Renowned second-wave ska vets The Toasters will take the Paulina’s Badlands stage this Saturday, Jan. 20. The band’s longevity have made an indelible mark on the specialty music scene for the last 35 plus years.
They mightily wield the checkered ska sabre and hold their rightful place among giants like The Specials and Selecter. Founder and frontman Robert “Bucket” Hingley, a native of England, landed in New York City in 1980 and quickly formed the band, which helped launch a vibrant, thriving ska scene. The Toasters haven’t slowed down since.
We caught up with Bucket and got his thoughts on the current state of the music business and the key to the band’s stamina.
Q. So tell me about your label Megalith.
It’s a bit on the back burner because it’s hard to run a record label in the teeth of our competition—Spotify, Pandora and the rest of the streamers. They’ve done no favors toward the record labels.
Q. How have things changed with the advent of music streaming?
The traditional role of the record label has been obviated. Now bands have to go straight to the fans, so it makes sense for bands to be their own record label these days. The whole concept of going and recording a record and having it distributed to shops is gone. There are some specialty music stores left, but they’re just a fraction of the mainstream. Most of the sales are either online or at the shows.
Q. What’s the current environment like for bands, especially new ones?
There are more people than ever wanting to start a band and less places than ever to play and less mediums to get your music out there. Bands have to put stuff out on social media, which at the same time is not a great thing because people are sick of it. Not quite sure what else they could do unless they win the lottery and get signed by a major label.
So really bands have to get out and play as many shows as they can and use that as advertising plank for themselves, their music and their product. Otherwise, they’re gonna be sitting in their living room waiting for a very long time.
Q. Tough business. Do you still get that spark and remember the reasons you started playing in the first place?
Yeah, all the time. That’s one of main things that propels me forward through this heavy touring we’re doing. Last year, we played 227 shows, so there has to be something more than just money to get through that.
One of the things we’re doing to keep the band alive is playing in smaller venues. It makes more sense to go into a small venue and sell it out than to go into the enormodome and have it half empty. There’s no substitute for the kind of atmosphere a smaller club creates.