The Specials Encore: Well-Turned Out

By Jacqueline Howell

The Specials, by now an institution to those who know, reached their first number one album on the music charts in the U.K. in February 2019. Fans who do social media the right way are still sharing pictures, excited as kids at Christmas, of the new album being played on their turntables. We’re among them. The band’s extensive spring U.K. / Europe and U.S. tour will sell out as it always has and as it has, emphatically, since the band reformed around 2010. The tour will include several days in Coventry, where the band formed. They will kindly visit the U.S. and Canada, as they always do these days. And make no mistake: in a time of bleak, dystopic, machine-made pop music crafted from smoke and mirrors designed to obscure that today’s pop music acts are product mascots miming and dancing looking like lost pageant children, The Specials’ spectacular reception, rumbling as it has for some months through the authentic underground, quietly building momentum, finally broke through at just the right time, in a matter of otherwise bleak, midwinter days. It’s historic.

It’s no accident that The Specials first record in 37 years, Encore, is so successful and has been embraced so fervently by a generation (or two) who live unconditionally: who love things sincerely, waving them like flags, or not at all. The unequivocal success of The Specials’ new record is real, gritty, and pure. It’s not the result of ads and expensive handshakes, a contrivance of some branding genius somewhere, ensconced in a cool but lifeless concrete supervillain lair, who needs only his thumbs to influence the world for good or ill. It’s the opposite of things we’ve grown used to in music, trends that we suspect, that make us mistrustful of all media messages, while our critical thinking abilities and voices are regularly shouted down by thoughtless social media commentary that dominates so much public opinion. The success of The Specials in 2019 is (remarkably) the same as their success of their first records and tours: the result of hard graft, talent and something even rarer, an incorruptibility. Once again, we are seeing the rareness of originality rising to the top, and being embraced when it’s found. Only later does it seem inevitable or easy. Only from a distance. The ingredients of the new Specials record are the markers of genius that we’ve gotten rusty at recognizing because we are rarely offered it, point blank, no strings attached, in this new century that promised us so much more.

Lead single “Vote For Me” came out of the dark one day, sounding very reassuringly like The Specials of old. Terry Hall has always told us the truth, sounding fearless and confident, and detached in a way we all strive to be. “If we vote for you, do you promise / to be upright, decent and honest / To have our best interest at heart? You understand why we don’t believe you / You’re way too easy to see through / Not the best place to start.” YES. YES. YES.

Isn’t this what we’ve all needed? A crisp voice of reason, from a time, place, memory of when we had true musical outsiders we could trust? Where a dance beat and even a trombone could merge with punk rock’s ethos and whatever was coming next at the end of the century, telling us kids that things were dark, but we would still dance, resist, fight if we had to, and question what we were told by whichever grinning wolf sat in power? Thatcherite early 1980s Britain was full of turmoil, pain and glorious rebellion that was carried on music as much as anywhere, and maybe more. The Specials ducked in and out of taverns and working-class towns and down dark winding motorways in those days of emerging, to find out some people didn’t dance, but only ever threw bottles to express themselves. The Specials tenacity is well-documented, but as a reminder, they encountered seething, vile racism, out in the open, the violent kind, which made being a band like them dangerous, and yet, they sang, played, fought, resisted, and looked a million. There was no one else like them then. There’s still no one like them. Today’s political leaders have led their nations into darkness again, and the questions raised by The Specials in the late 1970s and early 1980s still ring out. Only now they, and we, have follow up questions. New sounds. More ammunition.

Encore is full of moods, ideas and painterly colours with pretensions. It’s a mature work, one that sounds like the organic evolution of this band. With a fairly short, tight and perfect back catalogue, the new record has been made with the attention and patience maturity brings. No need to repeat what was done before. No obvious label pressure to pander to pop or dance hooks (hell, they invented and adapted new kinds of hooks in popular music worldwide.) With a nod to the founding members’ divergent pasts, they’ve remade the Fun Boy Three song “The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum”, which deserves to be bopped to by new audiences. The inclusion of a Fun Boy Three song also points to the reality of the divergent paths the bandmembers have taken over the years, heading off any silly criticism about then and now and members’ departures. It’s a dark world, in which we have all lost too many, too young all the time. The fact that Terry Hall, Horace Panter and Lynval Golding are still here, and still here (making & performing their music on a global stage), is, as recent years’ concert-goers can attest, worthy of skanking your knees down to nubs.

Encore draws on the different musical styles that make up The Specials’ unique and genre defying bouillabaisse, with call backs to Prince Buster and Desmond Dekker’s music, as usual, spun with just an acid, British, twist. This band is still keenly in tune with not only the particular cultural concerns of Britain, but of the planet, too. Travel and life beyond the journey of a band grounds Encore firmly in the present moment, with authority to speak on the deepest concerns of today (as ever, with style): gun control. Black Lives Matter. Feminism, particularly in re-centering of the “I” of who has the mic and the power, a bold and sincere statement from a historically all-male band.

Which brings us to “10 Commandments”. The song features Saffiyah Khan, the activist who famously stared down an alt-right man while wearing a Specials T-shirt. This tune is a spin on Prince Buster’s “Ten Commandments”, in which the subject, women, are instructed how to behave.  Buster’s ten commandments have been remixed and remade in a kind of call-and-response.

“The Life and Times of A Man Called Depression” takes an insightful look at its subject. Terry Hall has been open about his depression as well as throwing support behind awareness campaigns in the U.K. Here, The Specials take another clear-eyed look at a subject that has too long been the subject of shame in families, in the workplace, and in the arts, where we demand of ourselves and our entertainers to be “on” at stage time, to perform and to give those waiting the time of their lives no matter what illnesses people are dealing with behind the scenes and outside of the 90-minute window of a gig. Depression among musicians seems, to us as journalists and music fans (first) to be a pressing issue deserving of consideration in the demanding world of entertainment. We need our artists well, and to get to retire, and to have private lives that are balanced with all they give us.

“He stands accused of being socially inept
Some say rude, aloof, devoid of any real truth
He lives in a world of self-doubt, self-pity, self-loathing, self-harm…”

Depression is an urgent subject for artists to become more vocal and honest about, as we’ve lost too many beloved artists in recent years to depression and its tragic outcomes. A song like this will no doubt hit home to so many, as well as affording a moment of empathy for our artists themselves.

The remarkable Lynval Golding steps into a bigger vocal role on Encore. He masterfully re-interprets The Valentines’ “Blam Blam Fever”, his authentic timbre ringing with the all the divergent experience of a Jamaican-born boy / now mature man living in America, a country of pain and strife today, much of it based around abuses of power and senseless gun violence. These themes continue into the very personal “B.L.M.”, in which Golding shares his life story through three countries and the casual, cruel brutality of racism he’s encountered along the way. His story is poignant, painful and clear: Black Lives Matter. Golding uses his warm voice and his platform to point to an ugliness that follows people of colour across time and space, that must be seen and called out with no quarter given, (including by everyone who hasn’t experienced it, as allies).

And so, we listeners and lifelong fans get to feel part of a brand new chapter, a continuum that started back in 1977 with a call for “black, white: unite”; the look, feel, style, and deeper messages of a sound and a loose philosophy called “two-tone”; the band who made it fashionable to be radical, peer over our hedgerows and borders, shake shit up. The Specials did this all while subtly giving glimpses underneath the well-turned cuff of a sharp suit, those unseen, countless, painstaking stitches, the labour that makes something as straightforward as fabric into art. The Specials will take this new music, blended with their classics, and their solid arguments on the road, as ever, facing down difficult subjects with the grace, power and euphoria of music.

Twitter: @JacksDisarm

The Specials Triumph in Toronto at Sold Out Show

Seeing The Specials live in the new century is an experience not to be missed, as those who’ve clamored to catch their regularly sold out North American tours in 2010, 2012 and this just-begun 2016 tour can attest. Not only do they sound impossibly fresh, they are still way out there on the edge, ahead of the curve, almost 40 years later. And they are riveting to see in action. Toronto crowds have always loved this band and have been enjoying a delightful years-long reunion since The Specials’ two night stand at Sound Academy in 2010 (a night some of us will cherish to the grave.)

One reason this iconic band is so unmissable is that the music was born out of a time and a climate in England when our musicians were more than tough, more than dedicated, and more than skilled. People were just more gritty then, and they had to be to survive (and then some, to thrive). The Specials traveled their own country incessantly in 1979 and 1980 amid the dark days of Thatcherism, labour unrest, mass joblessness, social upheavals and amid threats and reports of racist violence from the National Front, each night walking into a different beer soaked room amid a different crowd in a strange place with only their music and their attitudes between them and whatever lay beyond the edge of the stage. What developed out of those formative years took their one of a kind self-titled debut record and all of this Coventry bands’ peculiarities and hallmarks a step further, adding layers of life, of well-clad shoulder-to-shoulder work in the live music trenches (and sometimes, friction) and of an indelible cool, a confidence that no troublemaker or promoter lackey gesturing at their watch could even touch, let alone scratch. And cool like this is forever.

The music back then was naturally incendiary, but was in keeping with a dystopian time of skirmishes and fires anywhere people could clash, and the fuel of stresses and lager were there to start things up. And unlike some incendiary things going on around the country, this music had a lot to say. It had a point. Ahead of all the good and lesser Ska bands and pop bands that would play with images, style or sounds lifted from this one record, The Specials debut was and will forever be one of the most exciting bunch of sounds, personalities and performers to come out of the UK.

For the generation that grew up in the wake of the late 70s, British problems both micro (what specific street and area to avoid) and macro (institutionalized racism, joblessness, heartbreak expressed as anger, cultural and musical concerns that all these problems swirled around) resonated within England and beyond to distant shores who wanted to understand, be in the know and inject the band’s seemingly effortless cool into their veins. Whichever way we came to the music and from whatever amount of distance (and time delays in then-slow moving Toronto) the vinyl, and we had only the vinyl, contained some very unusual combination that rocked us out of whatever else we were listening to. It was so different than anything else we’d heard, and anything on radio. It was experimental, it was a riot of sounds, it was real instruments of a type we weren’t used to hearing (brass) and voices we weren’t used to hearing either as 80s kids, Jamaican voices and Patois from Neville Staples and Lynval Golding. A type of recording that sounds real and intimate, with spaces allowed to form and just enough production (via Elvis Costello). Terry Hall comes at the listener (from his own galaxy) of authority about the world he observed and his voice at times cruel, at other times beautifully wounded, pitching in ridicule and sometimes plain and perfectly blunt, speaking instead of singing. And the voices work together in weird ways that only these men would ever be able to do. The music sounds as tight as a symphony with bursts of occasional crashing sounds, in-studio effects, and playfulness that sounded like a club you’d kill to join, but of course, “you can’t come in…”

UK culture of their time was thus exported in a way that was perhaps unintended, and took on echoes far beyond England for fans further afield, framed by this band as cool, defiant, stylishly well-dressed-but-not trendy (and in defiance of class limitations or rules) urban, two-toned, dangerous and sharp. It was Jamaican-inflected, both in musical references and in its musical membership. It was authentic. The three voices of Terry Hall, Neville Staples and Lynval Golding invented a type of discordant harmony, deliberate disharmony and toasting that cannot be bested or duplicated, and would take the three friends into future musical projects outside of The Specials (notably Fun Boy Three, after The Specials first and then-firm break up in 1981).

The same is all true of this band today, even as Britain has changed and settled in endless ways and nite klubs are not the usual site of social movements the way they once were. Thatcher-era violence and problems still have their legacy, to be sure: the destruction, to so many, was a deliberate deforestation, and irreversible. Like all truly important music, The Specials sound is still deeply resonant and the warnings and dark portent still necessary. The darkness is forever at the edge of town, in our hearts, and lurking now in hidden places in the unreal online world, like the clown in IT. 2 tone, a hybrid of Ska with punk rock ethos is so simple, elegant and beautiful. Two tone  in fashion is timeless style – there is no more perfect line than black and white. It is a statement. So is a 2 tone band, a strongly political one, and it is still relatively rare in rock music, troubling, that, since it’s so clearly superior to some many sounds produced in a world too bland and too often lily white, or worse, colourless.

When you’ve been geographically fortunate and taken pains to see The Specials three times in six years in this new, bland century, one can finally afford the rare discipline to stop dancing and risking wearing others’ cups of beer with the crowd and just watch this show unfold from the barrier. This is a band in a time of big changes and heavy adaptation due to necessity and tragedy that they’ve handled with grace and professionalism. Long time drummer John “Brad” Bradbury passed away in December 2015 at just 62, at a time when the band was working on new material including new songs from Bradbury. So it’s remarkable to see a group who’s played together off and on for decades pull together in spite of this sudden loss. We hear afterward that during this show, only the fourth of the tour, things began to gel and flow, to feel some ease with the new formation in the live room. But a legendary band never lets us see them sweat. The addition of new members for this tour works impressively well from this side of the barrier: a band could do far worse than Gary Powell of The Libertines on drums and Steve Cradock (Paul Weller, Ocean Colour Scene) joining the group on guitar and backing vocals after Neville Staples left the band recently due to health concerns. Seeing a band at this level, today, means fans in jewel box halls like Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall also gets to see star players joining a star band, which is a treat.

Sir Horace Gentleman (who really and truly is), AKA Horace Panter, has been freed in the age of the cordless bass to circle and pivot the stage covering every corner and peppering the air with his boundless energy. One would think he was the energetic pup on this tour and not a founding member. Terry Hall and Lynval Golding have a rare bond and play off each other as they have for decades, and it’s an entertaining private side show for those with a close up view (who are trying to resist dancing and looking a mess just for once). It’s also a musician’s language of silent cues, looks and pauses that the crowd will never get even if we’d like to imagine otherwise. Terry Hall is arguably one of the most riveting front men in music and has never failed to be, no less because he is not a showman but operates internally, in his head, with some additional unscripted moments that erupt and remind us that music and singers are supposed to be menacing, dangerous, alive and even angry. Do not expect to bottle this stage (even with a plastic water bottle) and not get a response from Hall (you fool).

A little shoving match starts near the front of the crowd on the second song, “Friday Night, Saturday Morning” which probably comes from no tension greater than the effect real music has on people after listening to canned radio pap for too long and leaving their suburban homes for one night. I’m more interested in making sure the singer is not needlessly distracted or bothered by this minor moment than by the fate of the two men recapturing their youth via shoving just a few feet away. When you love a band and their music is in your bones you can sometimes leave your body and even tune out idiots for 90 minutes, that’s the secret and the miracle of live music too many have forgotten today. That’s what’s lived on and on for this stellar band and their lifelong fans far beyond Area 6, and as the faces of the Little Bitches of the 1970s, grandmas now, have faded away; the music that’s shone on and on far beyond reach of the grimy paws of The National Front and the same petty, senseless hate that persists in small, virulent pockets under other more cowardly names still; and the drums that beat on for Brad now in his memory; the music that rings on giving hope and reminding us to have grit and stay alert because while Thatcher is now pushing daises some once thriving cities are still ghost towns and have not recovered. That politics is forever wash-rinse-repeat. That our musicians are our outsider heroes, or at least, can be every once in awhile.

Golding takes a moment to mention that Black Lives Matter and also that Native American lives matter. Toronto gets a rollicking set that does not leave time or room to nitpick or even imagine anything could have been left off the wish list. It’s not til hours later during hours and hours of post-gaming that we realize “Stupid Marriage” wasn’t played. Personal highlights included opening with the impeccable “Ghost Town“, “Nite Klub” (is it my imagination or does Terry Hall sound very, er, sincere whenever he sings this one at us punters? Turning every room into the “club like this”? This song is so special, so alive, so snarky and so true, it’s the penultimate anthem with a bitter twist if you listen to the words. It probably informed half of Britpop’s entire existence. True love, this tune.) A personal favourite since the first record spin is the rare vulnerability Hall sings with in “Blank Expression” and of course, hats off always to the essential show closers “Enjoy Yourself” and “You’re Wondering Now” which are played to completion at their own pace while a flustered youngster hopelessly & desperately tried to signal to Hall via “cut” and “pointing at watch” gestures from side stage. He might even be trying to improvise a signal for “wrap it up”. Don’t you bloody dare annoy Mr. Hall whilst he’s working, young man, or I might (plastic water) bottle you.

With very special thanks to Horace Panter & The Specials

Further reading: We interviewed Horace Panter on music and art.

The Specials official website.

Jacqueline Howell

Horace Panter, The Specials Bassist, Painter and Author Speaks to Us

Sir Horace Gentleman, founding bassist of The Specials. Horace Panter, artist. There’s a number of ways to appreciate the creative work of the iconic bassist these days, as The Specials returned to the road after decades apart beginning in 2009 with all the fire and uncorkable energy that the records and filmed footage always promised. Still, the return of The Specials has been a delightful surprise after decades of longing, anticipation and rotating those early perfect records. The success of the early reunions have assured all concerned that The Specials can join festival bills and play in the UK and beyond whenever they are so inclined, and sell out crowds will be lining up to meet them on the other side of the barrier. The Fall 2016 tour (US September 9th-30th) then UK in October/November) will include Gary Powell of The Libertines on drums.

Crowds now contain multi-generational groups of fans: from those who were there more than 30 years ago to young parents with their children, to raised-right Millenials. A more well-dressed than usual rock club scene forms wherever The Specials land, with a strong representation of Rude boy and mod looks and Fred Perry shirts that have become more emblematic of this music, and more right, somehow, than your typical band t-shirt (though fans will sell those out too, for later dress down days.) For this band, and this rare decades long celebration that will reignite in the coming weeks across North American cities on The Specials’ upcoming tour, one tends to want to wear a collared shirt.

 The legacy of The Specials music which led to no less than 7 consecutive top 10 singles from 79-81 (and music of their contemporaries and touchstones) as well as the criss-crossing of American cities over the years has informed the work of Horace Panter the artist. Hailing from Coventry, Panter was a fine artist first, meeting Jerry Dammers at Lanchester Polytechnic (where Panter would earn a degree in fine art in 1975), a meeting that would lead to the formation of The Specials in 1977.

As a fine artist, Panter has created work that reflects a diverse set of influences from the Pop Art movement, a realm that continues to change as culture shifts in new ways, to Edward Hopper’s realist Americana works. Notably, the artist, having had much time to develop and grow in other creative pursuits, as well as the added facets of the unique life experience of a touring musician, has, in our view, also been his own influence, and a worthy one. Memory, highly specific, compelling travel imagery and the life of the idea of Americana are all present in Panter’s recent exhibitions in the U.K. including the recent Myth America show. America and Americana is an idea often best analyzed by visitors from abroad who’ve seen all the films and imagery but then connect that to the actual experience of the place, to dreams and fantasies or to jarring realities and fictions that are different in every different place’s myths.  These tend to focus on iconography of the road and its landscapes. The peopled pictures are something else again; the artist has created a definitive painting of The Specials that speaks to legacy and permanence despite the changes of time. A commissioned painting of the late Amy Winehouse moves beyond pop art and into something classical, while looking exactly like the overly-photographed woman, except composed, at peace, with that shrugging shoulder and surrounded by beauty and sun somewhere safe from paparazzi.

Horace Panter’s upcoming art shows (details at the bottom of this page) include Cassette vs. Vinyl, Panter’s continued exploration of iconic music imagery with the technology that is deeply bound in our shimmering memories when the physical object, cassette or vinyl was an inexorable part of music itself, plastic or vinyl treasures with pride of place. A canvas with a recreation of a band’s scrawl and an iconic record brings a sense of immediacy and emotion to something that culture has largely become divorced from in the unreal digital era. It’s a strong statement, and a very timely one. Today’s Pop Art, currently being redefined in these and other contemporary works, is something full of not only vivid colour, but vivid heart. And now, a rare musicality.

As Ska legends The Specials embark on their latest U.S. tour this month and with a full slate of art showings and related travel at home and abroad, Sir Horace Gentleman most generously took time to speak to us about his music, his art, his influences and his treasures.

Disarm: We’ve followed The Specials for as long as we’ve been aware of music. Like many big music cities in North America, Torontonians have a love of your music that is near and dear to us over the decades and has never left. While many of us weren’t at the shows the first time out in the late 70s, we were there for your unforgettable return to our city in more than 20 years (2010), and the next (2014), and are eagerly awaiting your next stop in our city  in September, for which, naturally, we bought tickets for the minute they went on sale. Can you share with us what the first records you remember loving or buying for yourself?

Horace Panter: When I was growing up, music was something I heard on a Sunday. My father would get up early and put a stack of LPs on this huge ‘radiogram’ record player in the lounge. It was Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or songs from the Musicals (South Pacific, High Society and so on). A little later on, a copy of ‘With The Beatles’ arrived and I loved ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ (1st track, side 2) but could never figure out who C. Berry was! The first single I bought was ‘5D’ (Fifth Dimension) by The Byrds, then I got ‘All or Nothing’ by The Small Faces and ‘Keep on Running’ by The Spencer Davis Group. By then I was becoming obsessed with pop music (1965-66).

Who or what inspired you to take up music(the bass) after first studying art in University?

I was in The Searchers’ fan club, aged 11. I liked the way bass-player Tony Jackson looked, with this big bass guitar, standing centre stage, singing ‘Sweets for My Sweet’ – yes, I’d like to do that! I ended up buying a bass guitar from a kid at school. It cost me £6. I couldn’t play it but I could hold it and pretend to be in The Small Faces. I never got to grips with the instrument until I went to college (1972) where I was fortunate enough to meet a drummer who could actually play and someone who could show me how to make sense of the bass.

We are not art critics, but we see some lovely shades (particularly in bold use of sunshine drenched colour) of David Hockney in your latest collection. As outsiders to America ourselves, we’ve always enjoyed the interpretation and experience of America through the eyes of British artists (and musicians). We know you spent a decade teaching art to special needs children in the 2000s before exhibiting your own art professionally in 2010. How did you come to making Pop Art? 

Pop Art was the first thing that got me interested in the visual arts. I’m a child of the 60s so the whole aspect of ‘pop culture’ designs: Carnaby Street, psychedelia and especially Peter Blake (he did the cover to The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ album). When I studied art at college I got swept up by the (then) current trends of conceptualism and minimalism but when I revisited my work later on, I returned to what had originally inspired me.

What are your current preoccupations?

In art I’m kind of between projects! I’ve just finished a series of large cassette paintings that will be exhibited in Los Angeles this October. I’ve recently become enamored by the English Ice Cream Van. It’s the nearest thing we Brits have to the colourful aesthetic I see in America. I’d like to paint a series of them and then there are many more ‘Americana’ pictures to do. Musically I’m getting steeped in country music. Reading a lot about its origins and how it has developed over the past 100 years; really interesting. I’ve got a 6-piece country band going (Honky Tonk Rose) which is proving a lot of fun. It has changed the way I play too. I always need something to ‘up my game’ – in music as well as art.

How do you spoil yourself?

I play music. There is very little that gives me greater pleasure than to play music.

What is your favourite era of music?

This is really difficult. It changes quite a bit. Ten years ago I would have said being in Chicago from 1958-1964 would have been amazing. I could see Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Freddie King, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed and Hound Dog Taylor on a pretty regular basis. I consider myself very lucky to have been a kid in the 60s – I remember when Sgt Pepper’s came out, saw Jimi Hendrix on TV and saw Led Zeppelin live when I was 15. In 1978 I was in a band that opened for The Clash and went on to play those venues in my own right a year later. What can I say…

What is your favourite journey?  

HP: A journey I’m looking forward to is a train ride across the Rockies from Minneapolis to Seattle. It’s part of our US tour. Some people are flying, others on the tour bus, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. I love travelling. I think airports are very exciting, even romantic, places. Those bus tours I did as a musician in the 70s and 80s were wonderful. Travel definitely broadens the mind.

What was the last great movie or TV show you saw? What book do you return to?

I don’t watch a lot of TV but I’ve always got a couple of books on the go. I’ve recently finished ‘The Country Music Reader’ by Travis D. Stimeling and a selection of articles from ‘No Depression’ magazine, both of which I found really informative. I was very impressed by ‘Into the Silence’ by Wade Davis, which is about British mountaineer George Mallory. Once every 18 months I read ‘Goodbye Darkness’ by William Manchester. My favourite music books are ‘Get in the Van’ by Henry Rollins and ‘s.t.p. A Journey through America with The Rolling Stones’ by Robert Greenfield. I’m a sucker for Rock Biographies (I wrote one myself: ‘Ska’d for Life’ 2007)!

What is your most treasured tool or instrument?

I suppose it has to be the 1972 Fender Precision bass that I’ve owned since 1975. It’s the instrument that I used on the first Specials’ album – I still bring it out from time to time; used it on The Specials UK tour in 2014. I’ve recently had it x-rayed and turned the x-rays into silkscreen prints!

What is your favourite curse word / the phrase you overuse the most?

I find myself using the word ‘famously’ a lot. I have no idea why ‘The Specials famously played in London in 1979…’ or ‘Oscar Wilde famously said…’; ‘Andy Warhol famously painted his soup cans… blah blah blah’. It sounds crap and I wish I didn’t do it!

Listen to selected Specials tracks 

Who is the most underrated band or underrated album?

An album I keep coming back to is ‘River’ by Terry Reid. I still have my vinyl copy, which I bought the day after I first heard it in 1975. I also have it on CD and it is on my iPod; the sound of his voice – the funk of the rhythm section and David Lindley’s slide guitar are an irresistible combination.

Your art has been hugely well received and now holds pride of place on many walls across the UK (and beyond). How has your work as an artist intersected/influenced your work as a musician (if it has)?

The two things are very separate in most instances. As a musician I am a team player. I need a drummer, guitar player, singer, and keyboard player etc. to work with. The art is my ‘solo album’. The pictures stand or fall by my efforts alone. The series of paintings I have done of Blues musicians were my attempt to describe how music affects me and my attempt to interpret it. Other than that, the two practices are separate. I feel very lucky to be able to work in two creative spheres.

What’s next for Sir Horace Gentleman?

Short term:

 The Specials US tour: 9th-30th September 2016

Art exhibition ‘Cassette Versus Vinyl’ in Los Angeles 8th-11th October 2016

The Specials UK tour: 19th October-19th November 2016

Art exhibition ‘Cassette Versus Vinyl’ in London 12th -16th February 2017

The Specials tour: Far East (Australia, Japan) April/May 2017

Long term:

Playing music and painting!

With very special thanks to Horace Panter.

Horace Panter Art Official Website

Horace Panter Art on Facebook

The Specials Official Website

Jacqueline Howell

%d bloggers like this: