When Rancid guitarist Tim Armstrong asked Hepcat singers Greg Lee and Alex
Desert whether they'd be up for a trip to Jamaica to work on Rancid's new
album, the pair downplayed their enthusiasm for fear that the project might
somehow or another fall through.
"We were like, sure, no problem," Lee recalled recently by phone from his L.A. home.
Two weeks later, the traditional-style ska singers were standing in Kingston, Jamaica, unable to believe their eyes; they were smack in the middle of what Lee says is the follow-up to punk forefathers the Clash's own Jamaican musical story. "What Rancid is doing is along the same vein of what the Clash were doing," Lee said. "When the Clash were doing sessions with different Jamaicans and paying for recording sessions for Jamaicans to record their stuff, that's exactly what Rancid's doing. If you can imagine picking up exactly where the Clash left off, that's what I heard."
At one point, legendary rhythm-team and producers Sly and Robbie came into the studio, Lee said. "I mean, these mega-stars were just walking in as we were there, some just stopping by, others to record. It was just a trip. It was one of the
biggest things that ever happened to me in my life."
Lee and Desert lent their vocal talents to three tracks for Rancid's upcoming Life Won't Wait (Epitaph). The fourth album by the punk and ska traditionalists is tentatively slated for a May 18 release. Hepcat's own Right On Time album was released last month on Armstrong's Hellcat imprint.
"It was too awesome an experience to be in Jamaica, to record with [dancehall star] Buju Banton," Lee said, obviously still in disbelief.
Lee especially prized the Rancid recording experience because, he said, it
reminded him of the tales his father, an engineer at Alabama's legendary
Muscle Shoals Studio, would tell him as a kid. "There was one song that
they did that we weren't on, and I actually sat there in the recording
studio and listened to it played twice. And I said, 'This is going to be a
major, major hit -- and I was here for the recording of it.' That to me,
being my father's son, is just such a huge thing." [Fri., Feb. 6, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]