photo credit: Jo Rhyins
Editor’s Note: Dave Hillyard is currently working on crowdfunding his new album! Click HERE to figure out how you can help!
I’ve been listening to The Slackers since 1998. I think it’s safe to say, that if I ever had to claim a favorite band, that would be who I would pick. Listening to their music on a weekly basis even to this day clears my head and transports me to a different place. To put it bluntly, their craftsmanship as musicians is hard to match. Their live show is amazing as well. Since ’98, I’ve only missed one or two of their Southeastern Michigan shows.
The Slackers exemplify everything that is right with ska music today. That’s why when I got the opportunity to feature the legendary “Disco” Dave Hillyard on my blog, I jumped at the chance. Aside from his work with The Slackers, Dave has also been a member of Hepcat, The Stubborn All-Stars, and started his own bands, David Hillyard & the Rocksteady 7 and The Bluegreens.
Besides his regular gig as saxophonist, songwriter, and occasional singer for The Slackers, Dave is also currently using crowdsourcing to fund his new album California, featuring members of The Slackers, Hepcat, and The Aggrolites (among others…). He only has about 2 weeks left to secure the funding, so I wanted to help spread the word as much as I could because there has never been anything I’ve listened to where Dave was involved that I didn’t absolutely love. By featuring him on the blog this week, I wanted to make sure everyone knew that by supporting his efforts, they would be receiving a full-length album by one of the best minds in ska music today. It also goes without saying that he’s an amazing saxophone player too.
Enough yammering on my part, you want to get to the good stuff. Below, find my Friday 5 Questions With… feature with Dave Hillyard, Saxophone player extraordinaire! I also made a Spotify playlist of some of Dave’s music so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Tell me a little bit about your California project, specifically how such a grand undertaking came to fruition and how we can be a part of it?
Well, the California album started as a confluence of events. As of this June, I will have lived in NYC longer than I have lived in California. That got me thinking and I gathered together a bunch of tunes I’ve written over the years. Some of the songs are old, some of them new but they are all centered around stuff that happened to me or stuff I saw back West.
I was able to get a cross section of musicians that I’ve worked with over the years involved in this. I got rhythms and vocals done on the West Coast and then added horns, keys, percussion, strings, and other things on the East.
I was going for a combination of sounds that different bands I’ve played in over the years had. I wanted to put out a bunch of vocal tunes as opposed to the instrumental albums I’ve made with Rocksteady 7. With the Slackers, I usually only get 2-3 songs per album, so with this one I wanted to see what I could do with an album’s worth of songs.
All this was produced by Brian Dixon who really helped with meshing together the different streams of sound.
Right now, I’m trying to get it released. I’m doing a fundraiser on Big Tunes – https://bigtun.es/projects/index/5
In this day and age, when record companies and distributors are disappearing, it’s become really important to reach out to your supporters directly. Without their support, it’s hard get albums released.
Is it safe to say that California is the most personal project you’ve worked on to date? What is your favorite thing about it?
Yeah, it’s the most personal thing I’ve done. I usually write songs that are about something that’s happened to me or something I see happening to people around me. That being said, there are a couple of these California songs that still tear at me when I listen to them.
It’s not that my life is more dramatic than other people’s. I think everyone has family stories and interesting events in their lives. Friends who got themselves in jams. The only difference is I write songs about these things.
The Slackers, Live at The Blind Pig, 4/12/13
I’ve been listening to your music since your days in Hepcat and the Stubborn All-Stars. What is it about music that keeps you inspired to continue on?
Music has been an obsession for many years. I’m not exactly sure what motivates me.
I originally just wanted to play in a Ska band. I wanted to be in a band like The Beat or Madness. Then I got more into the older Ska and reggae and from that I was introduced to Jazz, Blues, and RnB and from there it’s just kept on going onto Brazilian, Afro-Beat, Country….all kinds of stuff.
But at the end of the day, Ska, Rocksteady, and Early Reggae is my first musical language. It’s my foundation. It’s what I come back to again and again.
I’m really loyal to it. Ska music took me out of a boring suburban existence and got me touring the world. It broadened my horizons.
David Hillyard singing, Live at The Blind Pig, 4/12/13
I’m looking for some down and dirty jazz musicians to start listening to that aren’t necessarily household names. Who would you recommend I try out? To get a sense of what I like, Oliver Nelson is one of my favorites.
Ok, let’s see. Oliver Nelson wrote some great tunes and was a great arranger. I have an exercise book of his that I used to practice from a bunch.
A long time influence of mine is Illinois Jacquet. He is so great. Played with the Black Velvet Band in the 1940s. That’s some classic stuff. One of his later albums that is amazing is called, The Blues That’s Me.
Another favorite is Jimmy Forrest. Check out his Black Forrest or Sit Down and Relax With.. albums. Great soulful saxophone. He did the original hit version of ‘Night Train.’
Any Last Words?
I just want to thank everyone who has supported me and my music. Without the help of the people around me, I wouldn’t be able to do anything.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to support Dave’s crowdfunding efforts by clicking here.