Eugenio Iglesias
Dave Wakeling is the frontman of English Beat, which is coming to the Depot on Tuesday.

Dave Wakeling, leader of the iconic ska band English Beat, said he's looking forward to the band's return to the Depot.

"I love that place," Wakeling said of the venue during a phone conversation from Milwaukee.

"It's a great place, and I think it will be a heck of a show with Bad Manners. It will be something for ska fans from all generations."

Wakeling said he was drawn to ska for a couple of reasons.

"There was something about the optimistic and upbeat sound from a distance," he said. "But as you got closer, you noticed people could sing about quite serious situations — depression or depravation or whatever. And it occurred to me it wasn't just happy music, it was a survival music. It was a way to cheer yourself up when you've got nothing to eat."

Wakeling's goal for the English Beat while in England was to create a sound that incorporated different musical and lyrical influences.

"We wanted really to try to combine the sexy backbeat of reggae and ska with the more forceful, in-your-face urban angst like the Velvet Underground or other punk bands," he said. "We wanted to get that insistence but have a swing and sway to it.

"We just ended up becoming a professional hybrid," he said with a laugh. "The more merry I can make the tune, the more license it allows me with the lyrics to get more gritty about things."

Although Wakeling has kept the English Beat name alive since the early 1980s, he said he didn't ever think he would be known as a musical pioneer.

"We ended up being pioneers in some ways," he said with a pause. "In that time in England, with few exceptions in the past, there hadn't been black people and white people in the same bands. That didn't occur to us, because coming from industrial Birmingham, England, a lot of prejudices have been worn out in the industrial factory lines.

"We didn't know we were doing anything out of the ordinary or special, but it was something that anyone hadn't seen in a while," he said.

"When we first did a show in London, it was the first time we noticed everyone talking about it — 'black pieces and white pieces on stage together.'

"It was as though we were a traveling sociology book with a (record) in the back," Wakeling said with a laugh. "Although that had been done in the past with the Equals and the Foundations, the combination of rock and reggae secured us a niche."

Being around for nearly 30 years has given Wakeling a chance to experience rewards other than music trophies and hit singles, he said.

"A couple will come up to you and tell you they've been listing to our songs since their first date in college some 20-something years ago," he said. "And they start telling us which songs played a special part in their life and which songs they played in the delivery room.

"To me, really, that is the greatest moment and the greatest compliment, (because) you can buy everything else," he said. "But to have somebody say your music has been a part of the tapestry of their life gives you something of incredible value.

"I try and write songs in the first place to cheer myself up, and then a quarter of a century later, you bump into people who say the music has also cheered them up."

If you go

What: English Beat, Bad Manners

Where: The Depot, 400 West South Temple

When: Aug. 10, 8 p.m.

How much: $17

Phone: 801-467-8499, 800-888-8499

Web: www.smithstix.com

e-mail: scott@desnews.com