Track by track with Jason O’Bryan and Barry Ashworth
“For the vocals we had a DigiTech Studio Quad FX unit, which was like a two in, two out FX out. We used it mainly for the chorus preset that gave it stereo – you can hear it in Running From The
Thoughts and Open. All the vocals were compressed using a dbx 166XL. We had an AKG C214 condenser and a Shure SM85 cardioid condenser and a valve Rode mic, but it had too much low end for Terry’s voice so we stuck with the AKG for him, which was a budget mic.”
Speed of Light
Jason: “It was a simple bassline and a simple beat, based around a string sample. I used a Wal bass guitar, really filtered down to just a sub using the sampler’s low-pass filter. Then we had samples from NASA layered on top.” Barry: “Blade is on this. He’s an outstanding British rap artist. I think this was one of the last tracks he ever recorded. I think the industry had done his head in badly. You just can’t believe your luck sometimes, when you manage to get to work with someone who you have so much respect for. Blade was like that – he delivered his verses completely on-point.”
Jason: “We were looking for tracks to cover, and this kept popping up. We wanted to re-do it, and thought it would just be great for Rodney P, who raps on here. He’s got that cockney thing going.
“We just went about meticulously rebuilding the backing track. The original sounded so great, we wanted to get that without sampling. It took a while to completely replay everything.
“We had a Hammond XP2, and a guy called Will Hensel came in and played the solos. I think we were using Serato for our DJ, Stix, to scratch them back in again.” Barry: “We were doing other sessions with Terry Hall from The Specials at my studio, so we convinced him to sing the choruses as well.”
Speakers And Tweeters
Jason: “I was using a Boss pitch-shifter delay box called the RPS-10 a lot on the album. It was a digital half rack unit. It was one of the first bits of kit I ever bought back in the 1980s after I saw the Butthole Surfers use it on stage.
“We used it on a few tracks like Speakers and Tweeters for the choruses. It sounds like you have a really low voice and a high one, but it’s all the same person. It gave it that early electro vibe that bands like Newcleus used to have. We liked to do little tributes to that era.”
Running From The Thoughts
Barry: “This features the legendary Terry Hall from The Specials. He was my absolute God and amazing to work with. I first got to write with him on
Problem Is on the album before, which led to us to doing a string of shows with him.”
Jason: “This track came about from the bassline. It was trying to be a bit
Dub Be Good To Me, or something. It felt a bit obvious. We added some reggae sounds like stabs and some melodica stuff, but it wasn’t until Tim Hutton came in and put the horns down that it all came together.”
Jason: “This came about after we’d been asked with Terry Hall to go play an event in Glasgow, where artists were invited up to do cover versions of things that inspired them.”
Barry: “It was sponsored by Rizzla. It came out great and was in our live shows after this for a while, but it was never meant to be an actual recording. It just worked so well. Terry’s voice suited it so well, in a totally opposite way to how Blondie’s would. That melancholic, sultry thing that he does was great for it. It ended up fitting in the album really well.”
Jason: “The original version was a bit more like a live band. For the album we made it a bit more electronic, adding electronic drums and stuff.”
Barry: “This has a big electro influence. That’s the thing about Dub Pistols, and myself being a DJ: we’ve always been eclectic. As every poet is a thief, you pick up influences from everything you listen to. Back then, more so, we liked to fly off in different tangents all the time.”
Jason: “This started off life as a small section of a Smirnoff advert that we’d been commissioned to do. They wanted us to do the music like it was quickly going through five genres. There was a breakdancing part that we liked. We took that out, developed it and built a track around it.”
Jason: “This was influenced by Chic and a bit of Ian Dury. It was on that Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick type of stuff. Barry loved all that.
“The track started with a sample, then we replayed the whole thing. Will Hensal played keys on that, again. I think I used a Warwick bass guitar on this. I actually got it from John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin. It was a weird old custom bass that was good for funk stuff. We used an Electrix Filter Factory rack unit to filter. You can hear it in the track. It was very much the fashion at the time.”
You’ll Never Find
Jason: “We were searching for bassline samples and this one jumped out. We’d be playing music, sitting around, and it just came on and inspired us. We had a huge reggae library. I’d spent about three grand on reggae CDs and Barry had a massive collection, so we had stuff shuffling on the iPod and ideas would come from that.”
Barry: “Rodney P and T. K. Lawrence are on this. Rodney’s vocals are taken from another song called Six Months that ended up being something we did with Gregory Isaacs on the following album, Rum & Coke.”
Jason: “This was a full replaying of The Specials’ original track – much the same way as we did for Peaches, really. We also had Terry [Hall] singing on it, which validated the whole thing.”
“This would have again featured the Hammond XP2 organ. The synthy bass would have been from the Juno-106. Barry was from dance music so everything we did had to have a dance sort of sound, and this track would have had a [Roland] 909 kick.”
Barry: “That was a trick we used on the album before for the Terry Hall track Problem Is – A Ska backing, but with a 909 kick over it.”
Something To Trust
“This was the first song we’d ever done with Rodney. I met him at Snowbombing and gelled. We’d wanted to work with him for a while, so we hooked up.”
Jason: “This track was done using a Dr Dre-style ominous piano from the Proteus rack. The strings are Juno-106. They get louder towards the end of the song. That’s a chorusing Juno sound. The influence for that comes from the A Clockwork Orange soundtrack.
“There’s some Tubular Bells sounds too. They came from my Roland JV-1080 rack sound module thing. Most hip-hop in those days had those bell sounds all over it, so we got a bit of that going.”
Jason: “This is the only track that isn’t a sample, to be honest. I think the piano came from the JV-1080. We were just trying to do something that was reggae, without being reggae. There’s a mixture between reggae and hip-hop. It ended up sounding a bit French, I thought [laughs].” Barry: “It was all influenced by Bugsy Malone, believe it or not. I used to play the soundtrack at the end of my sets sometimes as a bit of fun. The comedy side of the Dub Pistols was stronger in those days.” Jason: “It’s basically a tongue-in-cheek track with T.K. rapping.”
Barry: “Based around a sample, again. A lot of our songs from that period were. It had a guy called Ronnie doing the choruses. He was in the Breakin’ Even crew down in Reading.” Jason: “It started as a reggae loop, but it had a hip-hop edge to it. That’s what we were always looking for. Then lots of sound FX, vocals, harmonica.
“It has a Moby influence as well. The drums were inspired by Massive Attack’s Teardrop. That kind of rim-shot-on-the-snare beat. There’s some crickets chirping, which I recorded in Barbados while doing production parts on the album.”
Gave You Time
Barry: “This was a great one to end on. It showed a different side of us. We always wanted to be eclectic. Being a DJ meant I had a massive record collection to draw on, as well as getting all the new music sent through as promos.
“There were records everywhere to get influences from. I found it hard to walk through the house because there were records everywhere [laughs].
“I’d pick up ideas from everywhere, be it a bassline from here, or a horn line from there. Anything could inspire the start of a track.”
“We blacked out the windows, put crime scene tape everywhere, and slept under the desk”
The Dub Pistols recently dropped their seventh studio album, Crazy Diamonds, on Sunday Best. As you’d hope, it’s a super-skanking affair studded with stellar guest stars including reggae legends Cutty Ranks and Beanie Man, rave pioneers Ragga Twins, and young upstart Brit rappers Too Many Tees. The Pistols are on the road, bringing their raucous live show to a club or festival near you. Jason O’Bryan, however, left the band in 2010. He now works at Abbey Road, so he’s not doing bad, either.