Interview by Christopher Kubick
CARPAZINE: Yo Agent Jay hello. You play guitar, if I'm correct you do some engineering, mixing, and producing as well... besides playing guitar in The Slackers what other projects are you currently involved in?
Agent Jay: I've a 'solo project' called CRAZY BALDHEAD since 1997. It's mostly a studio Reggae / Ska project, but we've played a handful of shows over the years, and backed up some classic Jamaican singers. I had a Punk band called THE FACTS, with Brukky from The Frightnrs (RIP), Jah Point, and Chris from A-Truth. Also, REGGAY LORDS, for all the Reggae aristocrats out there. But, I'm increasingly doing production and mixing for other bands, which I enjoy. I also have a live dub project where I remix multitrack recordings of various bands I've made - The Slackers, Frightnrs, Crazy Baldhead, The Far East, etc - live on a soundsystem. I started doing that because I can do it by myself without a band, and with exclusive tracks, unlike DJ's. It's called Crazy Baldhead Dub Apparatus.
CARPAZINE: When you were seven years old what music were you listening to?
Agent Jay: I think the first record I ever got was some kind of Sesame Street record for kids, then somehow I wound up with a 12" of “Disco Inferno”. This was '79 or'80 so Disco was still the thing. Shortly after that my older brother turned me onto Kiss.
CARPAZINE: What's Ska and Rocksteady bands in New York, right now, should people be listening to if they haven't heard of them already?
Agent Jay: BOOMSHOT is a great Long Island-based Rocksteady outfit with Jah Point and most of the ex-Bluebeats. And I love The Far East fronted by Maddie Ruthless, who sings on a lot of my Crazy Baldhead tunes. Other than that the great wave of Brooklyn Rocksteady bands of ten years ago has mostly died out.
CARPAZINE: You do quite a bit of touring. Where outside of the United States was a place that you played that you weren't expecting to be as fun as it was?
Agent Jay: Back in the 90's there was a wild little scene in a tiny college town called Montevallo, Alabama. Also more recent places like Pula, Croatia; Hazebrouck, France; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Leicester, UK; Eugene, Oregon; Campinas, Brazil. Sometimes the scenes in these towns are self perpetuating and renewing, but usually the scene you've built ends up graduating and moving on… or simply aging out.
CARPAZINE: What is the worst, or least favorite, part of touring?
Agent Jay: The actual traveling - getting up early for flights or long drives, sitting in vans, dealing with hectic airports, etc. Then there's the hours to kill the waiting to play. That can lead to bad habits - eating or drinking too much out of boredom. Drugs, obviously, (but luckily haven't been a problem in The Slackers), negative thinking / brooding, etc.
CARPAZINE: Before Ska Rocksteady and Reggae what bands were you into before you discovered those beautiful sounds?
Agent Jay: I'm a child of the 70's and teenager in the 80's. My brother would play me Dad's records when I was very young. Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Jethro Tull, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, etc. Then I heard Kiss, then The Who. In that time the Album Rock format of radio was transforming into Classic Rock. I listened to those stations before I became totally burnt out on their never-changing playlist. When I was 15 I discovered Punk. High school friends brought me to a local Ramones show in Queens which changed my life. I always liked Jamaican music but didn't live near any Jamaican neighborhoods so I didn't get much exposure to it. Around '89 I heard Fishbone and that started my interest but I only wound up in the Ska scene because a friend of a friend asked me to join their Ska band.
CARPAZINE: What is your favorite Jamaican dub album of all time?
Agent Jay: Very hard to say, but probably “Who Say Jah No Dread” dubs of Jacob Miller / Augustus Pablo, recorded at Randy's in '74, I think.
CARPAZINE: What living artist would you be fond to work with that you haven't worked with yet?
Agent Jay: Really hard to say. It's all a matter of what I have to offer them / would they want to work with me? In the Jamaican world, I'd love to do tracks with Lynval Thompson, Leroy Smart, and Ken Boothe, whom I've backed before. Otherwise, there's some obvious dream artists - Paul McCartney, Iggy Pop, Smokey Robinson, Ronnie Specter, Tom Waits, Al Green, Ray Davies, Dave Vanian, Dionne Warwick. Mostly 60's/70's singers who probably don't have the pipes they used to. There's others I'm drawing a blank on.
CARPAZINE: What's the first Ska or Reggae album that you ever HEARD?
Agent Jay: First Jamaican track I ever remember hearing was “Waiting In Vain” - Bob Marley & The Wailers - when I was nine or ten. The first full-length was Fishbone's “Truth And Soul” around '89. That's the record that made the connection between Jamaican music and Punk for me.
CARPAZINE: If you had to recommend one pizza place to a non New Yorker to try in New York, what pizza place would it be?
Agent Jay: Sam's Restaurant on Court Street, Brooklyn. They're more known as a classic tomato sauce Italian restaurant, but their pizza is criminally underrated. The best kept secret in NY pizza. Nice price and you can almost always walk in and get a table.
CARPAZINE: Marvel or DC Comics, if you had to pick one who has the better stable of comics?
Agent Jay: I was a Marvel Comics kid up until the mid 80’s when I lost interest in comics. I got more into skating briefly, then music. I couldn't tell you who has a better stable these days.
CARPAZINE: What’s the last band you were listening to?
Agent Jay: The very last thing I was listening to was Eric Burdon's (The Animals and War) covers of the Johnny Cash classic “Ring Of Fire”. My favorite new New York band is Combo Chimbita. And my girl has been turning me onto a lot of Power Pop I've heard here and there but never delved into - Starjets, The Shivvers, Protex, The Boys, etc.
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