Rob "Bucket" Hingley has a simple motto: Don't let the bastards grind you down. It's fitting for the longtime champion of ska and leader of the genre's American flagship, the Toasters. Any preconceived notions and prejudices people may harbor against ska, however justified, are thrown out the door the minute the Toasters take the stage. The group distills ska music for neophytes and aficionados who know the difference between the real deal and bouncy MTV pop-punk vomit with horns. The band's pedal-to-the-dance-floor groove, tempered with just the right amount of surly edge, should convince even the most dedicated ska hater. We checked in with Bucket, who happily gave us some dirt on Sugar Ray, discussed a Venezuelan coup and told us about the longest tour ever.
Westword: How long have you been on the road?
Bucket: It's been 23 years now. We'll play our 4,000th concert this year, which averages out per year towell, that's something for the punters to figure out.
What are the best cities that you've played?
Everywhere is great, but some of the places that are most gratifying are those places that haven't had the opportunity to experience ska before. I like going to the Eastern Bloc countries, like Hungary and Serbia, because you're breaking new ground.
Aren't those the most dangerous places?
There is a bit of that. Last time we were in Croatia, there was still shooting going on. We were in Venezuela for the [Hugo] Chavez coup. We always had a good time behind the Iron Curtain.
Isn't it a little sketchy playing in war zones?
As a musician, people don't really bother you, because you're a goodwill ambassador.
Nearly forty people have been a Toaster at one time or another. Do you keep track of everyone?
Some people have disappeared off the face of the globe. A couple are in Sweden. A couple are genetic engineers. One person works for the EPA. They're all over.
Does that mean retirement?
I have no plans to stop working. When you're sitting on a bus in Santa Fe, you realize it doesn't matter where you live. The band has a global reach. You can do everything these days with the Internet and a plane.
Are you glad that the popularity of ska has subsided from its mainstream peak in the '90s?
The water got really muddy. It was like being on a farm, and all the animals rush for the feed bucket. It was a little disgusting. But ska is coming back now stronger than ever. The bad bands have been weeded out. They became swing bands or Sugar Ray.
How many times have you been asked if ska is dead?
Quite a lot. But people who raise that question don't understand the music. Ska refuses to go away. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it isn't here. It's a tough beast to kill.
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