Thursday, 29 September 2016

INTERVIEW Neville Staple

IN the 70s and 80s The Specials were one of the country’s most respected and popular bands. Formed in Coventry in 1977 they were synonymous with the whole 2 Tone movement and although they were only together for a relatively short time, they produced some of the most recognisable and successful songs of that era.
The energy for the band came mainly from Jamaican-born Neville Staple, a natural born entertainer, who made a name for himself as the one who would jump about on stage, leap off the speakers and generally bounce around.
And while he admits he may not have the incredible energy that he once had thanks to a near fatal car accident, problems with his knees and a stroke, he does have the charisma and passion for the music he’s always had to give a spectacular show.
Which is good news for his army of loyal fans as the Original Rude Boy has continued to write, play, produce and tour his music since The Specials disbanded.
The 61 year old is just putting the finishing touches to his new double album Return Of Judge Roughneck (and Dub Specials), and to complement its release later this autumn is back on the road with a UK tour.
Among the many dates will be a night at the Brixton Jamm on Saturday, October 8 in which he will be on stage with his wife and band.
“I can’t wait to go back down there,” he tells me in his Coventrian lilt. “I’ve not been there for a while but I do like the venue as it gets a good crowd who are totally into the music. 
“I love playing in London - there is always a good vibe and Brixton is a great place - it’s changed a lot of course but it still has that atmosphere and energy which I love.
“When I’m in front of a crowd, especially in London, I always give a party as I want everyone to enjoy themselves. That’s what it’s always been about for me - and nothing has changed.
“I’ve always loved being on stage and being the life and soul, smiling all the time, and now with this new band I’m happy and when they play they get into it all so well.
“So anyone who comes along will have a great time.”
On the line up will be music from his 2014 album Ska Crazy, a collection of songs and covers of ska classics such as Johnny Too Bad and Time Longer That Rope that has been done in his own inimitable style.
There will also be a set from his wife, Christine “Sugary” Staple - who he credits with keeping him going - of her new EP Rude Girl Sounds which he produced and provided backing vocals for.
And for Specials fans there will of course be a selection of the old favourites such as Ghost Town, Message To You Rudy and Too Much Too Young, though done Neville’s way.
Sadly what there won’t be are any of his new work from his forthcoming album Return Of Judge Roughneck (and Dub Specials).
“I’m still working on it,” he chuckles when I ask why. “I’ve been doing loads of festivals and DJing and stuff like that this year which has taken up my time so I’m still working on it. 
“I’m in the studio most days as I want it to be right and it’s nearly finished. 
“But you won’t be disappointed. It’s a really good mix of covers, songs that I grew up with, and some new stuff I’ve written - always done in my own style.”
Throughout our chat Neville comes across as relaxed and content. Indeed since leaving The Specials after their reunion a few years ago, Neville says he’s happier and more content than he’s ever been.
Relaxed and down to earth he’s more concerned about the music and making sure his fans have a good time at his gigs.
However, it’s clear there is no love lost and he rules out any future reunion with his former band mates.
“We don’t talk to each other anymore but that’s fine,” he says. “I’ve been doing this a long time but to be honest I’m happier now. I’ve got Christine, my band and I’m still making music - so what’s not to love.
“What I love most is going out on stage and seeing everyone there and then listening to them singing the songs back at me. They are always word perfect too. Sometimes I just give the audience the mic and they do the rest and if they want more, I give them more - some songs go on for ages!
“Brixton will be great because it’s such a fantastic atmosphere and they really get into the groove.
“I’ve got my wife Christine with me and the band is incredibly supportive too - it’s all much friendlier and we all have lots of fun. 
“The only thing I can’t do is jump about as much as I used to!”

Neville Staple and his band are playing at Brixton Jamm, Brixton Road on Saturday, October 8. Tickets cost £15. Call the box office on 0207 274 5537.

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