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February 20, 2006 | by  | in Features |
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Coolie Ranx

In a moment of rare humility, I’d like to put my hand up and confess to having a knowledge of ska and its various relations that is sketchy at best. But if you know more than me (which still wouldn’t be a lot, mind you) then you’ll know that Coolie is something of legend in the ska community. With a career spanning almost two decades, and a musical repertoire that includes dancehall, ragga, reggae, ska and even hardcore, Coolie is a true maverick. He’s even responsible for his own genre, raggacore, a fusion of dancehall/reggae and hardcore, which ‘is so intense, it’s impossible to stay still.’ The term ‘eclectic’ would for once be appropriate here. Which made Coolie’s answers to my somewhat misdirected questions all the more enlightening and enjoyable. He speaks about his music with a passion that speaks volumes about what the audience can expect from his performance at the Ska B Q on March 4th. But rather than diluting what he said down to some mashed-up article, I thought I’d let the man speak for himself.

Bea Turner: First off, are you looking forward to visiting New Zealand?
Coolie Ranx: First off for me I’d like to extend a huge thanks to Matiu (from The WBC) for having the bollocks to bring me over. I’m ever so excited to step foot in New Zealand and perform. Thank you all, please come with your hands and your hearts clean and let’s vibe!

BT: For the benefit of people who haven’t heard you before, what can we expect from the gig?
CR: Well, you can expect a high energy show. For one, the music ranges from slow reggae combined with heavy rock riffs that crunch- topped off with some pop vocals offset by some Jamaican overtones. It’s ska with twists and turns from hardcore to hip hop.

BT: Your musical career started out, as I understand it, in late 1980’s New York, when you cut a couple of dancehall tracks and were picked up by ska outfit The Toasters. How’d that come about?
CR: Well, my career started out in the dancehall. I was an up and coming dancehall act that cut only a few cuts although I had a stockpile of songs and was about to attack, when the second record I cut recieved a lot of airplay due to the fact that I was rapping and singing. I was sought by a manager and she listened to some of my songs and challenged me with The Toasters as they had just lost their two frontmen. It was only meant to be a short stint!

(Coolie went on to record two albums with The Toasters, Dub 56, which featured two of his own tracks and went completely out of print, and Hard Band For Dead)

BT: You’ve been a major figure of the ‘Third Wave’ ska scene, both with the Toasters and your own band the Pilfers, before going solo. How has your music changed or moved on during that time?

CR: Well actually I’m constantly discovering myself and losing myself so as I evolve or digress so does my music. It makes for an interesting concoction once its found its way to wax!

BT: Why should ska be listened to by everybody and not, as it often is, dismissed?
CR: Well in all music you can find your truth, be it ska or classical etcetera etcetera. I’m not an advocate of ska per se as I am an advocate of expression. Some are good, some not so good but hey, it is what it is! I love music, and when a ska band has their stuff together it’s poetry in motion. The theme that brought me in was the unity of mankind- this absolutely had me hooked. Ska chose me and I accepted that and we’ve been together ever since.

BT: Tell me about some of your other influences.
CR: My influences go as follows: my first music was classical, loved it; all those sounds. I would listen to figure out what instrument was playing. Then I got into seventies and eighties pop music for the lyrics. Got obsessed with reggae to trace my roots and learn the dialect; was also around the rappers at this point- all my boys could flow! House music for the dance aspect- I love to dance! Western ska- when I joined the Toasters I always thought it was reggae, I didn’t know it was something other than reggae. Then whilst in the Toasters I discovered the guitar! Then I got into Sly and the Family Stone and Al Green. I went back into the sixities. Now I’m heading somewhere again. Life continues to evolve for me!

Coolie Ranx then: maverick genre bending over the top passionate genius, and all round top bloke. If, like me, you have nasty musical prejudices, push them aside and go see this man. He is going to be ace.

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About the Author ()

BORN WITH a cigarette in one hand and The Trial in other, Bea meant to go on as she started. Music wasn’t her first love, but her first love ended in a fight over rightful ownership of a Velvet Underground LP and the kitchen knife, so she chose the kinder option and stuck with it. In her spare time she enjoys casting aspersions, skulking, and making sweeping statements. She never checks her facts: figures it’s a way to live a little, to have arguments with people, then meet them. She’s currently writing a collection of short stories inspired by Schopenhauer’s manifesto of suffering and the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. When it gets published, she’s pretty sure that boy will want to hold her hand.

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