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Sometimes a party is the best remedy for a negative situation. And when you're throwing a party, you have to have music. The people behind the Love Hope Music Strength Foundation know this, which is why The English Beat (fronted by former Orange County resident Dave Wakeling) are playing Saturday to raise money for the organization.
Formed in 2007 by Mike Peters of The Alarm (a two-time cancer survivor) and music-industry executive James Chippendale, the foundation began as a way to bring cancer treatment to people in countries that did not have the same types of help available in America.
The goal of the event with the English Beat (whose hits include "Mirror In the Bathroom," "I Confess," "Tenderness" and "Save It for Later) is to raise money to help LHS with support and education for early cancer treatments.
Dave Wakeling: I've been friends with Mike Peters for many years and was involved with the kick-off event a few years ago. We were the first people to play a live concert on the top of the Empire State Building. I'm very impressed with the way they've managed to merge music and charity. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but the passion and conviction they have has really turned it into something. If you think the cuts in America are bad, they've just pulled the plug in England.
Have you ever encountered band members who don't want to be part of a benefit?
They're used to it now. We do a few a year, and if there's nothing booked, we tend to say yes. It's refreshing and nice to do a show for charity. It reminds you that what you do has another use other than paying the bills, you know? It can raise money, and it can also help to educate the people at the event. I've been lucky with my musicians. In the past 10 years, I've only had one musician who felt aggrieved by doing any benefit shows.
And this is very much an issue that targets your generation.
One of the blessings and curses of growing older is a number of people in their 40s and 50s have to start dealing with issues like this. I'm 54, and I'll be 55 in a couple of weeks. It's been a very eye-opening year. We do have a number of people who have liked us for many years, and when they come to gigs, we have to try to make accommodations for them, and it means a lot to them. It really brings it home because they get to dance onstage, and they're dead by the next time we play there. That helps complete the circle. You're not just singing about life and death--you're kind of living this weird experience. I suppose doing benefits helps us as a band deal with the sadness. There's plenty of evidence now that shows people actually get more back from giving than receiving.
You're working on new material, right?
We have 20 new tunes, and they're smashers. We're playing three or four a night, and they're going down great. We've started recording now, and the most likely plan is to bring out a series of EPs over this year, including some live shows. It could be a combination of live tracks, new songs, remixes and acoustic tracks. In my dreams, I'd have a series of EPs that we would release once everybody at the gig said, "I've already got that one." I like EPs and singles, and I always did. I never really liked albums much. I bought them, of course, but 12 songs by anybody gets a bit much for me. I think it was set up with how much music you could squeeze onto vinyl, and what was the optimum business model. I can't bring myself to bring myself to turn off a CD, so then you've got to listen to 12 takes on more or less the same view of the world--even with me!
Tell me about your time in Orange County:
I've been in Pacific Palisades for about 10 years. It was the only place we could find in Los Angeles that was anywhere near as pretty as where we were in Orange County. I lived for about 10 years in Dana Point and Laguna Niguel. I liked it down there. We're on a hill that kind of looks like the hills in Laguna Niguel. After 25 years, people are always asking if I'm English or American now, and the more I travel around America, I realize I'm Californian. It's a rather forward-looking place in terms of people being able to tolerate one another enough so that we can get along. I just spent a few days down there recently. I always used to love the air down there, especially around Dana Point Harbor. It's gorgeous. I also just went to Las Golondrinas and stocked up on fish burritos.
The English Beat perform at Zanzibar, 1301 Fifth St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-2221; www.zanzibarlive.com. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $35; VIP, $75. 21+.