More info: theselecter.com
What was the first record you ever bought and what musicians made you want to be in a band?
Neol: “Can't Buy Me Love, I bought it as a present for a girl at school who was having a party. Record shops in the 1960s were great places to go in to. Musicians who fired me up were The Shadows and Duane Eddy, Manitas de Plata, anything with a guitar in it and then all the way through that decade there was one fantastic single after another...at some point at school I heard some blues, Howling Wolf possibly and then Peter Green and Jimi, and later, 69ish, the early reggae...all of this made want to play guitar, however, why I would want to be in a band still eludes me!”
Are you a fan of "Later... with Jools Holland"? Of all the music shows from the past which did you most enjoy?
“I do watch it, I've always been one to watch anything with music I might like, in the past I videotaped many programs. I enjoyed getting to be on TOTP and The Selecter did Whistle Test twice....I do think The Tube was one of the best.”
Do you own a copy of Raindogs by Tom Waits. 3 guitarists feature on it - Keith Richards, Robert Quine, Marc Ribot - which of those do you rate?
“You've prompted me to play my cassette version, long time since I played it....Tom Waits is incredibly interesting, amazing to listen to the notes he alone seems to have access to....when the music is this good every instrument becomes part of the whole, it all sits well together and has a groove... this is what is so hard to achieve and a lot of music doesn't get there....the guitars here are great but Keith is special.”
When you write a song how do you present it to your band mates? Are you interested in them chucking in ideas or more helping to create what you heard in your head?
“This depends on if I've managed to get a version recorded or not!! If not, I'll play and sing it through in the rehearsal room Even if I have a recording it's probably got to have modifications, it's best if people can have it beforehand to prepare their parts at home but sometimes it's done on the fly. I usually have a finished song and some definite parts in mind but I enjoy the process of other input growing the song into something I perhaps wouldn't have thought of, especially with a good producer when you're recording a master”
How did your recent show in Hoxton go and what are your plans for the future?
“The Hoxton gig went very well, it was a good 1st gig and I felt the new songs sat alongside the classics, the next gig is December 10th at The Scala in London and also, we'll be announcing next year's gigs soon. The new band idea seems to be something people are enthusiastic about and I'm pleased with the responses from within the business...I'm recording Dolla Fe Dolla as a new single over the next few weeks and the plan is to keep building The Selecter by playing new songs and music to the many people who love reggae based music....to me the genre still has much to explore musically.”
Talk us through the current line -up of your band...
“John Gibbons is the new singer, he's been singing with Boy George for several years...... Dean Ross is on the Hammond organ, he was in Lene Lovich's band in the late 70's/early80's......Daniel Crosby is the drummer, he played in my instrumental ska band in the 90's, his dad is Gary Crosby the bass player who runs Jazz Jamaica.....Tim Cansfield is on the guitar, he's been the guitar player of choice for just about everyone who's anyone in the business, including the Bee Gees and Steve Winwood.....Andre Bayuni is the bass player, recently playing with former Libertines members......Faye Treacy, Hannah Taylor and Ellie Smith are the trombone section, 2 tenor, one bass and Victor Trivino is the percussionist. They are all great players and together make a truly amazing sound. I'm anticipating be able to bring my new material to life and explore musical ideas that I feel will chime with people everywhere.”
BB King called his guitar Lucille, do you relate to this? How many guitars do you own, do they have names, are they male or female and do you get funny if other musicians try and have a go on them?
“I can see that it makes for a good story and it appeals to people, when I played on Stan Campbell's album with Stewart Levine producing, I played one of B.B.'s Lucilles, given to Stewart as a present. I don't have names or gender for any of the inanimate things in my life and although I used to be very attached to a blonde strat I bought in 1976, it was stolen along with another strat in 1991. Since then I learned to see guitars in a different way. I don't mind that much if someone else was to play them, it rarely happens anyway. My "collection" of guitars is now at 16, a mixed lot, there's some lap steels, acoustics, a baritone, a slide, couple of basses, a couple of electrics and my main stage guitars, 3 strats....I've been fortunate to find most of my musical belongings quite cheaply along the way.”
How close were you to being the guitarist in The Specials?
“Jerry Dammers and myself had left the band Nite Trane at the same time with the thought of doing our own music, we'd played a covers set for about 18 months and it ended with the worst 2 weeks in a distant place, Tunisia, where so many things went so very wrong....as Jerry began to get a few songs sorted out and planned he wanted to hear them being played live, he asked several musicians, including me, to come to rehearsals....soon a gig was booked in the pub room where we were playing but Jerry decided he wanted Lynval on guitar (without actually telling me!!) and then, months later, when Jerry wanted to add another guitar, he thought about inviting me back in but decided that Roddy would be a better choice. At that time there was quite a lot of bands and musicians in Coventry, not everyone could play reggae though....I just carried on as always trying to play my own stuff and form bands, get gigs....from leaving Nite Trane ( which was a great time most of the time) I started to write more and more songs, like Missing Words, Street Feeling and On My Radio which became the backbone of The Selecter a few years on. Quite close is the short answer!!”
Out of all the 2-Tone people and all those bands who do you have the most time and affection for?
“I think there are three.....Desmond Brown, the Hammond player in the original band. Back in early 70s, I learnt how to play reggae standing next to him while he kept saying "no, like this!!". He plays the Hammond with such a good feel, just brilliant........ Jerry, we met in 1975 and infuriating though he can be, he has fantastically good ideas, 2Tone Records wasn't a bad one for example!! ......and Rico, having played his Man From Wareika album at home so many times in the 70s to actually stand next to him at the microphone while he improvised a solo on a track on my band's album, Too Much Pressure, was a real thrill. It's always a joy to see him. He's why I love the trombone so much. And that album is one of the very best reggae records....in my opinion!”
Could you write down everything you did yesterday (as in, "A Day in the Life of Neol Davies")
“Since I'm writing this on Thursday, yesterday I got up at 7am and arrived at Rugby at 9:30 to fulfil my weekly commitment to teaching the electric guitar to teenage boys at Lawrence Sheriff School( it's a boy's school). I do this for one day a week, sometimes in the past I've done more days per week, but I've taught the guitar in schools almost continually since 1982. I really enjoy it although the downside is seeing the inside of education and how much it's stuck in the past.....I do my small bit to subvert and bring some counter culture into the frame!! Once home I always feel like a zombie after teaching so not much happens then on.....other days of my week are a mixture of fielding emails/texts to do with the running of the new band and playing through the songs, working on the arrangement ideas. I wish it could be just the music but the business has to be done too.....I am hoping that the next time I write "a day in the life of" it'll be from a beach somewhere!!I'd like to add a big thank you to everyone who has bought records, been to gigs and loved the music for the last 3 decades. Your support is very much appreciated and I consider myself to be very fortunate to have had the opportunity to do the things I've done in life and I'm looking forward to some more if that's allowed!!”