Its not easy to attend a Gentleman’s Dub Club concert, and not get drenched in sweat, and sore feet due to intense jumping, prancing and dancing. GDC really push the boundaries when it comes to influences. In an interview with Johnny, the lead singer of the band, he indicted the band members all brought something different to the table when writing music and all have individual persuasions apart from reggae; influences such as Jazz.
Having started 2015 with gigs in India, Italy and several UK shows including a sold out headliner at Motion, Bristol, Liam Monaghan caught up with Johnny just before their headline date at Sub Dub, West Indian Centre.
Music Is The Girl I Love is the first track from the forthcoming album ‘The Big Smoke’. The record was borne from the band’s unconditional love for music, despite the ups and downs of touring, recording among other music industry madness. From the crunching guitars in the intro, to the super-uplifting chorus, to the triumphant hornline, Music Is The Girl I Love will give every reggae fan exactly what they need: bass, melody, harmony and good vibes!
Liam’s chat with Johnny…
LM: Hi Johnny! We’re sat just outside of the west Indian Centre ahead of your headline show at Sub Dub (Leeds), I suppose this is where it all started for you guys?
J: Yeah! I can track my mind back to I think 2003, in my first year of university and coming into Sub Dub and standing by a stack by the bar and I was stood there for, I don’t think I left, you could smoke inside and the vibe was different from what id experienced anywhere else in the country. I was raving to drum & bass and going out to live shows and that was my thing and I think you can get some much from different types of music but the moment I came to Sub Dub it just changed the outlook on life and music particularly.
We all lived up on Headingly Lane and there were 2 members of the band there and i lived on the floor there for about 2 months, but the thing is it was like our base, we were playing for 3 months as a band and then we did some house parties and the scene for house parties in Leeds is wicked, but particularly at Toby and Nile lived at 44 Headingly Lane which is where we rehearsed, we had our first couple of shows just messing around improvising for like an hour and a half getting more hammered but that was the start of it. House parties back then had sound systems within that crew so they were always off the hook.
LM: Do you follow Sound System Culture at all?
LM: Did you watch the Red Bull Culture clash, did you think it was a good thing for sound clash or not, because Rebel Sound was a manufactured sound when you have Stone Love in there also, what’s your opinion on it?
J: Well I think you have to take it for its purpose and its purpose is to engage an audience and so for that then its good. If you follow sound system culture and enjoy culture clash, to watch it can be jarring, these guys Rebel Sound have Rodigan they know what’s going on, the other crews had no idea of the point of this thing is or how to do it or the rules, they tried to put it in 4 rounds and still messed it up and it’s a bit jarring, but Im a massive fan of making events more engaging and communicating between the performer and the crowd and its wicked and I think there’s a big part of dance music which doesn’t have much interaction really between the artist and the crowd, I think it suffers, nights suffer from that, its entertainment ultimately to have that amount of variety and feel like you’re a part in what’s going on its great. It was initially when it was first developed in Jamaica in the late 60’s it was entertainment but also a way of communicating about other things like struggles and it was like the radio of that culture that existed in Jamaica at that time when they wanted to find a voice.
LM: As a band that’s fell under the Reggae Dub & Ska bracket with radio stations such as Radio1 and 1Xtra, maybe not being receptive to that genre, has there been any hard challenges over the 9 years you guys have been going?
J: I think you have to manage the expectations, I suppose, what’s the reason you do it, the reason we do it is because we enjoy being a apart of this group making and playing music together then getting on stage and sharing it with an audience, that I think is the beginning middle and end of why were doing what we are doing. Over the course of what we’ve been doing there’s been hot air I suppose and also a lot of promise and you think to yourself it would be amazing if I got in the charts and what a difference it would make, but the thing is you gotta do what you do and make music that you think is good and whatever happens to it outside of that you don’t have control over that and that’s one way of approaching what you do as a musician and another way of approaching it is to think what are they playing on the radio I want to be famous in that realm and make that my career what am I going to do then, equally its cool to do that, its whatever feels naturally and correct, it can be hard, its been a long journey for us to get to where we are today, its nice when you can play and release music. As a musician you have to choose if that’s the road you want to go on, and if you do then there’s no complaining.
LM: …And 10 years on you’re back at Sub Dub…
J: Big time, its incredible, an honor, we’ve been really lucky with the path we’ve been on, its been great and I think the most important thing as an artist as you chose your path is to decide why you’re doing what you’re doing and then the moment you can make a piece with that, then whatever happens, happens as long as you work at it.
LM: Did you manage to achieve the world record for most people crouching down at a gig?
J: Haha! Have we achieved that? We haven’t kept up with that challenge im afraid, thing is you need to find reasons to get people down! It has to be the right moment.
LM: Your shows are high enjoy, the European crowds are very receptive to you, is there any countries you particularly like playing in, I know there’s festival season but out of season?
J: Around Europe there’s a lot of great scenes for this music and we’ve played some great shows, we came back from Italy recently that was incredible. Out of the crowds that automatically got it, and you go to a lot of countries where they don’t speak English and they don’t have a clue what you’re talking about and so there’s an amazing side effect of that in which its rawer, you don’t get complicated with that, its pure energy, and when we went to Poland it was incredible, the way the audience responded to us, it was like that [clicks]. In the uk, London more than anywhere, you go on stage and you get a vibe where people are stood back and their like, “you gotta impress me’. Some places, Leeds is the same as this but this springs out in Poland, Slovakia was incredible also, its hard to pigeon hole abroad as abroad I suppose just so far as non English speaking countries and the effect you get from that, it feels so much more natural.
LM: Outlook festival is listed as one of your favorite festivals, you’re returning this year, its somewhere you’ve been consistently performing, and it’s a student-y festival. What is it about Outlook that makes it so special to you?
J: I think it’s the perfect crowd for us, sound system culture sits in the heart of that festival but if you look at our, not so much influences but the raw elements of it, in Reggae Dub and Hip-Hop, but then with the high energy you can get out of Drum and Bass and Electronic music. It sits in that realm there’s not many events that are so focused but so big at the same time. Usually if you got to something so niche its a lot smaller so it doesn’t have that impact. Musically it works perfect, it’s that thing of going back every year and it feels like going home.
LM: To clear up also, Tommy said you ran Outlook?
J: Yep, I do
LM: Is Matt still cut up about not performing the trumpet sections on the end of Emergency!?
J: Haha! We I think he’s probably over it by now, he’s got some hype off it
LM: Do you think that the Reggae scene in the UK is strong? There’s the likes of Shanty, General Roots, By The Rivers representing at the moment…
J: Yeah! I think those artists you mention, Shanty and Chainska Brassika are great artists, really brilliant to play alongside them and listen to their music. What do you measure it against? It’s great in terms of the mass it still exists in small group in society. But you know people are ready for that, so when you have good music it will punch through, and we see it all the time, we see it all the time from UK acts. I have no doubt that will continue, in regards to the roots in this country and the strong presence dub and reggae music has in the major cities, its going to continue, it’s a unique sound.
LM: Is there any change you would like to see in the industry in terms of being accepted more in terms of promotion for example that may benefit yourselves or new bands?
J: I suppose the only thing I would highlight is the lack of reggae DJs, there was the whole beef with Rodigan with marginalised out of Kiss FM so he moved to 1xtra, which is brilliant to see. On Radio1 & 1Xtra there’s a few shows but not particularly prime time. There’s not a great deal out there getting music to the masses, I suppose if that was injected into national radio it would make a considerable difference, the level of professionalism is great its just spreading the word and familiarising people with it, if you listen to Rhianna or Magic you know people are familiar to it, you just have to nail those tunes and release brilliant music and it will stand the test fo time, it will affect people and gain mass people.
LM: How’s the dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot coming along?
J:Ive not tucked into it yet, just have to wait for the bank account to improve a bit but it could be possible!
LM: Music Is The Girl I Love is the new single, very upbeat, vibrant with lots of influences, typical Gentleman’s Dub Club, very varied sound. Where did that come from? Was there any specific route that come from or just sitting around playing with ideas?
J: It was tommy the Drummer originally; he brought the tune in. We have a new album out in September and we have released a couple off that so far. So we had a 2 weeks session out in the countryside in Kent, we all bought ideas to the table and its one Tommy bought. So the process was to bring ideas and to jam as a group with a good sound system and develop them and make them sound like a GDC tune. The tone of it just worked, it’s a nice message and the horn line came early on, it was a celebration, it came really easily in a short space of time.
LM: How did the dub mix with Prince Fatty come about?
J: We’ve been close to Prince Fatty for some time, we recorded the drums to our last 2 albums in his studio in Brighton, and he gets an incredible sound out of that place. We’ve been close and he did a few remixes, he did a version of High Grade with a live band which came out on Green sleeves in America. We’ve got a few more, the next release is called see them, and we’ve a mix by the Bread Winners, I think its one guy from Manchester who cobbled together loads of old analog studio gear, so we did the final mix down at his studio in Manchester and he did a mix also and its wicked.
LM: For the new album is there any collaborations? You’ve expressed you wanted to work with Stylo G, Maxi Priest, Chronixx etc.?
J: For this album, we’ve got a couple of vocalists but nothing on a bigger scale. The thing is, there is a body of work so the collaborations work better as individual tunes, when you’re making an album its got to be tight together, we had a real purpose, we had a goal for it and that was us making heartfelt roots music and I think we have done a far better job with this and we have before.
LM: So where can we see you?
J: We’re playing a lot, we have around 20 festivals,
6/5/15 – Kokopello Festival, Gullegem, BE
30/5/15 – Bath Racecourse, Bath, UK
11/06/15 – Concord 2, Brighton, UK
13/06/15 – X Music Festival, Cardiff, UK
14/06/15 – Folklore Festival, Jersey, UK
19/06/15 – Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, Boonville, USA
4/7/15 – Kelburn Garden Party, Glasgow, UK
11/7/15 – NASS Festival, Cornwall, UK
16/8/15 – Boomtown Fair, Winchester, UK
2/9/15 – Outlook Festival, Pula, HR
LM: If we want to catch news and updates on you guys and find more about you where can we find you?
J: Grab us on Facebook, that’s kinda like our blog, if you are a fan of British Reggae we try to represent artists that we like and we try and comment on the scene so go and check them out. Also check out our website we have all of our WAVS, so if you want to download high quality versions of the tunes, its called selectors corner, all our up to date gig dates are there also.
LM: Well thanks very much! We’ll let you get back to setting up I know everyone’s been setting up!
J: That’s one of the advantages of being a vocalist!
Hear the full interview on Reggae Roots & Bass Tuesday 19th May 6pm gmt www.thisislsr.com.
By Liam Monaghan