Dubokaj on Dub Music
What is your definition of Dub?
To me Dub is about collecting samples, snippets, recordings, melodies, sounds and throwing them together and letting them all fuck with each other. It helps me work out which ideas are the best for the track, as I always have too many. Dub is about recycling old ideas or tunes, about giving them another chance. The truth is that most of the stuff you produce will never be heard, but sometimes it’s worth checking the junkyard as you might just find a treasure there.
Do you remember your first encounter with it?
I think this must’ve been when I was working in my studio around twenty years ago and I started to explore what you can do with reverb and delay and other effects. I didn’t listen to Jamaican music back then, so that definitely wasn’t the starting point. It was more the studio work and the possibilities that I heard from stripping things down and getting all this space from that.
Later on I got into Rhythm & Sound and the releases coming out via the Scape label in Berlin: Pole, Burnt Friedman and the Nu Dub players etc. It was all highly edited and all of them were genre hybrids. And then when my daughter was born back in 2003 I would create this safe Ambient Dub bubble for us at home by playing artists like Xoki and Hieronymus for hours and days while looking after her. Nowadays I listen to more of the classic Dub LPs by Lee Perry or King Tubby.
Being that Dub is originally a Jamaican art form/science, do you think that people will find it strange that this type of sound is coming out of Switzerland?
We live in a time when everybody is connected to a constant stream of sound from all over the world and has access to the wildest niches, so maybe it’s not that strange anymore. I mean, I sit in front of a cabin in the Alps surrounded by goats and cows and I’m streaming the latest Qgom tracks from South Africa, while working on my own tracks. Of course, my roots are completely different and my surrounding and the conditions of my life can’t be likened to people living in Jamaica or London, but that’s exactly why Dubokaj has this particular sound.
I think that Dub is definitely rooted in Jamaica, that’s where everything started, but in the last forty years it also traveled the world and today you’ll find Dub applied, as a technique, in almost ever kind of electronic music. In terms of echoes, we’re actually not doing that bad Switzerland! Just check out all these mountains and rocks that create natural echoes. I think this is the reason why Lee Perry moved here! We need to take him up to the mountains and install a sound system in front of one of these huge natural echo-chambers and let him play!
Have you had a chance to meet him?
I played on the same stage at a festival in France, so we were introduced and talked briefly. And of course I was excited! I mean he’s the greatest legend of this musical universe!
You should play him your tunes from across the valley..
Oh! hahaha! With as much bass as possible! I wonder what he would think of these tracks..
I wonder why his last studio also went up in flames?
I don’t know much about this, but it’s a real tragedy!! I heard he stopped smoking years ago, so what else could have happened? Was it the red peak level lights exploding and starting the fire?
You mentioned that the Dubbing part of the tracks was quite a pornographic exercise as far as studio equipment and technique is concerned – can you share some of this nerd lore with us? I’m sure there will be some studio nerds reading this.
Haha. I can’t remember mentioning that it was pornographic, but there were a few sexy additions to the production this time. First of all I decided to go to a friends studio and put the tracks on an analogue desk. We performed and reconstructed the tracks live in four full working day sessions: just four hands at the desk! We set up a bunch of effects and we even re-amped hi-hats and snare drums through the toilet, which is something that I haven’t done a long time. The whole album got more space and more body. I mean you can work on a Mix in your DAW for hours or days and still can’t nail it, and then you move to analog equipment and suddenly everything comes together naturally. Everything becomes warm and it all finally makes sense!
I work on Ableton Live. I’ve been a user from day one, from back in 2002. Cris’ desk is a Soundworkshop Series 40, from 1981, made in USA. Actually there are only 14 channels that still work, the rest of the strips are just spare parts. I had my three Roland RE 201 space echoes with me because each one sounds very different; and one was actually even killed during the session.
We also used a Vermona spring reverb and a Line 6 effect rack. In my studio i worked with a Sansui spring reverb, a 70ies hi-fi reverberation amplifier, which btw. also looks great. I also used this Boss Reverb Box RX-100 sometimes, it sounds a little muffled and gives this extra early 80ies feel. Then there were the Electroharmonix boxes like the Voice Box, Memory Man Deluxe etc. As far as instruments are concerned I used a Juno 60, SH101, a JX-8P, a Farfisa compact mini, some callimbas, goat bells etc.
And the writing, what was the process like? From what I can figure out the sound is a healthy mixture of proper analog recording and electronics. And I love the freaky percussion btw..
It’s about reducing and reintroducing space into the music. My sound falls somewhere between electronic and acoustic, with analog instruments and soft-synths combined with field recordings and recordings harvested from Youtube videos. I think that generally sounds need an inner life of their own to attract me. With acoustic instruments you got this physical appearance and the process of recording with microphones, but when you use soft synths I need to first drag them through my junkyard and enrich them with some natural radiation! And by freaky percussion do you mean the one on „On The Plant“? For this I recorded a tambourine, some cans and cymbals from a 20 euro kids drum set and looped it, pitched it, and in the end edited it down.
Will you play this material out live?
I will and definitely looking forward to it! I still have to figure out how much I’ll be playing live as far as the melodies are concerned and how much I’ll be dubbing, mixing etc. And, of course, I’ll need a hot, freaky outfit soon!!
What’s next for the Dubokaj?
Exactly this: preparing the outfit and the live set.