Red-Headed Rasta Man!

The Simpkin Project

He said yes!! Holy-moly…he said yes!!….This was my reaction when I came off the phone with the legendary Phil Simpkin of the Simpkin Project and he agreed for his band to be featured on Season 1 of the Musicology PBS TV show. When I moved to Huntington Beach in 2009, I was introduced to a few Huntington Beach based bands by the local posse including The Dirty Heads, The Vandals and of course, reggae band The Simpkin Project.  I quickly became a huge fan of The Simpkin Project and their early albums “In the Wake” and “Walk on Tall” appeared in regular rotation on my playlist.  I have seen the band live numerous times in a number of venues, including opening up at the Pacific Amphitheatre for UK reggae band “Steel Pulse”. Quite frankly, I am amazed that they aren’t much bigger than they actually are!

Ok…so on with the show! I was stood outside the local PBS television studio at the corner of Mount Vernon and Grant in San Bernardino on a beautiful September Sunday morning, eagerly awaiting arrival of the band. They were lost…but not far away. When Phil called me for directions I just said…look for the big mast…yes the BIG Mast…the loading bay is right underneath it.  A few minutes later, a rickety E350 Econoline towing a twin-axel trailer pulled into the driveway and the band decanted, stiff and stretching after their hour trip from the beach cities. Phil, with his distinctive strawberry blond hair and beard appeared and immediately shook my hand, bro-style. I couldn’t believe they were actually here…to film for my TV show!!  

The Musicology crew helped them load in, equipped with furniture dollies and moving blankets to wheel in Shawn Taylor’s 1950s Hammond Organ accompanied by an original Leslie Rotary Speaker cabinet. Wow! The sound for the 6-piece band was quickly and professionally dialed in on our board with (a lot!) of help from Ben Kanselbaum, a seasoned sound professional retained by the band…..and BOOM….they were ready to roll!

Timing was perfect as the band were in the process of releasing their new album “Beam of Light”.   Although I tried to persuade Phil to perform “Hustling” as one of the two tracks for Musicology, he was insistent on “Coming Home” and the title track “Beam of Light” itself. The band effortlessly and consistently played each track for the 4 takes required for the different camera angles, the rotating Leslie’s eye-catching red light flickering behind Taylor’s classic organ.

The recording session seemed to be over very quickly…in fact TOO quickly! I instinctively raced over to Phil and whispered a little request in his ear. On a count of four, the band harmonized into “If you Really Want It”, my wife’s favorite Simpkin track. She was whisked onto the stage and danced with the band through the track’s completion.

Watch Musicology Season 1 Episode 3 Featuring The Simpkin Project

Well, that was an experience indeed! The band quickly dismantled the equipment, rolled the Hammond and Leslie back into the trailer and bid farewell until the next time. In fact, “the next time’ was only a week or so later when we attended the launch party for “Beam of Light” at a popular concert venue in Fullerton. The icing on the cake was their spontaneous cover version during the gig of “Breathe” by Pink Floyd…my absolute favorite track of all time.      

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