Interview with The Shakedown 8 for WoNo Magazine and WoNoBlog
By Wout de Natris
© WoNo Magazine 2012
As not all readers are familiar with The Shakedown 8, who and what is The Shakedown 8?
Where does the band name come from?That’s a weird story, we were thinking about a name for a long time, and we had Shakedown in our heads but we wanted to add something. Then our former singer’s crazy brother decided he wanted to buy us t-shirts with the band name on it, so he kind off decided for us. We started out with 8 members so he said ‘’The Shakedown 8’’ and came back with the shirts and it just stayed that way. Now that we have six members it’s just a mysterious number, so don’t tell anybody.
The basis of the music is ska/two tone. As the heyday of this music lies just over 30 years ago, where does your fascination for ska come from?We all just love music and listen to any kind of style; if it’s good, its good. Some of us got overloaded with music by our parents in our childhood and others by friends. Later on when we began playing music ourselves. Most of us started playing in punk bands, and when you listen to punk, ska is always around the corner. A band like The Clash was one of the first to mix punk with ska and later on Operation Ivy and Rancid. Automatically we discovered Madness, The Selecter and off course The Specials who started the whole two tone movement. We’ve always had the tendency to dig in to the roots of the music we listen to, so when you go back to the old days of ska music, you find out it started of as a mix of the traditional music from Jamaica (Mento, Calypso) and American Rhythm & Blues and Jazz. I think it’s more like a fascination for music in general but Ska just has a great Vibe to it and is a lot of fun to play. There’s lots of room for improvisation and you can practically mix any other style of music with it. It’s also great to see people happy and dancing around with a big smile on their face. If we get the opportunity to make someone forget his or her troubles for a while and have a great time, our job is done.
Is there a ska scene in The Netherlands of 2012?There’s a ska scene but it never really gets any bigger or smaller, just like in the rest of the world I think there’s a solid base of people who love ska music. In fact I think everybody loves it, you just don’t hear it a lot on the radio so how would people know?
Does the fact that bands like Madness and The Specials perform again reflect on you?Let’s hope so, but we never really thought about it like that.
Your influences also range beyond ska as your EP shows. Who brings what to the band sound?We all bring something different to the band. On drums we have Bas, who never really played ska until he met us. He really got the hang of it pretty fast, and he’s just a great versatile and creative drummer. Than there’s Micha (the best living bass player under the sea level) who always reminds us of the dirty, lousy punk band that’s still living inside of us. Jan is responsible for most of the song writing, backing vocals and rhythm guitar filled up with dirty blues and rock ‘n roll driven guitar solos. The accordion of Saku really jumps out. It’s not a very common instrument in ska music but I think it works very well. He brings a different flavour and melody to every song, some times a Cajun/zydeco kind of feel, and other times it’s more of a gypsy or folk thing. He’s also the man behind all of the artwork on the records and merchandise. Imre is a great musician who can play just about anything he gets his hands on, but luckily for us (besides playing the piano and keyboards) he has an almost unhealthy fascination for Hammond organs and Leslies, he has like hundreds of them laying around at home, at work, in dusty sheds and in the abandoned warehouse where we practice. He can just go wild on these things in this band, and he gives it a big greasy bluesy sauce to it. Tak is the son of a flower selling blues harp player, and after singing in many punk bands through the years, he joined us to be the frontman that he is. Besides writing lyrics, singing and hosting a blues radio show once a week, he sometimes jumps in his fathers footsteps to suck the hell out of that blues harp. I think you can say that were secretly a blues band disguised in a two-tone suit with a beard and a punk attitude.
Some songs are more keyboards driven, others more guitar. How do these choices come about?Most of the time the basic structure of a song already exists before it enters the rehearsals. Then we just start playing it and try some different things. Sometimes a song just asks for a certain melody or builds up to a guitar or keyboard solo, it just happens. If something doesn’t work we try a different approach. A lot of songs never even made it to the stage because we just couldn’t get it to work, or they need some time and will come out later.
The lyrics on the EP have a common denominator, a sense of relational frustration and misunderstandings. How do you keep real life and songs’ lyrics apart?There’s always a lot of frustration and misunderstanding between people. Everybody seems to think that it’s normal to be understood, but unfortunately it’s not that easy. It’s the hardest but also the most interesting thing about being human. Some of the songs are about our own experiences and some are just made up story’s inspired by the people around us. I don’t think it’s a matter of keeping real life and lyrics apart, because the lyrics are about real life. We have to deal with this stuff anyway so we just as well write some songs about it. Let’s just hope people will get inspired to try and see things from a different perspective. Instead of always looking for someone to blame in times of trouble, try to find a solution. Whether it’s in love, friendship or politics, in the end we all have to try to get along somehow.
My congratulations on the intro of ‘Big words’. Who’s responsible for this work of beauty?Thanks, Imre came up with the intro before we made this song and it fitted in perfectly. We recorded it on a real grand piano and after that we added the rest of the instruments to built up to the rest of the song.
I thought the show I saw at the Q-Bus in Leiden was very well built up, truly capturing the audience by the song. Are you aware of your power in this way?
Thanks again, we’ve been messing around a lot with the playlist and this one really seemed to work. We were not really aware of our power in that way, but that was exactly what we were trying to achieve, so I think we’ll keep it like this.
What is the secret behind a The Shakedown 8 show?
We really love to play live shows. Most of us have been friends for a long time, so we’re just having fun together on stage and I think the audience really appreciates that.
What are your plans for 2013?
Besides playing a lot of gigs we are definitely going to put out another record. Maybe a second EP but we’re hoping to make a full album this time. We’ve been doing all the recordings ourselves and since we’ve just bought a band bus (an old fire truck), it’s not very likely we’re able to pay for a studio yet. We all still have to work so let’s hope we can find the time to make a full album but something is going to come out that’s for sure. And after that it’s time to take over the world!