Interview with vocalist/guitarist Lynval Golding | By Janelle Jones | Photo by Greg Jacobs
The Specials, in great form, are back with a new album. Naturally steeped in sociopolitical relevancy, Encore—out via Island Records on Feb. 1—is the English band’s first release in 38 years to feature founding vocalist Terry Hall, whose last appearance was on 1981’s landmark single, “Ghost Town.” A day prior to leaving for tour in London, original member vocalist and guitarist Lynval Golding offered some insight into this impressive, essential record. “We’re moving on from More Specials,” he says excitedly, citing the band’s 1980 sophomore full-length.
A 10-track album, Encore features seven new songs alongside two covers that are as pertinent now as ever: The Equals’ “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys” from 1970 and The Valentines’ “Blam Blam Fever” from 1967, on which The Specials add a few of their own lyrics that highlight the scourge of mass school shootings.
Also included is a wonderful rendition of Golding and Hall’s ’80s band Fun Boy Three’s tune “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum),” shortened to “The Lunatics” for Encore. Mentioning that this song first came out when so many bands were railing against Maggie Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and that it seems even more fitting today, Golding exclaims in astonishment that “it’s incredible” how the political climate is even worse now. “It was my idea [to redo this song]. I live in America, so I see more of the politics that are happening here,” he explains. “We just thought, ‘Let’s sing this song very gentle.’ Let people listen to it, and you hear the way Terry did it. That’s the message we put across to people now: ‘Let’s sit down, and let’s talk gentle to each other.’”
Perhaps even more compelling are the album’s three spoken-word offerings: Golding’s “B.L.M.,” Hall’s “The Life and Times (of a Man Called Depression),” and guest vocalist and activist Saffiyah Khan’s “10 Commandments.” Of this powerful trifecta, Golding says, “All the songs fit together, and they ask questions,” as aforementioned, in a nonaggressive, nonconfrontational way. “It was done deliberate, because obviously, we’re older guys in the band—we’re not 18, 20, shouting. Now, we say, ‘We can have a civil conversation without shouting.’”
He elaborates, “Can you imagine being called a ‘Black bastard’ and all the racism?! So, we end up getting angry and ornery” and don’t get anywhere. “Let’s sit down, being calm, and let’s talk about it. Let’s have a discussion.” He feels more things can be accomplished by just getting these ideas out there and talking in a civil way. “I believe in that,” he affirms, “and that’s part of this record.”
In the end, he states, “I hope people listen to it and open their eyes.”
When speaking of 2019 being the 40th anniversary of The Specials’ debut self-titled album, Golding laughs, “1979 we made our first record. What?! This is insane! It cheers me up so much, because [with Encore], we’ve secured the legacy of The Specials. I feel good.” He jokes, “I can put my feet up, which is very difficult, because I love going out.”
Another recent milestone for the band was opening for The Rolling Stones in June of 2018. “That was one of the highest to be on the stage with [them],” Golding shares.
Reflecting on it all, he says, “I’ve been so blessed. I’ve been blessed to work with [keyboardist and songwriter] Jerry Dammers, the first member of The Specials, a wonderful arranger. I’ve been blessed to work with the best lyricist, Terry Hall, and [keyboardist] Nikolaj [Torp Larsen]. God sent Nikolaj to us. I met him 10 years ago, and I’m like his dad.” He mentions that all the new songs on Encore were written and produced by himself, Hall, Larsen, and original bassist Horace Panter. “Couldn’t ask for a better bass player,” he gushes. “Never played a bad note.”
“It’s been a wonderful journey,” Golding concludes.