Translator (band)

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Genres Alternative rock, new wave, post-punk
Years active 1979–present
Associated acts Pearl Harbor and the Explosions
Romeo Void
Wire Train
Members Steve Barton
Bob Darlington
Larry Dekker
Dave Scheff

Translator is a San Francisco rock band that had success during the 1980s. They created a sound that spanned updated British Merseybeat and stripped-down punk-like rock to psychedelia. Inspired by the Beatles, Cream and 1960s California folk-rock bands such as The Byrds, their guitar-based music was very popular during the early 1980s on non-commercial campus radio and new wave music stations. But unlike similar groups including R.E.M., Translator did not get much exposure on mainstream classic rock radio. The group's stripped-down music and sometimes ironic and disturbing existentialist lyrics also helped to make them a significant influence on the alternative rock of the 1990s.


The four-piece band was formed in Los Angeles in 1979 when singer/songwriter/guitarist Steve Barton linked up with Larry Dekker on bass and Dave Scheff on drums. A second singer/songwriter/guitarist, Robert Darlington, joined soon after and completed the lineup. The combination of 2 talented songwriters and a powerful energetic rhythm section became the key to their success.

Translator then relocated to San Francisco where they were signed to Howie Klein's independent label, 415 Records, on the strength of the demo tape they sent to college radio station KUSF: the loose and rambling yet laconic "Everywhere That I'm Not" has remained the band's signature tune. The song was featured on Translator's debut album Heartbeats And Triggers, which was recorded with the widely respected producer David Kahne. As a result of 415 Records' national distribution arrangement with Columbia Records the debut album received strong promotion and became an underground and College radio hit in 1982. “I remember being on our first tour when we were playing at the Ritz (in New York) and thinking no one was gonna come,” recalled Barton. “And I remember coming around the corner and seeing this line going out the door and down the block and it was like ‘Oh my God...we sold the place out!’ [1]

Between 1983 and 1986 the band completed 3 more albums for the same label. They received some airplay for "Un-Alone", from the second album No Time Like Now (1983), once again produced by Kahne. The self-titled third album Translator (1985) contained fan-favorites "Gravity" and "O Lazarus". The fourth Evening of The Harvest (1986) featured "Standing In Line" and "Stony Gates of Time." For the third and fourth albums Translator worked with another top new wave producer, Ed Stasium. Though the later albums contained consistently strong original songs none got as much recognition as the debut.

Translator's music continued to have underground appeal and was featured on at least 3 different compilation albums during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2007 all four original albums were re-issued on CD by Wounded Bird Records with previously released bonus tracks. This series made their entire 1980s work on CD for the first time. In May 2008 the 2 CD collection Different Time was released. It contains previously unavailable demos, studio out-takes and live recordings spanning 1979 to 1986, with one track from 1996.

In 1996, ten years after their official breakup, the band was paid its highest compliment when Beatles fans mistook their take of the instrumental "Cry for a Shadow" for a new recording by the Fab Four from the Anthology sessions (in fact it was a Translator B-side from 1983.) [2]


Translator continues to reunite on occasion, including the South By Southwest festival in Austin in 2006, and shows in Los Angeles and a sold out date at Slim's in San Francisco in September 2009.

Steve Barton works as a solo recording artist. His latest album is 2011's "Projector". It was produced by Marvin Etzioni from Lone Justice and was recorded and mixed on tape. Steve plays all the instruments on this one. The album is made up of songs written in the aftermath of Steve's dad's passing in 2009. In 2010 he released a 20-song CD on Spectra Records titled "Gallery" featuring tracks from his three previous solo albums, plus four brand new songs with his solo band, Steve Barton And The Oblivion Click (Steve Barton, Robbie Rist, Derrick Anderson). He recently completed his 6th solo album, once again with Etzioni producing, due for a 2014/2015 release - the band for this album is made up of Dave Scheff on drums, Derrick Anderson on bass, Willie Aron on piano, organ and guitar, Marvin Etzion on guitar, Nelson Bragg plays percussion and Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello's band plays drums on three of the songs.

Dave Scheff has continued drumming, most recently with the orchestra at Teatro ZinZanni, on a 2008 summer UK tour with Dead Kennedys and, with Larry Dekker, guitarist Peter Wiley and keyboardist and singer Cynthia Haagens in Bang Bang Men, and SF soul-pop group Half True.

Robert Darlington released his first solo album"Prism" in 2012. He is also a published author, beginning with a collection of his poetry titled "Ether".

Larry Dekker continues to supply his powerful melodic bass playing for various bands.

Translator released a new album - Big Green Lawn - on April 17, 2012 through Redeye Distribution. The album is the band's first since 1986.[3]



Studio albums[edit]




  1. ^ "Goldmine Magazine article, April 2008". Retrieved 2008-05-12. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Allmusic: Translator Biography". Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  3. ^ "All About The Band". Translator Music. 2010-09-02. Retrieved 2014-07-22. 

External links[edit]