In the world of punk, fewer frontmen are more iconic than Paul “H.R.” Hudson. During the ‘80s he led Washington, DC act Bad Brains to be one of the most influential bands of the decade. His intensity was unrivaled and no one could match the amount of energy he had on stage. These days he’s mellowed out a bit and his health is the best it’s been in years following brain surgery this past February to solve a rare condition called SUNCT syndrome. He’ll be performing with his reggae band Human Rights at POP Emporium of Popular Culture in Providence on Dec 16 as part of their “Out Of Control: The Spirit Of ‘77” exhibition.
I had a chat with H.R. ahead of the performance about the documentary Finding Joseph I that’s about him, his new record label, finding out about the UK ska scene in The Village Voice and getting amped to perform at more festivals next year.
Rob Duguay (Motif): Earlier this year, a documentary about you called Finding Joseph I was released. It was filmed over the course of a few years while examining your time in Bad Brains, your presence in the reggae community and your struggle with mental illness. Looking back, do you like the way it came out?
HR: Yes sir. I sure do, it came out great. It’s been 10 years in the making and I’m glad that it’s finally out.
RD: When I watched it, I found the film to be very inspiring. I do like how there was a happy ending to it with you where it seems like your life is going great these days ever since you had the brain surgery this past February.
HR: Yes sir.
RD: How have you been feeling ever since the surgery? Do you find yourself having very much a different outlook on life then you did before?
HR: I’m feeling fine now, the surgery was a success.
RD: It’s great to hear that it worked out for you and you’re doing better as a result.
HR: Thank you.
RD: No problem. Bad Brains started at a time in punk rock in the early ‘80s where you, your brother Earl and everybody incorporated reggae into punk in America. At the same time in the United Kingdom, there were bands like The Specials and The English Beat doing similar things with ska. When the band was starting out, were you aware of what was going on in the UK?
HR: Yes, I was very excited about the success of what was going on in the UK. It started pretty early in our music careers, and around ‘79 or ‘80 it got a write up in The Village Voice and that let us know from then on that what were doing was correct.
RD: When Bad Brains went to the UK for the first time, did you get with a lot of those bands in the ska scene?
HR: We didn’t. We were working as a solo headlining band.
RD: You’ve started performing with your own band, which includes a date at POP on Dec 16. How did this current edition of the band come about? I know you have a few new members.
HR: It came about through the research of my wife Lori [Carns Hudson] and she did such a beautiful job of finding these shows. We’re more established in the US, but we went to Europe to play gigs in countries like England, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, and that’s how this current lineup formed. When the band was established, people found out about it and they wanted to see what it was all about and where we were coming from. Then we started getting offers for shows around the area in the East Coast.
RD: Very cool. You and your manager Alfredo Weeks recently started a label called Catch a Fire and currently there’s a live recording of a performance of yours at the legendary CBGB in 1984 available for purchase. What made the both of you want to start the label? Do you plan on it being a place where you can release all your future recordings or will it just be for special releases?
HR: There will be projects that we’ll want to release on the label in the future. Catch a Fire was started by Alfredo, who is also my godson, and he did such beautiful work on the CBGB CD. We’re going to go ahead and give it a try and work out things in the future with him.
RD: Good luck with it. I always love hearing stories about artists getting creative control with their own label. Do you have any plans for next year? Is there anything set in stone as of yet or do you plan on playing it by ear?
HR: We’re going to be doing some festivals in the summertime and I’m really glad about that. We played the Riot Fest and the San Pedro Festival last summer and they were both so successful that we’re looking forward to playing more festivals next year.
Event page: facebook.com/events/377110026060321
Catch a Fire: catchafiremusic.com