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Twice as Happy on Half as Much 

A conversation with Dave Wakeling of The English Beat

The English Beat plays Munch & Music on July 21 in Drake Park. Photo by Eugenio Iglesias.

The English Beat plays Munch & Music on July 21 in Drake Park. Photo by Eugenio Iglesias.

The English Beat have had a long and storied career since their 1978 debut, when they burst forth on the ska-punk/reggae scene in England. Technically, the band is called The Beat, but in North America they're known as The English Beat, and in Australia they're The British Beat. Consisting of Dave Wakeling on vocals and guitar, Ranking Roger on vocals, Andy Cox on guitar, David Steele on bass, Everett Morton on drums, and Saxa on the saxophone, their sound was original from the jump.

In a time where most music sounded the same, The Beat sang about sociopolitical issues and spoke truth to power when no one else would. After the band split in 1983, Cox and Steele went on to form Fine Young Cannibals, while Wakeling and Roger formed General Public.

The new setup is pretty interesting. Dave Wakeling (who has lived in California for decades now) tours as The English Beat throughout America, and Ranking Roger tours the UK as The Beat (or sometimes The New English Beat). Wakeling's iteration of the group will come through Bend next week for Munch & Music.

We spoke to Wakeling for 90 minutes about subjects ranging from Brexit to gun control to tiny houses. Here is an excerpt from that conversation.

On his current tour:

Dave Wakeling: Fantastic! It's been a stretch for us. Most of our shows so far have been with Soul Asylum. They've got some fans in there where we're not really their style: Happy dance music. It's not quite angry enough, so it makes us have to work harder. But I think we've turned quite a few Soul Asylum fans, although it's usually "Save It For Later" that does it. Three chords, rockin' out.

On his sound:

DW: There was a lot of three-chord music that was getting signed. Our label didn't want us to sound like everything else in the charts. They wanted us a bit more commercial, but not that much more commercial. We wanted to prevent the establishment from biting our head off. We didn't mind them getting close, but we didn't want them to bite our head off.

On travel:

DW: Well, it's kind of seasonal to be honest. Sometimes places are really nice in the spring, but they can get a bit extreme in the summer. Oregon's nice in the summer. It's all all right to me. It can be 20 degrees outside and I'm on the tour bus and I can just look at it through the window. It's a lovely way to see America. I prefer the places in the summer where people are hiking and being chased by bears.

On the current political climate:

DW: It's become apparent to people that the middle class that was set up in America and England in the 50s and 60s is only there because it was built on the backs of other people who were working hard and getting paid next to nothing - whether that was "Indentured Servants" in our own countries or the use of cheap labor abroad. Now people are saying they want their America back but what really happened was that the playing field has started leveling out and everybody's more or less getting paid the same money for the same work. It's very difficult for people to get rid of generational advantage.

On Brexit:

DW: People in England decided, on balance, that it was better to be oppressed by people you could pronounce the last name of rather than be oppressed by some anonymous bureaucrat in Belgium. But there's no sense of freedom; we all know that. Freedom's just a new deodorant. But if people feel like they're not being represented, they can turn to the populist and the populist can turn totalitarian very quickly.

On tiny homes:

DW: Aside from the affordability, there's something deeply political behind living in tiny homes. Not consciously, it's an evolving thing. The whole world, you can call it the American dream, but the same is true in England: "Own your own home!" But when you think about it, really, that dream is a prison that keeps you minding your manners for the next 30 years so you can make payments. It's a way of socially neutering you. You're bought and sold, gotta do as you're told. With this tiny homes thing, people have got their home paid for. They're not beholden. They don't have to watch their Ps & Qs just because they've got a mortgage. I think things are changing. People can be twice as happy on half as much.

The English Beat

Munch & Music Series

Thursday, July 21, 7pm

Drake Park, 777 NW Riverside Blvd., Bend

Free

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