In the midst of touring the UK, Faye recently caught up with ska legends Reel Big Fish as they stopped by in Newcastle, they got talking about a whole lot of ska, their forthcoming 20-year anniversary, and the possibility of a Reel Big Fish arena tour! Seriously…
Faye: Can you introduce yourselves?
Derek: I’m Derek, I play bass in the Reel Big Fish.
Johnny: And I am Johnny Christmas, and I play the trumpet the Reel Big Fish.
Faye: So, how are you today in Newcastle?
Johnny: We’re good, we saw a castle, I’m not sure if it was the ‘Newcastle’, but it was a castle.
Derek: It looked pretty old to me.
Johnny: Yeah, and we saw the self-cleaning bridge.
Faye: Can you tell us a bit about the bands on this tour?
Johnny: Ooh, Sonic Boom Six, a fabulous Manchester band, part hip-hop, part ska, part punk rock, they do it all.
Derek: And Big D and the Kids Table, from the east coast of the US, representing that part of the country.
Johnny [mimicking a Boston accent]: From Boston, down by the harbour! This is the first tour we’ve done with them, we’ve played together with them, I know, at some point, but this is the first tour with them, and they’re a bunch of sweet guys and gals.
Faye: How does it feel that you can still come to the UK every year and sell out venues, even if you don’t have a new release?
Derek: It’s a good feeling.
Johnny: It’s awesome! We are very lucky individuals.
Faye: It seems like you have a really loyal fanbase:
Johnny: We do! There’s a high turnover with our fanbase throughout the world, which is very strange, and there’s always a whole new crop of kids that are here at the show.
Faye: You’ve been going for nearly 20-years, but you still tour non-stop.
Johnny: Yeah, 19-years, it’s strange to think about it, and the band has probably been on the road for about 15-years consistently.
Faye: How do you keep your sets fresh?
Derek: Our setlist rotates a little bit, but we know we have to play certain songs, I mean, if on this tour we said we’re not going to play Beer that probably wouldn’t go over too well.
Johnny: People would be mad, they’d throw stuff. There’s always something special, though. Derek and I have not seen the setlist yet for tonight, so aside from the ‘hits’, we don’t know what gets thrown in there, maybe there’ll be some little nugget of absolute fabulousness, we’ll find out tonight.
Faye: Are you going to do anything special to celebrate your 20th anniversary next year?
Johnny: We haven’t even talked about it, but I think we should do the Reel Big Fish arena tour, because we’re been around for 20-years, we deserve to play arenas! Make it happen!
Faye: On your past few UK tours, you’ve had smaller UK ska/punk bands supporting you, like Sonic Boom Six, Fandangle, Random Hand, Beat Union, do you have a say in who’s supporting you?
Johnny: Usually not, I don’t think, Sonic Boom Six may have been a re-request as we’ve taken them on tour before, but, usually, I don’t think we have a say in it. It just winds up happening without any of our say. Sometimes Aaron can say something, so maybe that’s why Sonic Boom Six is back, but usually it’s a mystery
Faye: Do have any views on the UK ska scene? Do you know much about it?
Johnny: We really don’t know much about anything, because we’re constantly on tour and we don’t have long enough to set up roots anywhere and actually go to shows, we’re always the show, we’re always on the road, so it’s hard to stay in touch like that.
Derek: From my point of view, when I look out and see 1000-2000 in the audience, that means the scene is pretty good, I think, at least relating to us it is, so it’s pretty strong here, I think.
Faye: Does it compare differently to the ska scene in America?
Derek: Well, the ska scene is there, for sure.
Johnny: Yeah, it’s the same thing, we’re looking at 1000-2000 people every night, and this is the weird thing about us, we can go all over the world and do the same thing, and it doesn’t matter where it’s at. We can play in Moscow, Russia, and have a sold out show, we can play in Buenos Aries, Argentina, having never been there, and have a sold out show, it’s really a special thing that we get to do.
Faye: So, do you not find Europe more accepting of ska? Or is it the same for you worldwide?
Johnny: I think it’s the same around the world, and this maybe a jaded point of view, but you can transplant that audience, no matter where we’re at, anywhere in the world, to anywhere else in the world. Like when we play in Russia, it’s like the same kids here at Newcastle, which looks like the same kids that are there in America, which looks like the same kids that are in Mexico City, aside from there’s no blondes in Mexico City, or very few. It’s wild.
Faye: There doesn’t seem to be many up-and-coming ska bands coming out of the US at the moment.
Johnny: I guess Streetlight Manifesto is no-longer up-and-coming, they’re already there, I guess.
Derek: Yeah, that’s a tough one, even though a lot of people seem to start ska bands, at the same time, it doesn’t seem that popular to do. It’s more of a rock thing right now, with straightened hair and tight black jeans.
Johnny: Yeah, I don’t know if you’re thinking whether there’ll be another super ska band coming out of America, which I’m sure will eventually happen, but the things that coincide to make Reel Big Fish, as huge as it is, it’s like getting struck by lightning, having major label support to videos being played on MTV and radio plays, that’s a pretty difficult thing to manage.
Faye: Today, I find that there’s a stigma attached to the ska genre, have you ever came across it?
Derek: Depends who you ask.
Johnny: Yeah, I don’t think that I’ve ever experienced someone being condescending like that, to me, aside from major studio musicians in Los Angeles, that go, “Oh, you’re in a ska band?” and I’m like, “Yeah, it’s pretty fucking awesome, I get to tour all over the world, it’s really incredible.”
Faye: Do you find that ska’s maybe not as cool nowadays, because a lot of bands who were once considered ska, have completely changed their sound, like RX Bandits, who’ve ditched their horn section, and The Aquabats, who’ve replaced horns with keyboards, how do you feel about that?
Derek: I guess, to each their own, everyone’s got their way of trying to keep going and make a living out of it, or stay relevant. For us, it’s always just been to keep doing what we’ve done from day one, I think.
Johnny: Yeah, I think it would be condescending to look down upon other bands for dropping their horns, like RX Bandits, it’s not a band that’s going to blow up, I would think, so maybe they did it for actual music reasons why they changed, but who knows why it happens?
Faye: Do you think there’ll ever be another ska boom?
Johnny: Yeah, I think all music goes in waves, no matter what it is, I mean, there’ll be another indie rock wave – that maybe where we’re at now, and there’ll be another emo wave, and hardcore wave.
Derek: Yeah, maybe instead of the world ending, on December 23rd 2012, maybe it’ll the a resurgence of the ska thing, maybe that’s what it’s all about, maybe that’s what the Mayans predicted.
Johnny: Yeah, that cool be. I think a lot of the musical tastes, the trends, go in with what’s happening with the world, so since there was a lot of conflict – or has been a lot of conflict in the past 10-years – I think people have got angry in that time, so they want to listen to angry music and eventually when things kind of calm down and get better, they’ll want to listen to more happy music and that’s where we come in, and we kick all the asses!
Faye: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say, how do you feel about being recognised as the kings of ska or kings of third wave ska?
Johnny: Derek is the king of third wave ska.
Derek: That’s just silly, but it’s awesome.
Johnny: If that’s what you want to call it, I think it’s a great thing, and we appreciate it.
Faye: I read somewhere that you were planning to release a new album of original songs, in late 2009, what happened there?
Johnny: Ah, don’t pay attention to those rumours, they’re just rumours and the internet, and people talking.
Faye: So, have you not been writing for a new album?
Johnny: You’d have to ask the bossman, Aaron, he’s always writing songs, they’re always brewing in his brain. So, yes, there will be another Reel Big Fish album, but I cannot tell you when it will be, but it’s always in the works. If we’ve been around for 20-years, or 19-years, making records, it’s not going to all of a sudden stop.
Faye: Do you think Aaron will produce the next record again?
Johnny: Without a doubt, yeah, he’s got a really great relationship with our audio engineer, who’s out with us right now, working as our other stage tech and merchandise guy, Dave Irish, and they have a wonderful relationship, and he’s able to make the records he wants to make, so I think it’s going to work out.
Faye: Is there anything else in store for Reel Big Fish after this tour?
Johnny: More touring, we’re going to be on the Warped Tour this summer, which will be fun, apart from that, I don’t know, they don’t tell us very much.
Derek: Usually, in the spring and fall, we fill-in the time with what we call one-offs, where we’ll fly out, play a show, and fly home, usually, at a college or university, maybe some festival.
Johnny: We’re hoping to do some festivals in the summer, so I don’t know what’s going to happen with that, I just heard the rumour and I’m just giving you what I know, and they said maybe, so I would like to do that, because it’s been a while since we’ve done that, like Donnington, Reading and Leeds, Rock Am Ring, Rock Im Park, and I’m sure there’s a ton more festivals too, there’s a lot, we want to play them all, we want to rock everybody’s world.
Faye: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Johnny: I saw a show, about a year ago, a band called Clare and The Reasons, and it was spectacular, I don’t get overwhelmed by very many musical artists and I was just blown away, it was perfect.
Faye: Is there anything else you want to say before we finish?
Johnny: Come to the shows, come hangout, say hello, we’re not scary!
Derek: Well, I am, but he’s not.
– Faye Turnbull.
Many thanks to Reel Big Fish, for more information on the band, visit: www.reel-big-fish.com