A Special Sorta’ Guy: Interview with Neville Staple

We caught up with ska legend Neville Staple ahead of his Tramlines DJ gig, talking everything from Jeremy Kyle to Glastonbury. Smooth talking and wise-cracking, Neville plays it effortlessly cool.

You have been in the music industry a long time now – how do you think it’s changed?
I think the industry has changed a lot. Young bands used to have more chances to break into the industry and become known but it’s not like that anymore. No record labels will take on young bands and you don’t get to hear about them as much. There are a lot of manufactured bands around now.

Is it important to you to try and help young bands break into the industry?
Yeah, I like to help them out wherever I can. If they need me to do some toasting with them I will. I also do some DJing with them on their tracks, record with them. I’ll do whatever I can.

How do you think your music has developed since you started?
I still do danceable music. I still do music that’s enjoyable and that you can just have a good time listening or skanking to.

What was it like playing with The Specials again in 2013 so long after you first started?
To be honest, it was very different. I think some people wanted to see us back together, even though it was only some of us. I just love performing. We were getting the same sort of reaction I get with my own band, The Neville Staple Band.

How is it different playing with your own band when you’ve been part of various groups for so long?
There are no bigheads in it! (Laughs) I’m going to be honest; I’m not going to beat around the bush with it.

You are credited with changing the face of pop music “not once, but twice” – how do you feel about that label?
Oh no, is that what it says! (laughing) I went over to America for a while to work with different bands over there like No Doubt and Rancid, and it’s a different ska scene to here in the UK. It’s always changing. I do my own kind of ska with my band now, everything is changing. Though if that’s what people are saying I’ll take it!

You mentioned that you’ve recently produced your wife’s EP ‘Rudegirl Sounds’, what was it like working with her on that?
It was really good working with her. She’s performed with my band before and recorded with me before so it was fine. It wasn’t miserable! (laughing) Well it wasn’t! There was no bickering, nothing like that, as we are used to working together now. She actually performed on Jeremy Kyle recently, we love that show. I don’t know if it will be on TV but she sang a song from her EP called ‘Dirty Little Liar’ on the actual Jeremy Kyle stage. Madness.

You’re a big Jeremy Kyle fan?
I’m just glad I don’t have to be on it! If people choose to sort out their problems that way then that’s up to them but it’s just not for me. We watch it for the comedy value! Jeremy is a really nice guy, and so is Graham. The whole team are great really and it was a cool day.

The song ‘Roadblock’ from your latest album ‘Ska Crazy’ is pretty powerful and so is the video. Is it important to you that all your songs have a message?
Yeah of course. It’s all about what is happening now, it is pointless to try and brush it all away and pretend like it isn’t.

It’s being compared to The Specials track ‘Ghost Town’, is that a fair comparison?
No not really, I don’t think it’s like ‘Ghost Town’. ‘Roadblock’ came completely from the youth; it’s all about what they thought and how they saw their situation as it is now.

You published your autobiography in 2009, did you feel that after having such a long career in the music industry you needed to document it in some way?
I just wanted to tell the truth really. My book is down to earth; it’s not like a diary or anything. It’s honest. I didn’t go to public school and I’m not educated like that, that’s just the way I was brought up. It’s just me.

Neville’s latest album ‘Ska Crazy’ is available on iTunes now. You can also get Sugary Staple’s EP ‘Rudegirl Sounds’ on iTunes. Head to for a list of his live gigs.

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