Interview with The Beats’ Dave Wakeling
I cant imagine anyone not liking the music Dave Wakeling writes. Im a total metal head and if an English Beat or General Public song comes on Im like, “turn that up.” The popular 80s ska band The English Beat (known as The Beat everywhere else but America for copyright reasons) was formed in 1978 in Birmingham, England. Their first album I Just Cant Stop It was released in 1980 followed by the records Whappen? (1981) and Special Beat Service (1982). Mostly known for their hit “Mirror in the Bathroom” The English Beat were part of what is considered the Two Tone ska revival of the late seventies which was named after the record label Two Tone Records. In 1983 The English Beat broke up with Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger going on to form General Public, while Andy Cox and David Steele went on to form the Fine Young Cannibals — with both groups having respectable post-Beat success. Over the last seven years there has been a reformation of sorts of The English Beat, with Dave Wakeling fronting the group on their tours and albums. I recently had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Wakeling about his career and whats next.
a2: What are your thoughts on this being the 30-year anniversary of your first album?
Dave Wakeling: Where did the time go that would be my first thought. Its stunning to me really and what a fantastic voyage its been. I hope Im only half way through it really though. The songs have just started to come to life. You have to sing a song for a good 20 to 30 years before it really starts to come to life. So I think Im just getting there. I did get a special thrill these last few shows weve been doing with 3 or 4 new songs in the session and its nice to see the different reactions from the audience. Its nice to see the new songs become kind of contagious. People clapping along and singing with us. And really I think thats one of the best ways to celebrate the anniversary.
a2: Do you have any official anniversary celebrations planned?
Dave Wakeling: Nothing particularly special other than we take a lot of requests and we play quite a long set. We cover a lot of different albums worth and General Public with the new songs on top. So thats the only surprise is that people will leave feeling rather satisfied. Its like theyve had a good meal, theyve had a hot tub, a massage, and a really deep orgasm, and a new set of clothes to get back on the street.
a2: What new music are you working on?
Dave Wakeling: Well, piecing together hybrids of the beats and rhythms that I have always liked. Its become a bit more blunt and a bit more simple I think. So one song is called “The Love You Give Lasts Forever ” and another song is called “If Killing Worked it Would Have Worked By Now.” Theres a lot going on. For those that believe in evolution they can feel a lot of stuff happening and for those that dont believe in evolution and just want to rewrite history books thats okay. I agree with them but only for themselves. (Laughter.) Its their problem they are not evolving. But for the rest of us who are evolving you can see the world is coming to some very interesting balancing acts. These are fascinating times to live in and some fascinating times to be able to sing about too. An honor and a pleasure really.
a2: Whats the release date for the upcoming album?
Dave Wakeling: You know I think Im going to do it more like EPs. Like 2 or 3 new songs, 2 or 3 acoustic songs. A couple of remixes maybe. Like for 7 track EPs and I would like to start bringing them out this summer and then just keep bringing them out there. That would be fun to bring out to concerts. We tour every other month really and then we spend one month at home just doing weekend shows normally in California but sometimes fly dates to different parts of the country. So as long as we do it like that we keep up our energy pretty good and our sanity relatively good, health pretty good too, and we still manage to do 160 shows a year.
a2: What havent you achieved yet that you still want to?
Dave Wakeling: Theres not much left to achieve with music business things and I only enjoyed some of that tongue in cheek anyways. But it still is the most wonderful feeling if you manage to share a song with the whole audience. And youre all just singing it. It feels like you, the audience and the song are all in concert with each other. Its a fantastic sense of communication and theres nothing that comes close to that in terms of accomplishments. Thats the epitome, you know. Time kind of stands still and its something special.
a2: Is there anything else you would like to add for the fans?
Dave Wakeling: Its probably the greatest compliment I get is when I see people at shows and they tell me they have been listening to my material for 30 years and they tell me the names of particular songs and theres a bit of celebration sometimes. And that for me is the greatest honor. That your songs became a part of someone elses life or even changed someones life. To all those people who have told me that, thanks a lot.