Local Musicians

Dave Wakeling Interview : Part 1


 This was supposed to be an "interview" with the
 English Beat's Dave Wakeling, but... 
 Well, to start off, it was done over the phone. A cell
 phone no less, with all the fun that goes along with
 that - "can you hear me now?". Secondly, Dave's a
 Brit. Yeah, he's lived in the U.S. some twenty odd
 years now, but the accents still across the pond. I
 mean, he did grow up in Birmingham after all (the
 Detroit of the U.K.). Lastly, and most important, I
 didn't record the interview, I had to write everything
 down, which as you can imagine, is a scribbly mess
 capturing about a third of what we said. 
 So, instead, let's call this a "conversation" with
 Dave Wakeling. He cannot be held responsible for
 anything here. I'll just try to give you an impression
 of what we discussed and where he's coming from. I
 will tell you we both had a jolly time talking it up,
 and how after the hour plus phone call, we felt like
 we were old chums and could go on talking all night. I
 never did get to ask him about the British cartoonist
 Hunt Emerson who drew the Beat Girl, or Saxa playing
 with the Beatles, or what his pet peeves are, or
 what kind of car he drives.
 OK, first a little background. The English Beat were
 one of the original "second-wave" ska bands to emerge
 from post punk England in the late 70's. (Original ska
 music from Jamaica pre-dated reggae). Their music was
 an infectious blend of reggae and punk, pumped up in
 tempo, with a bit of wry humor. Did I just say that?
 Go listen to them instead. (I have some of their songs
 on my LocalsGuide profile playlist, plus a General
 Public song as well - Dave's other band). Along with
 other Two Tone label bands such as The Specials,
 Selector and Madness, ska music was not only upbeat
 and danceable, but had its own fashion culture as
 So flash forward to 2008, and The English Beat and
 Dave Wakeling have a stop in Ashland, Oregon at the
 Historic Armory, thanks to Renegade Productions. As
 the resident LocalsGuide reggae fanatic, I was offered
 the cub reporter assignment of interviewing Dave. When
 I first called, he politely explained he was in the
 middle of a Hillary/Obama debate, and could you call
 back in a bit, mate?
 Well, when I called back an hour later he was all
 fired up from the debate. One of the questions I had
 prepared was, "Do you have someone you would you like
 to see become the next U.S. President?" Dave's
 comments: "I do indeed. Obama. I've just been posting
 comments on CNN online. Right before Obama could
 answer the question an interviewer had asked to a
 round of applause, they went to break. Earlier,
 Hillary had said how it took a Clinton to clean up
 after the first Bush, its gonna take a Clinton to
 clean up after the second one too. Well, didn't the
 first Clinton create the atmosphere to allow another
 Bush into office? Who can we expect after Hillary -
 Jeb? Hillary is just so studied, such a practiced
 debater. Unfortunately, we're not electing the captain
 of the debate team. Despite being a fan of Bill's, I
 don't see Hillary as very sincere. In fact, I don't
 believe a bloody word she says. One minute she's soft,
 then angry, then you can see when she's uncomfortable
 with a question - she gets that weird smile. Like a
 sheep killing a dog. She's so unbelievable. Full of
 slick one-liners, like a rocker doing a newspaper
 interview. (Hey wait a minute - that's what we're
 doing right now.) When Obama speaks, you can believe
 it heart and soul. He doesn't go for the convenient
 answer, or tailoring it to the crowd. Barrack gives
 the same answers despite the crowd. He seems to be
 working from principle, and it shows. I hate to say
 it, but I even find McCain more credible as a candidate
 than Hillary, despite the fact that because of his
 party, he sees everything through a set of military
 binoculars. He appears to be a real person of
 At this point the cell phone cuts out a bit. Can you
 tell Dave's a bit passionate about politics? Not all
 rebellious youth lose their edge, ya know? All of this
 from someone who can't even vote - he's still not a
 U.S. citizen. Maybe we can all learn from him. But
 politics and causes are nothing new to him. He
 publicly ridiculed and mocked Margaret Thatcher in
 one of his best songs ever - "Stand Down, Margaret".
 During a period after General Public, Dave took a
 break from music, and was extremely involved in
 Greenpeace. There's a great story how he took of bunch
 of Greenpeace friends to see an Elvis Costello show,
 and Elvis bluntly told him to get back into performing
 (Does this answer your question, Jamie?).
 The phone cuts back in and Dave continues. " You know
 there is this great French saying, "If you're under
 thirty and not a Socialist, you have no heart, and if
 you're over forty and a Socialist, you have no brain".
 You know, I'm desperately hoping its not Clinton
 against McCain. I'm scared that I may find myself
 rooting for McCain. But Obama, he is so inspirational.
 It’s just a shame he's not trying to inspire more
 Hispanics. He needs to reach out to them, because I
 get the feeling they're voting on name recognition
 alone because they liked Bill Clinton."
 At this point the phone is cutting out again, I've
 gone through three sheets of chicken-scratch on paper,
 he's just going on and on about politics, and I've
 only asked one bloody question. But Dave brings up
 some good points. He has lived in L.A. all these
 years. He mentions how racism isn't just black and
 white, it also exists between blacks and Hispanics.
 There is some suspicion between the two cultures,
 especially in Southern California where neighborhoods
 are in transition. And that doesn't even take into
  account Asians and other cultures. For example, he
 explains, in L.A. there are more different languages
 spoken, more types of religion, and more cultural
 diversity than any other city in the world. In their
 native countries, these people could be at war with
 each other, bombing each other, but here, they
 co-exist in the knowledge that they are bettering
 themselves and their children. There are opportunities
 to get an education, to do better in life, and they
 recognize this. There is the ability to accomplish this
 in America, to be tolerant and get along. Then he
 muses, "I'm a bit of an optimist". 
 He then goes into a long rave about Hillary again,
 about how she's using Bill's name recognition to her
 advantage. "I'm not particularly pleased. What kind
 of feminism is that? It’s like getting your husband to
 shout at the neighbors. Its as if she's using him as
 her boy. It’s not what I would've thought of as 21st
  century feminism. Really, if Bill didn't exist, would
 she even be in the Senate, let alone running for
 President? Like the new Argentinean leader, its not
 kosher, because she got there because of her husband
 as well."
 I finally put in my two cents worth, "Gee, when Bill
 was in the White House, I always thought she was the
 one wearing the pants in the family."
 "Well, its like they used to say, "Clinton's a good
 President, and her husband's a pretty good one too."
 But now, if she relies too much on Bill, it shows a
 lack of power. Besides, half the country already has a
 stick up its a#$, and they hate Hillary. That will
 just create a divided Senate, and a divided country.
 You know, my Dad used to say, "Watch out if everyone
 in America ever got along, cause they could just roll
 the whole lot of us." America is still the hope of the
 world. It has the ability to be the future and inspire
 the world."
 Then Dave relaxes, and finally gets to the meat of the
 issue. "You know, in case Obama won, I'd just be so
 pleased. My fourteen-year-old son, Max, looks just
 like Obama. Think how he'd feel"

End of Part 1



Show More


Yeah...that's me.

Related Articles

Back to top button