The Boston Brass Digest
"Talking Basics with Kincaid Smith of Hepcat"
Interview by Andrew Galante

The Boston Brass Digest

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 Since Right on time, Hepcat's third release the traditional ska group from California has been real busy touring and this year has been a whirlwind of success for Hepcat. Before they rocked the Paradise back on a rainy March night I had the chance to interview Trumpet player Kincaid Smith (K) and this is how it went....

Andrew Galante - How's the tour been going?

Kincaid Smith - It was kind of a long one. We've been in Europe for the last four weeks and this is the second show back on the east coast since we've been back from over seas, it's been going good-the shows in Europe we had really good turn outs.

AG - Who'd you play with, a lot bands, a set bill?

K - It was European pot luck, basically we did run into Jeffery's Fan club, there are a west Coast band, but other than that it was pot luck.

AG - How long is this tour right now?

K - We 've got including today's show eight shows left and then we got back to LA eight shows basically just in the northeast Chicago, DC, New York, tomorrow we're playing New London, CT (we're else-he says to himself) Philly, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, not necessarily in that order.

AG - Cool. What shows do you like the most-what shows do you like to play at the most-what venues? As far as like what bands?

K - What venues, the 9:30 club in DC, (at least on this tour)-it's a really nice club to play at. Back in LA i like the House of Blues, basically, the clubs that have the better sound are the ones that tend to like more-as far as an audience goes or other bands, every night it's different you know-every night is kind a crap shoot, sometimes you'll l;play a club and the audience will really dig it regardless of whether you feel had a good show or not sometimes you'll play your ass off, really work hard and the audience just never gets into it but having a good club where your taken care of as a band-that always helps.

AG - You guys started off with only a handful of traditional bands out there in California (playing now) now, what bands do you guys like now there doing...

K - Traditional?

AG - Yeah and can you see those bands being influenced by yourselves as Hepcat and other bands that were around when you guys started out?

K - Traditional bands that are playing music more on the line of music that we play I think tend to be more influenced by an older sound. Some of the bands that I like now, it's kind of hard because a lot of the good traditional sounding bands kind of fell apart this past year, a band called Mobtown, there not playing anymore, dynamic Pressure was a great rock steady band, they kind fell apart-although I heard from the some of the guys that they are trying to pull something together. There's a new band, relatively new band in LA called the Rhythm Doctors that I have been lots of good things about (although I haven't heard them myself)

AG - How diverse do you try to be musically, or do you?

K - Hepcat musically is a product of it's influences and our influences tend to be traditional, traditional music of of the sixties namely Jamaican Ska, jazz, (Jamaican jazz is Ska), reggae, calypso, some Afro-Cuban, American jazz and soul-along those lines you know. So It's not that were trying to be especially diverse. It's just that those, those are the sounds that we love, that's what's goes into our music, and so we wind up playing songs that reflect that style that we appreciate.

AG - I know that you guys aren't generally politically motivated-just good times through the music but do you guys try to neccesrily or it just happens to incorporate ethnic diversity to the band at all?

K - Compeletly unintentional we all live in L.A. which is incredibly diverse fortunately for us our parents wouldn't stand for anything but complete equality you know? There needs to be more of that. Truth is at this point in time in history on the verge of a completely new century you simply can't afford emotionally to throw out all the wonderful cultural diversity in this nation, it's ridiculous to throw out all (of) that human resource simply on that basis of someone being different from you whether it's background or skin color whatever, the whole reason this band came together the way it did was because we found musically could accomplish something as a group that no other group of individuals could. Every time we bring someone new it changes a lot and the reason for that is because the backgrounds of everyone we bring in is so different and that is incorporated in our music, you know what I mean. As far as like did we plan it? (laughter) the next person we need is a female Asian trombone player (more laughter) that's not the way we do it, it never be the way we do it. It's all about loving music and that's a human thing.

AG - You guys don't have Alex this tour?

K - He doing his TV show back at home.

AG - How long is he going to be without you guys?

K - I don't know.

AG - Taking it with a grain of salt?

K - Yeah, he 's doing his thing, he's doing what he loves. We can't really do anything but be happy for him and support him, more than anything else he's still our brother. We wish he was here doing the music with us and if he can't we wish him all the best, you know. He's doing a another movie-I hear or is that an ugly rumor (to Greg who is behind us putting shoes on)

Greg Lee - Could be a rumor could be real-he's got something lined up.

AG - Greg can I ask you a question?

G - Sure

AG - With (Ska) bands today I think Hepcat when I think of male dual vocals besides the Slackers how did that came about, was it supposed to duel?

G - When we first started this band we really wanted to make a band that sounded like the Ethiopians that's how it's more or less evolved into what it's been, what it is, it was supposed to be duel plus Deston as well, It's never been really duel it's been more three part, what you see is duel

AG - Congratulations on the Henekin commercial.that when i first saw it I was like SHIT! I thought it on my stereo cuz I had TV and stereo on at the same time (laughter), how did all of that come about?

K - We have a really good manager who puts our stuff out there, hoping someone will listen. Someone from Henekin heard us and liked what they heard and thought it would go with the commercial.

AG - What was the significance of the song and the commercial itself?

K - I think maybe, one section of the lyrics of "Can't Wait" seems significant to that commercial "If I'm so bad, why don't go his way" and "nothing can move in this whole world," kind of comes in right the end of the commercial that's right when he's reaching for the Henekin and he kind of passes up the Coronia, he throws out the time (laughter) which would significant of passing up the Coronia-I think it's pretty well done we had a good time, I've only seen it once-the first time i saw it i thought it was good-it brought a big smile to my face.

AG - What kind of feedback have you gotten from fans or press from the commercial? Anything yet?

K - Um not really, I think as far press goes some people pick up one it but none really thinks too much of it kids who know the music say "Wow!, that's cool" as a band we not the kind of popularity status where we would be reconginzed by sound, most people hearing that commercial probably don't even know what Ska music is but the point is , if they hear twenty seconds of that song and it gets them moving whether they know our name or not then we accomplished something you know. Maybe it sparks a curiosity, i don't know maybe they go buy a case Henekin. There's always that question of selling out you know? As far as I'm concerned the point of being an artist and doing this for a living is to get your music to the maximum number of people, to touch the maximum number people with your art form and the commercial, albeit a commercial is still a really good way to do that. A TV, that's what everybody watches but whether they realize and acknowledge who it is or what is that they are seeing it is still somehow being shown or relaying to them.

AG - Are guys working on a fourth album?

K - Yeah we are, I think we gonna play a couple new songs tonight. we've hammering away at it and hopefully it will be out by this fall

AG - What other things do you guys have going on besides the tour and the new record, any other projects or side projects going on at all?

K - Not really we've been focusing a lot on writing the new songs that's really time consuming process with this band because song writing involves every member at some point in the song writing process and it's also very difficult to do on the road and we haven't really come off the road since we left for the Australian Warped Tour after Christmas, we had kind of a Christmas break we took a bit of December off we've been on the road an awful lot and we don't have the time to do side stuff, although some of the members in the band played on the Brad Pate Project, Brad Pate from See Spot. Greg, Alex and I sang on the last Royal Crown Revue album. There are things here and there but nothing that's ours really, it's all helping other people out with stuff.

AG - Any last words?

K - Be true to music, that's what matters that's why were all still doing this, whether we can afford rent or not, you know that's why we're here.

[As well as the interview header, you can see more photos from Hepcat's 1999 performance at The Paradise in Boston, courtesy of Andrew Galante and his The Boston Brass Digest.]