(Scroll to the bottom for the Q&A)
You can tell a lot about a band from the atmosphere they create leading up to their set. Below Audio, on Brighton’s seafront, the atmosphere was a smoky mix of bright lights and deep bass – the grey haze floating above the dancers constantly coloured by the laser beams and PAR cans dotted around the ceiling. As I stepped into the room, with every liquid molecule vibrating in time to the dub, there was no escaping the unmistakable smell of dancers and emotion, carried by the incessant pulse of the electronic beats and deep bass that thumped through the room.
From my position at the back of the crowd, I could faintly see shapes moving onstage through the smoke and lights. In the moments while they set up, Gentleman’s Dub Club revealed, for a few precious minutes, the ardent concentration and serious dedication that their music requires. All around them, the DJ and the dancing went on, seemingly oblivious to the coalescing musicians onstage. Then, emerging from the mists, a live band began to play.
Not that the casual listener would definitely notice. The bass kept thumping and euphoric synth pads filled the intervening space. The horns produced melodic hooks but all the while the sights and sounds of digital culture and dubstep continued to integrate themselves into the night’s sound. Without disturbing that status quo, Gentleman’s Dub Club had subtlety underpinned it with everything they know live music should be.
They have the cockney swagger and bounce of Madness or The Specials, but coupled with the edgy immediacy of the harsh digital sounds of now. Comparisons to acts like the Dub Pistols are valid but incomplete descriptions of what Gentleman’s Dub Club are able to do. Encompassing all the inebriated abandon of a gig, mixed competently with the jams of a DJ. Rock steady through to dubstep and every intervening style are catered for, mixed together to create a set that might not appeal to traditionalists or purists, but should whet the appetite of anyone who shares the band’s love of this music and the blend of styles.
Live bands can’t be mass produced. Their recordings can. Whilst records will always sound the same, live performances will morph and change, co-opting emotions from the musicians that play it, using their minds and experiences to create a unique performance at every gig. Their skill is in retaining what works from traditional bands, using their technique to drop in the kind of flourishes that only a live musician would play, giving a jazzy feel of collective improvisation and organised chaos. All of this goes completely unnoticed in the moment, subconsciously enriching the live experience and ensuring that the dancers feel no reason to stop. There are subtleties there to listen for, but forgetting it all and losing yourself in the beats, pulses and submitting to a feeling of intoxicating glee is the only way to do their performance justice.
All of this sets the scene for a live band to do what live bands have traditionally done for centuries: take control of the dance, entertain the crowd and demonstrate amazing collective musicianship. The evening’s entertainers served up an addictive blend of two-tone and ska, as perceived by minds entrenched in digital culture. They don’t seem set on challenging or subverting the role DJs have in today’s clubs, but they are in a perfect position to enhance it. The feeling of live popular music, re-envisioned for the electric age and the emphasis on dancing, entertainment and general hedonistic abandon put live bands firmly back in their place as the catalytic nuclei at the heart of a great night out.
Whilst certainly not the first to combine digital culture with the live band experience, Gentleman’s Dub Club must surely be the most easily recommended. Combining the two worlds with as much panache, performance and personality as they do requires a confidence in their own musical ability and a mastery of two worlds that share very few nuances.
How did Gentleman’s Dub Club first come together?
A mutual love of Dub music gained from all meeting at Subdub in Leeds, our spiritual home!
How do you pass time on the road?
Bad jokes, laptop play, the ability to talk absolute rubbish for hour upon hour!
Any favourite moments from the recording of Open Your Eyes?
Gosh it was such a long time ago now but we recorded the Drums and parts of the rhythm section down in Brighton with Dub reggae lothario mike Pellanconi aka Prince Fatty. Brilliant feelings from that place but not a huge amount of memories!
Any highlights from the tour so far?
The shows have been absolutely amazing, almost all shows are sold out in advance and it’s an incredible feeling being back on the road.
and finally… What are your plans once the tour is over?
Sleep, smoke and eat Turkey.