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Moon Ska World - Interviews - The BiG


Rhythm Festival
Big Ed Ponders

For many, THE BiG need no introduction. They are fast becoming one of the UK's leading Ska bands. Hard work and determination have got them there, along with an ever evolving sound and constant touring. THE BiG seem to play a live show every week, so if you haven't caught them live, I'm sure you will get a chance in the not too distant future. I've been privileged to DJ at a few local shows in Kent, when they have played and have always been amazed at their ability to get the whole crowd moving, it probably has something to do with their unique, infectious blend of Ska.

The new album, "Whatever Makes You Happy", adds another dimension to their sound and in my humble opinion is their best to date, beating "Tears at Dover" which I thought was a classic. But you don't have to take my word for it, pick up the album yourself and I'm sure you'll agree with me.


Toast - You started off in 1999 and initially your sound was a mix of Folk, Punk and Ska. What made you become a Ska band ?

THE BIG -To be honest no one seemed to like what we were doing so something had to change. More importantly though I think we started to enjoy the Ska elements of what we did more. However those other elements are still there in some songs in the live set and very dominant on 'A Tale Of The Fear' (see Disc 2 on "Whatever Makes You Happy").

Big group members
Ed & Bella

Toast - Where do you get inspiration for your lyrics from?

THE BIG - Human nature and its pitfalls usually. Ed gets a lot of inspiration from the travelling we do, meeting loads of different people, we are privileged on that front.

Toast - You swear quite a bit in your songs, especially using the c-word, which in this day and age is still seen as taboo. Has this caused you any problems at shows ? (E.g. Festivals where there are families etc.)

THE BIG - There is some swearing in the songs but not like there used to be. Many of the hardcore swearing songs are not in the live set. It hasn't been a conscious decision to tone it down. Its just the way the writing has gone more recently. We don't have a problem at festivals as we have "radio edits" for the few songs in the set that might offend a family audience.

Toast - Playing "Essex Wanker" on a local late night TV show that promoted local bands in Essex, helped to get you noticed. Can you tell us about it, what happened ?

THE BIG - We recorded the TV appearance at 7am and it was very surreal to be drinking cider so early and doing a gig to no one but a camera crew... It pissed off the county council something rotten when it was televised, they allegedly held a meeting in which they talked about taking action against us. Don't think they listened to the lyrics enough to realise that it is autobiographical.

Big group members
Jon (looking cool)

Toast - What are your favourite songs from the last three albums and why ?

THE BIG - Our favourites are always the songs that no one else seems to like!

Toast - You have toured the UK extensively over the last few years, how would you describe the Ska scene at the moment?

THE BIG - Well, that's a massive question! There are some awesome things going on at the moment but the main problem (and ironically the advantage) with the Ska scene is that the word Ska means so many different things to so many different people. At one gig what someone classes as Pop Punk can be billed as Ska (somehow) and then the next you may find Jazz billed as Ska...

One thing that is obvious is that there are too many cover bands doing the best of the Specials, Madness and Bad Manners which have such massive potential to write their own stuff. Mind you they'd probably have to take a 80% pay cut if they did their own stuff which seems to be the form!

Toast - You played at Glastonbury this year. How did this come about and how do the band feel about it?

THE BIG - We played at the Big Green Gathering Festival in Somerset last summer on the Croissant Neuf stage. This stage features at Glastonbury and the organisers liked what we did at the Big Green enough to invite us to play Glastonbury. We are very happy that we got the Glastonbury gig on our own and we are happy and still excited that we went.

Big group members
Drummer Jim

Toast - What can you tell us about Ed's "Innocent Civilian" Project?

THE BIG - Ed writes more Reggae than Ska so he had a lot of music around and it has always been his ambition to do an old school Reggae album so its good he's finally found the time to do it along side his other two albums...

Toast - You have played in The Shetland Isles. Can you tell us what the gigs are like, as I heard the whole town comes out?

THE BIG - Yeah the Shetland Islands were great. We were looked after properly and the gigs were fast paced affairs! What struck us was how friendly everyone was and how long the parties lasted(!) A must for any touring band...

Toast - You have played with a number of bands and toured with a few. Who has been the most memorable to play alongside?

THE BIG - When you get the chance to support a 'big' band it usually means that you get a 3 second sound check, you're on too early, playing to no-one and you don't get to meet any 'heroes'. However bands like The New English Beat, The Neville Staple Band and the Toasters are always good to tour with. Ultimately joint headline tours are the best for the social aspect. The Big and The Chancers (CZ ) European tour comes to mind which was a party from start to finish.

Ska group - The Big
Happy Ska People!

Toast - Your lyrics have a certain cutting edge about them, a social commentary of today's life, would you agree with this, and do you think your message is getting across?

THE BIG - It's difficult to know what, if any, impact the lyrics have really. The lyrics are not intended to get a message across they are just very honest and open and if they strike a chord with people then that's a bonus.
Big group members
Ed in Germany

Toast - Your new album "Whatever Makes You Happy" is a double album how did this come about?

THE BIG - A regrettable idea - we didn't realise how much work would be involved! We felt that we needed to add an element of depth to the bands output. We weren't that turned on by the idea of making just another Ska album after "Tears at Dover". So Ed looked at the material we had and started to come up with versions of the songs that did not involve Ska/Reggae in any way. Along with an intro and outro he then started to put these into an order that told a story and 'A Tale Of The Fear' was born. It was great fun to play around with the different styles and we are happy with the result.

Toast - As with previous albums The Big have pushed the boundaries once again.
Disc one mixes a number of Ska and Reggae styles, using traditional Ska and Skinhead Reggae, as well as the classic Big sound. Was this a deliberate move or just a natural progression for the band ?

THE BIG - Nothing deliberate just new material coming to fruition.

Toast - The track "Supply and Demand" deals with the stereotypical attitude of some English people. Was this written from your experience of meeting this type of person (as I've known a few like this in my past)?

THE BIG - Ed's lyrics on this are obviously inspired by some elements of Essex culture!

Big group members
Dave & Jon

Toast - The track "Chain Pub" deals with the issue of bland character-less boozer's. Do you think that these have caused the decline of traditional pubs?

THE BIG - Without a doubt, look at most high streets and you can find the same names regardless of what part of the country you're in. We love visiting unique independent pubs, favourites include The Wunder Bar in Midsomer Norton and Ye Olde Cyder Bar Newton Abbot, both worth trying.

Toast - Disc two has a definite Folk feel to it. Is this going back to your roots, as when you started out , electric Folk Ska played a big part of your sound?

THE BIG - In a recording sense partly but the live set is still very much based around 2 Tone, Ska, Reggae with a Punk edge.

Toast - How do you think your fans are going to take disc two? I expected a collection of versions and perhaps dub cuts, so I was surprised. Do you think
your regular fans will warm to it?

THE BIG - When we decided to do it we did joke about the fact that the best thing about disc 2 for some people is that they can throw it away and just keep disc 1! Disc 2 might not be to everyone's tastes, however we did what we wanted to do rather then what we thought people would like and the point for us is that people still have Disc 1 which is true to our live sound.

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