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Wild At Heart – Aggrolites interview

Wild Bill Ketelhut provides the "blog" to this anti-blog

Wild At Heart

Over the past few years I have been bored with the line-ups of the Vans Warped Tour which has tended to become overly bland. The first warped Tour I went to had a great line-up of Joan Jett, Helmut, Reel Big Fish, Bouncing Souls, Anti-Flag, etc. More recently, I would see just one or two bands that would excite me like when Bad Religion did the tour a couple of years ago. More aggravating was seeing bands like the Untouchables, Fear or the Dickies playing in California and not leaving the state. In 2007, I was interning at Live Nation which meant I would hang up all those posters for future shows and help man the Live Nation booth but would also get some time to walk around and see some bands.

2007 was a year I really had no true interest in with the exception of three bands on one of the smaller stages. Those bands were the all-girl Japanese ska band OreSkaBand, the psychobilly band the Horrorpops and the reggae stylings of the Aggrolites who are coming to Detroit on Monday, October 17th to play at the Magic Stick. I recently had the pleasure of talking to vocalist/lead guitarist Jesse Wagner about the upcoming show.

The Aggrolites are an amalgamation of two previous Los Angeles reggae and ska bands known as the Vessels and the Rhythm Doctors who formed in 2002 as a live backing band for reggae icon Derrick Morgan. They recorded their first album, ‘Dirty Reggae’, in 2003 which is also a good description of their sound. They see their sound as that of Jamacian reggae of the late 60’s and 70’s as exemplified by the “Harder The Come” soundtrack though mixed with that “gritty Stax sound” and “that wall of sound… seen in the American soul of Motown”. Jesse also see his father as an influence as he “was in a sould band out of Cleveland” that had opened up for such artists as Ike & Tina Turner, so the music seems to be in the blood.

The band was getting into reggae at a time when Lee Perry was starting to get popular in the UK and they ran into a personally influencial southern Californian band Hepcat which formed the foundation of where they would be heading musically. Wagner agmits “ we heard them and enjoyed the sound…and we started searching record stores” for music they were hearing about by reading up on these bands. This including music as diverse as Tower Of Power, the Specials and Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Having grown up on vinyl, as well as the popularity among reggae fans for 45’s which were the backbone of their music for such a long time, the band is proud to offer vinyl at their shows. They admit the fans love them and they have a certain feel you just cannot get on CD or downloaded mpegs. However, they see one selling feature of including download cards as part of the packaging so people can keep the vinyl as a collectable and play the music digitally if they choose. Vinyl, unlike CD’s or digital, can also allow for such things as cool art work which one can hang on the wall or picture booklets with details about the album you don’t get other ways.

These 45’s are the backbone for the new album “Rugged Road” which is basically a collection of past 7” or 45’s. “Each 45 was inspired by a different sound” which allowed the Aggrolites to experiment with divergent sounds which wouldn’t normally fit together on an album which also being a boost to the 7’ collectors market which loves to get different versions of good songs. Put together in Boston on Rug Rd which the album takes it’s name, the songs on this album are admittedly more of a “majoritty of bubbly reggae instrumentals” but are worth it for showing the true range of the band.

They are also touring with a live album “Unleased Live Vol 1” which includes performance from the Warped Tour which includes some new song medleys and interludes you won’t find on the other albums. Jesse states “there is a big difference from album to live in terms of energy” which is something you see with a lot of bands, esp in the genres of ska, reggae and punk which truly thrives in a small setting when the fans are into into dancing around to the beats that just creates a special atmosphere. They feel they did capture that energy on this recording.

They are looking forward to coming back to Detroit for a show as they find our audiences “really in tune with music”. Maybe it’s the Motown influence in Detroit but they are “more open minded for different types of music” and I have to agree. Detroit’s urban scene has been a mecca for some great rock N roll (from Cooper to Segar), soul, punk (MC5 and Stooges), gospel, rap and electronic you just don’t see in many other cities. Jesse says the band likes to see diversity in music which is why they enjoyed being on the warped Tour so much where the go to other stages and see bands like Street Dogs and Bad Rabbits.

After they finish there US tour, they are looking to hit Europe and hopefully start work on a new album come winter. Admitting sometimes touring can get one down with it’s hours and repetitiveness. “One starts to become robotic but once you hit the stage, every night is like Saturday night” and that is what we here in Detroit are looking forward to come Monday night at the Magic Stick. To learn more about the band, you can go to their website . Theye are definitely a great band to hear live so I hope to see some of you down their. I’ll leave you with a song by the band.