Stepping Up for Another Helping
By Tony Sclafani
Back in the 1990s, Americans finally learned what the rest of the world had known for decades – that ska
could really get the proverbial party started. And so the fabled “third wave” of ska was born, with the Mighty
Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, Rancid and others, leading the charge. But in the mid-Atlantic region it
was the Washington, D.C.-based Pietasters that kept the ska torch burning during this era. Never as
popular as the Bosstones (with whom they toured), the ’Tasters nevertheless managed to achieve an
impressive level of regional fame around the time of their 1997 break-through CD Willis.
But as the ska scene quieted down in the intervening years, so did The Pietasters. After Turbo in 2002, the
band stopped touring and releasing music regularly. They were also dealt a crushing blow when their main
songwriter (and bass player) Todd Eckhardt died unexpectedly of a heart ailment in 2001. So it’s something
of a shock to see The Pietasters suddenly back in action. The ten-member group has released a new CD,
All Day that retains the old energy but adds a more soulful edge to the mix, courtesy of the band’s man
songwriter, Jorge Pezzimenti (Eckhardt’s replacement). The band has also planned an East Coast tour that
will run from summer through fall. AMP spoke with founding member and lead singer Steve Jackson about
the band’s decision to party again like its 1997.
Why was there a five-year gap between CDs?
After Awesome Mix Tape, Vol. 6 came out (in 1999) Todd and (former guitarist) Tom Goodin both decided
they had had it with being on the road. So there was some shifting around in the band. Then after we did
Turbo, we got into doing a DVD and put together an anthology of all of our early stuff. We made a decision to
stop touring all the time. We weren’t going to get pressured to do anything. Another thing that played a role
in it is Todd Harris, our sound engineer, took a job with James Brown right after we played with James in
2003. We do all our recording with Todd. And James Brown is the hardest working man in showbiz. So
when he was on the road we couldn’t really do a lot of recording.
Can you tell us about the background of new bassist/songwriter Jorge Pezzimenti?
He was also on Turbo and had pretty much taken over the reigns then. He’s a friend of ours from way back.
He was in a bunch of D.C. bands, The Decpticonz and The Surf Goons. Back in the mid 1990s, when ska
was king, they did their tours in a blue school bus, just like we did ours. So we were good friends with him
Jorge’s writing seems to have brought a more soulful edge to the band’s songs.
Everybody said Turbo was real soulful. We thought everyone was going to peg this one and say it’s all
reggae because of “Late Night Call” and “Dream of You” and some of the instrumentals. But leading off with
“Change My Ways,” I guess people still hear soul. But we’re happy with the way it sounds and the way it
represents the 2007 version of The Pietasters.
Why did you called the new record All Day?
Because as you listen, it’s like spending all day with The Pietasters. If you were to go on a ride with us, and
listen to any of the guys’ i-Pod playlists, you’d get a good mix of reggae and soul and some rock and roll.
Our influences are varied and All Day is just all day with The Pietasters.
What were your biggest influences?
Bad Manners is my biggest Two-Tone influence. The fun they have and the drinking and the irreverence is
something that appeals to me. I love The Specials and I love Madness and all that stuff. But for some
reason Bad Manners really made a connection to me. They were one of the first bands we toured with
outside of D.C.
How did the band evolve from being a college party band to playing major tours?
We went out on our own and went on dumb luck. We realized people liked us. Moon Ska Records picked us
up for a couple of records. Before that we were gonna all go back to school or settle down. Then The
Toasters took us out on the road. Two years after that, we decided we really need to get a life -- some of us
had gotten diplomas. And as we were having a discussion about breaking up, (Bosstones singer) Dickey
(Barrett) walks in and says “I wanna take you guys around the world with us. We’ve got a new record coming
out, it’s gonna be huge.” It was “The Impression That I Get.” We rode the wave with them and at the end of
that we were approached by Tim Armstrong from Rancid (to record on his Epitaph label).
The band has been around since 1990. What are some of the highlights of your career?
All the touring we’ve done and all the people we’ve gotten to play with – bands we looked up to when we
were young, from The Bosstones to The Toasters to The Specials to Joe Strummer. We did some festival
shows in Canada and we did a bunch of shows with (hardcore comedy legends) The Meatmen. There was
also playing with Reverend Horton Heat, Less Than Jake, and the European Warped Tour, where we were
touring with Ice T. I wish I had a million dollars in the bank, but I’ve got just amazing experiences.
My only disappointment is the public’s perception of what it is to be in a band. I’m not complaining or bitter
or disappointed -- my life is beyond my wildest dreams. But at the same time, you meet people and you’ll be
at a bar paying for a beer and they’re like “You have to pay for beer?” I’m like, “I don’t think anybody knows
who I am!” The best story ever is when Rob Steward, our drummer, was delivering pizza for Papa John’s.
He went up to a door and “Out All Night” was on MTV. The kid went up to the door and looked at Rob, and
then he looked back at the TV and then he looked at Rob again. And Rob said “Yeah, yeah, here’s your
pizza.” It is what it is. There are ten guys in the band. If we were three-piece, we would probably be a hell of a
lot better off. Anything divided by ten is nothing.
Finally, is the story on Wikipedia true about how you got the name “Pietasters?”
Everything associated with the band is a big inside joke involving lots of our friends.
There was a townhouse where we lived working construction and stuff. And there were a couple of guys
from England and wherever they were from – somewhere in the Northern part – the word Pietasters was
slang for “fat guy.” We were tossing around a bunch of names -- even worse than Pietasters -- and they
were either taken or not as good. So that puts it in perspective: we had no intention of doing anything other
than playing the bars and getting free beer and maybe a girl or something. And here we are years later we
still have the silly name and we get to go to Brazil and Europe. We even get a night in Las Vegas in
Originally published in the August/September 2007 issue of American Music Press (AMP).