Interview With Rev. T Sinister (Hub City Stompers)

Interviews | By on Apr 30th, 2018

With the wax barely drying on their latest release “Haters Dozen”, Hub City Stompers’ frontman Rev. T Sinister set aside some time with us to chat about ska dorks, their freshly minted and Readjunk-approved new album, Inspecter 7 as well as the need for diversity within the ska scene amongst other things.

The Hub City Stompers arose while your former band Inspecter 7 was on hiatus. What went into the decision to spawn another band from it?

In the fall of 2001 Inspecter 7 just seemed to come to a halt. Nothing discussed, nothing announced, it just seems like everyone was kind of done. So i7 just kind of fizzled out and ceased activity. I, for one, was still in “go go go” mode and had no intention of stopping. So I and a few of the like minded individuals in Inspecter 7 decided to keep it going and form another band. We of course discussed what distinctions there would be between the new band and i7, as we didn’t simply want “Inspecter 7 Part 2”, even though the name itself was a direct reference to a song I wrote for Inspecter 7. So we hunted down a few other new members (as well as former i7 members) to fill the missing spots and by summer of 2002 we had a band.

In any case, we definitely wound up achieving that aforementioned distinction we sought.

What were your influences that got you into joining a band in the first place? Was there a defining moment in which you had to get out there and join a band and play music?

I’d never really wanted to be in band nor pictured myself in a band in my younger years. I was quite content to be a show- goer and not a performer. I recall Randy Now, the promoter of the venue I used to regularly attend in my younger years (City Gardens), suggesting that I form a ska band with my friend Alex. I laughed it off, as, though I did love ska, hardcore was my main musical passion back then and also for the fact that I could not picture myself in a band. Fast forward a few years to me living in New Brunswick, NJ in 1992, and some friends of mine from the scene have formed a new ska band called Agent 86. I was thrilled at the idea of another NJ ska band, as the only NJ ska band in existence at the time was Bigger Thomas. So I was all about supporting them from the get go. I’d sit in and check out their practices, and was sure enough out there drunkenly stomping around like a goof at any of their shows I could catch. A year or 2 into it and a name change or 2 later, their toaster/hype man/co-vocalist departs, and they rename themselves Inspecter 7.

It was at this point, around the end of 1993, that they asked me to join the band and take the spot of the hype man, co-vocalist. Their reasoning was based in my “presence” on the dance floor at their shows (“presence” can easily be translated to “drunken antics”) which I suppose they suspected would translate well on stage. At first I wasn’t really into the idea and declined, as I pictured myself being like the “Flavor Flav” of ska, as I termed the notion, and had no interest in standing on stage yelling “pickitup” repeatedly for 45 minutes. But they assured me that it’d be more of a co-frontman gig and that I’d be performing and even writing my own songs, so I checked it out and sat in on a few practices with them on vocals. And in winter of 1994 I was in Inspecter 7. From then on being on that side of the stage just stuck with me, so much so that I formed a oi!/hardcore side project in 1997 (Steel Toe Solution) and, well, you know the rest with HCS.

The Hub City Stomper’s new album title “Haters Dozen” as well as the closing track on the album titled “Night of the Living” make reference to struggles and misconceptions of the band among the ska and punk community in regards to elitism and, to an extent, racism that you face. Why do you think this attitude still exists in this day and age, especially in two genres that promote diversity and equality?

When people get into scenes and music more so for their own pretentious and selfish reasons than for actual appreciation of the music then such attitudes are inevitable. If you can’t realize you’re part of something way bigger than yourself and that an entire music scene and genre of music is not defined by your perceptions of it, then you are part of the fucking problem and reason that underground music scenes suffer the cyclical deaths that they do.

With the instant connectivity of the world nowadays, do you see those attitudes getting better or worse compared to say 15 years ago?

I don’t necessarily know if attitudes in the whole are getting better or worse, and if said connectivity would even effect that. But the instant connectivity sure as hell spreads and advertises the attitudes, be they good or bad, much more so than in the past. It just seems that, unfortunately, people tend to give the bad attitudes more attention.

A few years ago Inspecter 7 reformed for an album but shortly after disbanded once again. What were the reasons for, first…bringing Inspecter 7 back in the first place and second…for the sudden break up?

Actually, we as i7 did not reform for that album. That album was being written and recorded over a course of years, prior to our talk of a full time reunion, while i7 was still in the “play a couple reunion shows a year” mode in the 2010’s. At the time the idea of the album was introduced most of us were like “um, why?… we don’t tour and play twice a year… where and why are we gonna sell this thing?”. But we went with it for the hell of it and would get down to Predator’s studio to add our parts when we could (hence why it took so long).

The timing with the album being done and the full time reunion was just a lucky coincidence. Giuseppe, the other co-frontman in i7, had asked me for years about an i7 return to full time activity. I was always skeptical of the idea as it already seemed enough of a task to get i7 back together to practice for the couple reunion shows a year we would do. Additionally, I had lots of time and attention invested in HCS as well as a family starting so finding time for another full time band with all that going on was damn near impossible. When G approached me again about it in 2012 HCS was going through a bit of a transition with longtime drummer Green Goblin leaving the band, so I was open to at least considering the idea. So we had a bunch of talks about it. I basically stated that I wasn’t going to just abandon HCS after 10 years and the only way I’d be able to do i7 was if I brought the bulk of the HCS line up and the bulk of the HCS catalog along with me. That was the very first condition on my end from the get go, if I was to be involved. In my brain, all of that consolidated under the i7 umbrella would be a powerhouse. Plus, again, I had no intention of simply abandoning the HCS members who had kicked ass with me for years, nor the 4 albums of music we’d created at that point. But ultimately, as this full time reunion thing was his idea, it was up to him to take or leave those conditions. I and the rest of HCS could have just as well kept on keepin’ on with/as HCS at that point. He had zero opposition to that idea and immediately agreed to it. So we kept on talking about that, and other ideas and conditions, for the rest of that summer to see if this i7 redux could be a reality.

By that fall it seemed to be a done deal. HCS finished out our shows for 2012 and by 2013 I announced the end of the HCS brand and the transition to revive i7, and the bulk of the HCS line up was now Inspecter 7. Plus that random i7 album that we’d been recording over the past few years was ready for release and was picked up by an indy label. So the timing seemed perfect for it all. The band line up was tight, it sounded great, and I personally dug combining the material in the sets as we did. Our first show back as i7 in that context was February 2nd, 2013. And from that very first show I began to get a sense off what would come to be wrong about it all. From the get go G seemed to abandon or go back on a lot of the conditions and details we had agreed upon in our talks leading up to the reunion. And forget using the HCS aspect/connection to help market the band to those who, perhaps coming into the ska scene in the past 10 years, were aware of HCS and not so much of i7. Mentioning HCS in G’s presence was like mentioning Voldemort at Hogwarts. I’m accustomed to G’s sometimes abrasive personality, as I’d been in i7 with him since 1994. But some of the band members were not and some of the promoters we dealt with were not. So it made for some uncomfortable situations where I had to be the buffer, or maxi pad as I called it, between G and others to help absorb the tension, repair bridges, and keep things going. Additionally, there was just an aspect to the line up and live performance that lacked a certain…. authentic i7-ness to it. The bulk of us had been this unit as HCS for years now, and our chemistry just flowed. Introducing G into that mix I think made performances come off like HCS featuring Giuseppe instead of Inspecter 7. And the absence of certain older, original members, many of whom had still been doing the reunion shows up until 2012, also kind of took away a sense of authenticity for me.

The combination of all these things had me realize, by around the end of the summer of 2013, that this was not going to last. The passion and joy I was accustomed to feeling and needed to feel to put my time and effort into being in the band was just not there. All these negative factors were just eating the joy away. So by the end of 2013 I was done. I sat down with G and had a conversation and explained that I’d be leaving to restart HCS, and that along with the HCS material I’d obviously be performing I’d also be performing any i7 songs that I’d written and/or composed (which I’d already been doing throughout HCS’ existence anyway). I told him that I myself would not seek to claim the i7 name, however. For one reason, I had no intention of going through any civil/legal hassle in regard to Inspecter 7. For another reason, Inspecter 7 was no more in my eyes, short of certain elements and members being involved (yes, including myself). We parted ways civilly, and I contacted the other band members to let them know I was leaving to get HCS going again, one way or another. I told them they could stay and continue with G if they chose to and there’d be no hard feelings on my end, or they were of course welcome to come right back to HCS. The entire line up wound up coming back to HCS, thankfully, so getting it all going again was easy. You know what’s said about the best laid plans and certain roads paved with good intentions.

On “Haters Dozen” you once again poke fun at “ska dorks” with the track “Bring Back the Dorks”. Is there a true disdain or hatred towards third wave high school horn player ska bands and suburban rocksteady bands or is it all in good fun?

Actually, “Bring Back the Dorks” is the exact opposite of what you have suggested. It is literally calling for the “ska dorks” to return and take back the scene from the uppity, elitist, misguided, pretentious neo-trad hipsters that have filled the void in their absence. It’s basically a sequel / reversal to “Ska Train to Dorkville”, our song of off Ska Ska Black Sheep that did in fact lambaste the ska dorks. So in this case we’re keeping checks and balances and going after the opposite side of the spectrum.

As to whether or not it’s serious or all in good fun: sure, the criticisms do come from somewhere legitimate and true. But they’re rather specifically aimed. Our ire is toward people on either side who shut out the rest of the scene and and all the diversity in the ska genre, and act like their narrow preference is the only part that matters in this huge scene. There are bands and artists that we are friends with, some rather close friends, that could surely fall under the category of either of the types of music we openly and blatantly mock in each one of the aforementioned songs. But our true friends, and anyone secure enough and with a decent enough sense of humor, will realize that we’re really just doing some good old Jersey ball breaking, and take it in good fun and in the humorous light we present it. Any stuck up twats who take themselves so seriously that they’re offended by the song(s) quite frankly should be. Because those are really the type of petty shit-heads we’re addressing in the song(s). Enjoy a little self deprecating humor, enjoy living, and get the hell over yourself for fuck’s sake. You have a problem with our stuff? Keep typing about it on your nerdboxes, ya herbs.

“Haters Dozen” has quickly become one of my favorite Hub City Stompers albums already. Over the years you’ve obviously become tighter and more experienced as a band. What has changed if anything, in regards to how you approach recording an album now compared to your earlier days?

That’s great to hear. Time and experience with each other of course helps gel a band together. But we also did approach this album differently. We really scoped out and vetted studios and engineers, and really talked about details in performance and recording to boost this record up as much as possible and distinguish it from the others. You learn as you go along, and this is album number 6, so we damned well better be learning something at this point.

Having traveled with a multitude of bands from various genres with various assorted personalities. Do you have a story or stories in particular that, when telling it to others, is hard for them to believe?

This is always a very difficult question to answer, unfortunately, partially due to the fact that there are surely so many stories from over the years and I’m so old and senile that I can’t pick one out from my swiss cheese brain, and partially because several tales that actually would come to mind I am not even able to relay as it would very likely incriminate some characters and cause them to be arrested, divorced, chased from their communities, strung up, tarred and feathered, and/or otherwise persecuted…. hell, some of those characters may very well be in HCS.

With the Hub City Stompers reputation preceding them, how many venues has the band been banned from playing at again?

Truth be told, the only venue that I know we have been openly and actively banned from is no longer in existence, and that was the Hamilton Street Cafe in Bound Brook, NJ as well as the Bloomfield Ave Cafe & Stage in Montclair, NJ, eventually, which was owned by the same fellow. And, more truth be told, the reason that HCS was banned from these venues is our connection to Inspecter 7 and a i7 related incident that occurred at one of the owner’s venues years before. We have a song addressing this actually, on our third album, Dirty Jersey, which is simply entitled “Fuck Hamilton Street”.

Now do I suspect that we have been blackballed from certain shows and fests and, yes, even venues in the past due to our reputation, connections, and following? Sure. But nobody has outright banned us to our faces at least.

What album or albums current or past are mainstays on your playlist?

For me personally, there are a LOT of albums that are mainstays on my playlist. I just got a functioning iPod again and it’s been a blessing. But if I was to pick out a few off the top of my head: Massive Attack “Mezzanine”, Godflesh “Streetcleaner”, The Clash “Sandinista”, Fear Factory “Demanufacture”, Sheer Terror “Love Songs for the Unloved”, Icement “Rest In Peace” EP, SubZero “Happiness Without Peace”, Beastie Boys “Paul’s Boutique”, De La Soul “AOI: Bionix”, Madness “Absolutely”, Bad Manners “Heavy Petting”, Black Uhuru “Anthem”, Frank Black “Frank Black”. I’d better stop there or I’ll just keep going.

Having just released a new album, is a cross-country tour imminent?

One cross country tour, no. The days of pulling off tours any longer than a week or 2 is over. Due to jobs, families, marriage plans, and other assorted life thangs amongst the various band members we are pretty much relegated to weekenders. So we tour the country by getting out to various areas on weekenders, as well as fests, as we’ll be doing with this album. We’ll be hitting some great fests this year such as This Is Croydon Fest, Supernova Ska Fest, Underneath The Underground Fest, and Midwest Live & Loud Fest. And we’ll be touring in areas such as DC, Ohio, NY state, New England, Texas, and California, for starters.

Feel free to give some shoutouts or plugs:

Thanks for rapping with me. The best way to keep in touch and see what we’re up to, currently is our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HubcitystompersNJ/ (our website is still under construction).
Be sure to pick up the new HCS album, “Haters Dozen”, at our shows or online here:
https://www.amazon.com/Haters-Dozen-Hub-City-Stompers/dp/B0795YFDYM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1523890812&sr=8-1&keywords=hub+city+stompers+haters+dozen

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