Generic "Get Hep! An Interview with Hepcat Kincaid Smith" (Fall 1998 - Issue #9)
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"Every blue moon a band comes along that makes the girls go crazy and the guys jealous. Picture the cartoon of the rooster crooning to hundreds of screaming hens in the audience. The rooster's voice is so smoooooth that his singing causes many of the hens to collapse from excitement. Now replace that rooster with Greg Lee, lead vocalist for Hepcat and the hens with real people, add some tight horns, laid-back grooves and you've got one of the most outstanding live performance experiences in the country. On Hepcat's last visit to Cleveland we got the chance to talk to trumpet player Kincaid Smith about the Hepcat story...a story about more than just your not-so-common ska band..."
Jared: What is your full name?
Kincaid: Kincaid Alan Smith.
Jared: What is your date of birth?
Kincaid: May 24, 1975.
Jared: Place of birth...
Kincaid: Los Angeles, California.
Jared: What are your parents' names?
Kincaid: Hmmm. This is getting kind of personal (laughs). Roger and Nancy.
Kincaid: 6' 3 1/2"
Kincaid: Last I checked it was 180. But I'm on tour so I'm probably down about five pounds.
Jared: Any distinguishing marks?
Kincaid: I've got a really big dent on the top of my head.
Jared: So tell me the Hepcat story so far . . .
Kincaid: In 1989 Deston Berry (keyboards), Alex Desert (vocals), Greg Lee (lead vocals), Raul Talavera (alto sax) and a bunch of guys decided to get together and play music that was being played by DJs at clubs when they were going to see bands, but the bands weren't exactly playing what these guys wanted to hear. They found themselves dancing to what the DJs were playing in between, which was old reggae, rocksteady, old-school ska and said "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we got together and played a show doing this kind of music, which is what we really love?" One show turned into many and nine years later, here we are...
Jared: What are your favorite songs on the latest CD?
Kincaid: My personal favorite? I like "Goodbye Street" a lot. I also really like "Pharoah's Dream" and "Open Season." Those are probably my three favorites.
Jared: This is your first record for Hellcat Records, right?
Jared: What label were you on before that?
Kincaid: BYO Records.
Jared: Is that stuff still available, too?
Kincaid: Yeah, but unfortunately the distribution is really poor on BYO. That's one reason to keep touring is so we can get that album "Scientific" out to kids who couldn't get it otherwise. We all feel pretty strongly abou that album. We thought we put in some good work on it and it's a good, solid album for us.
Jared: What cities have you had the best response in?
Kincaid: In the states we always have a big welcome in Chicago. New York is really good...the major cities. Hawaii has been good to us. Europe is cool. In Germany we get really huge crowds.
Jared: Who are your heroes?
Kincaid: The Skatalites take the cake. We had the priveledge of playing a couple of shows with them. Nobody does it better. Nobody will ever do it better. I'm also a big jazz fan and so I love Dizzy Gillespie and Freddy Hubbard. Oscar Peterson. Outside of that, I listen to a lot of other music like Latin and pop. Whatever. All music influences what I do, personally.
Jared: What bands are you listening to a lot of now?
Kincaid: We did a tour with Ben Harper not too long ago and I really started getting into his stuff. Dave Matthews. I'm a big fan of pop music, but I'm a fan of all music. Ben Folds Five in the last year put out a really good album. Pancho Sanchez put out a great album that is really solid jazz.
Jared: What is your motto?
Kincaid: I think it would have to be "Let's do this shit!" You gotta go balls to the wall.
Jared: If you could work with anybody in the music business who would it be?
Kincaid: Stevie Wonder. I just got through listening to an album of his on the bus and he is, in my mind, probably one of the three greatest composers of all time. I think it would be so awesome to work with Stevie Wonder.
Jared: You talk about one of the three greatest composers. Who would be the other two?
Kincaid: Probably Elvis Costello and Bob Marley. I can't think of anyone more meaningful.
Jared: What is your opinion on the state of the ska scene right now?
Kincaid: I don't know. I try not to pay much attention to it. I think that a lot of what you hear is very misleading. To be honest, I'm not even sure what the scene is anymore. When I joined the band almost five years ago it was really well defined. You'd go to a show and there would be the skins and the rudies. That was the scene. Then all of a sudden here comes this tremendous radio popularity and bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and No Doubt are getting their videos played, which is great. Anytime the music flourishes and the bands are working hard, as a musician I have to respect that, but as far as the music goes, we do what we do and we really try not to follow the flow. We're Hepcat and Hepcat is what it is and goes where it wants to go. The scene just IS. It rises and falls like it always has and will probably continue to do so.
Jared: Would you prefer it wasn't such a commercial success right now?
Kincaid: There's a trap that is set by that. It's great to have a tremendous amount of energy generated within the music industry over any kind of music because that inspires a lot of productivity. That is good for everybody, not just the musicians, but producers and that spins off into other realms of music as well. The downfall of that, though is the 'selling out' quote-unquote. It's hard because you're influenced by what you listen to and what you hear. As much as you try to shut things out, and try to be dead set on what you want to do, you're going to be influenced one way or another. We are really conscious of how we sound. We probably pick at it more than most bands. We really scrutinize ourselves and there are eight or nine people in the band at any given time depending on who we can take with us on tour, but with that many heads, with that many pairs of eyes and ears focusing on the music, there's really no way we let ourselves slip. We all have a really clear vision of what we want to do and we're all influenced in different ways, and have different backgrounds, but the thing that brought this band together in the first place is being a really strong push toward the kind of music we play. There are no weak links now. We know what we want to hear come out and that's what we do. For the last three albums that's what the band has succeeded in doing. We're not going to slip. If the band slips, we're done. It's really a matter of survival. To do what we do we really have to stay focused.
Jared: Pro or con: The right to have an abortion?
Jared: The right to own guns?
Kincaid: I hate guns, personally. I wish I lived in a country where I thought people could handle them. I go to Europe with the band and people own guns and people hunt, but you'd never hear going to a European country that some fourteen-year-old kid took his daddy's gun out and lost control and popped off a bunch of people. It's a weakness in American mentality and it's really sad. I don't know that the U.S. can handle it.
Jared: The current welfare system?
Kincaid: Uhhh...floundering. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the country is falling apart. Government is based on intentions. There's never any proof that things will work until it's either worked for a long time and then it falls apart or it fails at the beginning.
Jared: The death penalty?
Kincaid: Man! Kill 'em all! No. I guess I'm pro.
Jared: Rights and services for illegal immigrants.
Kincaid: You know you're asking a Californian? (Laughs) I live in a neighborhood that probably has a tremendous illegal population. I know for a fact it does, actually. But a lot of Los Angeles wouldn't work if that population wasn't there. That's what the Government really neglects when they bring up ideas like taking away education when the simple fact of the matter is that these people are there whether you like it or not and a lot of them are productive members of society whether the Government likes it or not and if they're education is taken away or their civil rights are taken away then the system is just going to break in half. Especially in Los Angeles.
Jared: Legalization of drugs?
Kincaid: That's a lot like the gun issue. I don't know if the United States could handle it. I think it's the mentality that's been set up across the whole country and going into small towns and seeing so many kids so messed-up all the time because there's nothing to do. Both my folks were teachers and they taught kids who were permanently fucked-up on drugs...forever. Having been around that most of my life, I'm really strongly opinionated about those substances. However, I'm not an angel myself (chuckles) and I'm not clean. I think there's something to be said for the freedom to do what you want to do in any circumstance, but in moderation. As far as the drugs go: People are going to get them. People want to legalize it and I don't understand why. You'd industrialize the whole market. It would be harder to get and it would be more expensive. I don't think that's a good idea.
Jared: Equal rights for gays?
Kincaid: Totally! Gays are people too.
Jared: What is the best and worst thing about what you do?
Kincaid: The best thing is that this IS what i do. I'm a musician. My dream is to make music and share it with people. There's no other way to do it. That completes me. Sometimes the worst thing is the exact same thing. I love this so much and it's so much a part of me that it's really all that I am and without it I feel like I'm nothing. It's hard to fight that feeling.
Jared: Don't cry. It's okay.
Kincaid: (Laughs) Yeah, you know. But this is what I really want to do. I would like a little more money, though (laughs)!
Jared: What is your biggest political or social concern?
Kincaid: Oh man! [Efren Santana (tenor sax) interjects:]
Efren: Not enough condoms for kids!
Kincaid: Not enough condoms for Efren! Every election that comes around I take a look at the candidates and I really haven't seen one since I've been a voter. It's really sad. I think principals that the government was founded on probably really worked well. That was a time of patriotism and politicians really held the best interest of the country. It wasn't so much a money game. I've had the misfortune to see a lot of corruption in Los Angeles City Government and I'm really afraid it's taking place all over the country.
Jared: And what are you not concerned with at all?
Kincaid: You know what I'm really NOT concerned about? This is kind of funny because we're approaching the Millenium and there's this sense of tension and everyone's freakin' out that the world's gonna end. I'm totally not concerned. I'm a really happy guy.
Jared: Cool. What are your favorite films?
Kincaid: "Glory," "Dead Poets Society," "Friday" is really funny, "Blazing Saddles," "Roxanne" and of course "Raiders Of The Lost Ark."
Jared: That's one of my favorites.
Kincaid: That's gotta be one of the best films ever made! Geoge Lucas, Steven Speilberg...what can you say to that?
Jared: What are two things you find appealing about women?
Kincaid: A lot of class and a good sense of humor.
Jared: What are tow things that are NOT appealing about women?
Kincaid: Trashy girls really turn me off - that goes both for appearance and attitude and (laughs) really annoying voices (laughs)!!!
Jared: Like the girl in "Chasing Amy!"
Jared: If you could be a vegetable, which would you be and why?
Kincaid: Probably an artichoke because I love artichokes. They have the soft tasty center and they're all spikey on the outside. You kind of have to peel away the layers.
Jared: Like getting to know ya! Okay, multiple choice. Dolphin or eagle?
Jared: Regis or Kathie Lee?
Kincaid: They can both get out as far as I'm concerned.
Jared: Hot or cold?
Jared: Hason or Marilyn Manson?
Kincaid: (sighs) Marilyn Manson.
Jared: Red or blue?
Jared: The Beatles or Elvis?
Kincaid: The Beatles.
Jared: Ocean or forest?
Kincaid: I guess I'll take forest.
Jared: Chocolate or vanilla?
Jared: Boxers or briefs?
Jared: Horns or strings?
Jared: Silver or gold?
Jared: Alone or together?
Kincaid: Wow! That's a tough one right there! Hmmm. I think "alone."