The CCTV Allstars have not been on the scene for too long, but we’re hearing about them more and more over the last year as they become a staple of the Czech music scene. They are based out of Prague and play a tireless schedule here month after month, so they’re certainly listed as a “Czech group”. But each member of the five-man ensemble is from a different country and they bring variety of musical backgrounds to a foreground of ska. Today we sat down with two of their number, their British frontman and guitarist Eddy Allen, and Swedish bassist Fredrik Janacek.
“Well they try calling us an expat band, but I never was a patriot, so it’s a hard term for me. I met many different people from many different countries here in Prague and I just picked the best musicians I could find really. But the way we met was pretty cool, I met them in the street, on the bus (I met Štěpán [the trombonist] on the bus), at jam sessions, in studios...”
And you, Fredrik?
“Well I’ve been here for a very long time...”
“He’s a Czech legend.”
“I came to Prague in ’92. I’m half-Swede half-Czech; I had to learn Czech as an adult though. But anyhow, I’ve been busy with music in the Czech Republic, I’ve played with a lot of bands since I moved here. I was in the Sluničko band in the beginning of the 90’s, together with Lenka Dusilová, and then I founded up the Sluneční Orchestr with two guys. And then I was with -123 Minutes, which just split before Christmas, almost from the start.”
“We shouldn’t say ‘very’, very different...”
Well Sluneční Orchestr definitely.
“Yeah, yeah yeah, well you’ve got the Latin thing in the CCTV Allstars as well, so I wouldn’t say that. I mean these guys want to do a tune of Sluneční Orchestr’s [laughs]”
“We want to cover Samba.”
So Eddy do your musical interests also range beyond ska?
“For sure. I mean, I started off playing a lot of ska and reggae and I sort of started a band on that concept, but it’s totally changed since then. We’re playing many different styles of music together, anything like reggae, ska, rock, punk, folk, Latino music, samba, breakbeat, drum ‘n base... a lot of gypsy, a lot of jazz in there, I’m very jazz-influenced. At that’s just the start, you know. What we’re calling this is ‘full rhythm music’, which is something that’s coming out of England now, there’s a few bands playing this, and making a little scene for a band that just wants to play as many styles of music on one album, in one set.”
“Yeah, I think it would sound the same.”
There’s nothing about the Czech Republic in particular that’s inspiring your sound?
“The beer [laughs]. And the beautiful things that are walking around all the time.”
You’ve kept up quite a vigorous schedule of concerts for almost a year now...
“Yeah because we’re broke.”
That’s kind of the question I wanted to get to: are you one of those few Czech bands that are making a living from what you do?
“Yeah we’re making a living from music, not just from this band, because we all play in different projects. But pretty much all of us make money from music. I decided two years ago I’m never going to do another job unless it’s to do music. I just made a personal decision to myself, which was if I want to be a musician I have to live it and do it. And if it means I’m going to be really poor for a bit then, like, okay I don’t mind.”
Well you for one Eddy were busking before you got together with this band. When I read that it clicked in my mind ‘Ah, right, maybe that’s why they’re ‘CCTV Allstars’ – security camera stars – could that be it?
But in England there are more security cameras than in any other country in the world...
“For sure, when we go to England everyone knows what our name is about, for sure. In Prague they’re like, ‘oh is that like Chinese Central Television, or something like that?’”
You’ve only been together for a year or a year and a half, am I right? So what is the future of this venture and what do you expect from it? Is it about having a laugh while getting the music you want out, or...
“No, we want to spread the music as much as possible of course, I think that’s one of the reasons why we do it, and we’re working pretty hard on it. And it is hard. But it’s tricky for us, for example to meet an audience outside Prague, maybe because of that we’re not really part of the Czech scene, we’re like this ‘international band’, and so on. We’re working on it though. We did play the Trunov Festival at the end of August. I think we’ll try to reach out beyond the country as well. We were recently in England, and I should say we had great feedback there. I think it was due to the lyrics and so on, that people are listening to the music in another way there than they do here. Of course they’re dancing and everything and it’s a party, but the people in England absorb the music more entirely I would say.”
We began this conversation with you telling me straight out that I could download your music from the internet – a shocking thing for a musician in this day and age to say.
“Do you think? It’s not really that shocking. Everyone’s doing it.”
“We invite people to download our music. We still have the experience that people still like to buy the CDs at our concerts because they still like to have the item, bought directly from the musicians. It’s a special thing, I would probably do so as well. You can download the music but having the CD is something different. So we still sell CDs. As we said before, the main thing for us is to spread the music as much as possible and this is the best way of doing it.”
How long will we be waiting for the next CD?
“We’re starting to work on it now, we have the material, we’re working on the arrangements, quite soon we’ll go to the studio to start preparing and make the first recordings. I think we expect it to be released in maybe March of next year.”
“The only problem being we have just too many god songs, we don’t know which ones to pick. It’s so hard, you know?”