Friday, September 07, 2007


Artist Interview: Pressure Cooker

Artist Interview: Pressure Cooker
August 06, 2007

Most people don't draw many connections between New England, an area full of rich white people, and Jamaica or its culture (unless you're counting its tourist spots, which are also filled with rich white people). In fact, New England and New York had one of most surprising and impressive wealths of talented ska bands of the music's third wave in the 90's, from punk/ska to traditional roots and rock steady, the roots of which stem right back to Jamaica in the 1960's. Anyone who knows anything about New England ska should be more than familiar with scene mainstays Pressure Cooker. The problem is that in 2007, most people don't know anything about New England ska, and there is barely a scene left to mainstay on.

Pressure Cooker was and thankfully still is one of the best ska/reggae bands this side of Kingston, which is saying a lot, especially around 1997 when the band got their start.

With an unfortunate dip in the national embrace of traditional Jamaican ska music - a precursor to reggae, popular in 60's dancehalls, though much closer to reggae than the commercial forms of "ska" popularized by No Doubt and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones in America - what is it that keeps Pressure Cooker so dedicated?

"Reggae music is so diverse, it depends on the style you like, but there's something about this style with the horn rhythms and rhythm section, it's something that we all love - love to listen to it, love to play it, and love to promote it," says singer Craig Akira Fujita, "I just pursue that sound. I love it."

Pressure Cooker's main musical influence is the incomparable Jamaican originals, The Skatalites, and it shows in their composition and recording style. "The roots of most of our stuff is the 60's and early 70's rock steady stuff: very acoustic, classic melodies." But 10 years is a long time to commit to the style of a music that some would (wrongly) say is "dead." As long as the material is good and the high-engery live shows keeps things rocking steady, this band is in it for pleasure of the music. "One of the keys to our longevity, and keeping it interesting and fresh for us, is that there's this never ending well of new material that keeps coming. Not only that, but we continue to perform a lot of live shows, and to develop ourselves as musicians, and how we play together as musicians. Everybody is committed to this."

When it comes down to it, the live experience is what Pressure Cooker is all about, in recording and performance alike. They call their sound "organic," saying "we have a focus on what we want it to sound like, and a lot of the time that means using older techniques," the same techniques and equipment used by their 1960's heroes. And like their Studio 1 predecessors, when they record, they record live. But more than that, they perform fantastic live shows, of which they say they've "had the pleasure of creating a dancehall vibe for people so they can really just relax and really let go of their whole pressure, it's like we're cookin down their pressure," a connection to their band name that the singer swears he had only just thought of during this interview. I ask the questions that get the quotable answers. You're welcome, WERS.

Ultimately, despite the ups and downs of whatever semblance of a "scene" there is, Pressure Cooker says "we have our own thing, we're proud of it, and we wanna do it for the people that love it and are inspired by it," as they are themselves. They're not writing "the ring tone song" just yet, and they're not trying to win any races. They are, however, expertly holding down a great sound like few others are these days, and I for one appreciate it, and so should you (I'm talking to you - the one in the Bob Marley shirt).

For their in studio appearance for Local Music Week they played songs "Bully" and "Refugee" from their most recent album, and debuted a new song called "Miss Understanding" from their new batch of tunes which they are very excited about releasing in the near future. In the meantime, look out for their frequent live shows, which should not be missed by fans of any style of reggae, ska, or just plain good music played well, even if you do have a Chingy ring tone on your phone.

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