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Slow burn

26 years and 39 members later, The Toasters continue offering up their original ska take


The Toasters arent cheerleaders, but they can human - pyramid with the best of them.
  • The Toasters arent cheerleaders, but they can human pyramid with the best of them.

Many products of 1981 have had serious staying power.

In that year, the time-traveling DeLorean rolled off the assembly line, MTV played its first video, and Depeche Mode and Mtley Cre introduced their acts to the world.

(It's also the year that Jessica Alba was born. Meow!)

Also in 1981: Ska band The Toasters formed.

The early part of that decade was a breakthrough time for the genre, as music fans saw the development of Third Wave ska, a blend of Jamaican, British two-tone and American styles. The Toasters are widely credited as one of the first of those bands.

With 26 years of history, The Toasters are now the genre's longest-running entity. As the group closes in on its 5,000th live show, you have to wonder how a band can stay together so long.

"We never signed to a major label and therefore never lost control of our material or our scheduling," says Robert Hingley, on the phone from his home in the mountains of Spain, where the British ex-pat currently resides. Hingley is the group's founder and only original remaining member.

"We have been able to play where we want and when we want, as opposed to fulfilling the calendar and objectives of other people because we kept control of our own merchandising and copyrights."

Self-reliance and success have allowed the band to write its own ticket. Aside from writing music for the Nickelodeon show KaBlam! and recording music for Coca-Cola and AOL commercials, The Toasters have recorded nine studio albums. Their most recent, One More Bullet, was released earlier this year.

Good business sense allows The Toasters to do what most bands can only hope for: expose their genre of music to fans around the world without The Man telling them where to go or what to do. That freedom is the essence of ska music, Hingley explains.

"There seems to be something about the genre that enables it to reinvent itself for new generations of fans," he says. "That has been very important. The Toasters have been able to benefit from their early willingness to tour, which laid down a solid set of rails for them, as well as a host of followers, to run along."

It's also easier to do when you have enough former and guest members to make Earth, Wind and Fire look like a solo act. Thirty-nine different members and 21 guest musicians have played with Hingley, the mainstay.

"Is that all?" he says, jokingly, when told the number. "Having a constant flow of players in, out and back in again has served to keep the lineup fresh and on their toes."

It's a fresh outlook on musicianship, Hingley says, and it helps keeps writing and arranging interesting. He points to the fact that, after a 10-year hiatus from the band, an old drummer recently approached him about rejoining.

"Once a Toaster," he says, "always a Toaster."

The Toasters with

The Rightaways

The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.

Thursday, Sept. 13, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 day-of-show; visit or call 866/468-7621.

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