Both known and loved internationally as the original rude boy, the Specials Neville Staple releases his latest solo double album titled ‘Return of Judge Roughneck’. Paying homage and re visiting the sounds which inspired his own life and career, the new single is one for all fans of The Neville Staple Band, The Specials and Ska full-stop. Released on his own label Cleopatra Records its his 8th solo album release, and probably one of his finest to date.
Check it out yourself on the new video for the single ‘Return of Judge Roughneck’ below, as Neville talks very open and honestly on his life, his band, touring, The Specials and the tracks from his new album.
Hi Neville, its a real pleasure to be able to put some questions to you on the new album – Which is a mix of brand new material, classic Jamaican cuts and your own personal influences from down the years. All celebrating your love and passion for music, as well as your life too – first off though where do you rate it among your own past releases?
Neville Staple – This album is where I am at right now in my life. I decided to celebrate some of the great things and the great people who have been my inspiration or effect my life, with the tracks I chose to do. In the past, I’ve done punky stuff, reggae stuff and even mainstream pop styles, but this album is somewhere in the middle of all of that, with a great traditional style ska backdrop mixed with a 2Tone feel. Its where I am now, so it’s currently my favourite work.
Would you say ‘Return of Judge Roughneck’ is also nod to that Specials all-time favourite ‘Gangsters’, in any way?
To be honest Carl, the lead track ‘Return of Judge Roughneck’, actually pays homage to the late great Prince Buster. I dedicated the album to him, even before he passed away. His Alcapone backing track inspired ‘Gangsters’, so I took that more traditional vibe as a celebration of him, which also happens to celebrate my first top 10 hit with the Specials too.
I played all Prince Buster’s tracks from a very young age and used to toast over them with my sound system too. My wife Christine Sugary and I last communicated with him in Jan 2016, while at Derrick Morgan’s house in Jamaica. He was extremely ill. It was so sad to lose him but his legacy, his music, will never die. My wife is bringing his son over for a special tribute to his father later this year. So, with all of that, along with me bringing back my stubborn and fun ‘Judge Roughneck’ character, (who first appeared in Stupid Marriage and Rude Buoys Outta Jail) and, you end up with a bit of an historic Neville Staple musical journey, all in one song!
This was your tribute to that whole sound and style wasn’t it, what gave you the idea to do this and why now?
I actually was due to follow up ‘The Rude Boy Returns’ album from 2004, with another one in 2007/8, but as talks about a reunion with The Specials began, I had to put things on hold. I had hoped to continue with my studio projects while with the Specials, but as most of the others didn’t want to do anything new, I eventually left after about 4 years of reunion tours and put Ska Crazy album out soon after. That was another great album (released 2014), which helped me get back into my creative flow. So, I’ve been doing a lot of studio work ever since, working on collaborations with various artists, including Chris Constantinou, Rat Skabies, Ed Rome, Save Ferris and more recently, Georgia & The Vintage Youth, plus doing a joint album with my wife Christine Sugary Staple, which features friends like Roddy ‘Radiation’ Byers.
In between all that, I put this new album together. I think I needed to do an album that was ‘me’. This new album was so enjoyable to do, because I had complete freedom to create and arrange, work with brilliant people and feel comfortable with every single track. In fact, each song has a super story behind it about Neville Staple today!
Great video too, filmed in Coventry and inspired by your one-time sentence to borstal. Was it fun to do?
Yeah, the video was shot in various locations around the City Centre, and that includes the old County Court where I was sentenced to Borstal. It’s now a restaurant call the Establishment but has kept all its original features – so being in the original ‘holding cell’ was quite funny and nostalgic. I wonder where I would have ended up if I had not joined the Specials back in 1977. I was already a bit of a local celebrity with my ‘toasting and deejaying’ with my sound system, plus my dancing championships with Pete Waterman, so I guess I was destined for a career in entertainment, but due to my young detention centre antics, things could have been so much different!
No doubt…how the other tracks on this double album. Which would you call the stand out tracks, and why?
I have been getting a lot of super feedback on ‘Lunatics’, which I think is due to the current political climate, so giving the track more of a ska edge and throwing in current news reports, has modernised it a bit, but yet still kept it timely and iconic. ‘Down My Street’ is another one too, which is basically me returning to my solo career and creative freedom, but can just as easily relate to anyone who is returning to a good place in life. I worked on that one with Joe Atkinson (keys) and Christine Sugary. Sledge (bass) also does some writing with me. I have a great band, so I love that their stamp is all over the album too.
Of course the lead track also ‘stands out’ in its own right with a super fun video to go with it, which was put together by my super talented wife and her son Tony Moore and, shot by Lee Cogswell and Daniel Thompson. The judge puts the World to rights by condemning the bad boys, the bankers, the politicians.! That song surely stands out. Hehe!
On a personal level though its pretty amazing your touring and playing today as its not that long ago you suffered a car crash in 06, even feeling the effects while on tour with the Specials.What was your recovery like Neville and did you ever feel like you were going to actually be able to make, record and tour ever again?
Haha, I’m not sure which crash you are referring to, as I have had many, hence I don’t drive anymore – the wife don’t trust me to, lol. On a serious note though, I think you mean the really bad crash of 2011, which happened just after I had buried my brother Jimmy in Jamaica, returned to the UK and apparently had a stroke without knowing it. The car was a squashed mess and I was lucky to get out alive. I went on to have another stroke too, plus epileptic seizures. So with all of that still not identified until much later on, when my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time), took over my medical stuff and got me all the tests, appointments and meds I needed, meant that until then I was not on full par during some of the shows with The Specials, plus some of my own band shows. I had knackered knees from years of stomping across the stage and jumping off speakers, etc, but with this added to it all, I really did go through it for a while.
I guess if I had received the TLC needed while still in The Specials, I may not have left when I did, but most people just point the finger at artists and blame the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll lifestyle, often forgetting to point the finger at themselves in the process, they don’t consider you may just need a bit of time and care to sort out some medical stuff. So, if the camp is already a bit tense and unhappy, you’re not going to get that. Made sense to go back to my solo career, which I have always had.
once again its ‘court in session’ – as Neville plays Judge Roughneck in the new video for ‘Return of Judge Roughneck’
Out of all the The Special band members your the one who took the groups sound, style and vibe to the states, playing many shows with an array of artists like Rankin Roger and Pauline Black. Taking Ska literally around the world to places like the middle east and all over Europe – how would you say Ska has both travelled and translated around the globe down the years?
During the 1990’s the US was the place to be with Ska. I couldn’t fit all the shows in, as there was so much demand. I ended up living there for about 9 years, working constantly throughout that time. Ska is still very much alive out there, so I am planning to tour over there later this year or early next year, if I can get the visa sorted out – there’s a lot of red tape when you’re an “Internationally Recognised Alien” it seems. Lol, apparently, that’s what I am! Australia last year was still brilliant and, Japan is still another great place for ska after all these years and I hope to get back over there soon. Maybe after I do Hong Kong this Summer.
The Specials reunion – it was infact your band which would feature different members of The Specials at your shows, which finally encouraged the reunion to happen. Was it something you actually thought would never happen. Though since the tragic passing of Specials drummer John Bradbury the band have soldiered on getting The Libertines drummer Gary Powell to fill in. But what are your thoughts and feelings Neville on the whole return to the stage for The Specials?
I didn’t think it would happen because after Jerry suggested doing it, all the others didn’t want him involved. I wasn’t bothered because I was so busy with my own tours at the time, in fact it was at some of my shows that these discussions too place. Anyway, they decided to do the reunion without Jerry, which upset me at the time, so I decided not to do it. However, after a lot of coaxing and also hoping they may later change their minds about Jerry, once we started rehearsals, I agreed to do it. It felt pretty strange not having Jerry around though, because remember, love him or not – he was the driving force behind the Specials, plus I was with him long before Terry and Brad joined, when we had Silverton (drums) and Tim (vocals), so to me it was all him back in the late 70’s, our friend, our leader and our think-tank.
He was also one of the most creative and he embraced the roots of where ska music came from, something that no one else, apart from me, has ever done in The Specials. In fact, most of the others don’t even like ska, lol! I never trust anyone who doesn’t like ska – there must be something seriously wrong with them! Hehe! Okay, okay, all jokes aside, I think Gary and Steve have done a great job filling in the gap left by Brad and Roddy. Maybe they will get a cool rude boy to fill in my parts too one day! Hehe!
As well as the new record though its live that you’ve for many years with your own group carved out a name for, staging some real energetic and passionate shows The Neville Staple Band have a rep for putting on a great show. Tell us about the band and is it live or recording you enjoy the most, as an artist?
I think live shows are my favourite to be honest. It’s when you take your art to the crowd who put you where you are. So, when you see them singing along, jumping around and enjoying your music and responding to you, it’s like the best drug in the World. Especially when they are equally enjoying your own new songs too. Meeting the fans and performing for them is the best thing ever. I’m not saying I’m an angel, because like everyone I do get my off days when shit happens, but I try to always give fans time to meet me, have photos, get signings and so on, because I really do appreciate them. So, although I love the studio work I get stuck into, especially producing my own and other people’s work; live shows is definitely favourite.
Your own contribution to the whole Ska movement is a big one indeed. The look, the style and of course the voice are so legendary within the world of Ska. So I guess its also the reason why your known around the world as ‘The Original Rude Boy’. Now that’s some title, hey?
Yes, I love that title Carl. It’s also the name of my biography. With my Jamaican roots and my UK street backgrounds, which I mix up with the fashion my dad, my uncles and all those early Bluebeat and Ska artists brought to the streets, I guess I had to take the ‘rude boy’ title, lol. I didn’t grow up with a pretty home life and the streets were my guide, trouble was my supper, and my mouth, my music and my moves were my money-maker. So, if part of being rude is having the attitude to succeed, the strength to overcome and the sharp look and swagger to present, however hard it may be out there; then yes, I am definitely an ‘Original Rude Boy’ who’s done just that!
Lastly Neville, where and when can we catch The Neville Staple Band live next. Also, what dates/events are you personally looking forward to this summer, and why?
I am doing some special free in-store DJ sets to promote the album, starting with Banquet Records in London this month, plus I will be doing extensive touring and festivals all year again, so you will find me around many brilliant UK and overseas locations throughout 2017. I am especially looking forward to Skamouth and Rebellion Festivals. Rebellion is always a brilliant vibe and full on crowd and Skamouth, is run by my wife and she puts a lot of love and time into it, so great people go there. I always support her or we perform there.
To be honest, I feel the UK fans have so much heart and are so much fun, so where ever I perform here, I always get a massive welcome and a great party crowd – or a bunch of nutters, who we love! Aside from that, I am particularly looking forward to headlining a festival in Hong Kong in August, as I haven’t been over there for a while, followed by a tour in the US. My tour updates can be found at www.originalrudeboy.co.uk. I hope to see you at one of the shows Carl, I want you to show me some of your rude boy moves! Hehe!
…your on! Though my rude boy moves aren’t really up to much it is a show I want to catch this year, and you can too as they kick-off their UK tour right now, check the dates below.
Apr 22 Northampton, UK – The Roadmender w/ Don Letts
Apr 28 East Kilbride, UK – The Union
May 27 Porthmadog, UK – Snowdonia Scotter Rally
May 28 Southend, UK – In The Park
Jun 03 Hastings, UK – Seaside Treats Festival
for all news on the new album and tour dates go to Nevilles website below
follow Neville and the band on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/NevilleStapleBand/
or on Twitter – https://twitter.com/nevillestaple
Carl Stanley Twitter – https://twitter.com/Grimupnorth74