Interview: Buster Shuffle’s Jet Baker


Buster Shuffle are celebrating entering their tenth year of existence by releasing the infectious single ’I Don’t Trust A Word You Say’ from the equally addictive album ‘I’ll Take What I Want’. The band have continued their play anywhere with anyone attitude which has taken from Blackpool to L.A’s Sunset Strip. In the words of Cock Sparrer:
‘We worked our way up from east end pubs, To gigs and backstage passes, Ex-boxing champs, West end clubs, Americans in dark glasses’
Buster Shuffle’s combination of Ska, Punk, Rock ’N’ Roll and 2-Tone has them on the threshold of hard earned and well deserved mainstream commercial success.Their latest album is receiving world-wide rave reviews, including

Album Review: Buster Shuffle – I’ll Take What I Want’s Guy Shankland caught up with lead singer and chief ivory tinkler Jet Baker to discuss influences, playing Rebellion, touring the States and their spankingly good latest release.

OR. There is a lovely mix and blend of styles on the album from Ian Dury, Madness to The Streets and even Chas ’N’ Dave. I know you must have been asked a million times but what are the musical and cultural influences that go into Buster Shuffle?
JB. You’ve hit on a few them, obviously stuff like The Specials and Madness we love. But a lot of it, the Rock ‘n’ Roll side of it was actually Little Richard, Fats Domino, piano-led bands, obviously, I play piano and sing. That’s what got me into playing the piano, it was Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee, Fats Domino, so I could play Rock ‘n’ Roll when I was little. Then I discovered bands through my older brothers like Madness, The Specials Ian Dury and fell in love with that. When you take Rock ‘N’ Roll piano and sing it with a London accent it obviously sounds very British, like Madness or something like Chas ’N’ Dave which is were that sort of parallel is drawn from. The Clash is also a big influence as well, just for the attitude and the spirit of it all. So it’s crossing that Punk, Ska and Rock ’N’ Roll. There the key ones I would say.

OR. Is it a natural mix of those bands you grew up listening to that has made the Buster Shuffle sound?
JB. Yeah, it really is natural, I’ve said it in a couple of other interviews, in America. It’s not contrived it’s what we do. If an idea comes up and its got a Madness-esque or Ska sound we don’t fight it as much as sometimes we’re like “Wow that’s a lot more Punky, let’s just go with it”. We just mix up those genres and the piano plays a big part in taking it somewhere else. Some of those songs if they didn’t have the piano on it they may just end up sounding like another Punky track, with the piano and cockney accent it gives it that Ian Dury edge, it just comes out that way. It’s not something we sat down and thought about.

OR.With all the bands you’ve supported including Flogging Molly, Madness and of course The Rebellion Festival, where have you got the biggest reaction?
JB. Yeah Flogging Molly at The (London) Forum was particularly good, obviously, it was their gig and a big crowd but there was a lot of people who knew our songs, so it felt like our own homecoming gig when we walked out on stage there. Right from the start, everyone was with us. As a support band sometimes you get some good slots and sometimes you’ve got to work hard and you can really (pauses) struggle to get the crowd to come with you. We’ve always been good at that because we’re a bit of party band really. But at Flogging Molly we came off stage and we were happy with it and commented amongst the chaps in the band, we felt like that the London crowd was with us and we didn’t have to battle with them they just came with the party straight away. It might be a reflection of Flogging Molly because of their really varied audience, all ages, Punky kids and some into the folk thing. Rebellion is always great to play, the biggest Punk Rock festival in the world. If you get a late slot, it can be better, it can be harder earlier in the day but it’s just a great one to get on.
OR. Are you playing it (Rebellion) next year?
JB. We haven’t been confirmed for it. We’ve done it two years in a row, although last year wasn’t great planning on our part. I’m hoping we’ll do it, some bands are there year in year out anyway, it’s not been confirmed but we might be there, especially as the records just come out.
OR. Last year there was yourself, Bar Stool Preachers and Neville Staple who all got big, big crowds, but how nerve-wracking was it the first time you played there?
JB. We’ve been going longer than I think sometimes, people say “You’ve been going ten years as a band” but we didn’t get out of pubs for three or four years before anyone would even give us a gig outside of just playing pubs in London. So we’ve been working festivals and doing our own shows for six or seven years and for quite a while Rebellion, I don’t think was interested in us. Then when we got it, was it scary, yes it was! Nowadays subculture has to come together and stick together and it should. Because if you like Ska or Madness then your probably going to like The Clash, Ian Dury and UK Subs and all that stuff, it’s going to crossover. There are people who just listen to Jamaican Ska or Studio One, but the reality is that people to like lots of different music. It’s so accessible with Spotify and iTunes, more so than ever than it ever has been so why wouldn’t you like two or three different bands or genres. When we first went out and did Punk ‘N’ Disorderly (festival) in Berlin, where it was completely OI! And the booking agent, Mad Mark, he’s brilliant, he was going “You are the sorbet, you are the sorbet!” And we went on in front of two thousand German Skinheads, thinking Sorbet? It sounds like bait to me! But they went with it, we’ve been lucky like that.

OR. Does it feel like that you’ve been going Ten years?
JB. (Laughs) , I think a lot of people still view us a new band, or maybe it’s completely in our heads, four albums in, it’s quite a body or work. It’s very rare for new bands to form and then immediately have representation and festivals and things. The Bar Stool Preachers have come out, the bands form and they’re straight onto everything, they’re getting all the offers, it’s happened really quick for them. But for us, as I say no-one would give us gigs, we were just playing pubs in East London, The Dolphin in Hackney or Bethnal Green working men’s club for years and years. It wasn’t until we finally had enough material to record an album which we did in a bedroom in someone’s house, and then put it out there. Then suddenly people picked up on that and we started getting some offers, we still couldn’t get a booking agent so we just scrapped around for gigs. The proper stuff, Rebellion and various festivals have only been the last five years or so. There was so much hard work before anybody really noticed us, it still feels new, but ten years is a long time, who am I kidding (laughing)!

OR. In the ten years, you’ve been going, the music industry has and continues to shift, as you said Spotify, iTunes and it’s all pushed on to that. So how do you as an up and coming band that are so close, yet so far away, make it financially viable to keep going out on tour and recording?
JB. Good question. I’ll tell you what it is, it’s pure commitment and that’s maybe something people are getting with us. Certainly in Europe where we do some crazy driving, sometimes I really worry we’re pushing ourselves too hard, literally driving a thousand miles for a couple of gigs. Then people have to go back and try and teach, all the lads have other jobs, teaching, music shops, so we try to keep it not to serious work wise so we’re available for good shows when the offers come in. It’s a lot of graft and the thing is we’re starting to get better money and better offers, which is nice, it’s not just about that. But we are using that income to then try to get back to the States. It’s expensive to go and tour there with visa’s and everything but it somewhere we want to go and I think there is an appetite over there for English music and accents. Really they’re kind of deprived of it because it’s only the bands that have been around and established for years that get offered good money to go out there and make it viable. But they’re getting older and older now so soon its going to a point where there are no British bands in America, in another five to ten years who’s going to be out there playing Punk Rock Bowling and representing England. (Cock) Sparrer, UK Subs and all those brilliant bands, have they got another ten to fifteen years, y’now what I mean.

OR. What sought of venues were you playing in America and how did your distinctive London sound go down over in the States.
JB. Really good, some shows were absolutely boiling and some were harder work. We started off in Seattle and that was harder work because it’s traditional Rock city, as you know, the whole Nirvana, Pearl jam thing, too cool for school type of thing. As we got further South down into California they really started bigging it, the whole sort of Ska thing still there with bands like Hepcat, No Doubt over the years the whole California Ska thing. We were playing with a band called Guida, who are Italian sort of Glam Rockers, who were great and have a real cult following over there. So it was clubs of between three and five hundred capacity, they were all well attended. We got to play the Viper Room which was particularly good, just playing Sunset Boulevard, such a legendary place.
OR. And a nice photo opportunity outside The Viper Rooms.
JB. We felt stupid on the whole tour, we’re like a bunch of Essex kids, who aren’t kids anymore, who do this for the love of it. Suddenly your walking onstage going “Hello San Francisco”. Every city we walked into we were turning around laughing at each other. Then we walked out and said “Hello Hollywood” we all just took a moment to compose ourselves cause we were laughing but six weeks later we were in Grimsby on Thursday night “Alright Grimsby” from Hollywood to Grimsby (laughing). But they were all into it. Some people at The Viper Room had seen us two days before in Long Beach, we went from Long Beach to Las Vegas and about ten people who had seen us on Tuesday came to see us again on the Thursday. So we were like, ok there’s some scope for this, it’s just the expense of getting out there, the visa’s and everything and how you make it work.
OR. Worth it for the experience though,
JB. Yeah, I’d like to try and build something over there and we feel and the label does as well. It’s a matter of getting out there and just keep going you know, if you can. We were touring with Guida who were on there fifth or sixth tour and the singer, who was a super-duper chap, we got on well. He was saying “You can’t think of America as just one tour you’ve got think of your fourth and fifth. Get there and play, and once they realise you are a band that comes back, you’ll grow it.” So that’s the plan.

OR. When you go back in May is it to do some headline shows or are you going to buddy up with another band?
JB. We’re mixing it up, so probably start in Boston, then New York, make our way down to Miami and meet up with some other bands on the way. We’ve played with Dropkick Murphys in the past and The Slackers and bands like that, they’ve got the ear for the London accent and Ska tunes.

OR. Ska is having a real revival at the moments, with The Specials, Madness, Selecter and The Beat all still touring, recording and drawing big crowds along with the second wave bands such as Reel Big Fish who also get a couple of thousand at shows. Plus the newer bands like yourselves, The Bar Stools and The Interrupters coming through, it seems like 2-Tone is getting a second wind.
JB. The Interrupters are doing big, big stuff at the moment which is great to see. I just hope they come back over here and hopefully have some British bands play with them, to keep it all going.

OR. The album is out and also the latest single ’I Don’t Trust A Word You Say’ (watch below)
JB. That’s us having a little bit of a rant, the most ranty the bands ever been. In the past we tended to write songs about everyday shenanigans really, the single’s a little shout at everything that’s going on with politics around the world. Getting a bit pissed off with it all, we’re very proud of that single and the album as well. I think we’ll release another single or two from it. The feedback has been very good so far which is great.

OR. What about tour dates for the UK?
JB. Well, we’ve got six dates with Neville Staple (Ex-Specials) booked in April, that’s for ‘The Three Generations Of Ska Tour’. (link below) which is Stranger Cole, Neville and us. Around that we’re going to do some of our own shows, in other towns, Nottingham, Newcastle, Leeds, generally wherever Neville’s not going. So there will be a load of UK dates next year, it’s looking likely to be March/April time. And hopefully some Festivals in the summer as well, the offers are coming in.

Tickets for upcoming tour.

Buster Shuffle latest album ‘I’ll Take What I Want’ is out now via Burning Heart.

For the latest Buster Shuffle Tour dates, Merchandise and general band information check out their website.

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