The earth is quaking, hurricanes are blowing, but forget nature; let’s talk Dub Is A Weapon.
The Brooklyn-based group has been making good vibrations for some time, forming in 2000 and picking up members all over the place. Dave Hahn, Dub’s founder, met guitarist Ben Rogerson in a high school jazz band. Dan Jeselsohn, the bass player, was another old pal. Drummer Madhu Siddappa first met Hahn at a Lauryn Hill studio session. The group’s saxophonist, Maria Eisen, got recruited straight out of college, having attended music programs at Indiana University and SUNY Purchase. Last they needed a percussionist of the finest pedigree—they found Larry McDonald. McDonald’s recorded for Bob Marley, and backed names like Taj Mahal, Gil Scott-Heron and Bad Brains. Once assembled, Hahn convinced the band to do something that hadn’t been ever attempted and was thought to be impossible: play dub live on stage with studio quality.
Achieving this would be no small feat. Traditional dub is the product of the studio and its workbench of gadgets and gizmos. Hahn and co. would not crack the code for years, taking time since 2004 to meticulously experiment offstage, as well as on it. In 2007 the band backed for none other than the architect of dub, the legendary Lee Scratch Perry—no doubt new tricks were learned and old ones perfected under his tutelage.
The result of years of hard work evokes more of the energy of dancehall than the chill vibe of the beach. Mind you, the hypnotizing cacophony that is dub remains intact. The seven-minute guitar riffs, echoes of tenor sax and thick-cut bass are all there, along with the percussion, keys, and layers of effects at the heart of dub. What Dub Is A Weapon has done is essentially create a new dub dialect from the core language. “The dubs we’re going to make are going to be a little more aggressive and in your face and not something to just chill out to,” says Hahn. “The idea was that you would dance to the music.”
Dub Is A Weapon’s last album, Vaporize, was released in April and achieves the balance between its live aesthetic and the traditional high quality of studio-cooked dubs. “It was essentially recorded like an old school jazz record,” says Hahn, “the whole band playing together and being dubbed-out like we’re at a nightclub. After two or three takes of each tune, we could usually settle on a performance that really represented our vision.” The recording was done with the help of Jason Randall (the sound engineer for John Brown’s Body) at his studio, More Sound, upstate in Syracuse, New York. As for future plans, according to Hahn the band is already “deeply involved” in music for a new album, and this fall the crew will tour the east coast.
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