Modesty and reserve are not prerequisites in the pop world. As we know, the opposite is the case. It is considered even more of a handicap to try and find a hearing outside of the spotlight with serious issues. But sometimes, like with Latin Quarter, just beautiful music, which also imparts moral values, is enough.
But that’s what happens when, like with Steve Skaith and Richard Wright, one only reaches for the banjo in later years. The corruption of the character through the wicked music business always happens at a young age. The two gentlemen were protected from this when they decided, after finishing their degrees and in their early thirties, to embrace the world of pop.
Steve’s greying temples add to the effect of seriousness, his calm, reserved appearance signals serenity. He listens and answers pleasantly. Tells about his student days, when he, as a left-wing student stood up for the rights of the post sixty-eighters. How many more themes the Thatcher era would have offered him. Although he thinks he did become more moderate, his anger over the British policies of social dismantling and of the erosion of solidarity in a wide section of the British population hasn’t abated.
Modesty also stamps his estimation of his own music. Big slogans and ambitious concepts weren’t formulated. “We simply discovered that we could write good songs”, says Steve concisely, “there was nothing premeditated about it.” It was more a hobby, to which Steve and his old school friend Richard dedicated themselves. He is even convinced that too much emphasis on concept would have derailed the process.
“We write our music for the people who like it”, he says ambiguously and his political commitments have to be laboriously coaxed from him. In England at the moment one is living “in a demoralising time.” This makes it difficult, to bring clarity into ones thought, like they tried in the allegorical song “Long Pig” or with “Phil Ochs”. Messages, like Phil, are rather expressed ironically, like in “Coming Down To Pray”.
This also applies to the concrete challenges of politics. There is much debate, especially in England, about how the war in the Balkans can be brought to an end. At the same time one forgets, that there is a civil war raging in ones own land, which the British government constantly plays down. “British troops have to leave Northern Ireland”, Steve is convinced, “only then is a permanent peaceful solution possible.”
But to express things like this with music is nearly impossible. Music is after all a rather academic business. Of course he admires many singer/songwriters, also such epoch making records like “Sandinista” by the Clash, but one doesn’t want to overvalue oneself because of it. They saw themselves as artists, and as such one should always hesitate to overvalue oneself.
Dieter Wolf; 26th.EB/METRONEM Nr.46 – December ’93/January ’94