Cherry Poppin' Daddies
In celebration of the bands 20th year in the music business, Eugene, Oregon’s horn-heavy, genre-bending, multi-platinum-selling Cherry Poppin’ Daddies are giving store shelves a double shot of musical goodness in September: both “Susquehanna” and “Skaboy JFK: the Skankin’ hits of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies” are scheduled for release on September 29, 2009, on Rock Ridge Music/Space Age Bachelor Pad Records.
“Susquehanna” will finally receive its national release, as it was previously only available on the band’s website, while “Skaboy JFK” is a compilation of new ska tracks with older Cherry Poppin’ Daddies ska songs (some of which have been re-recorded) in a collection that comes off like a classic of the genre.
Like their 1998 multi-platinum smash “Zoot Suit Riot: the Swingin’ hits of…,” the new album, “Skaboy JFK: the Skankin’ Hits of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies,” will emphasize a single genre, this time the 60’s era up-tempo form of pre-reggae Jamaican soul known as ska. “Skaboy” will combine four new recordings with tracks from the group’s earlier catalogue, reflecting all the waves and varieties of ska.
I sat down recently one-on-one with lead singer Steve Perry, and first wondered, with their music with roots in soul, R&B, blues, ska and so much more, who were his musical influences growing up and how many still factored into his music today? [Perry] "Growing up I was into Elvis Costello, and Hardcore and also weirdo bands like the Meat Puppets and Wipers. None of these really figure into the music that we make. We are a little like Elvis Costello in that we are interested in expressing ourselves through a myriad of genres. For instance Elvis Costello's new record, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane is a bluegrass record and I am discovering that I like it."
As this is your 20th year in the music industry, in reflection did you ever think that you'd be in the same band all these years later - not only still releasing CDs, but two (2) in September alone?! "No. We threw our name together in haste before our very first show and got an unexpectedly good response....so we had to keep going. Recording has always been an interest of mine so the two things (writing and performing) go OK together."
And with one of those albums a brand new 'Skaboy JFK: The Skankin' Hits of the CPD' and the other a previously website-only available recording named 'Susquehanna,' it seems that you and the boys have been real busy this past year. But why choose now to release 'Susquehanna,' especially at the exact same time as the greatest hits album? "Well it didn't really get a wide release before. It was just sort of on our website with a little media push that we did ourselves; so now with Rock Ridge we feel we can get it off properly. Susquehanna is the name of a muddy river that runs through Pennsylvania and NY that I grew up on. It’s a conceptual record where the river really figures in as a symbol in the "story"."
You've stated that the reason you've not been heard in the music scene for a while is down to a 'self-imposed hiatus,' but why did you bring that upon yourselves - and how long did it last? "Well we all did other things for a few years. Two of our guys did another solo project called The Visible Men and Jason and I did a glam rock album on Jive records called White Hot Odyssey. In addition I finished up my degree in Molecular Biology at the University of Oregon. I would say from 2001 to 2006 we played pretty sparingly."
'Skaboy JFK' features new ska tracks with older CPD ska songs, some of which have been re-recorded - but, with regard the ones you re-recorded, how do they now sound different from when they were first created? "Well we changed the style some of them were played. For example, the song "2:29" was initially a kind of third wave song, and a little too rockin' maybe, but we felt it might be better suited to being played in a kind of Blue beat trad ska fashion. I think the song is improved because of that. We changed things that we thought were distracting or weak and made them more like we play them live."
And so, with regard this new album of tracks, in general, how easy or hard is it to create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical wonderments and accomplishments that preceded it within the industry? "We have never gauged what we do by whether we thought the public wanted it or not. We just keep trying to write songs with our instinctual set of influences and forms and hope that people buy enough of them so that we can make another one. If we felt that we were slipping in any way and really embarrassing ourselves or something I think we have pride enough to stop. There are too many other things in the world to do. But I honestly feel that we are getting better at doing what we do. I mean I just got out the studio doing a glitter rock sounding single for vinyl that was really exciting to record and different than anything I have ever done. We might as well put that out, no?"
The wonderful, mega radio-hit 'Zoot Suit Riot' was a real monster of a smash, but did you ever wish to be that kind of radio-hit band - over say a simmeringly successful underground ska band, perhaps? "I would rather be a one hit wonder than be stuck playing only one style of music, be it ska or swing. The creative process is what I need personally to digest my feelings. I am glad that we had a hit, but I am prouder that there remains a lot more to be discovered about us artistically, whether or not the average individual cares about our other influences or not. I am prouder of our Frank Zappa or Oingo Boingo sides - our craftsmanship, more than just the commercially obvious."
If you had to recount one regret in life, what would it be - and in reflection, how would you have handled it differently today? "I would spend more time with the people that I love. I am trying to tour the right amount. I’m trying not to be on the road all the time and when I am home I try to give of myself and be a force for the good. It still is hard, compared to being say an accountant or something, where work ends at 5. Creative work never ends and everybody resents you for doing it. Being an artist is a calling that ruins your life in many ways. Still you have to keep hope alive that you won’t end up by yourself in a shack by the river fishing for your supper."
Being that you have the same name as the ex-lead singer of Journey, do you ever get mistaken for him in interviews (like phoners, or foreign in-persons, etc.) - as, I asked Steve the same thing about you and he said, well, 'No'!" "Ha! There will only ever be one Steve Perry and I think we know which one that is. ;-) Yeah I have been sent some confused fan mail before, about how they liked his "new direction" ... but I can’t sing like Sam Cooke like he does. I sing more like Sam and Cheese."
If asked to record one for charity, what '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to cover today and why? "Well I am old and when the 80's was happening I was already hating mainstream music, so the era that you are referring to strikes no particular nostalgic chord for me. I am of the 70's!!!! I would sing the song Hot Blooded by Foreigner and I would change the words to Just Farted."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins ...do you? "Recently, I was walking through an air conditioned pharmacy/gift shop and my eye caught a cute little fuzzy plastic penguin sitting on the wrong shelf, among tools and weird office supplies. He was obviously filed out of place and looked forlorn. It was one of the Basement of Unwanted Toys moments that fill my life and that I am apparently defenseless against. I picked him up and bought him. When we got home my significant other said "What did you buy a penguin for?" I said I didn't know.... but I did know. Now he is with me!"
Interview: Russell A. Trunk
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