During a 1980s MTV New Year’s Eve celebration, General Public, UB40 and Frankie Goes to Hollywood were gearing up to ring in the new year live. As General Public lead singer Dave Wakeling recalls, they wanted to mark the special moment by having a few fans on stage. “A few” turned into 50 people, invading the stage while Wakeling ironically sang “Tenderness.”
Wakeling, who also fronted influential '80s ska/new wave band The English Beat, still tries to involve fans in his new projects some 30 years later. For English Beat’s fourth studio album, Here We Go Love, Wakeling launched a Pledge Music campaign that offers interesting opportunities for fans to get closer to the band while they make the new album. Expected to come out this August, Here We Go Love will be English Beat's first original release since 1982.
Ahead of a hometown show at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach on March 27, Wakeling, who has lived in L.A. for over two decades, took a break from recording to talk to L.A. Weekly.
You're kicking off a national tour in Hermosa.
We play Saint Rocke a lot. I like the dressing room, it’s like being in an old galley in an old ship. I pretend I’m a pirate in the Caribbean looking for bootie! It’s a nice crowd, nicely dressed and [well]-heeled, then throughout the night they are pretty well-oiled as well. They are seasoned concertgoers and there’s no trouble in the crowd.
You play both English Beat and General Public songs live?
A lot of General Public fans became English Beat fans over the years. Sometimes it was their brother or sister’s music. I really don’t think of it. It’s just songs I wrote the words or music to. In my own heart, they just started on an acoustic guitar.
Where are you recording the new album?
NRG Studios in [North] Hollywood. Some of the best classic rock ‘n’ roll instruments that created the sound of classic '50s and '60s sounds, you can create them there. You can use a 1963 guitar with a 1959 Watkins Dominator. What a great name for an amp! Watkins Dominator! Slices through a song like a blade of steel! We recorded the drums on an old 16-track… the drums sound a bit wider. Gorgeous sounds.
How did you come up with Here We Go Love for the new album title?
It could be you’re talking about love, to love, or a person. It’s a simple phrase we all know, but it’s a bit enigmatic and rhetorical.
Are you playing any of the new songs on this tour?
Three or four of them. They are going quite well. There’s a great sense of optimism.
Your Pledge Music campaign offers fans a chance to go on tour with you?
I don’t know if we’ll make all their dreams come true or shatter them. Somebody’s purchased a spot when we go on the next [national] tour on the bus. We haven’t arranged a date yet, but nobody’s [signed up to] travel California. It’s romantic in California…to play a date at 10 p.m., you have to get up at 6 a.m. and spend most of your day on the 5 freeway! [Laughs]
Which is your most successful “Pledge” item?
Signing albums. The other most popular one is people get to come to the studio and sing on one of the songs. There’s been an investment broker and a book editor from New York, [both] bright, smart people, and it’s been just as interesting to learn about their world as they do mine. It’s turned into a bit of a campaign on our Facebook where kids' parents have sent in samples of them all singing and we are using samples in one of the songs. Children of the world singing “If killing worked, it would have worked by now.” It’s a fun way to make the record.
The English Beat perform at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach on Friday, March 27. More info.