King Django is without question one of the oldest of the old school when it come to ska, rocksteady, reggae, dancehall and dub music in the New York City area. A seminal force in the American ska & reggae scene, he has made his name internationally as a bandleader, singer, songwriter, arranger, instrumentalist (trombone, ukulele, harmonica, melodica, etc.), Jamaican-Style ragamuffin MC, producer, studio engineer and label owner (Stubborn Records). As host of his regular “Version City” parties, Django has been instrumental in showcasing local and international talent in the ska and reggae scene for many years.
Although his influence as a widely-respected artist and producer resounds deeply and widely through the sounds of American ska, rocksteady and reggae music, Django is not at all easy to slap a tag on, as he is equally at home crooning and playing trombone in an authentic 1960’s-style Jamaican ska setting, singing and playing Yiddish folk tunes on the ukulele, or “chatting the mic” (“deejay” or “rapping”) at a sound-system dance in the streets of Jamaica.
2010 saw the first official-release live recordings from King Django. Recorded live at Southpaw in Brooklyn in 2007 and mixed and mastered by King Django at Version City, "Brooklyn Hangover" represents a crucial 18-song set from the heavily-touring, hard-grooving King Django Quintet lineup of 2007: King Django on lead vocals, ukulele, harmonica, melodica and trombone, Justin Rothberg on guitar, Jess DeBellis on keyboards, Ira Heaps on bass guitar and Gregg Mervine on drums.
Tight, stripped-down versions of classic King Django tunes spanning his long career really let you hear what Django's all about as a songwriter, vocalist and instrumentalist. With a serious hangover, no less! Talk about intimate! It's the closest you can get to having a King Django Quintet concert in your living room! The sound quality on this release is so excellent that many listeners continue to ask if this is really a live recording.
For die-hard fans this is a rare and tasty treat full of ska, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall nuggets, while for those unfamiliar with the King it serves as a great introduction. Django was one of the pioneers of the New York Ska scene way back in the 1980’s. Since that time, as bandleader, singer, songwriter, arranger and trombonist of Skinnerbox and Stubborn All-Stars, through sideman stints touring and recording with the likes of Murphy’s Law, Rancid, The Slackers and The Toasters, touring with his own groups and countless pickup bands, hosting the monthly Version City party in NYC, and as a very in-demand producer/engineer working out of his own Version City Studio, he has continually built on his reputation as one of the most influential and driving forces of Jamaican-inspired music in America and throughout the world.
For his 2006 studio album Roots Tonic, Django enlisted an all-star cast of NYC’s finest ska/reggae veterans. The result: twelve crucial roots reggae cuts utilizing tuff original riddims covering a wide range of styles including dark, sultry lovers rock, militant rockers, crisp rub-a-dub deejay, psychedelic dub and even niyabinghi, with complex lyrical structures, and combinations with Rocker T and Dr. Ring Ding. Musically, Roots Tonic harkens back to the positive, political reggae of the late 70’s/early 80’s. That was a time when songwriting was key, conscious lyrics reigned supreme and reggae music was live and full of soul. “Dancehall” was in its infancy and still resembled reggae, unlike its mostly American hip-hop and R&B influences today.
King Django always keeps busy and always has a surprise or two up his sleeve. Drawing on such diverse influences as roots reggae, dancehall, ska, rock, soul, swing, and American and Yiddish folk music, he has always been a hard man to pigeonhole. His versatility within genres of punk, rhythm & blues, and Jamaican grooves is unmatched, starting early as the singer / trombonist of legendary NYC ska band The Boilers (1986-1988), evolving through reggae/soul/punk/jazz experimentalists Skinnerbox (1989-1998), and achieving mainstream recognition as the founder and leader of traditional ska supergroup Stubborn All-Stars (1994-1999). After the ska revival died down, King Django was able to devote his full energy to solo material: Roots and Culture (Triple Crown Records, 1998) combined ska, reggae and traditional klezmer music; while Reason (Hellcat / Epitaph, 2001) was an adventurous, eclectic self-produced album of rock deeply grounded in roots-reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, and drum and bass.
In 2003 and 2004, Django hit the road in support of three releases on three different independent labels. A Single Thread, an 11-year career retrospective, which saw release in three countries (Megalith Records, USA/Ska In The World, Japan/Leech, Switzerland) presents an overview of Django’s range of style and capabilities. In 2003, King Django headed to Switzerland to record King Django meets the Scrucialists (Jump Up Records, Chicago/Leech, Switzerland. These sessions unleashed the true lyrical genius that has been inside Django all this time. The result was twelve brilliant slices of political roots reggae, rockers, dub, lovers rock, ska and dancehall, including two combinations with German ska/dancehall superstar Dr. Ring Ding. The American release also includes two exclusive dancehall versions created with the hottest new riddims coming straight out of Jamaica. Version City Sessions (Asian Man Records, California) showcases Django’s talents as a producer, engineer and remix artist.
King Django has toured internationally many times over as a solo artist, as the leader of Skinnerbox and Stubborn All Stars and as trombonist for Rancid, The Toasters, and legendary New York City hardcore band Murphy's Law. In the studio, he has worked closely with fellow NYC pals the The Slackers and Skadanks and recorded with Tim Armstrong, Lars Fredrickson and Matt Freeman of Rancid and Dicky Barrett of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones on Stubborn All Stars’ Back with A New Batch in 1997 (Triple Crown). At about the same time, Django began collecting studio equipment and soon the legendary Version City was born. Within months, a steady flow of bands flocked to this NY mecca to create warm Jamaican vibes with Django¹s knowledge, production and engineering skills. Over the years, several "Version City" multi-artist collections have been released worldwide showcasing this unique clique that became the heartbeat of East Coast ska/reggae music. The latest of these is Version City Rockers’ Darker Roots (Antifaz Records, Puerto Rico) which features veteran Jamaican artists such as Sugar Minott, Yabby You and the Prophets, Sister Nancy, Ranking Joe and Cedric Brooks.
When not touring, Django spends a lot of time recording and producing many bands in many genres at his relocated Version City recording studio, now in New Brunswick, NJ. He also performs regularly with his King Django Band, and as a “selector” (DJ) and “DJ” (MC) with his Version City Sound System, among others.