ARTICLES INDEX STAR!

MARK RAGSDALE ASKS 20 QUESTIONS TO THE ISRAELITES

1. How did The Israelites get started?

    I was at a show at the Roxy in Hollywood watching Fishbone play.  At that time there was only one band ministering to the scene and that was The Key.  They were a mod band that had just broken up.  God spoke to me in the midst of all that noise and chaos and said, "Look all around you at these people", "This is all they have".  I realized then that He wanted me to minister to them.

2. How did you get into Ska?

     A Christian Mod friend of mine named John was in Christian Power pop
band called, "The Start".  He took me to my first show and I realized that this is what I needed.  I had been into punk for 5 years previous and had a problem with depression (which I wouldn't recommend Punk rock to help with). So I needed something happy.  You know the bible says that whatever a man thinks in His heart so is he.

3. For those who don't know, could you explain about the history of Ska and the differences between 'Two - Tone' and 'Third wave' Ska?

Authentic 60's ska is a fusion of Jazz, calypso, r&b and island rhythms in general.  It is very smooth and jazzy.  The rhythm section plays a constant upbeat together consisting on Guitar (usually a hollow Body), Keys (hamond organ as well), and Tenor.  The rest of the rhythm section (Bass and drums) grove with an on beat.  The drummer plays a drop beat which was created by Coxsone Dodd (the father of ska) and Lloyd Knibbs
(Skatalites Drummer).  The drop beat is a combination of Jazzy off beat high hat fills and strictly Rim shot and bass drum hitting simultaneously (most of the time). The Horn (usually consisting of trombone, Tenor Sax, Alto Sax and Trumpet) section Plays jazzy riffs and alot of solos.  Many ska tunes are strictly instrumental so a strong horn section is very important.

Two tone (what some consider ska) is mostly comprised of a very irrating,  high treble upbeat on the guitar, a very repetitious 2-4 rock beat on the drums and extremely simplistic bass lines.  Horns are rarely heard and the speed is much faster then Authentic Ska.

All I can say for Third wave is take a popular representation like, "Bosstones", "No Doubt", or "The Aquabats" listen to it stop the disc then listen to real ska like; "The Skatalites", "Desmond Dekkar", "Prince Buster" and you'll actually start asking your self why anyone in their right mind would consider Third wave to be Ska.  It's basically a bunch of kids (who have little or no respect for the founders) wearing shorts and t-shirts, playing 10,000 miles an hour with distortion.  The vocals are usually awful and the horns sound like a really bad high school marching band.

4. Do you find any problems in the current 'third wave' of ska (with bands as The Supertones, etc.)?

     Well, I don't want this to sound bitter (cause I'm not) but there is no third wave scene anymore.  That all died in the summer of 99.  All those bands that were claiming to be Ska and all those kids that were calling themselves Rude this and that are now all into emo and rapcore.  From 95-99 we had so much support and now that were not the flavour of the month we have next to none.  During that time I had Christian bookstores calling me from everywhere wanting to order our stuff.  Now I have to everything on consignment in those same stores.
     This is ok though because were in this for the music and ministry and not to be rock stars.
     I think it's interesting how when God calls a handful of bands to minister and brings them up to a high public level of popularity all of a sudden there are 200 other bands that try to do the same thing but are not called to do so.  I think the problem with young Christians today is that were not grounded in prayer and the word enough to know what a calling is.  We just want to emulate all the big stars making Christian music just like the world.
     I could write a book on this cause I've thought and prayed so much about it.
    As far as how I feel about the whole, "Christian Ska "  thing I feel it's a catch 22.  On one hand it was great because even though these bands weren't playing Ska they started a fire with alot of kids.  Your average kid who was listening to those bands was 15, now he or she is 19 or 20.  Either they're going to stop listening to it or if they do
more than likely they get into Authentic Ska.  Now all those bands that were playing third wave have broken up etc. so who ends up with these kids? We do.  On the negative side (which really is no big deal) the christian public needs to be educated as to what ska is.  This of course is not important because the important thing whether these bands played ska was that they lead so many people to the Lord and that's what were here for.  See, I may not like third wave, rapcore etc.  but if these bands are truly called and are doing this for the Lord then I support them 100%.  Also know this, that within a few years "Ska" will be back in one form or another and we'll still be here (God
   Willing).

5. How do you feel about the so called 'Two Tone' Ska, with bands as Madness, The Specials, etc.?

     Again, not to be Rude, but I don't consider Two tone to be Ska.  The only real Ska is Jamaican Ska.  Call me a Ska Nazi or whatever but I'm 35, I've been into Ska and Reggae for 14 years and I'm set in my ways.

6. Could you introduce us to the new members of the band and tell a bit about them?

   Well, to tell you the truth we just lost two of our horn player. This thing always happens after a tour.  As far as the rest of the band we have; Albert (drums) who is the best
drummer I've ever played with.  Albert works at Walmart and goes to school.  Jim (Upright bass) is a manager at a pizza place and goes to college.  Darren, (Trumpet) is a high school student and Brian (keys) goes to college.

7. Do you have any funny and/or interesting stories from shows or tours?

     Sure , I'll tell you one of each from our most recent tour.  The funny one;  WE had the honour of playing with Christafari during this past summers tour at Cornerstone.  During their set Mark usually calls up a bunch of people to dance and have a contest on stage.  Well, during their set he called up this lady (or so we thought) who was dancing really cool in the audience.  Well, when she ? got on stage It was a guy in pony tails and beard and a dress.  Needless to say I think Mark was quite embarrassed.
    Here is an interesting one. On the first day of tour we were on our way to Peoria AZ to play a show.  We had just paid $2,400 to get a new transmission in our van.  Not 200 miles outside L.A. the check engine light went on. To make a long story short we broke down 10 minutes from the show. We had no money.  A guy from the house we were staying at who I had just met gave me $1,600 to finish our tour. On top of that our van was fixed by the following afternoon.  They had moved us in front of 7 cars that needed repair.  God works.

8. Any advice for bands that are ready to go on tour for the first time?

     1.  A good vehicle
     2.  At least $1,000 cash
     3.  Signed and returned contracts with guarantees
     4.  Prayer and reading the word
     5.  Make sure all your members are called to do this.  Have they bring money just in case.

9. Why did you form Kingston/ Kingdom Beat Records?

  Because I felt called to do a label that dealt strictly with authentic Christian Ska and Reggae.

10. Why did The Israelites not sign with an established label in the beginning?

      Believe me, We had offers but I came to realize that the Christian market was kind of corrupt and that they really didn't know what Ska was.  I also found that these labels weren't ministry minded but money minded.

11. You have signed with a secular label. Why?

      We signed with Jump Up records for two reasons.  Chuck Wren (owner) knows what's up.  He's helped us so much. We also did it for the gospels sake.  I don't care if we don't see a dime of profits but I know that I can sleep at night knowing that were acutely reaching kids and Christian kids don't have to pay an arm and a leg to buy our
music in Christian Bookstores.

12. Kingston/Kingdom Beat Records have released two compilation albums. What was the purpose behind these records?

       To educate the Christian public as to what real Ska is.

13. Does Kingdom Beat Records have any plans to sign any other bands?

       Yes, As soon as we find them and have the finances to do so. We're actually about 5 projects behind right now.

14. On this years past Roots tour, you have some stipulations for people booking The Israelites. What are they?

        I think you mean as far as Signed contracts, on time etc.

15. What is the purpose behind these stipulations?

       We've been ripped off alot in the past (even by Christian promoters) .  I have 8 people to feed and take care of and a $20 offering doesn't do it. For instance on our 99 tour we booked a show with this lady and no contract. She told us she'd pay us $400.  We drove 14 hours to play for her. She not only moved the venue and didn't tell
 anyone but only 5 people showed up.  A third wave band opened for us and they all danced to them.  We we played they all pulled up lounge chairs and palm trees and sat down. After the show I asked her if she had the money. She said yeah and gave me $20.  I walked outside and looked at it and was so upset.  God told me not to worry      about it and continue on.  When I got home I e-mailed here to let her know I felt (in a nice way)  She said she'd pay us but never did.  As a result of this and other things we are still paying for that tour.

16. How did you find out about STAR and how has STAR helped you?

       Through Travis [Freedman] in Az.  It's helped us increase our e-mail list tremendously.  We're up to 400 now.  Keep it up.

17. If you don't mind, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to Christ.

       I was raised in a Christian home but didn't come to know God until High School.  I'm still learning  day by day what dedication to God means.

18. Any advice for bands just starting out?

       Make sure your all called to do this.  Get a band pastor. Practice constantly.  And don't close doors that God opens for you.  Any place with a power outlet is [a] ministry.

19. The Israelites has one release on cassette. Why did you do this? Why no CD for this release?

       We really didn't know what we were doing at that time.  As a result I still have about 1000 copies left. I plan on re-recording those songs on our 10 year anniversary CD.

20. What do you think about the current state of the CCM industry?

       I think it's corrupt and their going to have to answer to God some day.  WE need to get back to what Christian music was intended to be with the Jesus people.  Now were just like the world with our dove awards etc.  I'll get my dove award when I stand in front of God at the beama seat.

21. Do you think that the CCM industry seems to be more interested in money or souls?

       Definitely money.  It makes me sick to know that there are Christian bands that charge up to $60,000 for one show. If anyone wants to get in touch with us to talk or get our new cd Roots contact us at theisraelites@juno.com