Dub Trio: “Control Issues Controlling Your Mind”
Since the release of their last studio album, Another Sound is Dying, the boys of Brooklyn-based dub-metal band Dub Trio have been busy touring extensively as well as working as the backing band for acts such as Matisyahu. But in that time, they’ve managed to get back in the studio to continue crafting their own distinct songs.
IV, the band’s latest release, is possibly their heaviest and most experimental album yet. It waxes and wanes between raw, thrashing metal and chilled-out ambience, highlighting the band’s versatility. And though the sound is far from reggae, it never fully departs from the dub genre. Listeners of IV should expect to hear “dub,” rather, as a concept: compositions are mangled and manipulated to explore different ideas and emotions.
Bassist Stu Brooks and drummer Joe Tomino took time out of their touring schedule to speak with ALARM about their latest album and about the evolution of their sound.
You’ve mentioned that much of the songwriting for this album was done on the road. What was that process like?
Joe Tomino: The first batch of songs for IV were written in Chavagne, France at the start of one of our previous European tours. We had a few days off before we started the tour, so we set up our equipment in a house and played all day. The next batch of songs was written several months later in Brooklyn. We rented a rehearsal space in for a few weeks and worked on more material. Finally, the last couple of songs were written in the studio. [We] actually wrote, recorded, and mixed in the same day. It was an interesting approach of having this discipline of going in to the studio with an idea and needing to come out with two completely finished songs within one day.
Though Another Sound is Dying took a noticeably heavier direction, IV is even more packed with riffs. Has the band’s hefty tour itinerary led to songs that have more live energy?
JT: As with all our tours, the songs we play from night to night are always evolving. There is enough inherent improvisation in our music that we can subtly change things from night to night or tour to tour. We always try to give the audience as much of a visceral experience as possible from stage. Since there are no lyrics or front-man talking between songs, we rely on energy to propel the performance. A Dub Trio show is like an emotional rollercoaster of sound.
There are fewer full-on dub moments on IV, but you added a few tracks that are completely different, including a “Dub Trio take” on dubstep, a minimalist percussion piece, and a nine-minute tune that starts with toy piano and goes ambient at the end. What else do you want to try that you haven’t yet?
JT: Not sure. We’ve covered a lot of ground, musically, between our four studio albums. These days we’re really enjoying playing a good, old-fashioned blues jam at sound check every chance we get. The other day we played a twelve-bar blues [piece] with some sub-bass keyboards, distorted and effected guitars, and some dubstep-sounding drum samples. We try not to set any limits on where the music will take us when we are composing new songs.
At what point do you begin working with dub effects? Has that changed as the band has evolved?
Stu Brooks: We’ve always been into using effects/electronics and interested in studio gear, but it wasn’t until after being a rhythm section for a couple years that we really incorporated the dub-style effects into our instrumentation. At that point, we really started developing a sound and not necessarily applying the dub effects to only reggae but other music we were also interested in playing. In the beginning, it was more electronic/ambient/dub that we applied these effects to, but at some point, we realized “no genre restrictions” while maintaining the same dub technique.
We don’t apply the dubs until the live setting or once we’re in the studio. Conceptually, there may be an intention as for how we dub a particular section.
This is your first album in a while that hasn’t featured Mike Patton on a track. Do you envision using any other guest vocalists in the future?
SB: We are always interested in collaborating with different vocalists, whether it be in the studio or on stage. As for our own records, it is not a priority. But working on other people’s records is always a fun and challenging experience, and we love to do it.
Your beginnings as a group were more improvised, and you continue to experiment with songs or portions of songs in the live setting. How frequently do you go “off the cuff” on stage, and how does your group chemistry affect that?
SB: Most of the songs have sections that we leave as an open pallet for improvisation with dubbing and instrumental variations. There are unspoken limits to this that we adhere to, but not as a rule. I think, as a group, we’ve always just let ourselves have total musical freedom, but we do have a dialect inherent in Dub Trio’s music that we speak. This evolves like any language.
Has it gotten any harder (or easier) to make time for Dub Trio with all of your outside studio and tour commitments?
SB: We’ve been working a lot with Matisyahu for the past few years. We really enjoy backing him up. He really encourages us to inject our sound into the songs that he’s been playing for years and sometimes completely revamp them altogether. While backing him up, we are featured as Dub Trio, and to us, doing that gig is just one part of what Dub Trio does as an entity. So I guess I am trying to say that we are always Dub Trio all day. [With] that being said, we’ve been doing less of our own headlining tours. It seems that all we do is Dub Trio these days.
What are you inspired by at the moment — musically or otherwise?
JT: Death Grips, Oval, Max Richter.
What are your plans for the future of Dub Trio?
SB: We plan to keep it real. Twenty more records.