Perry takes the stage at this year’s Dub Champion Festival alongside the Brooklyn-based Subatomic Sound System. The Night Nurse caught up with Subatomic’s top selector papa Emch, the man behind the whole festival, for a dubwise Q&A. Video and photos after the jump.
Video and photographs by the one & only @Liz_Barclay
Night Nurse: How did you put all this together? how much lead time did you have?
Emch: In terms of the 2011 Festival, I collaborated with some new partners to put on the Dub Invasion Festival. Nothing had really been done like this in the U.S. and the goal was to establish the premier dub festival in the States as a means of getting international dub artists here. But for me the big move here was that we added an educational component .Because I started to see that the dubstep movement in the U.S. was losing it’s connection to the reggae roots of dub. We put on workshops with Adrian and Mad Professor that were just phenomenal, demonstrating their techniques live.
How did you go about getting the diverse personalities and talents involved?
As far as the development of Dub Champions Festival 2012, it turned out that Adrian and I were both friends with Ari Up [of the Slits], who had just passed away, the guys from Dubblestandart, and of
course, Lee Perry, so we kept up the conversation after the Festival about a variety of things and through him I met Style Scott, drummer for Roots Radics as well as the Dub Syndicate, who had backed Lee Perry on the classic On-U albums. At some point, I did a Subatomic Sound System show at Dub Club in L.A. and I literally ran into Scientist in the low lit hall backstage before the show. After regaining our senses, we got to talking and exchanged numbers.
For 2012, I really wanted the Dub Champions Festival to take it to the next level and span the continuum of past to future dub, hence the tag line “from the reggae roots of dub to the future of bass music.” If you look at the line-up it actually proceeded in an almost chronological way, from the roots to the branches. So many artists and producers across genres have been influenced by the innovations of dub, the way it innovated remixing, presented the producer as an artist, established the mixing board as an instrument, and created the foundation for the sound system and MC culture by putting instrumentals on vinyl B-sides that let DJs talk and sing live over. What would eventually evolve in the Bronx into rap
music. I really feel like this history is hidden from most people and that a lot of these people never got their due and in that sense the Festival is taking something old and legitimately showing to people as something new and fresh, because they never saw it in the first place. But of course, they are well acquainted with the results of its influence.
So are you pleased with how things turned out?
The Festival was an enormous amount of work, a lot of hurdles that made me realize why it hadn’t been done before, and at times I wondered if it would all come together. But what really spurred me on was the excitement of the artists and sponsors about being part of it, and finally when the events took place, the turnout and gratitude of the audiences really made it worth it. People told me they flew in from all corners of the U.S. to see the shows. Right now I’m feeling a strong sense of “mission accomplished.”
Getting the Radics & Scientist back together to perform Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires was an outstanding move. And, adding Larry Mac on percussion was so crucial. What was the reaction when you informed the bands that he’d be on stage with them?
The Scientist & Roots Radics show in particular was special because they told me they wanted to perform one of their crucial albums that had got me into dub. In the process, I made suggestions about
additional personnel we could bring in from the rich NYC community of artists. It reunited them with Johnny Osbourne after many, many years which was pure magic on stage. Just an amazing vibe when he stepped on at the end of the entire “Evil Vampires” album performance and launched into his classic tunes with the Roots Radics. It lifted the crowd to a next level.
Because I know how important horns and percussion were to those dub recordings, I suggested they fill out the personnel with some of the guys I work with when Subatomic Sound System backs Lee Scratch Perry. When I told Scientist that Larry McDonald was the percussionist, he flipped. He was friends with Larry’s son Trevor growing up, a mixing engineer as well, and went on a tirade about how watered down reggae producers had put incredible musicians like Larry out of work in studios in Jamaica. It was conversations like those that made me realize I was on the path, reconnecting people that already had a connection, connecting the dots. We also had additional vocals from Screechy Dan, Daddy Lion Chandell, and Treasure Don, that just rounded things out and gave the show an extra dimension, some dancehall vibes and some live recreation of the dubbed vocals from the original tunes.”
Larry is an unsung hero in his own right; played on so many classic recordings and it is great to see him get recognition. We would be rehearsing for the Lee Perry show and I would mention the percussion part on a certain song and he would say ‘Yeah, I know. I played that on the album.’ When we played in D.C. with Lee Perry last Spring, it was cool to see the blog-post that came out acknowledging the presence of two legends on stage, Lee Perry and Larry McDonald.
With two Dub Festivals under your belt, is it safe to say that this is officially an annual event that folks can look forward to and plan for?
Dub Champions 2013 is already in the works, and let’s just say that there were even more ideas and artistes we weren’t able to involve in 2012, so it’s going to be next level for sure. We also plan to bring it beyond NYC once again. Keep up at www.DubChampions.com and www.SubatomicSound.com for everything in between.