Interview: Gentleman’s Dub Club
Fans of the short-lived ska and reggae scene of the ‘80s rejoice: Leeds-based ragamuffins the Gentleman’s Dub Club offer up Specials-style grooves, brass and bongos to sate your appetite and are bringing their high-octane show to the Steel City this month. Their genre-bending outputs have been making the rounds for years now on Soundcloud and YouTube with a loyal fan base in tow. Following the resounding success of recent singles ‘Bad Girl’ and ‘See Them’, taken from their album The Big Smoke, expect frenzied mosh pits and oddly dapper attire from their live shows. The nine-piece specialise in dub and reggae and are set to bring the genre to the masses after their brilliant stint across the European festival circuit got the attention of club organisers and roots music kingpin Natty, whom they collaborated with on November’s ‘One Night Only’. Lead singer Jonathan Scratchley gives Erin Doyle the lowdown on the band’s upcoming O2 Academy slot.
How does the creative process work with so many members? There must be a lot of egos to juggle.
It’s a pretty well-oiled machine, actually. Everyone chips in and does their bit. It gives us complete control over the music that way and makes it more enjoyable. There’s about three or four main writers but anyone can bring ideas to the table. We spend about a week throwing ideas out to develop the structure and the song-writing.
How did you get into dub and reggae music and the soundsystem culture in general?
A few of my mates had a massive house at Hyde Park in Leeds. Harry [Devenish], who is now our sound engineer, set up a huge sound system when we had parties there. It started with just a few selections of dub music and then grew and grew. It was the first time most of us had experienced killer dubs. Subdub, a dub and reggae club night in Leeds, really introduced us to the music too. It just went naturally from there; we’re always trying to recreate those first house parties. Half of us were at music college doing jazz, the others doing various courses around Leeds and from there we got together. We got a booking at Leeds Uni, which set things off, and then after that did lots of rehearsals and gigging.
Do you find there is much of a thirst for it in Sheffield?
Sheffield is mainly an indie kind of scene, but we always make sure to go to Tuesday Club when we are here – they put on great programmes. It’s a student night and it’s just great that there’s an affordable bass-driven night being held there regularly.
The scene seems to still be pretty underground. Are you happy for it to stay like that or do you want to bring it into the mainstream?
Of course we want to make it mainstream, yeah. We want as many people to be a part of it as possible. In the last couple of years UK reggae and dub has grown and has become a really varied sound. There’s more growth towards being technically good. People are tired of being drip-fed shit. If you look at pop music, even, that’s growing more technically intricate. A lot of underground acts are now coming into the mainstream as people get more aware. The UK has a strong dub scene now – it’s evolved from its beginnings in Jamaica, but since mass immigration into Britain the UK has started to develop its own sound. It’s the same with all bass music. Rudimental are a good example of that. They were once really underground but have managed to bring drum’n’bass into the foreground too.
You’ve performed at loads of European festivals like Outlook and Ostroda Reggae Festival. Is the atmosphere different on a festival circuit? Do you prep for them differently?
They are pretty much the same. If we have a shorter time slot we just play all the bangers, but if it’s a longer show we get a bit more varied. We are resuming our Big Smoke Tour, and every time we go out we deliver bangers. We tend to play a few new songs, just to road test them with the crowd. It’s good for the audience to hear new stuff and for us as well as the live show is evolving constantly, but it always keeps the same vibe.
You said a few members of the band did jazz at Music College and a few others are into metal music. Does this influence your sound? Are there any similarities between the genres?
I think there are definitely parallels between bassline and metal in terms of the bass and drop. The audience knows the structure when they’re watching, they know just when it’s gonna drop. Also there is a lot of low-end frequency involved. Music is a big part of the scene obviously, but it’s about lifestyle too. There are many strands and elements to it, which I’d say is similar to metal music.
What can we expect from the March gig? Your shows are pretty renowned for getting rowdy.
Big, BIG, stinking basslines. We’ve really improved our vocal harmonies and song-writing as well. It’s probably not what you would usually associate with dub music, but it’s really come along recently. And new tunes!
Gentleman’s Dub Club are playing O2 Academy Sheffield on Friday March 11th. Head to www.academymusicgroup.com for tickets and more info.