By Mabel Suen
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You've always been politically active, but you keep it from the forefront of your lyrics.
It's meant to be mixed in like a cake mix: It's one of the ingredients of the songs, but you have to remember that you're on a stage and not a soapbox. So I like to hint and insinuate and pique the curiosity rather than preach. It's a presumption that your views would fit somebody else as well. But what we do have in common is the human predicament, and so I think you can raise all sorts of interesting, one-eyebrow-up questions about that sort of thing and approach it from the human experience end, and you can end up in quite deep political waters without having to have a huge banner and party affiliation.
Part of what made bands like the English Beat and the Specials revolutionary was that you were mixed-race groups. When I saw you last year, you were the only white guy on the stage.
You're the only person that has mentioned that. I've noticed it for quite a while; I wondered if I was turning into Sting. [Laughs]
Is that multicultural makeup still an important part of the English Beat sound? Because it certainly was when you formed the group.
It certainly adds, but it's interesting. Our saxophonist is half black and half Jewish with dreadlocks, so that was another subgenre we managed to check out. We have a lead guitarist who is half Indian and half American — he was born in India. We like to call it "ska from four decades and four continents." I don't think it harms, but it didn't really work out that consciously, as many things do.
And it all comes together in English Beat 2.0.
It seems to have evolved that way. It does look sometimes like we're trying to get a Benetton sponsorship of some sort. [Laughs]