Pama International have a new album “Pama Outernational” coming out in the United States in April. It has been out in the UK for awhile now and has been getting praised by critics and fans alike! I had a chance to send some questions over to Sean Flowerdew, keyboard player of Pama International and owner of Rockers Revolt label. Check out the excellent interview below and be sure to buy their new album when it comes out April 20th!
Your new album “Pama Outernational” is finally being released in the States in April. What else can you tell us about the album? Any guest appearances?
Yes, and I’m extremely excited about it. It’s available on 20 April. ‘Outernational’ carries on where our 2008 ‘Love Filled Dub Band’ album left off really… more 70s styled rockers reggae and dub. There’s also a 60’s Stax style soul vibe thrown in and a touch of ska in the mix. I produced it again with John Collins (producer of Love Filled and The Specials Ghost Town ep). I wanted to have a bit of a heavier dub sound, which I think we achieved, but there’s also some lighter soulier, dare I say poppier moments. Sir Horace from The Specials guests on a couple and of course Lynval’s all over it. But that’s it as far as guests are concerned.
How does “Pama Outernational” differ from your past releases?
I like to think we’ve improved with each album we’ve made, which seems to be confirmed with the press, radio and sales ‘Outernational’ has got in the UK. Hopefully each album is different to the last and there’s a steady progression. There’s no point in making an album if you’re going to go backwards right? With our next album I would like to do something much more radical though. I’m always looking at what to do next. With Outernational I’m just starting to achieve what I can hear in my head and transferring it to a finished album, but still a very long way to go.
Lynval Golding of The Specials has been playing with the band lately. Is that a permanent role or will he just pop in every once and awhile and perform with the band when he’s available?
Lynval’s been a part of Pama Intl since 2004, although I started working musically with him back in 1992. He’s now played on all our albums apart from the first 2. He lives in Seattle so working with him has always been tricky, but he’s toured with us every year for the last 6 years. Now The Specials are back up and running his time is more limited but he plays with us when he can. We just did a great show with him in Brixton. We’re close friends so we’ll always be working with each other in one way or another.
On the Highrise Campaign album on Rockers Revolt, you recorded a Billy Bragg song with the man himself. How did that experience come about? Any chance of doing a full album with Pama and Billy just doing reggae songs?
I met Billy at Glastonbury one year. He’d watched our set and really enjoyed the show. He was great to work with. Very easy. I went round his house, had a cup of tea, did two vocal takes and I was on my way. A full reggae album with him would be great. I’ll go ask him now! I’d love to do that. I think his version of Highrise/To Have & Have Not works really well. I like the fact that it’s quite an unexpected combination. No one associates Billy with reggae but he loves it. He should do more for sure.
Out of the all the musicians you have worked with, who was your favorite to work with and why? Who else would you like to work with on future projects?
Rico Rodriguez is an absolute gentleman. History just pours out his playing. Michie One is a star and wonderful to work with. Dennis Alcapone is great. I love his style. True pro. Ansel Collins, Derrick Morgan, AJ Frankin were all incredibly easy to work with and get on with… Anna Stott is a fantastic new singer who did a radio session with us at Christmas. I hope she’ll feature heavily on future work. There’s too many to mention really. I’ve enjoyed working with everyone who’s guested with us in different ways. It’s a wonderful thing to collaborate with people. I met Huey from Fun Lovin Criminals awhile back. He was very cool and again a big reggae fan. And James Morrison. Again very cool, talented singer. Mad Professor… the hardest working man in reggae…. definitely going to do more with him.
I’d also love to work with some more of the older generation players, rather then singers…Boris Gardener (bass), Horsemouth Wallace (drums), Ansel Collins (piano), Earl Smith, Tony Chin or Ernest Ranglin (guitar) would make a great line up for an album. I started to do some work with Rebel MC, but that never got finished. I’d like to do more with him. I’d like to record with artists I admire…like Marcia Griffiths, Steve Cropper, Burning Spear, Toots, Prince Buster, Ken Parker, Papa San, Cedric Brooks, Mavis Staples, Junoir Murvin, Sly & Robbie, Prince Jammy … the list is endless. Or just even sit in a room and listen to great songwriters like Holland, Dossier and Holland, Ray Davies, Bob Dylan. There’s so much to be learned about the art of music from people like that.
Besides your own releases, what other ska & reggae releases are listening to and recommend?
Pressure Sounds label puts out some fantastic reissues… Jimmy Radway & The Fe Me Time All-stars is one of the best dub albums I’ve ever heard. Joe Gibbs-Life Of Contradictions is simply beautiful. The album is full of wonderful writing and melodies. And the production is spot on. Pressure Sounds have got a new reissue coming from Prince Jammy from the 70s that looks great.
Our guitarist Lenny Bignell (also plays with Acid jazz soul band ‘Lord Large’) has got a cool rocksteady project going called Sidewalk Doctors. A new(ish) Spanish band called Hotdrop just put out a very nice album all recorded on 8 track. Some stuff on my brothers Do the Dog label is cool… Rebelation’s latest release ‘The Berlin Sessions’ features some of the best work they’ve done, especially the opening track. Also on Do The Dog the forthcoming Jimmy The Squirrel album has some nice songs on it… one called ‘How I Go’ is cool. I don’t listen to much new music though. It’s finding the time in between creating my own/running the label and band/relaxing listening to music I love and playing with my family.
Do you think the European ska scene is better than the American ska scene right now?
I’m not very up on either. We play to a very mixed audience…. reggae/dub, punk, student, ska, scooter scenes, and regular civilians, so don’t do much on just the UK ska scene. I don’t like to limit us to anyone scene or let ourselves be pigeon holed. I’m not sure about the ska scene on the continent but the scene in the UK isn’t very big, but there are a lot of clubs playing it. Mainly old 60s sounds though. And a bit more 2 tone now The Specials have reformed, but that hasn’t filtered down to the UK ska scene. There seems to be more US bands playing ska then over here or on the continent. But then I guess it’s a much bigger country. Reggae seems to be much more popular then ska on the continent, but the two scenes cross over a bit.
You’ve opened up for the Levellers several times, and they happen to be my favorite band. Would have been awesome to see those shows! Were you or the band worried that their dedicated fan base might not appreciate the sound of Pama?
We did a 10 date UK tour supporting Levellers last March. We also played at their festival ‘Beautiful Days’ a couple of times and with them at Glastonbury once. Nice bunch of people.
No, I wasn’t worried. I knew some people wouldn’t get what we were doing, but that’s the same of any support slot. Some people aren’t interested in seeing the support, others are. We went down well, and won some people over and got to a new crowd, so I’m very happy we did it.
Here’s a series of quick answer questions:
Least Favorite song to play live?
I don’t dislike playing it but I never got why people liked our song ‘Truly Madly Deeply’. I always thought it was ok, but for some reason people really took to it. It ended up on 3 film soundtracks (including Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Fools Gold) and busking band The Dualers covered it and got it to number 23 in the UK charts. Never understood what people liked about the track. Still don’t.
Favorite city to play in?
In the UK… London and Newcastle. Belfast was great as well. In America I always enjoyed Boston, Austin, San Diego, New Orleans, but it’s been awhile… 1992 was the last time I played in USA.
Favorite Levellers song?
Watching the hits live was good. Seeing their crowd lap that up. ‘One Way’ and ‘What a Beautiful Day’
Band you’re really dying to see live?
I heard the reformed Pil were very good, even though it’s just Johnny Lydon from the original line up, so would quite like to see them. Not sure about ‘dying to see’ but I’d like to catch Eli Paper Boy Reed, Sharon Jones and The Aggrolites next time they coming through the UK.
Favorite song to cover?
Not a big fan of covers. We’ve killed a few classic songs in our time… Everything I Own being the worst I think, thankfully we never recorded it, but murdered it live a few times. And Tears Of a Clown when I was in Special Beat always made me cringe. You can’t beat Smokey! Some things you shouldn’t do, but there are a series of covers albums we’re planning. That will be a very different affair.
Most underrated ska band?
From the UK past… the late 80’s had some fantastic bands that should of been bigger… Potato 5, Hotknives (the original line up) and Maroon Town all had brilliant moments and handled differently could of done a lot better. The Stubborn All-stars first two albums had solid tracks on. Well written, played and produced. Bim Skala Bim’s debut I still rate very highly today… and The Untouchables-Wild Child album. I’m not very up on today’s ska scene! That late 80’s/early 90’s period was a great time for ska.
Favorite British TV comedy?
I like a lot of old 70’s comedy… Morcombe and Wise, Porridge, Dads Army… and slightly more modern Bottom. I like American cartoons. I just got my daughter some Top Cat and Hong Kong Phoey DVDs. Next up Captain Caveman. I love The Simpsons, Family Guy and Futurama
What was the last movie you saw?
Last night I watched Antichrist on DVD. All I can say is I feel like some of my life has been robbed. Complete and utter tosh. Best film I’ve seen recently… Hang Em High with Clint Eastwood.
Band/artist that annoys you?
Life’s too short to get annoyed by music. If you don’t like it don’t listen. I just try to get on with my own thing.
Any plans to tour the USA to support the new album? Where else is Pama International planning on touring in the near future?
I’d love to tour in America again. As I said, last time I toured there was 1992 with Special Beat. Hopefully we’ll be over soon. We’re looking at the possibility of coming over maybe Feb 2011. We’re also currently looking at tours of Scandinavia, South America, and some dates in France. In the meantime the UK dates continue throughout 2010.
What direction do you think the band will go in for future releases? Will you stick to the dub rocksteady sound or go back to a more soulful ska sound that we’ve heard in your earlier releases?
I don’t believe it’s ever good to go back… got to push forward and try to push the boundaries. There are lots of things I’d like to try. I don’t think I’ve been progressive enough. Looking back at our past releases there has been a progression but only gradual. I’ve started writing our next full studio album, which I’d like to put out in the UK January’11. I haven’t got the direction for that settled in my head yet. It needs to be more radical. Heavy Rockers/Soul seem to be the way I’m writing at the moment. Time will tell on that.
I’d also like to do similar albums to our Trojan Sessions album, with more collaborations with great old time artists… maybe we could do ‘Greensleeves Sessions’ or ‘Frontline Sessions’ for Virgin. I’d like to make a classic lovers rock album and get wonderful vocalists like Janet Kay & Carol Thompson involved. We’ve got a series of cover albums planned… very raw… Studio One style is what I have in mind for those. Some great ideas. Just finding the time to do it all and keeping the standard high.
Final comments, plugs and all that fun stuff?
We’ve got a new website up and running for USA www.pamaintl.com which will be keeping up to date on all things happening with Pama Intl stateside.
There’s already loads going on…listening parties in DC, LA, Toronto, San Diego, NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia and loads more. You can pre-order the album now at http://www.musicaloccupation.com/products-page/music/ and that gets you a free download. We’ll be running different promotions and comps on the America site so keep checking it out. If people would like to join our mailing list and get a free download they can at www.pamainternationaldownloads.com.
If people are interested in what we’re releasing on our label here in the UK they can check out www.rockersrevolt.com. We’ve got lots planned for release him in 2010 including; Sidewalk Doctors, Pama Intl vs Mad Professor, a 7″series, Babyhead-Heavy Weather album and much much more.
Thanks for the great interview Sean, hopefully the US gets to see Pama International live soon!