The Selecter’s Pauline Black on the Power of Activism Through Music

The Selecter by Dean Chalkley

Lead vocalist and ska legend Pauline Black took a pause while touring in Germany to discuss the new Selecter album and the current global political climate, drawing parallels to the multicultural movement and working-class dissent that gave birth to the original Two-Tone movement.

Black compares the Reagan/Thatcher era with that of Trump/May, and says, “There seems to be an insularity developing in people, where they fell as long as they’re having their own row, they’re going to be okay. But the world isn’t made up like that, is it?”

She continues, “You have Reagan, he was all very gung-ho and very ‘let’s bomb the rest of the world’ and we had Margaret Thatcher who though similarly and had a similar foreign policy and domestic policy in terms of her economics.  And what’s the best way to divide people? Pit them against each other, and race is a very effective way of doing that, isn’t it? So, there is a huge amount of similarity,” she adds.

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Black goes on to discuss the new band’s album, Daylights, their fourth studio album since the group reformed, and the one which they’re currently touring behind, having recently completed a U.S. leg playing alongside Tim Armstrong of Rancid and the Transplants. “Obviously we are very pleased with the new album and we’re very, very pleased with how it’s been received; it seems to be universally well-received in terms of what the subject matter is about.”

The Selector originally appeared on the double A-side ‘Gangsters’ by the Specials, the first acknowledged Two-Tone single, with their track ‘The Selecter.’ Black explains, “We began in 1979 with the Two-Tone movement. We went on the Two-Tone tour with Madness and the Specials, and really that is a Ska and Reggae mix that we’ve playing now for nearly 40 years.”

Black adds, “We called out new album Daylights…after the events of the past couple of years, the resurgence of the far right, both in your county and in Europe as well.” She elaborates on the message of the album, “What is fueling the things going on right now? Is it people’s hatred toward each other? Is it that multiculturalism is dead in the water? Or are people just not well exposed to others? All of these questions, those are the types of things that we’re taking up.”

She digs in a little deeper to say, “The world is full, whether we like it or not, of global capitalism and most people don’t do too well within that, in developing countries certainly. I mean on the album, ‘Paved with Cold’ talks about homelessness, taking back control, pretty much about not having people around, like the president of your country, who seems to have been elected last year on the ticket of division rather than bringing people together, and very similarly in our country with the Brexit vote and us wanting to divorce ourselves from Europe.”

Black adds this to the meaning of the new album title: “An anti-racist, anti-sexist stance. With everything that’s come out about Harvey Weinstein, people like Kevin Spacey, and stuff like that. Those are things that have been there for years and years. Why is it only now that we’re talking about it? Maybe it is time to shine a little daylight on these subjects.”

Black also discusses with us the power of music and its ability to effect change, “I don’t know that music is effectual at all. But all I know is that millions and billions of people listen to music worldwide and that music has an emotional effect on people, for the good or for the worse. But it has an effect on people. If you’re a musician like myself, if you write songs, and you have a band, then you would like to feel that you’re using your skills, if you have any at all, to affect environment, music, life, and subject matter, in a way that’s going to move things forward, rather than backwards.”

The Selecter by Dean Chalkley

She continues, “By the mere fact that we get up on stage, anywhere in the world where they will give us a stage and talk about what we talk about. That is our activist stance.”

When asked directly about how she feels about the current political atmosphere in America specifically, she responds, “I don’t know, it’s not for me to share what you should do about your political climate that is yours. We have our issues here in Europe and the U.K. But one thing I think you can do is actually elect a decent president, who doesn’t send these messages out on Twitter and thinks that governing a country is a little more important than having his own fiefdom in the Whitehouse. I mean, you did see sense for a couple of terms, didn’t you? But the backlash from it is a little too much…and it’s quite depressing.”

She adds, “I think that the American people are a great people and they deserve a better president than what they’ve elected themselves. But that’s just my opinion, isn’t it? What happens in America decides what happens in a great deal of the rest of the world. Particularly your foreign policy — it can make it very difficult for others around the world just to go about their business.”

Black leaves us on this note, “I think it’s important, as far as I’m concerned and certainly that’s the Two-Tone message, that people stand together and not let those kinds of issues or divisions grow and to cause us to antagonize each other.”

The Selecter – Daylight

Standout Track: “Frontline”

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