Coming straight out of Dirty Jersey and weighing a grand total of 1500lbs are the lords of street ska, the Hub City Stompers. They might hail from the wrong side of the pond – through no fault of their own, we hasten to add – yet these hard hitting live action lunatics will make you dance violently until your bones break. Girth conducted an interview with vocalist Travis Nelson. Enjoi!
What’s the story behind HCS?
Back in 2001, a band I was in at the time, Inspecter 7, stopped playing and touring and went into a kind of lull and dormant state. I’d been with them since 1994 and I for one was still amped and ready to keep playing and touring. So I decided to form a new full time band.
I enlisted some of the Inspecter 7 members at the time who wanted to keep the fire going and hunted down some new ones. In the summer of 2002, we had a new band that we dubbed Hub City Stompers – a direct reference to a song I had composed while in i7 about a crew that had existed in New Brunswick, New Jersey in that band’s heyday.
I had also formed an Oi/hardcore band called Steel Toe Solution back in 1997, so for the better part of the new millennium I was operating in all three bands. Hub City Stompers were my main full time band, and Steel Toe Solution and Inspecter 7 more part time arrangements that would play a few times a year.
However, in early 2014, after 20 years, I and the rest of the Hub City Stompers line-up officially separated from Inspecter 7. Since then, we’ve operated strictly as Hub City Stompers.
You’re one of the few bands that avoid politics but write great observational lyrics with humour. How do you go about writing songs?
While we certainly have songs with what could be called ‘political’ or ‘touchy’ subject matter, lyrically I tend to address such subjects with a lampooning angle as opposed to taking a preachy stance.
When it comes to subjects such as race, racism, rape, and the like there’s not much of a question as to where a person with any logic or common sense would stand. So why not have some fun and make people think and have a laugh, as opposed to just getting on a soapbox and stating the obvious?
And anyway, these days everyone seems to have their minds made up no matter what, and people seem far more interested in being right than doing what’s right, so why get on stage and try to push any agenda? I’d rather get people away from pointlessly arguing with each other on their various technical devices for one night and get them under one roof to party, laugh and dance together at show.
‘Little Julie Swastika’ – who was the lady in question?
The subject and lyrics to that song were in fact initially inspired by someone whose name was Julie before I was even in any band. However, experiencing additional incidents of supposed ‘white power’ girls, shall we say, not adhering to their alleged convictions over the years led me to wind up making it a full-fledged song.
‘Skins Don’t Cry’ – amazing! How did you become a skinhead?
I started listening to punk and hardcore in the early eighties and started going to shows in the mid-eighties. And for the better part of that time, I was not a skinhead. I was running around with a fro-hawk hanging out with skinheads, but not looking to fall under any particular label. I guess it was inevitability, though, as my music, dress, behaviour, and company I kept were all skinhead. So by the end of the eighties that was that. And, hell, that fro-hawk was kinda silly lookin’ anyway…
How’s the scene over in New Jersey – looks healthy from your videos!
Like many other U.S. scenes, it has waxed and waned over the years. It’s nowhere near what it was years ago but – as fickle, jaded and spoiled as people in our area can be – they still creep out for shows when they want to have a good time.
How do you feel about the old UK vs. US skins nonsense? [it ain’t nonsense, it’s serious business – Editor]
You mean the question of authenticity of skins outside the UK? Well, it’s a pretty piss poor point to try to assert that a subculture can only exist within the country it was created in. By that logic, subcultures such as rockabilly and, hell, even hippie could not have existed outside of the U.S.
UK can certainly claim ‘birthright’ to skinhead, but not necessarily copyright the whole subculture. I didn’t even know this was this big an issue, ha ha! But I guess there are purists and elitists in any way of life.
Any plans to come and play the UK?
Yeah, we’ve always wanted to play in the UK and still do. It’s a bit of a financial undertaking to sort out, but hopefully we can pull it off one day. My old ex-Patriot pal JJ sings for Discharge, so I was thinking I’d hit him up for some aid and advisement, ha ha! Or perhaps link up with Sonic Boom Six or The Skints.
You manage to combine rhythm with aggression – a sound you describe as ‘street ska’. Any other street ska bands you’d recommend?
There really aren’t many with that distinct style combination, particularly in New Jersey. The last Jersey band that had any sort of street ska sound was Bomb Town, but they stopped playing years ago after the passing of their frontman Tommi Infamous.
There’s other bands that have had a fun ska sound while still maintaining a street edge or darker theme that we’ve grooved well with, though. Mephiskapheles, Deals Gone Bad, The Pietasters, and Voodoo Glow Skulls, for example.
Do you have any new music coming out?
Yes. We are in the process of recording album number 6 right now, which will be called Haters Dozen. I’d give an estimated release date but that always seems to jinx things, so I’ll just say: we hope to have it out by early next year and plan to tour as much as we can in conjunction with the release.
Any words of wisdom for your UK fans please?
Yes. If you actual Brits ever catch any poser, suck-up, wannabe British American skinheads attempting to sound all ‘authentic’ using British terminologies in their speech, please give them a good open handed slap to the grill. For more specific artistic reference, see the Steel Toe Solution song ‘Wrong Side of the Pond’.
Other than that, lighten up on the purist crap [no way, we’ve got a reputation to defend – Editor] and hang out with us yanks [fine, but it’s us who make the rules – Editor]. We’re damned fun to party with. Hub City Stompers hope to get your beloved isle one day to display our dirty Jersey hooligan ska for you drink and dance to.