THE NEXTMEN VS GENTLEMAN’S DUB CLUB
Unpicking the production behind reggae-styled single Rudeboy
Fusing the hip-hop-based production sensibilities of veteran DJ/producer duo The Nextmen with the reggae stylings of the more overtly ‘live’ Gentleman’s Dub Club, the infectious, rap-infused, horn-drenched Rudeboy was one of this summer’s standout tracks, and the perfect taster for the impromptu collective’s equally brilliant collaboration album, Pound For Pound.
We caught up with The Nextmen’s Dom Search and Brad Baloo, and GDC’s Toby Davies, at one of their London studios, to talk about the project and how it came together – and, of course, get a behind-the-scenes insight into the making of the track Rudeboy itself.
: How did the clearly very successful partnership between The Nextmen and GDC first come together?
Dom Search: “The Nextmen was a group me and Brad formed a long, long time ago. Back then, we were heavily influenced by New York hip-hop, mainly: Pete Rock, Premier, stuff like that, so our beats were very much in that vein. And over the years, the sound has changed; we’ve brought in all sorts of different genres,
“It’s a perfect fit: kind of traditional reggae with a slightly modern sound and a real London twist”
really. The hip-hop thing is very distinct in our production, and the reggae thing is very distinct, which, going to the end of the arc, is why we ended up working with GDC. It’s a perfect fit: kind of traditional reggae with a slightly modern sound and a real London twist.”
: With so many people involved, getting an entire album written and produced must have been a complicated process?
DS: “Brad and Toby did a lot of the production and getting the beginnings of the tracks together; then me and Kiko [Bun, one of the vocalists on Rudeboy] doing a lot of the writing, BVs, verses and stuff; then me doing additional production on about half the tracks. With
Rudeboy, for example, Brad sent me the beginnings of it, and it sounded very similar but it didn’t have the hotter high frequencies that are in it now. He sent me the early version, which had fingered bass – lovely! – but I swapped it out for 808s. Immediately, I thought, we want this to be a really clear, transparent bass in the club, and it worked. So I literally switched out and replayed the bass with a ‘newer’ sound.”
Toby Davies: “We did loads of it over email, Dropbox and WeTransfer. Getting the stuff from Joe Dukie [of Fat Freddy’s Drop, also singing on the album] was, like… he’s in New Zealand! He had a hard drive problem for a bit, and that was kind of scary. There was a point where we thought it wouldn’t happen, but he got it fixed.”
DS: “There was a pivotal moment in the production and writing cycle of this record where we all went down the pub – the Faltering Fullback in Finsbury Park. We went back to our manager Harry’s place in Wood Green, and got all the beats we had on our phones out. Someone would play a beat that no one had heard before, and Johnny and Kiko would just start freestyling over it. We recorded everything that was done in the kitchen onto our phones while we were having a few beers. So many of the ideas came from that – so many of the hooks, a couple of lyrical ideas…”
TD: “We recorded everything, and then the next day – when we weren’t drunk! – we listened to it, and there were some cool bits in there.”
DS: “People should do that more. I’m tempted to have a weekend session where you just get six or seven people in here, a couple of producers, and do a weekend of staying up all night and seeing what happens. I reckon if you do that with any group of talented people, you end up with an awful lot of ammunition.”
: Did the album end up sounding more like The Nextmen, GDC or a cross ?
DS: “The sound of the record is really singular. And for an act like The Nextmen, that was quite liberating, as we’re all over the place with our mixes and quite a lot of our production. The tempos are different, some things have got more of an acoustic element… it being a reggae record was really liberating.”
TD:“We’re all doing so many different projects that we had to do it like this, but that also helped us to keep the sound in a sort of ‘box’ of its own. The limitations of the circumstances we were in were a really positive thing. That’s often the same when it comes to any production: limitations can make you much more resourceful with your ideas. It was just really fun doing the whole thing!”