“Everyone looks up to America. When they see these things happening — people shooting in churches, schools, movie theaters — the rest of the world is confused," says David Hinds, lead singer and guitarist of the British reggae band Steel Pulse. "How can you be police of the world when you can’t control your backyard?"
Celebrating their fortieth anniversary, Steel Pulse are just as politically minded as ever. In the last few years, they’ve recorded songs with the self-explanatory titles “Put Your Hoodies On [4 Trayvon]” and “Hands Up I Can’t Breathe,” expressing outrage for young African-American men dying unnecessarily. From his home in England, Hinds finds it hard to understand what’s happening in the New World.
“In comparison to the US with race relations, there’s a hell of a difference in the UK," he says. "We grew up with racism. That was a catalyst for the band. The difference with the US is the gunplay. Police in UK fire batons, in the US they have weaponry. They accuse you of a crime, bang you’re dead.”
Hinds was born in Jamaica, but at a young age moved to England. The first record he ever bought was by Elvis Presley, but it was the music from the island of his birth, the blue beat and the ska that inspired him. After hearing Bob Marley’s 1973 album Catch a Fire, he and some school friends made a pact to start a reggae band. 40 years later, they’re still doing it.
“People have seen a lot of reggae bands from Jamaica, but we have a different political background," Hinds says. "We’re from a British standpoint, so it’s reggae from an urban perspective.”
To help tell their story, the band has been working on a documentary and a new record, both titled Steel Pulse: The Definitive Story.
“The documentary is about the trials and tribulations and influences of the band," Hinds says. "People have hung on to photos over the years and we have people like Snoop Dogg and Gwen Stefani talking about Steel Pulse.”
Completion of the documentary has been slow going, but Hinds feels it is coming to a close. A bit more frustrating for Hinds is how long it is taking to finish the band's first album in 11 years.
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“We’ve been going to different countries, recording when and where we can," he says. "It’s a chicken and the egg. We’re financing it ourselves, so we can’t record it without touring to make money to pay for it.”
Hinds says each performance during the band's two-night stand at Revolution Live will be markedly different. One night he says they will play their 1978 debut, Handsworth Revolution, while the other night will be a retrospective of their 40-year career.
“If I play on the same stage twice in a row," he says, "I have to change the set up otherwise it gets boring."
Steel Pulse plays at 8 p.m. Monday, July 13 and Tuesday, July 14 at Revolution Live, 100 SW 3rd Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $25.50. Call 954-449-1025 or visit www.jointherevolution.net.