by David Robinson.
The Selecter formed in Coventry, England, in 1979, enjoying both chart success and critical acclaim as one of a number of bands who rode the crest of a popular wave as part of the 2–Tone ska revival. After touring Australia for the first time in 2012, The Selecter are returning to our shores to perform at Adelaide’s Governor Hindmarsh Hotel as part of their Too Much Pressure Tour.
The Clothesline talks with Pauline Black – the distinctive and articulate voice of the group – about the origins of the band, and what people can expect from the 2014 version of The Selecter. Are they keeping busy?
“We are in England presently, working, playing shows and doing everything else that being in a band involves,” she begins. “We’re at the other end of the country right now, doing our thing.”
Next month you will be at the other end of the planet…
“Indeed we will,” Black agrees. “We’ve never been to New Zealand, so we are looking forward to that. And we are very happy to be heading back to Australia.”
Looking back to those days of the 2–Tone “revolution”, I’m reminded of how amazed I was by this fresh, new sound, being recorded and released by young, vibrant bands; bands that had something to say, while they urged you to dance. How was life at the epicentre of all that?
“They were great days; exciting times,” Black enthuses. “To be part of this very small label that grew and grew, it was just amazing. We had no real idea as to how big it would get. These were bands with a social conscience; against racism, against sexism, standing up for what was right.
“We never took it for granted,” she adds. “Opportunities were very rare for young people, probably rarer than they are today, so we were well aware of the chance we’d been given. To seize that opportunity and end up with five or so hit singles was great.”
Your current performances feature many of the songs that helped to make you a household name in Britain and elsewhere, interspersed with your newer offerings. Are you happy with the blend; how does it work for you?
“Yes, I’m very happy with our performances. We do what we do; it’s really all about the music, and having something to say. Some people are coming to see us for the first time and they don’t even realise that there’s three decades between the earliest and the latest songs, so it works for them too.”
Your 2012 Adelaide and Melbourne concerts were very impressive, and I thought the older and newer songs made excellent bedfellows. Now that you are coming back, do you have anything special in mind for your 2014 tour?
“It’s the 35th anniversary of the Too Much Pressure album so we thought we’d present the whole album in a live setting,” Black explains. “We generally play about two-thirds of the album in the same order as on the record, then we take a little bit of license with song selection. People forget that On My Radio isn’t on the album so we need to make space for that one, and for a few others.”
Your audiences tend to be a blend between those that remember the 2–Tone days, and people that are just discovering The Selecter. That must be interesting, with fans new and old enjoying the show…
“As I mentioned, new fans seem to like what we do. There are quite a few people these days that are seeing a Selecter gig for the first time, so it’s great when they enjoy it. We do what we can for all our fans.
“If people want to come and say hello in Adelaide, I’ll be at the merchandise stand, and Gaps (Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson) will probably be there too,” Black says. “I’ll sign their old records, my book – if they’ve managed to get hold of a copy –and anything else. Without charging! I hate all that “VIP ticket” nonsense [laughs].”
Have you been at all surprised by the positive reaction to this latest incarnation of the band?
“We’ve tried to make good decisions about the direction in which maybe we would, or wouldn’t, head in, with some success. Opportunities haven’t stopped presenting themselves. While that continues and while we’re still healthy and able to do it –getting up on stage and the like, we’ll keep going. Four years ago, I certainly didn’t think that we would be in the position where we are now – it seems to be getting better all the time; the level of interest is encouraging. So who knows? Who knows? There’s everything to play for, and as long as that’s the case: why stop?
The band appears to be as busy as you’ve ever been. What’s coming up next for The Selecter?
“Well, we are at the end of Festival season, having played at the Isle of Wight and Glastonbury. After our New Zealand and Australia visit we are touring with Levellers in October and November, which will be great,” Black concludes. “And look out for our new album – Subculture – which should be out in February 2015!”
The Selecter [UK] brings their Too Much Pressure Tour to Governor Hindmarsh Hotel on Wed Oct 15.
Bookings at The Gov on 8340 0744 or www.thegov.com.au.