether or not I'll be under the knife again.

AJ: Any recent recordings?

Hebro!

BB: I recently recorded in Brazil for four days with a band called Los Calzones. We recorded some brilliant songs...the theme was cockney vocals with airheaded California girls. I like the mixture - it was almost B-52s. But, there was no smoking throughout the session (Sighs. We both take a pull on our cigarettes.) I did vocals, produced, and wrote the album, which will be called "What You Gonna Do?". Jesse the guitarist claims to have connections with the band James. We also played with the guitarist from the Dickies. We ripped Gerschwin right off!

(Derrick Morgan's "Tougher Than Tough" surfaces in the selection. Buster and I duet on the refrain and if I may say so my mid baritone was a good complement to his bass.)
BB:Headlight did a great version of Tougher Than Tough, but it was considered a bit too violent for 1983. They're an all-black skinhead band. Anyways, Bad Manners will be touring America in September, unless I have to have an operation, with tours of South America from May to June. We also have a few albums coming out, one of them the Bad Manners singles album. No titles yet but they'll all be Ska/Punk music, released on Javelin in England. I'm hoping to become white trash over there in America...I wanna get a trailer. Are they all boxers? All their noses are broken!
Gaz reenters the room and we get on to our interview

DJ: How did Celtic Ska come about, and what do you think of bands such as Flogging Molly, and to a lesser extent the Dropkick Murphys (they recently added a tin whistle and some softer strings)?

GM: I always loved Irish music. I was brought up with Jazz and R&B, beat music. I saw all these types of music come about. I was into Ska, Blue Beat, R&B, Reggae, and Boogie Woogie at the age of 12. So, by the time I started the Trojans I wanted to come in with a tune that hadn't been done yet. So, I infused Irish music with Afro roots music. Irish music is similar to Jamaican music because when 200,000 Irish showed up for cheap labor as indentured servants and sharecroppers in the US it was much like the Jamaican experience; they had nothing waiting for them. A Jamaican late night drinking place is known by the Irish Gaelic name of sebean, and they drink Guinness punch there. It's nicknamed a "blues party".

The bands you mentioned are OK, but they just didn't do it for me. I prefer the Specials and Bad Manners.

DJ: What's going on with the Trojans?

AJ: What's going on with the Trojans?

GM: A lot of gigging, from boats on the Thames to a wedding...tours, reviews, pubs, dancehalls, hippie festivals, anywhere the music goes on.

AJ:Did the name 'The Trojans' come about because you were fans of Duke Reid?

GM: No, I never do anything for one reason. When I was in elementary school with Jamaicans, someone who was with it, had style, was a Trojan. It was a compliment. My old public school teacher taught us that thousands of years ago the first European writings about the Trojans appeared. They were famous for their spirit and courage, in short they rocked. It's the same reason the California football team has the name 'Trojans'. "He's a right Trojan!" people would say. London and Rome are supposed to have been founded by Trojans. Also, we play Jamaican music to a large extent...one of the biggest old Jamaican labels was Trojan, so it's a compliment to that. Duke Reid had a Chevy Trojan, that's why they called him that. He led the procession into town. The first record he ever pressed was Penny Reel.

DJ:(Thinking I know a lot about original versions of Jamaican songs) Penny Reel by Eric "Monty" Morris?

GM: No, the original, by Lord Power. Duke Reid started with Mento, then progressive Jazz...Uno momento...
Gaz disappears and resurfaces with a tape called 'Carib Roots'. It has the original version of Penny Reel as well as a bunch of songs I could probably never find on my own. "This tape is 8 quid but if you've got a five..." Fortunately for me I had a fin in my pocket.

AJ: How did you come to be the compiler of the two recent Prince Buster albums?

GM: How did you hear them? They were only available in Japan! I'd recently been to Japan but I didn't get them there, I got them off of amazon.co.uk)That's right, the Prince rereleased them in the UK. When Buster calls me he says "Yo, Boop!"--we've been friends since '83. Before the Skatalites were born and Prince Buster started Ska music, Buster used to say "That's the boop boop music". Others said "That's street music". Don Drummond and Lloyd Brevett were into street music, but their music had that sound with the sophistication of Jazz and all the music theory they'd learnt in school, but you already know that.

AJ: What do you think about the future of Ska, commercially and stylistically so?

GM: I like the way it's going now. There's a lot of people who never knew anything about that style of music. Some is a bit slow, some is a bit fast and exciting; when they get it right it's good. I didn't like the Slackers at first but now they're really good, their sound has grown up. Hepcat too. I love Intensified as well. Just a minute...

Gaz leaves again and reappears with a copy of the Trojans' new album, Desiderata. "'Ere you go, it's a promotional copy".. I guess buying the tape was enough! By this time it was about 3:30 a.m., I was out of questions and they were heading for a pub. So I bid them goodnight and went home feeling like the luckiest cheapskate in London.

All photos copyright 2001 Ruderoots.com

 

 
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