TOKYO (TR) – When Joey Altruda was playing stand-up bass in his ska band Jump With Joey during a residency at the King King club in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, he remembers regularly seeing a guy, always with his guitar, at the shows or inside the cafe next door.
That person was Beck Hansen, a headline act at next week’s Fuji Rock Festival, held at the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture.
“I’ve known him since he was a teenager,” Altruda says from L.A. during a recent Skype call. “He was a part of the music scene here in the early ’90s. He would be at our shows and stuff, before he was the phenomenon that he became known to be.”
Following Beck’s show, members of Jump With Joey will play the Green Stage as a part of G&G Miller Orchestra, whose nine-song set will pay tribute to big band and rock.
Not only will the three-day festival, in its 20th year, serve as a chance for Altruda to needle his old friend — “He’s opening for us,” he laughs — it will bring Jump With Joey out of an extended hiatus before a large audience.
For Altruda, so far so good.
“It was like the band never stopped,” says the L.A. native, who will be making his first appearance at the festival (tough his bandmate William McNeil has been a regular for years). “We had one rehearsal. It felt like we had played two weeks before and were just brushing up on some of the finer points of the songs — it was really cool.”
On July 9, the band played a show at The Roxy (see video below) in L.A. “We murdered it,” Altruda says. “It was great; it was like a nice family reunion for the audience members. A huge amount of these people were regulars at the King King, and some of them had their grown children with them now.”
After forming in 1989, Jump With Joey, which mixes the rhythm of Jamaica’s Skatalites with big band, released four albums. It went on hiatus around the year 2000.
During its active period, the band developed an affinity for Japan. Along with three tours between 1991 and 1993, the band issued three albums, including its debut “Generations United,” on the Quattro label.
“The wonderment of Japan, being completely, you know, ignorant of the culture, in a sense, as far as modern-day Japanese culture, it was really fascinating, and fun and highly visual,” Altruda remembers. “Even the minutiae of the color of the pay telephone, for example — that Kermit-the-frog green.”
“They’re gonna big a mixture of tropical music, stuff from Jamaica, Cuba, weird novelty records, and funk and soul — I just kind of mix it up into one interesting journey,” he says of the sets. “But I always try to have an arc that I go for that makes sense from one song to the next, not a random thing. I’ve got to pack about 25 records — and I’ve just got make sure that each of those is a killer.”
For information on tickets and access, visit the Fuji Rock Festival web site.