Gigslutz Interview with The Specials’ Horace Panter

It makes your job all the more worthwhile when you get positive feedback from those you write about. And that’s exactly what happened when The Specials picked up on our review of their recent Liverpool Olympia show. The day got even better when we were asked if we would like a chat regarding all things Specials by original Special bass player, artist and author extraordinaire, Horace Panter.

Our first attempt to speak with Horace was out of luck as he was out the house dropping off fellow Special Roddy Byers in hometown Coventry but we finally pinned him down to find out what his craic is…

GS: Hi Horace, how are you?

HP: I’m good thanks Steve, you’ve finally got me! I’ve been up since 4am; we had to get to London to get our Visa’s sorted for our US tour. Roddy and I have been down there and are just back.

GS: That’s ok! Happy to wait mate. So you’re off to the US, is this the next stage of the Specials tour?

HP: Yes. We fly over for 10 shows. We have 3 in Canada to start off with, then 7 down the East coast. We’re starting in Toronto which is a really cool place then Ottawa to play a Blues festival. Last time I was there I got to see Steve Earle from the side of the stage which was brilliant and I also saw Crosby Stills and Nash. We also head down to New York Pier 26 to play a big outdoor show, they’re a fierce lot!

GS: Are the crowds different over there to here? I’ve seen you a few times since you have reformed and your crowds at UK gigs are mental!

HP: The US crowds tend to be younger and possible more lively, if that’s possible! There is more “jumpy uppy” people in their 20’s / 30’s over there, whereas over here we tend to get people in their 40’s. The American Ska scene took off quite a bit after anything here so they tend to have younger crowds.

GS: So how different is touring now as opposed to years ago?

HP: It’s a lot more leisurely nowadays! We do the schedules so they are not so punishing to us. We used to do a lot more hectic itinaries. We give ourselves time to get over the shows. The health and safety issues now make things a lot easier too. We aren’t faced with 70 7ft skin heads invading the stage battering each other. Thank god for safety barriers!

GS: So are things good in the camp? How long do you envisage the Specials continuing for this time?

HP: I really don’t know. We want to bow out gracefully and we don’t want to be playing Bedford scooter rally in 5 years’ time for 15,000 people. It’s probably coming to the end now. We will be leaving England alone next year and concentrating on Europe, doing the festivals. It all depends on how we are received really as to whether we keep it going.

GS: So do you not think The Specials will ever record new music?

HP: We have talked about it but if it was going to happen I think we would’ve done it by now. It has to happen organically and we haven’t wanted to force it in any way. We are comfortable with the old stuff it’s what people want to come to see. People coming to our shows must dread hearing those words “this is a new one”. It’s hard enough getting all the songs in people want to hear as it is.

GS: What do you make of the current music scene? Are there any new artists who you like?

HP: Well I’m not up too much with what is new. I watch a lot of music on the local scene. I see a lot of groups in Coventry. I still get a buzz from seeing young kids making music. There are a couple in particular who I go to see, Malik & Petit who are like a Simon & Garfunkel duo and the Bla Guns who are a bit Guns ‘n’ Roses. Maybe the Black Keys are one of the few newer I listen to nowadays.

GS: Is your art career on hold whilst the specials are on tour or do you continue to draw / paint?

HP: Yes. But that’s the beauty about being in The Specials. For example, we can be in Cologne, which I think we will be on the Euro dates and have a day off to visit the wonderful art galleries they have there. And when we are in New York I will try to take in as much as I can, I’ll defiantly get to the Guggenheim if I can and any of the others.  I always have a sketch book with me when I’m on tour.

GS: You are a very political band – What issues would you address today? It seems to me like it’s almost done a full circle….

HP: It’s kind of weird. Our songs still seem relevant now. We are still missing employment, recession hasn’t gone away. Ghost town came out when it was all kicking off in Toxteth, you turn the TV on and it was all kicking off and that was or song.

Justice is timeless. Where are the next Specials who are going to talk about these things?

GS: We have a radio show which goes out every Thursday – would you like to pick 3 songs for this? They can be any 3, your own, oldies, newbies etc…

HP: Crikey! Where should I start? ‘Trampoline’ by Spencer Davis Group. It’s a b side from 1965It’s funk as hell. Also ‘Little bit of Love’ by free from 1973 and ‘Too Much Alcohol’ by J.B Hutto. You probably won’t be able to find them!

GS: I’ll give it a good go! Nice one. Thanks Horace

HP: Thanks Steve, pleasure!