Twenty-five volatile years haven't shaken Toasters front man Rob "Bucket" Hingley's faith in ska.
The long-standing survivor of "third wave" ska music " the 1980s renaissance of rocksteady and reggae-styled music cast through a British pop-punk prism " Hingley keeps the embattled music form alive with a relentless tour schedule and solid album releases, which keeps The Toasters from devolving into a revival band.
Ska has had several revivals over its lifetime and was a precursor to rocksteady and reggae. The genre originated in Jamaica in the 1950s, fusing various world beat and Caribbean influences with American jazz and blues. There came a time, particularly in the 1990s, where any band with a trumpet was lumped in with ska, and the genre suffered oversaturation in the American market.
The Toasters were one of the few bands to make it out alive.
The title track of the group's 2007 release, "One More Bullet," is a sneer directed at critics who've been reading the genre's last rights for generations. The album tells the story of a desperate man clutching a gun and his last round, hoping to go out with a blaze of glory as the cops break down the door.
"It's more of a spoof on the naysayers who have the band, the genre, life, the universe and everything else with one foot in the grave," Hingley said. "Reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated."
After forming more than a quarter century ago in Manhattan, The Toasters are still globetrotting and keeping their band and genre vital to audiences young and old. "One More Bullet" is a testament to their sprawling embrace of different genres, thanks specifically to the addition of dancehall vocals, courtesy Jason Nwagbaraocha.
"I think (our success) is because we mix in different elements including, but not limited to, rock, punk and world beat," Hingley said. "Having the band come out of the Lower East Side makes it a transmutational mutt."
Hingley said Nwagbaraocha recently became a father and will not be able to make the 8 p.m. Monday show at The Conservatory, with Flatfoot 56, The Dirty Mugs and BurnItDown.
A sidenote to The Toasters story, especially interesting to Oklahomans, is the unusual choice of Norman as the home base for Hingley's Megalith Records, the label which has distributed the band's work since 2002. The town was chosen as a label base without any familial ties to the state, instead forming after Normanite Jeremy Patton started a Toasters fan site. Impressed, Hingley offered Patton the role as the site's official webmaster, and later offered the fan a chance to manage his record label.
Hingley ascribes the situation to "serendipity."
"When I moved to Spain in 2004. we relocated the label (to Norman)," Hingley said. "OKC is very centrally located in the USA, so it's actually quite convenient."
Megalith Records now caters to hardcore fans whose faith in ska never wavered during the genre's ups and downs. From the soulful reggae of The Void Union to the surfer/hip-hop/ska fusion of RiceRokit, Megalith has a roster celebrating dozens of global acts, including a Russian outfit called the Saint Petersburg Ska Jazz Review. Hingley said the label serves to keep ska alive in the minds of the music community.
"We intend to keep putting out quality ska records from well-known, obscure, established and up-and-coming artists culled from an international crop," he said.
And as far as the future of the unpredictable ska scene, Hingley said simply, "Who knows? The crystal ball is murky.""Charles Martin