This is a interview with David Hillyard, the tenor sax player for the Slackers, Stubborn All-Stars and his own group the David Hillyard Rocksteady 7. He has been playing ska since the early 80s and has been a member of The Donkey Show and Hepcat. Heres what he has to say.

KYLE- How long have you been involved in the ska scene?

DAVE- I have been listening to ska since 1982 when I first heard The English Beat...then I got into the 2-tone thing and later Jamaican ska.

KYLE- What introduced you to ska, rocksteady and reggae?

DAVE- The English Beat really excited me. I really love the songs "Sole Salvation" and "Ackee 1-2-3"

KYLE- How did you get from The Donkey Show to Hepcat to The Slackers?

DAVE- I started The Donkey Show in 1986. There weren't many bands that were playing ska in San Diego at the time and I wanted to be in a band that just plays ska and reggae. No funk like Fishbone, no metal, and I wanted to play original tunes. Alot of bands at the time only played covers. Donkey show lasted until 1990, we broke up due to irreconcilable differences. Then I joined Hepcat later that year. I played with Hepcat from 1990 to 1992. Then I moved to New York and joined the Slackers in 1994, I think, and have played with them ever since

KYLE- Why did you leave Hepcat and move to New York?

DAVE- I moved to NYC because I was in love with a girl from Brooklyn. She ended up leaving me and breaking my heart but thats why i moved.

KYLE- Who inspired you to learn to play saxaphone?

DAVE- Originally it was Saxa of the English Beat. Later i got into Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso. Those guys really changed the way I listen to music. Now I listen to alot of Jazz guys like Coltrane, Bird, Lester Young, David Murray, Sidney Bechet, etc. etc.

KYLE- How does the New York ska scene differ fromt he Cali ska scene?

DAVE- I think the NYC scene has a tight knit network of [people interested in the roots of the music. Its not the only thing happening in NYC but there is like an extended family of musicians. In Cali, I always felt more competition. Like other sax player would try to psyche me. Other bands would try to fuck you up...But Cali has by far the biggest, most diverse ska scene and the most sophisticated audience...they have heard alot and youd better have your shit together if you want to play there.

KYLE- How does the ska scene of the early 80s differe fromt he ska scene now?

DAVE- I think the 80s scene was more isolated. I was into music no one else liked back then. We had ska nights and 40 people would show up and that would be, more people know what ska music is, you can play at college campus' and theres some who knows what youre playing. I mean, I was listening to skinhead reggae when everyone else was worshipping bands like U2, The Police and Run DMC.

KYLE- Were you ever involved int he Mod, Skinhead, or rudeboy subcultures?

DAVE- I used to be really into the trad skin thing. I had Ben Shermans, boots i bought in England, the whole 9 yards. I was into it for many years.

KYLE- What would you say was the highlight of your carreer?

DAVE- Meeting Roland and Tommy from the Skatalites. Playing with Busters All-Stars, travelling all around and playing the guy from SNL used to say...ska music has been very very good to me.

KYLE- What was the worst show youve ever played?

DAVE- I have played alot of bad shows. They usually involve bad sound, band members fighting on stage, stuff like that...I used to drink alot onstage and that probobly did not help.

KYLE- Have you toured with the Rocksteady 7 or was that just for an album and then thats it?

DAVE- The Rocksteady 7 have played in New York and Philly so far. I wanna take the band to California at the end of september.

KYLE- Will the Rocksteady 7 put out another album?

DAVE- Yeah, I wanna put out another record...except this time i wanna do it as a big band...12 piece horn secrtion...6 piece rhythm section...real far out fucked up shit...sort of Sun Ra meets The Mystic Revelations of Rastafari

KYLE- Was the Rocksteady 7 album the first time you worked with Greg Lee and Alex Desert since you left Hepcat?

DAVE- I had not recorded with them since i left the band but I have sat in with them from time to time over the years...

KYLE- What was it like working with them again?

DAVE- Its always fun playing with those guys...they know me, I know them...they are some of my best friends...we do not front.

KYLE- When are The Slackers coming back to Cali?

DAVE- The Slackers are coming to cali in october with The Pietasters

KYLE- How do you like the Version City studios?

DAVE- Version City is very casual...its usually Django or Vic Rice or Agent J behind the board...its very easy to play...but it is a smelly rathole...but I guess thats its charm.

KYLE- Was The Question (The Slackers most recent record), or the Rocksteady 7 record (Playtime) recorded at Version City?

DAVE- The Question and Red Light (The Slackers second album) were recorded at Coyote studios in Brooklyn.

KYLE- Have you seen any local bands that have really impressed you while on tour?

DAVE- I get frustrated when I travel around the states because most of the bands do not have perspective ont he music they are playing...they are doing bad copies of the Bosstones or Rancid without the roots that both of these bands have...some of the better bands I have seen recently are The Rhythm Doctors...The Allentons...this trad band from San Diego but I can't remember their general the bands we have played with in Cali have been pretty good.

KYLE- Have you got any advice for people just starting out playing an instrument or playing in a band?

DAVE- Stick with the instrument...the first month is the novelty month, anything sounds good...the next 4 or 5 months are when you can play a little but not much...the novelty is gone...keep on with'll get it and you'll have a good time...

"Thanks for the questions...see you in California...Hopefully with the Rocksteady 7 and then with The Slackers..." -DAVE

photo by Kelly from Ska Au Go-Go

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