“That damn ska music is going to tear this place down.” Like a scene from Titanic, all I imagined was a wave of body parts, horns and assorted instruments swallowed down a hole opened through the floor of 2000’s era Sluggo’s. The crash never happened, but that didn’t stop the threat in my mind that it would.
The guilty party was a band known as Out of Nothing. Jumping, loud rock with a full stage of musicians diving and dancing onstage, in the crowd, and damn everywhere they wanted.
That music didn’t slow down until the band ended. Most of the members went on to other bands, but that was my first impression of how wild and fun Pensacola ska could be.
Fast forward to 2013; Taylor got rid of the horns, but kept the friends, energy and music.
One week before his band Operation Hennessey played Punkstravaganza at The Handlebar, Taylor discussed those old days, music and one of his craziest moments onstage for my Music Matters column in the Pensacola News Journal.
Joshua Taylor Full Interview
MS: I’ve seen you play a lot. What kind of music was playing in your household when you were growing up?
JT: We used to listen to a lot of stuff. What I remember listening to the most was a lot of the Talking Heads growing up. My dad was pretty obsessed with the Talking Heads. That and The Clash, like constantly. And then my mom listened to the pop stuff that was on the radio, like Amy Grant.
MS: David Byrne, Amy Grant all in the same house.
JT: Pretty interesting household. We used to listen to music a lot. It would go from, my dad would be playing Def Leppard, then all of a sudden mom would be listening to like some Christian tracks.
MS: Did your parents play too?
JT: My mom sang and she used to play piano when she was younger…she claims. My dad has no music talent whatsoever.
MS: How did you get started into playing music?
JT: When I was a little kid, I just started playing in high school band and all that and then I had a guitar that someone gave me-sorry, I’m looking around trying to find something while we’re talking-
MS: No, that’s cool.
JT: But, somebody gave me a guitar and I just taught myself and it just kind of went from there. I’ve actually seen you play before, sir in Cockfight…
MS: Aw no way!…(We laugh)
JT: I used to be friends with Rachel, man.
MS:Hell yeah, Rachel…our bass player.
JT: Yeah. Good people.
MS: Thank you. You too. Those were some crazy days.
JT: Yeah, they were.
MS: Did you go to Escambia High?
JT: No, I moved here my senior year and I went to Pace.
MS: You’re having a good time and people in the crowd are having a good time…where does that come from?
JT: I don’t know. I think a lot of it is…we didn’t really try to start a band. Ryan’s my best friend and we live together. He’s our drummer. He works with Austin who’s our other good buddy and we’re kind of inseparable. So then we just end up playing and its weird, every time we end up hanging out, we only end up talking with each other and not talking to anybody else.
MS: I saw you play in Diversity is an Old Wooden Ship, so how did that end and how did you guys start Operation Hennessey?
JT: We did the thing with horns for a long time. Like me and Ryan used to be in a band called Out of Nothing. We just got sick of having to deal with all the horn players and just having to have a million people in the band and when that was done-people were moving- and we just couldn’t find the right set of members to keep back in and we just decided to not do something with horns this time. That was pretty much it.
MS: There’s not many bands in this area that rock ska like you guys do, what does ska mean to you?
JT: I don’t know. Just, I grew up listening to ska and stuff like that. When I was a kid, right when I started listening to punk rock and everything, I made a bunch of friends. When I lived in San Francisco, we just started going to ska shows, is what I got drug along to and that’s always my favorite, yeah.
MS: What’s the coolest part about playing music for you?
JT: I always have fun with my friends. Just have a nice night out. Get drunk; get to be an asshole and the center of attention for five minutes.
MS: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at one of your shows?
JT: Well, we haven’t seen anything too crazy with this band. We have seen some beers thrown at people’s heads and stuff like that, but a long time ago, I was in this band and we saw like a skinhead riot in a bar in St. Petersburg. That was a lot of fun. It was like something out of a movie. We were playing, it was a ska band and we had a bunch of horns we’re playing and all of a sudden the stage door behind us bursts open and all of these skinheads float over the stage, didn’t touch any of us playing, so we just kept going and they just started beating the shit out of these three dudes and this huge fight erupted. It was like watching the Blues Brothers. It was just ridiculous.
MS: And the band kept playing.
JT: Actually, Dale was there for that.
JT: Yeah, he was there for that.
MS: He didn’t cause that did he?
JT: No. He was in the ska band with me and John Sisson like a million years ago and yeah, that was when we…where were we? That was West Palm Beach, that was it.
MS: Didn’t you guys play Sluggo’s when it was on Palafox? The three story one…
JT: Yeah, we used to play there a lot. Yeah…
MS: I remember. That’s where I remember seeing you play the first time. That was awhile ago. Oh, God I feel old.
JT: Yeah. I’m old too, don’t feel bad.
MS: With everything you’ve been through, what’s the best advice you’ve been given?
JT: Man, I’ve been through a lot of stuff. I got divorced a couple of years ago…The best advice I ever got was just to keep your fucking head down and your mouth shut. When the stuff starts flying, man you just got to keep moving forward. Keep your head down and your mouth shut.
MS: I’m working on that too. That hits home.
JT: I have a tendency to run my mouth and get myself into trouble.
MS: What would Joshua Taylor of today tell a younger Joshua Taylor starting out?
JT: Oh God. Finish college. Yeah, most definitely. I’m trying to get another Pell grant so I can go back in the fall.
MS: What are you majoring in?
JT: I was majoring in History when I went before, but I don’t really want to teach, so I should probably think about changing my major. I haven’t really thought about it yet. I’m trying to see if they’ll give me some money first.
MS: This is my crazy one, I always ask it; do you prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter?
JT: I like variety, man. I get crunchy, the next time I’ll get smooth.
MS: 2013. What’s the biggest thing you’d like to happen this year?
JT: Hopefully, we’ll finally get to record again. We’ve got a ton of new stuff that we’ve been playing that we haven’t had the opportunity to record another album. And the first one we did just did not come out that great. We hardly even give it out, we just use a few songs off it for demos and that’s about it.
MS: Are you guys recording with Sean Peterson?
JT: We did before, but it was just…we should have thought about it a lot more before we recorded it. It just sounds really thin, like we should have had a second guitar. We just played everything live and were like “cool.” It just doesn’t sound that great.
MS: I’d love to hear you guys with a live CD, because your live shows are like…the last time I saw you was at Vinyl, I can’t remember who you opened for, but you guys were more fun than the guys who were headlining.I was like, “Aw, that’s what a show should be about.”
JT: Thanks, man. I appreciate it. That one time we recorded, it just didn’t translate over well. I don’t remember, I don’t think that anybody was in a good mood. That was when it was just a three piece and now we have another guitar player that we’re adding in at the next show that we play.
MS: Who is it?
JT: It’s Jeff Peacock. He was in Scream Out Loud and he’s been in a bunch of other bands around town. He was our bass player in Diversity.
MS: You guys are like a family.
JT: Yeah, we keep it in the family, man.
MS: This will be in next’s week News Journal, so someone that’s never seen you guys play, how would you describe your music and your shows?
JT: If you’ve never seen us play, we just put on a stupid punk rock show and it’s a lot of fun.
MS: Is there anything else you want the reader’s to know about Operation Hennessey and the Punkstravaganza next week?
JT: That it’s going to be a badass time and that everybody should show up.
– Michael L. Smith