In this edition of our ongoing Skaround the World series, I want to introduce you to a band that got my attention during the shutdown last year. Smoke+Mirrors Soundsystem is pretty much a “who’s who” in ska and reggae, collaborating to make a massive new album.
The album is titled “Strength in Numbers” and I had a chance to chat with John Roy, the mastermind behind the project.
You may know Roy from the very successful band, Unsteady. Roy gave us the details and insane list of guests on this album.
This band came about when the pandemic took away musicians’ ability to play in person, practice, and record together. Like many musicians, Roy had no work and was isolated. During that time he wrote tunes, lyrics, and arrangements, then recorded them with midi instruments in the office of his shuttered business.
Roy emailed and messaged everyone he knew from his days of touring and live gigs with Gangbusters, OMD, English Beat, Unsteady and more. People trapped at home sent tracks, wav files, mp3s, even voicemails! He edited all of it together and got it mixed, mastered and pressed. Cleary, this could not have been done like this 10-15 years ago.
Roy has gathered incredible players to bring the record to life and his imaginary band became reality.
The who’s who includes:
Korey Kingston Horn – (Aggrolites, Western Standard Time, Shuffle and Bang ), Victor Rice – (Stubborn All Stars- Easy Star Allstars, Scofflaws), Jayson Nugent- (The Slackers, Crazy Baldhead), Kevin Hewitt – (Unsteady, The Equators), Doug Shaffer – (Unsteady), Jeff Baker- (Murphy’s Law, Skinnerbox, King Django, Stubborn Allstars) Buford O’Sullivan – (Scofflaws, Easy Star All Stars), Dave Hillyard – (Donkey show, Hepcat, Rocksteady7 ,Slackers), Robert Sotelo Jr. – (Allentown’s, Arise Roots), Blake Colie – (The Lions, Arise Roots), John Quan – (Pietasters, Buddha Council), Alex Gonzalez – (Bulevar Descarga, Mad Lions), Emilio Martinez – (Maka Roots,Dylan Keawe), Eddie Ocampo – (Rocksteady7 , Stubborn Allstars), Ken Stewart – (Skatalites), Brian Jordan – (Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Lauryn Hill) Gilbert Castellanos – (Black Note), Gilbert Castellanos – (Quartet Tony Devenish, Rebelation), Mike Benge – (B Side Players), Dunia Dest Sinnreich – (Agent99, Dubistry Mark Lyn, Slackers, Stubborn Allstars), Esteban Florez Valenzuela – (Matamoska, Bandulus), Todd Davidson – (Price of Dope, Square Circle), Brent Ford – (Riddim Lions, Unsteady), Kristin Forbes – (Scotch Bonnets, Lady Hatchet), And of course, John Roy – (Gangbusters, Spy Kids, B Side Players, Unsteady and English Beat).
The project took on its own life, the kind of things dreams are made of. It brought something good and positive out of the loneliness and isolation everyone was experiencing, and for musicians… a triumph from not touring and gigging!
In the end, it’s an incredible album. I’ve listened through it about 10 times now! “Strength in Numbers” is now available and Roy said it’s a limited run, so grab your copy while they are hot off the presses!