I caught up with Sean Flowerdew at one of Pama International’s last five shows and had a chat about the last ten years with Pama International, his label Rockers Revolt and The London Ska festival he will be organising.
The first of last shows was in Newbury yesterday?
It was a kind of hometown show, I used to go to school there and our singer Finney still lives there. It was very enjoyable, a great venue and good crowd.
How come now after ten years it seemed to be a good time to take a break from Pama International?
I’ve been working solidly for the last ten years, twenty four seven, on Pama International and over the last couple of years we haven’t really done ourselves justice as a live band; we’re a good band but live we haven’t improved as much as our recorded sound or at the same rate. It’s also getting much harder for us, venues and promoters to make the money we each require from live shows as purse strings tighten. Ten years is a long time, I need to sit back and relax for a while.
Are you going to be focusing on your other projects?
Yeah Rockers Revolt will be releasing an album a month in 2011, it seems mad that no one is buying records anymore and we are releasing more than ever, but it’s good as long as we keep realistic about how many we expect to sell it’ll be fine.
I’m also concentrating on writing a lot more and will be doing some bits for the BBC, some writing with Lynval (Goulding) for his solo work and writing with a few of the older Jamaican guys we have previously worked with. So I’m going to be busier than ever.
How hard is it to balance the band and record label, does music end up dominating your life?
Yeah pretty much, Rockers Revolt was set up as a vehicle for Pama so we could cut out the middleman and would only have ourselves to blame if things went wrong. We did an album for Trojan Records and we sold more of them than they did but we have never had a single royalty from them. We have now started to sign more bands to the label so things are starting to look exciting.
Are there new signings for the New Year?
The first release will be by a band called Intensified who are celebrating their twentieth year. They make ska rocksteady and the album will include a documentary of their twenty years. Maroon Town are ska meets hip-hop meets funk meets latin. Lenny the Pama guitarist is in a band called the Sidewalk Doctors, which is a rocksteady thing. Babyhead and Pama International Meets The Mad Profesor (rewired in dub) have just come out making a strong end to this year. It’s been good we’ve got Pama meets Ron Tom on the way and he has just done an album for Roots Manuva, which was Mojo’s seventieth album of the year.
I heard you’re organising a ska Festival next year too?
The London International Ska Festival next Easter is taking up a hideous amount of time at moment. For the four days I’ve booked over a hundred and thirty flights and had to sort ninety visas and work permits for the artists from all over the world. It’s something ska music has needed for a very long time and I’m aiming to put it back on the map.
Do you listen to the newer breed of ska music or do you stick to the more traditional styles?
It’s an incredible music style, the festival aims to show where it came from with the early R and B through to the Jamaican innovators through to ska punk through to the people who are taking the influence on further.
How was being the first band in thirty years to release something on Trojan Records?
It was a real honour to be able to release something on such an iconic label. My only demand in the deal was to be able to use the Trojan logo on the release, that was the only thing I wanted to see. It doesn’t matter what the music sounds like the Trojan logo will encourage people to buy it as the label has such a strong reputation. It also opened some doors in the way of collaborations. It was an honour, but the business side was terrible, as the label has been passed onto different owners they have all inherited an amazing musical legacy but haven’t run the label in a way anyone gets paid. There must be classic records, which have sold thousands of copies, and the artists who recorded them haven’t received their dues.
Are there three records that have changed your life or inspired you?
The Specials – Ghost Town, I remember watching the video on Top of The Pops as a kid and thinking ‘wow, what is that?’ the imagery was so dark and it has such a memorising tune.
I’d have to pick a Madness track because as a kid I was a huge fan and was even in the Madness fan club.
I would have to pick some old soul track it would have to be something by Otis Reading, he was the greatest singer of all time. These Arms Are Mine or Pain In My heart, one of those two, they’re both brilliant.
Who were the last band you went to see?
For pleasure I saw the Skatalites, I hoped it would be great but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. There were only two of the original band left, the drummer Lloyd Knibbs and the Sax player Leicester Sterling. They were nowhere near as good as when I last saw them back in the nineties. For me, because I love them so much it was disappointing, I usually try and manufacture bills to get support bands on I like as that’s the only chance I get to see people play.
Who would you recommend checking out?
Not too sure on new acts, obviously everything on Rockers Revolt, we are going to put out something by Dave Wakely from the Beat. his first ever solo single is great and I’m playing a lot of that, I’m also playing some keys on a few tracks on the next King Blues album so I’m listening to them and they’re sounding amazing.