The Blue Hornets suit up for a ska-tastic EP release party
Alicia Luceras Maldonado
Formed after a Giant Steps reunion in 2009—and subsequent nostalgic feelings about playing rocksteady and reggae music— The Blue Hornets hasn’t taken long to become a favorite local band. The nine-member ensemble is somewhat of a supergroup, made up of members of Le Chat Lunatique, Mystic Vision, Danny Winn and the Earthlings, Sub-Agencia, Strawman Sloop, and the aforementioned Giant Steps. On Friday, The Blue Hornets releases the “Selekta EP,” an album recorded over nine days last year at Stacy Parrish’s Water Studios in Albuquerque. Via electronic communication, I spoke with Blue Hornets guitarist and vocalist Otto Barthel about Jamaican genres, the mission of the band’s first album and ska’s fourth wave.
What attracted you to Jamaican music?
I loved punk rock music starting in middle school and really got into The Clash, The Specials, Bad Brains, The Selecter, etc., and eventually became exposed to the origins of the U.K. ska and reggae zines. I loved the sound systems they used to market the vinyl. My first reggae concert was Burning Spear at the UNM SUB. I was blown away, and in college started a reggae group called Cool Runnins. We were fortunate to open for almost every reggae group that came through Albuquerque. That was it! I was hooked.
What variety does The Blue Hornets play?
We started as an Ethiopians tribute group. The Ethiopians are a Jamaican band that dates back to the mid-’60s. As we added members like Leland Webb from Danny Winn and the Earthlings, we started playing more of a variety—like late ’70s Two Tone ska. In summary, we play rocksteady, Two Tone ska and a bit of traditional ’70s Jamaican reggae. We have six vocalists and a three-piece horn section who we call "Brimstone Brass." One of our lead vocalists/percussionist is from Cameroon.
What are the challenges/benefits of having a many-membered band?
All for one, one for all.
Who did the art for the “Selekta EP”?
My neighbor was getting rid of some things from her attic, and we found our idea for the cover in a discarded toy Electronic Project Kit. Camille [Pansewicz, keyboards] did some editing to the words on the toy—adding "dub," "rocksteady," even the number "11”— and put the art together.
Anything in particular you want people to know about the album?
We hope it will start revolutions, and it’s only five dollars.
Is ska now in its fourth wave, still in the third or somewhere else?
It’s definitely not the third wave, and I'm not sure if it’s the fourth wave. In my opinion it’s gone underground again, which is where it belongs.
Is there anything else you'd like people to know?
Albuquerque is a great place to see live, local music. Tons of talent and great venues are all over town. Please go out and support local music and read the Alibi!