Concert Review & Interview: Dub FX in Hamburg, Germany @ Docks 10/24/2016
10/25/2016 by Gardy Stein
"I aim to come and just give you my sound and my spirit on stage, that's all I'm here to do."
Those of you who have watched the video diaries of Dub FX on Tour (#1: Poland; #2: Praha, Wien, Budapest, Bratislava; #3: Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Brussels) know how these guys roll. Those of you who have listened to the most recent (or an earlier) album of Dub FX know how these guys sound. Those of you who have seen Dub FX perform live know how formative this experience is, and that's the spirit these words are written in. First of all, note that his shows are a joint effort, a fact that Benjamin Stanford aka Dub FX himself stresses several times. Niccolò Sangiorgi, the light magician, creates dreamy luminous spheres or lucid visual beats that continue to sizzle on my retina even now. Maybe the most important job falls to Matteo Braschi, sound engineer of the troupe. He makes sure that the powerful soundscapes born on stage are solid enough to allow the audience to float on for the nearly two-hour journey. Daniele Ferrazzano is not only the indispensable tour manager, but also kicks off the evening as Draft DJ with a half-hour set during which the bass boxes are thoroughly tested. Andrew Vollmer aka Andy V succeeds him on the decks, playing a Latin-touched selection that gets into the legs, live mixed and accompanied on his Saxophone.
Thus the first hour passes, and after due applause, darkness falls. Only the blinking green and orange LEDs on the control panels are visible now, but the wait isn't long. With an explosion of light, Dub FX takes his place on the platform on stage, joined by Andy V to his left and bassie Evan Tweedie to his right. "Hamburg, was geht ab?" the performer inquires and breaks into Birds And The Bees, opening track of his current album Thinking Clear. Two more songs from this release follow, then Andy and Evan leave and Dub FX asks: "What about some old school stuff?" to a wildly cheering response from the crowd. For the next few tracks it's only him, atmospheric orange illumination and the expertly operated loop station – enough to put everyone present under his spell! Introduced as "special guest, best friend and manager", CAde Emcee throws some Rap flows at us before the mood shifts again and Dub FX starts to intone Fake Paradise. My favourite part of the evening starts right now, right here – this song is touching me deeply with its laid-back groove and pensive lyrics. Add to this the amazing lights… looking around, I realize I'm not the only one getting lost. Versatility is another trade mark of the artist, however, and so the pace is stepped up in classics like Bass Haters or The Sky, the latter frenetically celebrated by the audience, which seems to consist of 80% Drum'n'Bass-lovers. Imagine 1.400 people jump in unison! Dub FX brings CAde back once more, and together they skilfully play this game called toasting.
What comes next is an exceptional homage, something the likes of Drake and Bieber should take to heart. Says the artist: "I want to pay my respects to Reggae music, to Jamaican music, because without it, I wouldn't be here tonight. Respect to Jamaica! If it wasn't for our African ancestors, for the drum beats they developed, we wouldn't have EDM or Techno to dance to today, so respect to Africa, too!" He continues to talk about how easy it is to get into negativity, but that we all have to make an effort to spread positivity because its impact on us is so much bigger. And that our consciousness exists in different dimensions and that we can and should connect to all of these, even to our ancestors. To make the connection between everyone present, he then asks us to get down low, lower, and JUMP when the beat culminates once more. Epicness!
Of course, there is no way the crowd lets him go after this, and he returns for two encores before the fans get the chance to meet him and the rest of the gang at the merchandise stand. Reggaeville was able to touch base with the artist during sound check and posed some questions to round off this unforgettable Dub FX experience:
What was the most impressive show you did on this tour, so far?
Sometimes it's not just the biggest ones that are impressive, sometimes it's the smaller ones that touch me the most. We did a few shows in Poland that were great, and then we did Budapest, Praha, Vienna, and Bratislava, those were really great shows, and then we went straight to Germany. Look, every show has been amazing, we've been selling out pretty much every venue!
What do you like most about being on tour?
Well, I've been touring for ten years now, travelling around, and, you know, it's kind of like my job now. When I was younger and it was new and fresh, there were a lot of things I loved about it. Now… you know, my wife is pregnant back home, so all I can actually think about is wanting to be home with her. But the thing is, when we perform, when I get out on stage, that's like the one moment I really really enjoy myself. Everything else… travelling, setting up, carrying heavy equipment, that's what we get paid for. The show is just the fun part, so I guess that's my favourite part, performing.
How is it different now from when you started out on the street, is there something you miss from back then?
Before I was Dub FX, I was straight performing. I used to do a lot of club shows back in the days, it's just that the bands I used to play with were not so popular. Then I started street performing and I started to build my own audience. The difference with street performing is that it's not a controlled environment where people come to see your show. People are walking around, doing their own thing, so you don't try to create a show on the street. The magic can be ruined by the police in any second. So, my plan was to try to make lots of noise in the most busy part of the busiest cities, make a fat beat, catch people and try to sell my CD. That was how I survived. I would spend ten, fifteen minutes trying to make people's mind explode with what I was doing and then stop and let everyone disappear and then start again. It was all about selling CDs, I sold like a hundred CDs in a few hours! When it's in a club, my focus isn't selling my CD, my focus is making people dance and making them feel connected, making people feel the energy, that's a different thing altogether. I get a buzz out of all kind of different things. I do miss street performing, but not because of performing in the street, it was just a different lifestyle. I was living in my Van, travelling around at my own pace. I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to do. Now we log in a bunch of dates and we have to do these dates. But again, I am very grateful that I can sell 1500 tickets and perform in these beautiful venues with huge soundsystems to a big crowd of people, it's great!
And did you need some getting used to, to play with a band?
I used to be in a band with the guys I'm performing with now! We used to do lots of different projects before I was Dub FX. I was in a Heavy Metal band, I was in a Reggae band, in a Jazz band, I was in a HipHop band, I was doing acoustic covers in pubs, I was singing with DJs in clubs, so I did a lot of different things, that's why on my albums I always recorded musicians as well. Like Evan, he's been on the last two albums I recorded. Andy as well. I just could never afford to bring them, that's why I didn't bring them, but now I can! It's great to have them here with me.
Talking about your album, Thinking Clear… it's a deep title!
I was going to call the album Birds And The Bees, because in a way my idea was that we are the birds and the bees, you know. We have this thing to think that we as humans are above nature, because we have the technology and all that, but really at the end of the day we are just a part of it, we are just the birds and the bees. So that was the concept. But everyone in the band was like 'No, that's a shit name!' and I was like 'No, it's good!' (laughs), but they convinced me because too many people understand this connotation of sex, you know. So I thought what should I call it? And then Thinking Clear came to me. It's actually the name of the secret song on the album. When you have a secret song, you can't write the name down on the track list, you know... But at the same time it represents where I am at in my life. On paper, this should have been the worst year of my life. I broke up with my ex-girlfriend and she took 80% of what I had, even though we don't have kids and we were not married. I had a house mate that turned out to be a psycho, I had my studio broken into and €80.000 worth of equipment got stolen… But I met the love of my life! And I'm having a baby with her, and that is the most amazing thing ever happening to me. And through meeting her, having this boost of confidence and love, I was able to write and record Thinking Clear, we did it in like three months. And now I'm playing to these sold-out venues, so… so many negative things have happened that should have knocked me down, but it hasn't. It's actually, in fact, my favourite year I ever had. I'm really happy, I'm writing new music and I have this woman on my side who is like a goddess…
That's great to hear. Another thing, would you consider yourself being a part of the Reggae movement, or the Reggae Revival movement?
It's interesting you ask me this, because I will talk about it a bit in my show. I think it's really important to understand what inspires you and where you draw your inspiration from. You know, I don't consider myself a Reggae artist, even though I was brought up on Reggae. I am not from Jamaica or the Caribbean, it's not my culture. But the culture definitely helped me to understand a lot of things, about the music, about myself, about spirituality even. I would never call myself a Rasta man, I would never even try to become a Rasta man, I would never try to talk in Patois because it's not somewhere I come from. So, I love the concept of Reggae music and I love the culture, I love the idea so much that it has definitely a place in my music. But I don't think it's right to appropriate culture willy-nillyngly. If you have a good reason to it, it's fine, if it makes sense to you, fine. I used to do it a little bit, before I kind of understood more about it, I used to kind of put on the accent sometimes, because it sounded good. And it does sound great, but it's not who I am. So now I just try to take the inflections and the melodies and the phrasing, and I try to put my own spin on it, try to make it me. I don't consider myself Australian, I don't even consider myself Italian, even though I'm half Australian, half Italian. I'm… my sound comes from the street, from my travels, from the festivals, from everything, from the planet that we all are on. My stance is that I absolutely love Reggae music and I will always try to include that music, but I never try to set myself up as being a representative of Reggae. I'm just a musician, and that's what I love.
Are there any Reggae artists you would like to collaborate with?
There are heaps of artists I would like to collaborate with, in fact I have already collaborated with a few of my heroes! There are plenty more… I don't really want to say who they are because I don't wanna jinx it. The thing with me is, I am more interested in collaborating with producers, more than anything else, like I love… singers are great, but collaborating with producers is more my thing, electronic producers in the Drum'n'Bass world and the Dub Reggae world. Peter Fox for example, he is an amazing German producer I'd be interested to see what I could come up with him.
It sounds like there already are plans for future projects…
Yes! My partner is an incredible poet, and a great singer as well. One of the reasons I fell in love with her is because of her poetry, it's beautiful, so I wanna write a few songs with her. It might not go anywhere, but who knows. Also, she is a very strong woman, she has travelled the world and done so many things… she has raised money for this charity called Sisters For Sisters, they help these girls who were practically born into prostitution in India. Basically, this program takes them to Nepal and treats them with Yoga and meditation to get rid of their trauma, and it teaches them skills to get back into society. I also gonna record a new album soon, I'm always writing new songs. And one of my real dreams is to write a comic book because I love comics. It's quite deep and really intense, it's just that I love graphic novels, like Allan Moore, he is an amazing author. Comics go deeper than what a book can do, in my opinion, because they don't just get extremely beautiful writing, but there is also beautiful art to go with it, so for me it's just the next step. I love the idea of marrying arts and words together!
Thank you so much. And all the best for your projects and your family!