Six (or maybe more) years ago, delighted with the newest discovery, I was talking to a friend (Hi, Sidor!) about a guy, who only by himself makes fantastic music, which hasn’t been performed by any Polish band so far. Not at this quality, not with this feeling.
The friend laughed at me a bit, saying I am fond of a guy, who (apart from me) is known by five other people. Now he’s so fond of what xRob Black’s been doing for years, and I smile under my breath thinking about this conversation.
With Rob, about himself, about “Grand Shelf Reggay”, about the past and the future…
InTheMoodForSka: When was the last time you listened to “Grand Shelf Reggay”? When the time passes by, is the album any better/worse? Or do you try to focus on the next productions and close the “Grand Shelf Reggay” chapter?
We’re living in the times of such information supply that all the last week news we can consider ancient; what’s more, nobody remembers what happened before. And since the premiere of the album mentioned above it’s been more than two years, so you can’t be sure if anybody (apart from two of us) recognizes what “Grand Shelf Reggay” we are talking about and who xRobBlack is. But okay, let’s try.
I can’t remember when I listened to the album for the last time, especially the full album. I reckon it must have been during the mastering phase. But I’ve never listened to the full vinyl version, as I haven’t bought the record player yet.
From time to time I listen to some single tracks and it’s strange when it comes to the feelings. Some of them sound the way I wanted them to sound. The others I just put up with. But the whole ”Grand Shelf Reggay” stuff is the thing of the past, I don’t look back at it in any way. At that time it was the best I had to offer and it was recorded, which was very important for me. And currently I’m trying to focus on the things I’m recording at the moment.
At your fanpage website, from the pre-LP issue period, there was info saying ”… there has been some vital and necessary happenings and some proper people have appreared…” I reckon you meant Marek Bogdański, but who do we really owe the album to? I’m so curious if a collection of tunes plus the events described before have determined the album, or maybe it was the other way round – first you got the information about releasing the album and then you decided to make music? And what’s the role of the single “Boss The Ripper” in all this?
This question is very broad. I won’t be able to put it in a nutshell, especially because it wasn’t the way you described it. The fact I decided to make my own music is one thing. But the whole releasing process and all that stuff related to publication of the material is yet another. Still there wouldn’t be one without the other if there hadn’t been for some people who appeared on the way and made it possible to happen.
At the very beginning, when making music was a form of experiment to me, I didn’t have all those essential tools needed to create a tune. Remigiusz Skrabania helped me a lot, he’s my friend and a great guitarist, who I’d created the band DeVersion in Poznań. It’s thanks to him that xRobBlack started to act, because without the bass line and guitar parts recorded to the given chords there wouldn’t have been first tracks such as “Heavy Pollutions”, “McIntosh Memorial” or “Brown Spatula”. He was also the first critic encouraging and motivating me to keep on doing it as it was worth it! Later on, when it was me who recorded the bass line and guitar parts, Remi remained the first one to listen to brand new tracks.
There wasn’t Soundcloud or Bandcamp. Facebook was still developing. It was MySpace era. To be able to share my music with friends I logged on and uploaded my music sending my friend links and not mp3s. As simple as that. But the turning point was when Marcin ‘Cozer’ Markiewicz from Konopians subscribed my channel.
It was him who showed xRobBlack to the wider audience by posting on Reggaenet forum information which referred people to MySpace profile. If it hadn’t been for Cozer, only my close friends would have known I made music. This is extremely important, as Marek Bogdański read the posted info.
The message I got from him one day, opened a new chapter in this history. I didn’t really expect the proposal of releasing the material, not from such a serious man as Marek. Obviously, I agreed, though the road to the successful recording of the first album was rough. First of all, I realized the material was not consistent, as there was roots reggae, funky, some elements of ska, tunes with vocals and my first attempts to play early reggae, which I became fascinated with back then. I deleted those tracks and told Marek I would record new material, only early reagge. He agreed, proposing a change in the strategy – we were supposed to relase a two-track single, to check if there was anyone willing to buy a longplay. I recorded “Boss The Ripper” and “Soul Snack” and when Marek started all the releasing procedures, I started recording new tracks; it was about twenty of them altogether. I chose fourteen and send them to Marek, but after the final choice we had ten, which three years after the single “Boss The Ripper” were placed on the longplay “Grand Shelf Reggay”. That’s it when it comes to prehistory.
Do you have any musical education?
As for the recordings, what instruments did you record live? What intruments can you play?
Unfortunately, I don’t have any. I’ve never decided to get it, and to be honest, I regret it now. Some kind of skills, technical solutions and some schemes of playing cannot be learnt on your own, without the help of a master or a teacher or taking part in a formal learning process. In my case, I took up the role of an autodidact. Everything I’m using in my music now, I acquired myself. I realize this kind of playing music is far from perfect, and it’ll never be as good as professional musicians do it. But my goals related to self-learning weren’t about becoming a multi-instrumentalist, nor a fluent instrument player and showing off. It was more about recording the ideas I initially hear in my head.
If I hear some guitar playing, bass lines, piano solos, I force myself to work it out and make it into a performance. And it’s because I wanted to make my musical dreams come true that I took up playing other instruments which you can hear in my recordings. So all that I’ve learnt is a side effect of my willingness to create the tune in a specified shape. To cut the long story short, for me creating tracks is more important than the playing itself.
What was the influence Szczecin, Jimmy Jazz Records and… Natty Wailer had on you?
It must have had some. I was born in Szczecin, went to school there; I discovered reggae music there (respect to Zdzisław Matusiewicz and Tomasz Krzyżanowski), I went to my first reggae parties in the club called Słowianin (or Trans, as it was then called), Laboratorium, ska gigs in Przystanek Pub, or the legendary Klub 77 (The Analogs’ headquarters). I performed there with a band for the first time.
I spent there 20 some good years before I moved. Szczecin was a vital element of what came after, though it’s a closed chapter.
Jimmy Jazz Records (previously known as Rock’n’roller) and their little shop at the harbour gate was an important spot in the city. They had such music there you weren’t able to get anywhere else. It was there that I bought loads of Treasure Isle cassettes, thanks to which I got to know the magic of rocksteady. Whatever was published in Poland with a tag reggae/ska, they had it in stock. It was the time when the internet didn’t show you the world’s music. If you wanted to listen to some good music, you knew you had to go to Jimmy Jazz.
And Nutty Wailer? Well, I got in touch with him some years later, when I was living in Belfast and was looking for a vocalist to the tracks I was working on at that time. I visited many reggae parties and got to know a Jamaican selector and promoter T Shaka T. I mentioned I needed some vocals and he contacted me with Natty Wailerem, who was playing some concerts on the island together with Aston Barrett and The Wailers. I sent him the tunes and soon after he phoned me. I was shocked – no problems, no complications, it was just ”I like this music, where should I come?” ”Tomorrow?” ”OK, tomorrow’s fine.” He was available between some gigs, so the next the we sat together and recorded his vocals. That was a very inspiring experience I learnt a lot from. It was a meeting full of personal anectodes about Bob Marley. The outcome were two pre-album songs “Rainbow Warrior” and ”Another Reggae Scorcher”.
Do you keep in touch? What’s his opinion on “Grand Shelf Reggay”?
From time to time we exchange the correspondence with “hey, hi, what’s up?” But what’s more important to me is that even after all these years, Natty emphasizes the fact he enjoyed our session, because till then, wherever he appeared, he was treated as the VIP walking on the red carpet. And me? Well, I offered him a small stark room with an armchair, a computer, a microphone, headphones and that was all! Natty says, that was something!
As for “Grand Shelf Reggay” I haven’t told hime yet I recorded an album. I feel I have to catch up.
The reviews in France, Ireland… did you follow other countries? Do you try to trace that in any way? Because the internet says this LP has travelled to various parts of the globe. Do you know exactly how many copies sold?
Definitely more than one and less than five hundred. But I have no idea how many exactly, as it’s Marek who deals with it and he’s the one to be asked. Nevertheless, it’s a known fact that lots of copied have been obtained by various shops all over Europe. At one time, people from Jump Up Records wrote to us asking for the possibility to buy some copies, though I’m not sure if they got any. Whatever you may say, this album had a broader scale. I’m unable to tell you where this album was sent to, but for me it’s all thanks to Marek and his Superfly Studio.
Negative feedback, do you get any?
There isn’t a thing in the world everybody likes or hates. Varied tastes , preferences, expectations is something usual. Another thing is my personal experience of the opinions about the material. I haven’t seen too many, really. The heated discussion on the internet forum era is gone, and facebook doesn’t display everything, especially if you’re connected with people by following them, ‘likes’ or being friends. Your band, for example, has a couple of thousands likes, so you’ve got some kind of spectrum of recognition. I don’t have so many, so let’s say one in ten will express their opinion on the album and I’ll get 20 comments about the whole thing. To be honest, I’ve never bothered to have a large number of subscriptions, but is it really statistics I should care about?
I can tell you, at one time I got the opinion of the debut single from one of the European top reggae DJs and promoters. He said the tracks are fine, but the they don’t have much to do with reggae music.
I assume after the (musical) success of this album you, and your publisher as well, wanted to carry on, but I bet your perfectionism was an obstacle, wasn’t it? I know you’ve been working on something, but is there a plan to release a new album or you’d rather rely on the usual course of action?
How should I answer to this…? Perfectionism? I reckon it’s reserved to these who can afford to realize their ideas perfectly, either through their executive skills or their technical abilities, thanks to which they can implement these or those solutions.
In my case it’s a matter of using the conditions I have to the full to record a particular track, but these still leave a lot to be desired. I don’t use any fancy equipment that would do the trick. That’s why each production is so time-consuming. And the effect I finally get is far from being perfect, from how I’d like to see my music. You can just take any CD of any group playing that kind of music to hear the difference in production and sound. Nevertheless, I keep on doing it and record my stuff.
Going with the flow, as you say, would be the natural way of taking advantage of the momentary publicity that came with publishing the album. But what would it be for? I don’t play gigs, so the I don’t collect any booking offers. An abrupt release of new material would be too exhausting and unnecessary burden of my publisher’s finance. What would it also mean? Filling in the internet with new productions to make my name recognizable? The world in full of xRobBlacks, loads of them in the USA, the same is here, take Boss van Trigt for example. The things he did as Boss Capone are the masterpiece.
My plan with Marek was quite simple: single and longplay. Making it possible took us 4 years altogether. Those who managed to get in contact with the music did it. And we didn’t have any other plans, as for us it meant really a lot. When we executed our plan, Marek went on to do his stuff and I did mine, which was making new material. I’ve made some and am still making. I don’t hurry, because why should I? If in the future there are some circumstances for the album to appear, then it’ll be fine. In the meantime I see how The Aggolites set the new trend which I called “an album every 7 years”. I think I could follow it or make the preion even longer. Time will tell.
All the fans of your productions and me are still wondering if you’re going to stay focused of the instrumental tracks. I do have the secret hope that after hearing “Grand Shelf Reggae” lots of vocalists are interesting in working with you. I close my eyes and imagine Dr. Ring Ding singing, an album with Angel Soldado or Joe Quinones becomes such a hit in LA that even Maken opens to the ska… I see it clearly! On top of that, I see Roger Rivas call you from Rivas Studio in LA and asks you ”Rob, how d’you do this?”
Roger Rivas doesn’t have to call anybody, because he’s the one called by lots of people with such questions. I’d call him myself, oh, but, no, maybe not necessarily, you never know what he’d say… “Who? Rob Black? Get out of here!”
The visions you have are very bold I must say, which is good. Once four skinny lads from Liverpool dreamt about being bigger than Elvis himself, We all know the results of their dream.
Let’s get down to earth. Cooperating with such famous names is only, in my opinion, for other famous names. When somebody is a well-recognized vocalist, he doesn’t mean he will sing for any lad from Eastern Europe, because he’s got so much to choose from, he’ll always be able to find something to fullfil him ambitions.
Still, I don’t rule out such a possibility, because I’ve managed to have some vocalists featuring my tracks, including the mentioned above Natty Wailer. I can’t sing, which is a pity, as I often have some vocal ideas. But I’m unable to realise them myself. As a consequence my musical format is an instrumental track. I can’t help it, and to be honest I’m fine with it, because I’ve always preferred instrumental music, as the vocal disturbed my focusing on the instruments parts.
I don’t distance myself from the vocal-instrumental co-working, because I reckon a proper featuring has its charms. So if there’s a chance to make it come true, I’ll definitely take it into consideration.
Speaking of LA, in my opinion, there’s so much fresh stuff coming from this part of the world – a great last year’s album by The Steady45s (next one is coming this year), The Delirians, The Aggrolites as well, an outstanding one by Jackie Mendez…
There must be something in this, but no wonder on the other hand, LA is not a province, it’s a huge agglometarion, after NYC it’s the second biggest city in the USA. In its area there are more than 20 reggae groups and as many ska bands, it’s a vibrant cultural hub, where all the style and influences mix. They also have lots of sun there, that definitely winds them to action. We don’t get so many band playing Caribean music from Scandinavia. But we should also mention Argentina or Mexico, because there’s a lot going on there – another great albums by Los Aggrotones, a recent record sessions by Traveler All Stars, these will definitely attract your attention.
The process of creating a track… Do you plan it? Does it grow and undergo some changes? Or is it less planned, a more spontaneous process? Let me put it another way, how much spontaneity is there in this process and how much planning and executing the plans consistently?
There’s no scheme or a rule which I could obey. I do it lots of ways. I hear some tracks in my head, they’re ready to record, then step by step I record these visions. Some other time there’s only the melody, to which I arrange the rhythm and other extensions. Sometimes the track and whatever happens to it is a consequence of the bass line or the chords I created in the first place, in order to record it in a particular rhythm or to get a particular mood.
It happens that when I work with track A, I record something involuntarily, and immediately it becomes a base for track B. Sometimes I just press ‘record’ button and the ideas appear out of nowhere. So, there’s no rule, and anybody who’s an author of any track will definitely confirm that.
Inspirations. Somewhere in between our conversations there was the topic of swing, so I know you weren’t inspired by blues. Blues, I can sense it, is not your cup of tea.
PS: I hope you didn’t miss California Honeydrops. I came across them when I followed The Steady45s and to my surprise it turned out that the vocalist, guitarist and the trumpet player is Lech Wierzyński, born in Warsaw. A great band, really.
What do you listen to on a daily basis?
Inspirations… that’s a difficult thing. If you say you’re inspired by this or that, it’s like you didn’t say anything. Music is a complex matter to reduce its influence just to one example, such as Joe Cocker for example. If you say you’re inspired by Joe Cocker, what do you really mean? Are inspired by this tone of voice? His articulation? His way of singing? Music he sings to? Or the fact he plays ‘air guitar’? It’s difficult to say, isn’t it? And we’re just talking about one artist. But in music as a whole, take reggae for example, we’ve got several layers: lyrics, melody, composition, sound, harmony, rhythm, style; still we could divine each one into other smaller layers. What I’m getting at is that each of them could be the source of separate insprations which don’t have to be related to reggae really.
Another thing is looking for your inspirations to make a unique composition, another one when you want a good solo, yet another when you want the guitar or the snare to sound in a particular way. If you say you’re inspired by the way a snare sound in blues, that wouldn’t make sense, would it? The inspiration for the ingredients of certain music can be found in the places you wouldn’t even expect them to appear.
That is why I listen to a variety of things. Apart from Caribean music of all kinds, I listen to classic jazz, rhythm’n’blues, surf, rockabilly, all kinds of band from the 60s, bossa nova, good old funk, even instrumental chill out music and trip hop. If something has got the spirit, authenticity, and makes me stop half way, I’ll take it.
OK, but to get to know xRobBlack better, let’s go back to the past…
“7 drummers, 4 guitarists, 4 vocalists…” what was the name of this project and was it your first one?
It wasn’t a project, it was regular full-time band. But it was a struggle to make it work for two years. It was a first band I co-founded. It was my first teenage attempt to deal with reggae music. But do I really want to talk about it? It was so long ago, that I’m not even sure it really happened.
CHANT, DeVerion, Inity Dub Mission, Blue Dot Trio – are these the band you founded or ‘just’ took part in?
Chant was created around 2001, modern roots band from Nowogard and Szczecin, full of extremely talented reggae fanatics with a genius vocalist Dred, whose voice sent shivers down your spine. I joined them in 2004, when Adam Kamiński from Jafia Namuel had left the band. I still believe it’s been an extremely important period of my life. Never before, and after, have I seen so much discipline, strictness, systematic work, creativity and constant raising the bar. It was a lesson I will never forget.
Inity Dub Mission is a legendary group which began in the 80s. The group originated from R.A.S. and Man&Soul and previously from Gedeon Jerubbaal. It was a bunch of experienced musicians. When I lived in Poznań for a while, I was asked to fill in as a keyboard player. Alina Nadolna of Paraliż Band had left. I met lots of new stuff there, and learnt a lot as well. The equipment was like in a spaceship: cables, electronics, effects, effects, electronics, cables, and no amps. V-drum, main mixer and all the singals went into out headphones. It was silent outside. You wore the headphones and you were in a totally different world. I’ve never seen so much playing precision and a skillful usage of electronics anywhere else.
DeVersion is my own initiative. Together with my friends Remik (mentioned above) and Maciej I created a classic reggae band which later on was extended to 9 members with a brass section. We resided in Poznań, but had rehearsal in a small village near Jarocin. It was an abandoned 19th century presbytery – the climate was unbelievable. On top of that, our vocalist was Krzysiek ‘Kristafari’ Kubiak from the band Stage of Unity.
When one December night in Poznań I was playing with KingTom and drRoot some inmprovised blues, and we didn’t realise we were Blue Dot Trio. I put the name later, when I was mastering our spontaneous gig.
Another one is The Vintagers. The reason for my inquiry is that under one of your posts I’ve noticed a heated discussion on the topic. Zielona Góra? Was this really the place where the bang was located? What was it all about? Why do the local inhabitants not know anything about it? Do I ask the wrong generation? What was left after these projects?
I think you could ask anybody and they’d have problems with the answer… It’s simple – the band did start in Zielona Góra, but we never really got out of the rehearsal room. There was no chance anybody could see The Vintagers in person.
The Vintages were formed in 2010 as a quartet with the aim to play early reggae. For the next 6 years the band disintegrated and reactivated several times, each time going through some kind of transition, after which from the initial quartet it turned into a vocal-instrumental quintet, and finally a sextet with additional guitar.
The first incarnation had the rehearsal in Zielona Góra. It was a very prolific time. Within a couple of months we managed to prepare a very interesting material, and our initiative speeded up. We weren’t able to maintain the pace of the rehearsals, as it wasn’t just a local band. The guitarist and me were from the city, but others had to commute from Poznań or Śląsk. Later it turned out there’s too much trouble with keeping regular rehearsals and soon the band was suspended.
Another case was to shorten the travelling distance, so we moved the rehearsals to Poznań. Mia, our vocalist, was from there. She made a refreshing change, introducing soul music to the band. We also widened the repertoire, we played some rocksteady, but the commuting problem was still present. It was getting more and more difficult to get the whole bunch together at one time. There were also some personal changes and substitutions, so we all decided our march forward was impossible to continue.
Another stop on your musical way is Czeladź. How did you get there and why don’t you play with Konopians now?
By some interesting quirk of fate. Cozer presented it best in Stecyk’s radio programme. The recorded version must still be available somewhere online.
It all started when I was living in Szczecin. They came to play the gig in Słowianin club; I was there as their fan and the selector, because the organizer had asked me to play some records before the boys got on stage. So when they started their concert, I was listening to it hidden behind a curtain hanging across the stage. And behind the curtain next to me there was a piano. Listening to the rhythm of their tracks, I could help playing. Later it turned out the lads were totally shocked, as they didn’t have the pianist, but still could hear the piano line throughout the gig. They couldn’t see me.
Many years later, when I was living abroad and uploading to MySpace my first xRobBlack tunes, I discovered they are there too, so I sent them a message. ‘Hi, it’s me, the guy who 5 years ago “played with you” from behind the curtain…’ They wrote back! ‘Wow, man! You’ve just fallen into our lap! We’re looking for a pianist. Get in here!’ Soon after I came back to Poland and I became a member of Konopians.
And why don’t play with them anymore? There was a moment I made a decision to leave the group. That’s life. Musicians come and go, and I am no exception. In the 20 years of the band there has been a dozen of people in the band. The boys are amazing, the atmosphere at their gigs is something unforgettable. My adventure with the Konopians was, believe me, real skinhead reggae.
When I was preparing myself for this interview, I had the title ready. “xRobBlack – about him, his inspirations and about his first ever live performance.” Do you get that moment? “…about his first ever live performance…” The biggest clickbait in the history of RudeMaker.pl!
And although I already know the answer, I have to ask. Rob, when and where will we hear the first ever live performance of ‘Grand Shelf Reggay’?
If anybody wants to play these tunes live, just go ahead, it’s not forbidden. But me? I reckon the stage, the gigs, the live performance are not what I’d like to deal with. Ever since I recorded tracks, I feel I am completed and fulfilled and it’s enough. Whereas the gig is not only a louder version of the album, as it would be enough to have a good equipment, but it’s so much more than that. The gig is an audio-visual show, and for the vast majority of the audience the gig is something you watch. So it’s a totally different way of artistic expression than working at the studio with audio material. I do believe that performing in front of people, with the respect to them, you have to have something to perform. If you have this thing that apart from your music the stage performance will absorb people, interact with them and present your show, then praise the lord, because that’s why people come to gigs. In my area for example it’s enough to go and see Las Melinas just to be sure that apart from decent music you’ll also be able to experience a well-prepared show full of attractions.
And exposing your face to public view just to play a little and be applauded is just pointless for me and it’s no more than disrespecting those who paid cash to get something in return.
I don’t deal with visuals or creating the show, as I don’t have the abilities needed. The stage and that stuff connected with it is simply not for me. If there’s anything I can get engaged into, it’s definitely music. I feel contended when I have all the time in the world to record, arrange, putting my growing ideas into musical effects. That’s a lot of fun for me. So I see myself wearing the headphones, not the stage clothes.
Have you ever thought about it? I’m asking, because one of the lads from the hood, during a chat we had, mentioned he wanted to create a backup band. And I know that would be a good one.
I bet it would. We’ve got so many good musicians in the country that if we mixed them in various combinations, we’d be able to double the Polish ska/rocksteady/reggae scene with very outstanding projects. It’s highly likely that the lad you mentioned asked me once about such a project in a conversation we had. I really appreciate that, as the offer he made was more than serious, and the musicians who were supposed to take part in this were the people whose careers I’ve followed for years. And because of the above I was unable to perform with them in any way.
Apart from these projects, you also produced a couple of albums. CT-Tones is the latest and the closest to your productions.
Yes, that’s correct. Although I worked with a bit remote styles such as ska. I cannot neglect the fact of my cooperation with Las Melinas with recording ”Ska’La Powagi”. I must admit that was a challenge, because I hadn’t mixed ska before, so that was a learing experience, but lots of fun too. Tracks such as “Django Rudeboy”, ”323” or ”After Christmas” are one of the best ska tunes I’ve heard so far in this country.
And CT-Tones is a nugget, a matchless group, you won’t find anyhing like tchem here in Poland. If you want to experience to some proper early reggae live acts, you’ve got to go to Toruń, or have them play in your town. They’re my friends too, I spent with Maciej Wróblewki countless hours talking about old 1969 reggae and the secrets of this music. So soore or later we were bound to cooperate. I produced the debut album and it was published in January 2017 by Zima Records.
I cannot ignore one of my favourite tracks of the last year – ”River Rock” by the Russian band Reggaenauts. Without a doubt, that’s a spirit! How did you get involved in this one and is there any Chance for yet another project?
The vinyl EP ”River Rock” is a phenomenal stuff. Reggaenauts come from St. Petersburgh and they are really well-oriented musicians who can play any kind of reggae. And the “River Rock” EP paid homage to the very beginnings of reggae.
I had contact with Eugeniusz Leschenko some months before the EP materials was sent to vinyl pressing plant. I made me an offer to mix the track “River Rock” for a separate maxi-single for the German publisher. It wasn’t an easy task, as I’d already become very familiar with Chris Zinna mix, which I thought it was perfect and I feared I could ruin all that. Plus the lads wanted it to be dub. Unfortunately, I love dub myself, but I don’t do it. I proposed them something a bit like a space-version, and they agreed. I’d really recommend this tune to not only to early reggae fans. Despite some personal problems they’re having now, I really do believe we’ll hear them soon.
As for the future cooperations, I can’t tell you the details now, but I can say I’m working on something I won’t call a project, as I can’t bear such a phrase, but there’s some cooperation involved. And the effects? Time will tell.
300. Have you seen this film? Two years ago at The Toasters/Vespa/The Bartenders gig in Wrocław we laughed there were 300 ska fans from all over Poland. An important moment was last year’s Gdańsk Ska Jamboree and we laughed again there were 300 fans and so on… I don’t know exactly how many, but I think it was more than 300.
The key word: the atmosphere. Now that was something amazing, everyone I talked to emphasized that fact. I really do hope this will turn out to be an annual festival, as we all are in need! (PS: I’m saying all that to make you regret you didn’t come). Nevertheless, I feel there’s more passion in our bands than the musical skills, but on the other hand it’s probably the passion that unites the stage. Anyway, I don’t think you should hate those eager to play music. Of course, I’m not a fan of poor quality music, but we must remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Constructive criticism yes, but no hate.
Do you tend to observe the stage in Poland?
Of course, I do. Although I’m more interested in the progress the bands make than the gigs they play. 300 people you mentioned, I think, are just a fraction of all Jamaican music fans in Poland. Not all of them are fans of live acts and mass events, and probably there’s a group who can’t afford travelling to gigs for some reason. So the attendance at the gigs shouldn’t be regarded as the actual number of ska fans in Poland. There’s also a huge group of music lovers focused on their own music records colletion.
I understand when you say about the passion and skills you relate to brand new bands. No wonder it’s like that. Everybody has to start somehow, somewhere, go through certain stages and phases, which we are probably not very proud of now. One gets excited by the fact of playing and not about the way they play. Whenever he knows how it is from the ideal, he’ll try hard to reach it. It’ll just be a matter of time. We can criticize them constructively, but they’re no different than us from that period. We know how it was for us and how ambitious we were not to get stuck in a moment. It’s much worse if there’s no willingness to develop, but that doesn’t happen too often.
There’s yet another level we can look at ska from. Ska, rocksteady, reggae is just a kind of rhythm that you can play using many various distributions. Being authentic while playing them requires being familiar with their complexity. You can be a great musician, but if it’s hard for you to sense the opposite rhythm points, this will affect your playing. It’s often said that the element which sets the rhythm is the bass line (it’s worse if it’s the upbeat guitar). Yes, bass is the base, but together with rhythmic guitar it’s a key factor of a good tune. Some musicians will be better at this than others. As long as the passion in present, they should carry on! Even if we’re going to vote for the worst reggae musician in Poland, you can believe me, he’ll still have some fans. And it’s nothing we can do about it.