The whole ethos behind AKA The Syndicate is collaboration. Here are some of the musicians featured on our tracks, how they got involved and what bands they play in...
Gary Knight - Founder, Bass, Keys, Guitar
The Collective AKA
"I got into ska, reggae and 2 tone in 1979, when I first heard Gangsters by The Specials. Having played in a ska and mod covers band for the last 6 years, I decided to try to finish writing and recording an original song of my own. I decided I also wanted to try and work with some people I hadn’t recorded with before, and I had met a lot of people through my gigs with The Collective AKA. Nobody was gigging because of the coronavirus situation. Luckily for me, everyone I asked was interested in what I was trying to do and had the time to contribute to it. The project has gone from one song to an eclectic album of original tracks, and album number two being worked on already. AKA The Syndicate is in full flow!"
Laura Betts - Vocals
"I heard AKA The Syndicate's song 'Hands Up' played on the Blam Blam radio show - I instantly got in touch with the host, my friend Dayna TG, to find out more about the band - I had already been thinking how awesome it would be if the 2 Tone sound could come back - and this song sounded exactly like what I had in mind! - inspired by that era but with a relevant-to-today touch. Coincidentally I was then on the Blam Blam show a couple of weeks later and we discussed the track on air. Gary heard the show and got in touch to ask me if I'd like to guest on a track - so we got writing... and then very quickly we ended up with about 5 tracks! I'm now onboard the AKA The Syndicate team, I think it's such a great concept with an awesome bunch of people, and I'm really excited to get lots of new and exciting music out there!"
Sean Williams - Saxophone
The Beat GB
"I met Gary a few years ago whilst I was playing for The Beat and depping for Monty Neysmith/Syramip - we discussed potentially doing something together in the studio as he had some ideas he fancied working on. I then forgot all about it... until a couple of years later when Gary got back in touch after I'd just finished the 2 Tone tour with Roddy and Neville from The Specials. He asked me if I still fancied doing a one off song between the two of us - Fu Manchu was then released soon after! 12 months, 3 lockdowns and finally 1 LP later I'm still here! I'm loving working with some fantastic musicians on what has turned out to be an awesome LP which I hope you enjoy listening to as much as we have enjoyed making it!"
Bobby Blencowe - Trumpet
"I started playing in ska bands when I was 18 just as I was posted to the Band of the Coldstream Guards. Starting off in Skalectrix, a Twickenham based ska covers band. After a few years the band split and half of us, along with some others, started up our own band The Launchers. I first met Laura when I helped her band The Skatonics while their trumpet player was away, as I worked with their trombone player Paul in the Coldstream Guards.
A few months later Laura got in touch with me and told me about AKA The Syndicate and how they were writing original music with players from loads of different bands around the country. She asked if I’d be interested in adding some trumpet lines to some of their tracks which I immediately jumped at the opportunity to do.
It’s been strange recording the album through Lockdown as I’ve only actually met two other members of the band so far, Laura and Gary, and haven’t met the rest of the horn section, Fiona and Sean yet! That being said, you wouldn’t think that the album was recorded remotely, the tracks are so well written and put together and still contain the energy of a live performance. I’m really looking forward to being able to perform live with The Syndicate as soon as we’re allowed to!"
Reg Shaw - Vocals
"When Gary contacted me about singing on a couple of these tunes he said he wanted a rough 'Joe Strummer' style vocal. When I heard what he was up to I was immediately impressed and wanted to get involved. Thanks to the great Panther Studios we ended up with a fantastic sounding finished product. They even made my singing sound almost decent!! Gary really knew what he wanted-and it shows."
Clara Byrne - Vocals
“I met Gary a few year back, whilst playing the same gig, I can’t remember which one! But a year or so later, my band Dakka Skanks was the backing band for Monty Neysmith, we needed a keyboard player and Gary got on board! It was great to play with such a talented person like Gary! He contacted me to sing on his new project and I couldn’t say no, I was excited and honoured to have been asked to sing backing but also to write my own lyrics to one of his tracks! It has been great to work with him and other musicians he has asked to be on the project! I am sure everyone will love this project and get on board and support it!”
Fiona Creese - Trombone
The Collective AKA
"Gary said "Would you like to play on a new song I've written" - so I said "yeah I'll give it a go!" - I recorded my parts on Hands Up and 18 months later we have been joined by some wonderful musicians and it's growing in a way I hadn't anticipated! I've been playing trombone for over 35 years, but never been involved in an original songwriting project before, so this is an exciting new musical adventure!"
Bob Dear - Drums
The Collective AKA / Soundation
"Having played mainly originals and covers of Reggae drums as well as Mod and Northern Soul covers in previous bands, I was put in touch with Gary to dep for his other band, The Collective AKA, playing Ska and Mod covers and thoroughly enjoying it, it was great to refresh my mind and play some of the songs I listened to in my early teens. Some of which I’d always wanted to play. It was and still is great fun. When the discussion arose to possibly play on some of Gary’s originals, I admit, I hesitated at first, not sure if I had the time. When I heard the songs I soon relented and I enjoyed it more than expected and I now can’t wait for more. So far it’s been a great project to be involved in with excellent songs and a terrific bunch of musicians. Playing drums is a passion, playing the offbeat has become my default. Long may it continue and I’m genuinely excited to see where AKA the Syndicate takes us and what people think of the sound we’ve produced. In other news, I’d like to pray for world peace and free chocolate."
Chris Scopes - Bass
Punky Reggae Party
"I Met Gary at the Water Rats, whilst our respective bands shared the same bill for a March of the Mods charity night. The Collective were very good that night in 2018. We ended up chatting before and after our sets and this led to further conversations and offer from Gary to dep on a couple of collective gigs in 2020. Although those didn’t happen, I was chuffed to be asked to be involved in his solo project, AKA The Syndicate. Here’s to a music and gig-filled 2nd half of 2021. Cheers"
Aaron Twotone Malone - Vocals
The Trojan Beats
"I met Gary Knight a few years ago at a Ska festival. Both our bands have been on the same bill for a few gigs.
One day Gary called me out of the blue and asked if I would like to lay down some vocals on a track for his project AKA The Syndicate. He sent me over the lyrics and a very rough recording of the song. A few weeks later he invited me to Panther Studio's to record my vocals. I said to Gary how about a video? We started brainstorming for story lines. We talked about getting everyone together for the shoot, then sadly the first lockdown hit and our plans went out the window. We weren't going to let it beat us! I borrowed a half decent camera from Mr Grinns, The Trojans keyboard player. Grabbed Emily my Mrs, and my son John and headed to my childhood playground 40 Acres to start shooting the video. There is always decent graffiti there and the odd petrol bombed vehicle. Once we got the footage I sent it to Gary and we put the video together. I think it sends out a very strong message against knife crime! I hope it helps the kids in some way to see the sadness and destruction knife crime causes! One love”
Maxine - Vocals
Maxine/Stuart Epps/Graham Broad
“I’ve been recording my latest Album at Panther Studios along with my partner Martin of which Gary asked Martin if he’d be interested in a collaboration and I was then asked to sing the lead vocals on the track. I’d already put piano and BV parts on some of the Sensible Gray Cells tracks on their current album and thoroughly enjoyed this as it made a refreshing change to my own stuff and After hearing some of AKA’s other songs in progress, I thought they had a really cool vibe to them and was looking forward to working on something very different to my own style and I think the finished track “Bang Bang” sounds great!”
Sarah Smiley - Trumpet
"I met Gary a few years ago whilst playing for Monty Neysmith at a gig in Brighton. It was a bit of a fluke I got myself a part in the band to be honest as I'd never met any of the band and had only been playing Ska for about 2 years in a band called RockSka. I've never been so nervous playing but Gary and the rest of the guys were really supportive. So when Gary asked if I'd like to play a few of the songs for this new project I said yes, I nearly backed out as my nerves got the better of me, but I'm so glad I didn't. It's awesome! I've played the trumpet since I was 10 but stopped for about 20 years and I've only been playing again for the last 6 so I'm still improving every day! I've only met Gary, Sean, Monty and Aaron who are all fantastic musicians and I can't wait to meet everyone else! Thanks for having me!"