How The Braces Got Their First Record Deal
“What’s up with the band?” At times (in the late 1980s) I got wary of the same old question when meeting people around my hometown Krefeld. On the tram, at the chips shop or “At The Watch”, the hangout for the local subcultures and bottle collectors: Whenever I bumped into someone I knew, the question came up sooner or later.
He or she would ask: “What’s up with the band?” And I would think: “Oh no, not again.”
What was the problem? Well, not much was happening most of time. Therefore an honest answer would have been “Not sure, but I think about buying some new strings for my guitar” or “Yesterday we tried a new song, but it was crap” or “Last Friday we rehearsed for 30 minutes, then went on to play darts for 3 hours.”
Of course, these would all have been let-downs. Which means, as an entertainer it was no less than my duty to make things up. Whether they were glamorous gigs in distant places or famous people praising our demo tape.
Yet, there was also a time in early 1988 when I was more than willing to answer the question, “What’s up with the band?”
It was the day we were contacted by an English record company (and probably the weeks and months after that). At the time meet-ups with friends went more like: They would ask: “What’s up with th..“ And I would say: “Don’t tell anyone, but a label from England is on our back.”
And it was so true. I could, and often did, prove it with the letter I have scanned here. A guy called Mark from Link Records asked if we were interested in being part of a Ska compilation. It would become the first Ska compilation to come out of Europe after the glorious days of 2 Tone. The compilation that was going to be released under the name “Skank – Licensed To Ska”.
“Hold on Mark, The Braces joining Buster Bloodvessel from the Bad Manners and The Toasters from New York on this project? Do you really think this is a good career move? Let me think for just a millisecond.”
When I scanned the letter yesterday I realised the creases on it again – from being folded and carried around in the back pockets of my trousers for quite some time. Just in case someone might ask me about the band.
And that wasn’t the only time I showed it to people. Especially when musician friends were around the letter was used frequently. I would say: “Hey …, good to meet you. Guess what happened. We just received a letter from some music industry guy. Don’t know what to make of it. What would you say?”
The beauty of it all was not to tell any details before letting them read it, and then watch for their reactions while they went through the letter. Many were happy for us and enthusiastic. But whenever I detected envy, I liked it even more.
How in the world did Mark from Link Records get hold of us, in 1988 before the days of the Internet, email, myspace, twitter etc.? The organisers of a Ska festival in Hannover and a clothes store off Carnaby St. play central roles in the next episode featured on this blog, which will be named “The 7-Step Program To Becoming Part Of A Legendary Ska Compilation”.
Max (via Myspace)Posted at 09:36h, 01 September
Thanks for asking us for our input. Here are some of my thoughts and a history of where the Invaders were during this period in Ska history.
The mid to late eighties were a tough time for Ska here in the States. It was tough to find anything worth listening to other than the Toasters. A main reason I formed the Invaders in the late 80’s was to fill the gap in the music scene here with the music I loved so much since falling for it during the post punk 2-Tone movement.
We were still developing our sound and groove as the decade passed into the 90’s. Gradually we gained a following and a decent sound. We went through many musicians too during this period! Could not seem to keep a drummer or a bassisit! Finally, by 1994 we held onto a great core group of people in the band and the chemistry clicked! Suddenly, allot of Ska bands were now starting to pop up around the States as young fans began to discover this fun sound again as well as rediscovering the giants of the 2-Tone days. We always did a good amount of 2-Tone covers in our early days to pay homage to the people and bands that lit our fire. By this time we were also getting into influences provided by the great Desmond Dekker and Laurel Aitken. We were following the same path as our fellow Ska brethrens like Skapone, Mustard Plug, Johnny Socko, The Scofflaws, Bim Skala Bim, and the Bosstones to name but a few and we began to travel and share the stage with these bands. I loved playing far away cities during this period and watching in awe as crowds of massed and sweaty ska fans danced and sang along to all the Invader songs! What was the deal? We weren’t some big band getting airplay all over the States! The underground scene was so active and thriving, that people all over had our music! Letters and requests came from Europe too! This, in my mind, was amazing! Though we never played outside the United States boarders we did end up on many European Ska compilations. Last I counted, all told, we could be heard on over 25 compilations! The scene was really growing and by ’95 we released a double CD of 23 live songs! This was the same period that No Doubt was also coming into their own and in my mind represented the peak and end of this Ska wave as the 90’s came to a close. Punks, Mods and Rudies came in swarms to shows back then and I sure do miss them all! Ironically, the Invaders did not break up at the end of 1999 because of the scene slowing. It was quite the opposite as we had a chance to head to California and pursue a record deal. Half the band, including myself were reluctant to leave the stable mid-west life and family on a chance of making a career of our music. Two bands formed from this break-up. There was a short-lived version of the Invaders and another short-lived project, 707. The first loosing the magic and the later never gaining it! The Invaders re-formed in 2006 and are enjoying success once again; keeping the music we love alive, fresh and relevant!
Max – The Invaders
JohnnyreggaePosted at 09:10h, 02 September
your writing style impressive, congrats on a site most tops! Thanks for doing that and thanks for your music in the BRACES also.
Have to tell you, great reading that, my first ever ska compilation was Skank: License to Ska and all downhill since, right!
I copied that compilation to cassette and it soon got passed all through our city of Rochester, New York
– honestly, I’m still meeting people so many (17+) years later that know your band just from a mixtape I made so long ago. It’s a small world!
I won Prime Cut online auctionsite for $43 USD once March ’08; later I found one in town used at $5 but hey, now proud to own two.
Liked the Alpha Boys’ No Interest as well
again, tremendous work on the blog!
dublinsaxPosted at 11:11h, 03 September
Really interesting to read about The Braces as I really liked the band and it brought back memories of picking up ‘Prime Cut’ in a record shop here in Dublin in 1989. However…I thought your follow up album, ‘Blue Flame’ was even better. It brought in some other ‘influences’ (even a bit of Irish, heh heh!), and perhaps had the best arrangements of any ska album from around that time. It’s not often you can find so many strong songs on one album…. ‘Happiness’, ‘Youthquake’,’Come & Go’, ‘Fifty Days’, ‘Suzy Says’ etc. Top album!
I thought the ska scene in the late 80s/1990 was quite special, it all sounded very ‘fresh’ (perhaps for the last time?). For the first time, many of us were hearing that there were all these new ska bands cropping up in America and all over Europe which was previously unheard of. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it over to the London International Ska Festival of ’88 but I heard from friends that The Braces had been really good…I think you played at another venue in London the night before or after the festival too?
I suppose by 1991/’Blue Flame’, the scene had sort of lost its ‘edge’ and top bands like The Deltones, Potato 5 etc. were finishing (to be replaced by ‘not so fresh’ ska sounds of …I won’t go into that), I felt that’s how it was in Ireland and the UK, perhaps different in Germany.
Anyway, great blog and interesting to hear how it all came about. Now whatever happened to those fabulous Deltones…?!
Pingback:The 7-Step-Program To Becoming Part Of A Legendary Ska Compilation | Words And MusicPosted at 12:46h, 09 September
[…] Did I promise to tell how Mark Brennan from Link Records found out about The Braces in 1988? Then I better deliver. At the end of this text you will know even more. You will have learned the 7 steps that were necessary to get on “Skank – Licensed To Ska” – and make the most of it. […]