Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Silver Dollar - NJ Trad Ska

New Jersey is a hotbed of activity in the American ska scene, second to possibly only California with the number of bands and amount of talent cropping up over the past few years. While young as a collective unit, the members of Silver Dollar are seasoned verterans. Featuring King Django, Skooch of Inspecter 7, and members of other great NJ bands The Cosmic Brotherhood of Ra, Stereo Freeze and Jersey Rhythms among others, Silver Dollar is a collective of talented musicians paying tribute to their influences while continuing to grow as a band and embark on their musical and spiritual journey. Instead of trying to describe them in any further detail, I'll let this interview speak for itself...

Current Lineup:
Skooch - Tenor Sax, Vocals
Jimbo - Guitar, Backing Vocals
John Cosmic - Bass, Backing Vocals
King Django - Trombone
Timmay - Drums
Johnny B - Trumpet, Vocals
Mr P.C. - Alto Sax, Backing Vocals

When and how did you form?
Silver Dollar formed after years of speculation, discussion, etc..... Skooch had always wanted to assemble a band to pay tribute to the many musical forms that came to us from Jamaica with Trad Ska being at the forefront of those interests. It had been discussed with many different players at many different times until the idea was finally hatched over a discussion at the Knitting Factory between Skooch, Jimbo and Django and a separate conversation between Skooch and John Cosmic. Things started to come together in early 2007 with the original intention being to learn a set of Skatalites covers together with some of Skooch's originals and then see where it would lead. Timmy, Johnny B and then Pete really rounded out the lineup giving us the group that we now have today. The concept is based around learning the fundamentals of Jamaican music including not only music theory but also the African roots of the music and culture of the island. It is with this foundation that we can begin to evolve and create our own musical and artistic tribute. Call it woodshedding or a workshop, but it goes much further than playing live and seeking acceptance from our peers. Learning is a selfless act that lasts a lifetime.

How did you get your band name?
"Silver Dollar" is the name of a song by the Skatalites.

What style of music do you play? What are your influences?
Silver Dollar plays the music of Jamaica and all of it's influences such as Afro Cuban Jazz, Latin Jazz, Bop, New Orleans Boogie Woogie, Gospel, Big Band, Mento and Calypso. Our collective influences would be far too long to list but we are all in one way or another influenced by Ska, Reggae, Rocksteady, Bop, Big Band, Free Jazz, Afro Cuban Jazz, Gospel, Calypso, Mento, Boogie Woogie, Jump Blues, R&B, Soul, Funk, Punk, Afro Beat, Blues and a pervading sense of spiritual purpose that drives each of us in our own way.

You’re a rather new band, but far from inexperienced. Based on your roster, I'm sure we can expect great things… have you had any shows yet?
Thus far we have played a handful of gigs to get our feet wet and "Practice on the bandstand" as Miles Davis once put it.

How did they go? What can we expect from a Silver Dollar show?
Silver Dollar has been well received and learned a bit about communicating with each other in a live setting. There are a lot of variables that need to be worked out that can't always be worked out in a rehearsal space so getting out in front of a crowd helps with that. Anyone coming to see us can expect a lot of improvisation, extended solos, closed eyes and a serious yet playful environment in which to dance and listen. The word "listen" is very important as we are an instrumental band first and foremost and do our talking with our instruments. Each of us tell our own stories in our own way and hope that people can relate to one or more at every show.

What are your plans for the near future? Will you be recording? Playing more shows?
Our plans include pushing each other at every rehearsal to be the best that we can be while maintaining a sense of fun and a sense of humor. Our blend is that of covers and originals so each rehearsal focuses on a bit of both. Any recording that is done will be strictly from a demo point of view until we feel that we are ready to give something that is finished to fans of the genre. As a band, we see no need to rush into the studio only to deliver something that wasn't finished cooking yet....LOL.... As for shows, we will plays shows that resonate with us and fit into our collective schedules. There are benefit shows on the horizon which are very important to us and should be important to everyone as well as other Ska shows. Beyond that, we are focused on working the details of the music such as texture, interplay, dynamics, improvisation, interpretation, etc.

As an outside observer now, the NJ Ska scene seems very active these days. More so than I remember 3 years ago when I moved away. How do you feel about the state of the scene as it is now? What can you attribute to its growth?
People have not stopped playing and recording Ska. The Pop scene and popular culture in general will "borrow" subcultures and styles, chew them up a bit, see how they taste and then spit them back out but all along there are people who are still playing and recording the music. This is universal and applies to everything from Punk, Hardcore, Industrial, Jazz and beyond. One of the constants that always helps local scenes to grow is the young kids who are getting into it, forming bands, putting on shows, etc.... One can view the Pop Culture machine in a negative light but at the end of the day if it gets people exposed, that could cause them to do some homework, discover cool bands that exist across multiple generations, adopt those influences and end up doing a lot of good for their local scene while at the same time shedding that Pop Culture skin once they realize that the real substance is not found in record sales or fashion but in the hearts and souls of the music makers

Are there any local or other bands that we should be looking out for?
Hub City Stompers, Bigger Thomas, Bombtown, Steadfast United, Offbeat in Suburbia, Wareika Hill... Also the international bands that are keeping it real like Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Rotterdam Ska Jazz Foundation, etc...Plus Django is always working on solo material as are Vic Rice and Buford O'Sullivan. Dub is a Weapon, Scofflaws, The Toasters... the list is endless. Plus you've got Version City, Stubborn Records, Jammyland, Megalith and other folks that are helping to keep things afloat in the Ska and Reggae community. Lest we forget that the Skatalites are still bringing this special music to us.

What are you listening to lately?
See our influences....LOL

Anything else you want to talk about?
(your chance for shameless self-promotion, rants, raves, etc)
Just to always keep searching, keep trying to not only better yourself but better the world around you as well. When you love something it really shows and I can only hope that when people see and hear Silver Dollar that the love that we have for the music and culture of Jamaica not only shows but is downright contagious.

Thanks to Skooch and Silver Dollar for taking the time to answer these questions!!
For more information, music, and tour dates, visit:

1 comment:

  1. I liked how he emphasizes the importance of rehearsal and his paraphrase of Davis... cool...


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