"There’s no woe-is-me angst in the Dub Pistols."
Dub Pistols have done everything it’s possible to do in a band and still want more. They’ve toured the world more times than most of us have changed channels, they’ve spent years breaking America down into tiny, eager pieces via extended jaunts with punk-rock roadshows. They’ve had their music appear on so many Hollywood blockbusters that not even mainman Barry Ashworth can remember them all, though he does remember recording the title track for Y Tu Mama Tambien in Mexico with local band Molotov and hooking up with Busta Rhymes for the Blade II soundtrack.
They’ve appeared in Australia and six south-east Asian countries in less than a week and they’ve played live with Fatboy Slim on New York’s Hudson river twelve hours before those two planes flew into the World Trade Center towers, then watched as the “shit hit the fan” from their hotel room across the country in LA. Now, rather more happily, they’ve recorded the best music of their lives, and they’ve recorded it with reggae legend and sometime Massive Attack collaborator Horace Andy, ex-Specials hero, Terry Hall, Cali Agent rapper Planet Asia and New York crew Sight Beyond Light. But it wasn’t always this way…
A Brief History of Time: Barry Ashworth in his own words “I started running clubs in 1987, I took over Ziggy’s in Streatham when Paul Oakenfold had finished there. Then I did the Monkey Drum, which was where the (Stone) Roses and the (Happy) Mondays used to come when they were in town. I opened a record shop in Covent Garden, which folded, so I started a band called Déjà Vu – I fuckin’ hate that name – and we had a hit record with ‘Why Why Why’, the old Woodentops song. I went on to run Naked Lunch at the SW1 club and Sprucesters Balls in Kensington with Charlie Chester. Then I did the first Monkey Mafia record with Jon Carter, and from there I moved on to start the Dub Pistols. Soon afterwards our manager went in for a meeting with Jimmy Iovine of Interscope, the guy who signed Death Row records. He was playing a track we’d done, but he didn’t know it was us. He told our manager – who’d gone into see him in his guise as manager of Crystal Method – that he reckoned it was the best record he’d heard in fifteen years. Two days later I was on a plane to LA, first class, and agreed a million dollar deal. It was the start of a beautiful nightmare…”
A beautiful nightmare indeed. A nightmare of private jets, stretch limos, and remixing Moby, Korn, Limp Bizkit and a host of others. The Dub Pistols party never stopped but home was always calling. The punk rock guys they toured with in the States might have looked the part, but Barry and the Dub Pistols knew there was more to being punk than having a Mohawk. “I grew up on The Clash and living in West London,” says Barry, “there’s always been dub around too, so punk’s always been natural for me. Dub Pistols are punk, because punk, as an ethic, means anything goes.” And it’s that anything goes approach that typifies the band’s new album, Six Million Ways To Live, an album where the blood-warm pulse of hip-hop, dub and ska receive a thorough seeing to via the needle-sharp miracle of modern technology. From Horace Andy’s dub-soaked, butter-soft croon on album opener ‘Crash Crazy’, past Cali Agent rapper Planet Asia’s hymn to hip-hop on ‘Architect’, to the future Ibiza anthem at the heart of ‘3AM’’s electro-jazz chill. More upbeat is the dancehall vibe that New Yorkers Sight Beyond Light bring to ‘Riptides’ and the ska-pop shake of ‘Problem Is’ with Terry Hall, a track that provoked Xfm’s biggest ever listener response when it was aired entirely without permission recently. Make no mistake, this the perfect album to give your stereo the summer work-out it so obviously needs. “I’ve always been a massive Terry Hall fan,” says Barry. “I thought he’d never, ever do another ska record as long as he lived, but he loved the track and recorded the vocals in my front room. As did Horace Andy, who arrived dressed in a gold lame suit…” Lyrically, the album has its dark moments, “Submarine sinks, Concorde falls from the sky, the tallest buildings burn and all the mothers they cry,” sings Horace Andy on ‘Crazy’, while rhymes like “Blowing up the White House like I was an alien, Independence Day cos we ain’t seen no liberation” show that Dub Pistols are no say-nothing, do nothing party rockers – these are serious, thoughtful pieces of music. In preparing to record the album the band spent six months making “a load of shit.” They tried rock, reggae rock, Gorgio Moroder-ish electro, full-on house, then they did ‘Architect’ with Planet Asia and everything all fell into place. “We found out who we were,” says Barry. For those still not sure, the line-up is: Jason O’Bryan: Barry’s right hand man in the Dub Pistols, he co-writes nearly everything they do. Jonny Rockstar: Guitarist, an elusive one, as Barry explains. “I don’t even know what his real name is, I’ve never really wanted to ask.” DJ Stix: Tour DJ who has three albums out of his own. “A fucking genius” who will, hopefully, be much in evidence in the late-summer shows Barry is planning now. “I’m really keen to get the show back on the road,” he says. “This album has been so deeply thought about and considered, it’s not a breakbeat record, not a DJ record, it’s a personal thing. I’m fighting prejudices, but I refuse to be turned cynical. I’m a musician and I want to make what I feel excited about, and what I feel more excited about than than anything else right now is people finally getting the chance to hear ‘Six Million Ways To Live’. I can’t wait!” Neither should you – happy listening.