The 11th anniversary of PASO – interview with KRSA
Pannonia Allstars Ska Orchestra, Hungary’s leading ska band, celebrates its 11th birthday this year. They’ve been through many exciting adventures and concerts together. They celebrated their current anniversary with a special gig in Budapest Park. I sat down with frontman KRSA to ask him about all of these [the interview was conducted before said concert].
You toured in Germany recently. How did that go?
KRSA: It went very well! The exciting bit already started at the beginning, because we missed our flight. We planned that one part of the group would go by bus, with all the instruments, amps and whatnot, and the other 7 people would take a flight, rent a car and we’d use that to go around. This would’ve been the simplest and most economic solution… but we managed to mix up the plane tickets, so we only arrived at the airport an hour after the plane took off. So we phoned around a bit, and was able to solve the situation by finding a bus. The only problem was that we still didn’t have a driver, so we asked one of our pals who lives in Győr. He, however, couldn’t drive the bus all the way back, only to Győr, so we had to find someone else to make the rest of the drive to Budapest. It was kind of complicated but fortunately it was okay in the end.
And what about the concerts?
KRSA: Everything went fine. On the first day we played at a club we had already done a gig in, at an outdoor festival. It was amazing, sold out, really good vibes. We played alongside a Dutch band whom we really like, so we practically jammed together backstage till the morning. Next day, we performed in Hannover at a May 1st festival. There was a Dutch band there too, as well as an English and a German one. It was interesting since we didn’t play to ska lovers there – the audience was very diverse – but we got a fantastic reaction and there was a massive crowd. On the third day we had a gig in Aachen at a social center, plus we went to see the garden of the cathedral where the statue of Saint Stephen is located.
We had two gigs on the fourth day. One was organized by the affiliate channel of a big German world-music radio station, so it was broadcast live. A Balkan wind-band and Patrice performed there as well, who we unfortunately couldn’t see because we had to set out for the Freedom Sounds ska festival in Cologne. A Jamaican vocalist duo called Keith & Tex played right before us – they made our jaws drop pretty hard!
They still perform their legendary songs excellently, with a cool stage presence to boot. Maroon Town also played there, an English band we listened to tons of times when we were young. It was quite an experience to play with them too, quite special indeed. When we started playing the first bars of Game of Thrones we saw the curious faces of the band peek out from behind the curtains – next thing you know, they’re dancing on the side of the stage. They loved it! Later, they shook our hands so much they wouldn’t let go. This immensely positive feedback meant a great deal to us.
Since you mentioned Game of Thrones – are you planning to do more cover songs like this? The reactions to it were quite positive…
KRSA: Yeah, the reactions were quite good. To be honest, we already have a bunch of cover tunes, and then some unreleased stuff, but nothing of the sort is planned for the near future. We do have some small surprises and fun musical bits for the summer season though.
You’re having your 11th anniversary gig in Budapest Park on Friday. Are you preparing anything special to celebrate this occasion?
KRSA: Yes, there will be some guests, like Mc Columbo from Brains and Irie Maffia. We’ll also perform a few songs with the former vocalist of the band, János Rieger, for old times’ sake. Furthermore, the gig will feature some backing-vocalist girls, and we re-arranged some song sin interesting ways. We aimed to compile a colorful and exciting set.
11 years is a long time indeed. Can you think back and share any interesting stories or memories with us?
KRSA: Once we played at the Valley of Arts festival and it started raining, but there was nothing to cover the stage. It looked like we had to cancel the gig. The crowd really wanted us to perform and we were in high spirits too, and thought we might as well do something if we went all the way there. There was a pub next to the stage, and they set up some kind of canvas sheet structure on top. That’s where we put our gear but, of course, it was pretty risky since the rain kept dripping in, and occasionally the canvas had to be lifted to let off all the water that fell. We started playing but there was no stage. Or rather, no separate space for us at all. We practically played where the crowd was – like, between me and the keyboard player 5-6 fans were dancing. It was as if the musicians were randomly placed there among the audience. At the same show our drummer got bitten by a dog – who probably found the cymbals too loud or something.
There were some extreme happenings last year too, actually right in Budapest Park. I crowd-surfed on a beach mattress as the audience handed me around. That was pretty memorable!
How’s the festival season for you guys? Are you planning more concerts abroad, or will you exclusively concentrate on domestic events?
KRSA: We’ll have multiple gigs in Transylvania, we’ll perform at a famous festival int he Czech Republic and – a PASO first – we’ll also play a concert in Poland. That will mark 18 countries we will have conquered so far. J Maybe we can fit some more German gigs in there too. We received an invitation to Switzerland as well but it looks like we can’t make it. So, in short, we’ll do Hungary and foreign countries too.
If a domestic and a foreign concert are on the same date how do you choose between them?
KRSA: We always consider the parameters of the given concerts. Most of the time if we get an invitation from a country that’s far away, we examine how long it would take to get there, how important it would be from the perspective of the audience and the band’s prestige, and whether we could solve the problem of travelling in an economic way. If it’s only one gig we’d have to go out for, we really think hard about it. Usually our summer schedule is extremely packed, so we’d probably have another gig a day before or after – or even on the same day – in Hungary. If that’s the case, we tend to let it go, unless it’s a festival with thousands of people or a place of high importance to us.
Do you have any concrete plans for this year? Maybe a new release?
KRSA: We’re continuously working on new songs. We recorded like 4-5 of them already this spring. Our secret or semi-secret plan is to release a best-of on vinyl in autumn. Since the band’s 11 years old we thought it was time to make a release that sums up these past years. To tell you the truth, we had this in mind last year too but we had to do so much it ultimately got postponed. We’re at a more concrete stage now, however, negotiating with a German label who seems to be very much interested in what we do.
Are there any younger bands you think highly of, and would like to support?
KRSA: Well, the ska scene pretty much ground to halt here in Hungary, so there’s not much excitement recently. We do follow a lot of different genres and there are quite a few bands we think are talented. If I had to pick one it would be Kettő kettő from Szentendre whose activity is kind of on and off. I think it’s really worth it to get lost in the Hungarian underground and to get to know all these artists.