All-Stars' Stubborn Persistence Leads To New LP

Band perseveres through tough times to find itself sitting pretty in a ska-friendly era.

Stubborn All-Stars singer King Django has seen both bad times and good times for

ska bands such as his own.

He's just glad that he's still here to sing about it.

Despite a banner year for seasoned ska groups such as the Mighty Mighty

Bosstones and younger acts Reel Big Fish, Save Ferris and Buck-O-Nine, the

gravy train hasn't always been rolling for the genre, as New York ska vet

Django will attest.

"You get into these funks for no reason, it's really hard to keep the bands

together," said Django, a.k.a. Jeff Baker, recently by phone from his Big

Apple home. "You've got the day-to-day rigors of not having a day job and

trying to keep your bills paid, the battle against entropy. The only way to

get yourself out of it is to keep the work up. Keep working it, keep your goal

in sight, keep moving forward toward it."

For more than a decade, the 30-year-old Django has slugged it out as a

member of Skinnerbox and more recently, the Stubborn All-Stars, whose new

song "Pick Yourself Up" (RealAudio excerpt)

serves as a testament to Django's enduring spirit: "God helps those who help

themselves," he sings simply over an infectious, traditional ska beat.

"Nobody's

gonna give you no free ride / You've got to work real hard to have

something of

your own."

Horace Panter, bassist for the second-wave ska pioneers the Specials, said

it's the spirit of "Pick Yourself Up" that has kept the music alive and

spawned

ska's new-found popularity in America. "Ska bands have trudged around

America in Dodge vans and slept on people's floors for years," said Panter,

44.

"They're responsible for getting this movement going. It's not built on MTV

hype, but by word-of-mouth."

Explaining that he wrote "Pick Yourself Up" after an especially rough

Skinnerbox tour, on which the band often was left in a lurch because of

shoddy booking arrangements, Django reflected on a low point in the band's

career. "Sometimes you get in these phases where everything seems to be

crashing," the singer and trombonist said.

Right now, however,what the All-Stars are hearing is the sound

of hands slapping high-fives for their new album Back With a New

Batch (Stubborn/Another Planet). On the album, Django details world-weariness on such

traditional reggae tracks as "Tired of Struggling," and tells a bad-luck

girl off on the New Orleans-flavored "Because of You."

"The songs were a little more organically grown, and I think they're more

personal than the last album," Django said. "Our intent is to keep it a

pre-'80s sound. The new record has some rhythm and blues in it, a little

bit of New Orleans flavor in it, a lot of rock steady and skinhead reggae."

Among the 17 ska players who lend a hand on the disc are Tim Armstrong,

Lars Frederiksen and Matt Freeman from Rancid, and Dicky Barrett from the

Bosstones. Considering the hard years these guys have worked themselves,

it's only appropriate that their contributions include backing vocals for

"Pick Yourself Up."

"Dicky and the guys in Rancid were both really helpful to Stubborn

All-Stars when we first started," Django said. "I just wanted to have them

sing on the record because they were so into it. And I thought it'd be

really cool to have Dicky singing with Lars and Tim."

It was Rancid, however, that extended the welcoming hand first when they

offered the All-Stars the opening slot for their European tour less than a

year after the All-Stars' debut album Open Season began making waves

in ska circles. Rancid liked the band so much that they brought the

All-Stars' horn section along with them on the 1996 Lollapalooza tour.

"Tim Armstrong's vocal style definitely was an influence on me," Django

said. "He really freed my vocals up. Just listening to him all the time

helped me to be a lot less uptight, more expressive, and to try a lot

more things with my voice."

Color="#720418">[Wed., Nov. 26, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]