Interview: Hackney Colliery Band on their unique sound ahead of 2014 Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival gig
Group blend Afrobeat and Balkan music with contemporary rock to produce new fusion music
This article is from 2014.
The influences behind Hackney Colliery Band run long and wide. Niki Boyle chats to the group’s Steve Pretty and tunes into their special brand of cover versions
For those of you with a passing knowledge of London who may feel somewhat confused by the Hackney Colliery Band’s name, musician Steve Pretty is here to put your mind at ease. ‘There’s no colliery in Hackney,’ he confirms, describing the moniker as ‘a bit of an homage really, to the colliery band tradition in the UK. It was to tie ourselves in, I guess slightly tongue-in-cheek, with the great tradition of British brass bands. But very respectfully tongue-in-cheek, if that makes sense.’
Originally established as a musical social club for coal miners, the colliery band sub-genre’s most recognisable group to date is probably the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, whose real-life struggles were depicted in the 1996 comedy-drama Brassed Off. The HCB’s aim is to take that British brass marching band aesthetic and sprinkle in a wide variety of additional elements.
‘We were obviously quite influenced by American bands but we also had quite a strong influence from lots of other places,’ states Pretty. ‘We play a lot of Afrobeat and Balkan music, and most of us listen to contemporary rock and things like that.’ Add to that an eclectic array of cover versions – energetic renditions of Toto’s ‘Africa’, Kanye West’s ‘All of the Lights’ and a Prodigy medley are all viewable on YouTube – and the result is a broad musical palette, which harks back to the diversity of the borough the band call home.
‘We like to imagine that if there was a colliery in such a diverse part of London, we sort of see ourselves in some way musically representing that. We’re not really claiming to speak for Hackney, of course, but we would like to imagine ourselves as providing the soundtrack.’
Hackney Colliery Band, Tron Kirk, High Street, 0131 473 2000, 20 Jul, 10pm, £10.