Ukulele Death Squad

The world’s most dangerous ukulele band, the Ukulele Death Squad, return to the Adelaide Fringe to tell the tale of the late Bruce Riley – ‘The Squad Father’ – the man who was single-handedly responsible for their
meteoric rise.

The group was formed after Bruce asked his guitar teacher Benjamin Roberts for ukulele lessons. Ben hadn’t played the ukulele before but thought he could pick it up and stay one lesson ahead of Bruce. He quickly fell in love with the instrument and taught Bruce how to play while refining his skills in the process. Benjamin Roberts answers some questions for Hi Fi Way about the shows.

Is Fringe time the best time of the year for Ukulele Death Squad?
The Adelaide Fringe was where we started and holds a great place in our hearts. We have gone bigger and better every year we have participated and this year is no exception.

Has it been tough rehearsing for two shows?
This year has been exceptionally tough rehearsing for the shows, as we are now scattered across three states. We have had to beg borrow and steal all the minutes we can with each other to squeeze any sort of jam sessions we can.

How big an influence was Bruce Riley on Ukulele Death Squad?
Bruce Riley is the only reason this band exists. He was the reason I picked up a Ukulele, he is the reason I contacted Julian to create the band. I’m a guitar teacher and Bruce Riley was one of my students, he asked me for ukulele lessons but I hadn’t played the ukulele before. With my prior knowledge in guitar, mandolin and banjo I picked up the ukulele and I managed to stay one lesson ahead of Bruce and quickly fell in love with the instrument.

Do you think if there wasn’t that influence of Bruce Riley there wouldn’t be Ukulele Death Squad?
Absolutely not, there would be no UDS without Bruce Riley. The complete existence and success is owed to Bruce Riley.

How big an influence is Bruce Springsteen on Ukulele Death Squad?
Bruce Springsteen’s influence on UDS is mainly channelled through me. I’m the catalyst behind this solo show – UKE SPRINGSTEEN – and I’m the only member that is a true fanatic. As the main songwriter of the band, the influences of Bruce Springsteen enter the band through my contributions to the songs.

Did it take quite a bit of work on the arrangements to make these songs work live?
Stripping these songs back to the bare minimum, just ukulele and voice has proven a difficult but rewarding process. Taking songs that were originally recorded with such a full band sound has been a challenge. The results have proven to be very enjoyable for the first crowd of the show.

Beyond these shows what’s next for Ukulele Death Squad?
A big year is planned so far, the official launch of our original songbook, an eight track studio recorded album, more interstate festivals and interstate touring. The year is nearly fully booked.

Interview By Rob Lyon

The Squad Father
Regal Theatre, Kensington Park
Sat 22 Feb & Sat 14 Mar
Tickets and info HERE

Uke Springsteen (Benjamin Roberts SOLO)
Grace Emily Hotel
18 Feb, 25 Feb, 3 Mar, 10 Mar
Tickets and info HERE

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