Interview: Pauline Black of The Selecter

The Selecter by Dean Chalkley

In 1979, Special AKA and The Selecter released the single, “Gangsters vs. The Selecter.” The single is largely considered the starting point of 2-tone ska in Britain. We got to speak to The Selecter’s Pauline Black about the band’s legacy, 2-tone ska’s current place in Britain, and their 40th anniversary tour coming to the US in September.

Next year marks the 40th anniversary of Too Much Pressure. How do you think the album holds up?

The Too Much Pressure album has very much stood the test of time. The general anti-racist themes epitomised by songs like “They Make Me Mad”, “Black & Blue”, “Too Much Pressure”, “Street Feeling” and “Out On The Streets Again” are as relevant now as they were then. The Selecter always brought an edginess to their reggae/ska fusion, giving the band a very memorable & unique sound.

What were the recording sessions for Too Much Pressure like?

We recorded in Horizon Studios, a converted stables near to Coventry Station. It was demolished in the late 80’s and a car park and shopping centre occupy the site these days. The recording sessions were long and quite arduous, using an old style 24 track, 2inch tape reel to reel system, but the results were well worth it.

The album peaked at #5 on the UK charts. Did you have a sense while recording the album that it could be a commercial hit?

We had no idea that it would climb as high in the charts as it did. Of course, we were very happy & couldn’t wait to get out on our first headline tour to promote it. It was that album that first brought us to the shores of America in 1980. What a fantastic tour that was. We played a whole week’s worth of show, 2 shows a night at Whisky A Go Go Club in Los Angeles. That was a truly unbelievable time in all our lives.

2019 is the 40th anniversary of the band as well as the 2-Tone movement. What do you see as the legacy of that movement?

The 2 tone movement belongs to the fans. We made the music, but the fans have kept the spirit and ethos of the 2-tone label alive and still kicking. It is a pleasure and an honour to play for this legion of fans worldwide.

How is the ska scene different now in Britain that in the late-70s/Early-80s when 2-tone was at its peak?

More people wear brand new Fred Perry’s. We could only afford second hand ones from thrift stores back in the late 70’s.

In September, you are embarking on your 40th anniversary tour of the US. What can fans expect of the shows?

They can expect our music to tickle the soles of their feet and the lyrics to stimulate their brain cells. Plus we are bringing the delightful Rhoda Dakar, lead singer with 2-tone all-female band The Bodysnatchers & guest vocalist with The Specials and Special AKA, to sing a few songs with us and perform DJ duties before and after the show. Peace, love and unity will prevail at all shows.

Tour Dates
9/11 @ Gramercy Theatre in New York, NY
9/12 @ Once Ballroom in Boston, MA
9/13 @ The Kent Stage in Kent, OH
9/15 @ Marquis Theater in Denver, CO
9/17 @ Mezzanine in San Francisco, CA
9/18 @ The Casbah in San Diego, CA
9/19 @ The Casbah in San Diego, CA
9/20 @ Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, CA
9/21 @ The Glass House in Pomona, CA

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