Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dub plates: Salmonella Dub

For New Zealand Music Month, I've hauled out some old magazine articles on local musicians that I wrote a while back. They give you a snapshot of artists earlier in their career...This interview with Tiki has a tale about him walking round the streets of Dubai with people pointing at him... the explanation why is pretty funny...

(originally published in Pavement magazine 2001)

The last 12 months have been an exciting time for Salmonella Dub. Following the commercial and critical success of their last album Killervision, they launched themselves out into the big world, touring to Australia, Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East, after securing release of the album in these countries. In between all this travel, they started laying down the foundations for their fourth album, Inside The Dubplates.

Soundman and vocalist Tiki says its been a year of exciting new places and strange adventures. "I got in trouble in Dubai," he recalls, relaxing in the record company boardroom in Auckland, a long way from the political hotspots of the Middle East.

"It was so hot, I went out in shorts and a t-shirt, and people would cross the road, freaking out at me, big time. I couldn't understand why. People were stopping their cars and watching me. I spent the whole day walking round, just going 'why are these people freaking out at me?' I went back to the hotel and the reception guy was totally freaking out, going 'oh my god, you didn't go out like that did you?'

"I said 'what do you mean, like that?' And he said, 'oh, you should cover yourself up'. I said 'why?', and it was something to do with the tattoos, the moko and the dreads, it meant they thought I was the devil, basically. When you're born, I think they believe that you should die as you were born, without any markings or anything. If you do mark yourself then you are going to spend the rest of your life on earth in eternal damnation! And then I understood.

"The cool thing was, I had a bunch of kids running up and touching me, checking me out, going 'where are you from?' I got talking to them, and they were saying you just don't get bands here, it's really hard to get exposed to anything else that's happening in the world. The kids there are really starved for Western culture. That made me realise how lucky we are. Even though we're from the South Pacific, these guys were way closer to the rest of the world than what we are, but they still so isolated."

"Paris was amazing too, its got this vibe about it, it's just so old. The people there are just awesome. They're just confident, and strong in their culture and really supportive as well, and really interested in Aotearoa and the South Pacific, and the lifestyle here. A lot of the interviews I did there, they didn't talk about the music, they just wanted to ask me questions about home. They wanted to know what my moko meant, what the scene was like: Once Were Warriors always came up, they'd ask 'is it really like that?', and I'd say, 'well its like that everywhere in the world'. One question as if we all had pet sheep, which was hard case. The All Blacks always came up; I remember in a subway in Paris, there's this big billboard with Jonah Lomu selling Adidas!"

Yes, the Dub have come a long way from their Christchurch origins, back in the mid 90's. "When I was 19," remembers Tiki, "we had just started coming up to Auckland and Wellington, and that was like, the big time for me! Back then the guys were talking about playing in Australia. I couldn't believe that. The next year we went to Australia, and then we talked about going to Europe, and the next year we went to Europe, so it's starting to become a bit more realistic. I think learning that anything can happen, that its not so much of a dream, even tho we're from the South Pacific, and things are quite hard with the dollar and we're so far away, it not that unrealistic for a Kiwi band to go out there."

The new album uses the mixing skills of several talented local engineers, rather than following the path of their last few releases that utilised UK producer David Harrow. "We used David Wernham, who does live sound for Shihad. We bought him over, and he took care of all the drums, he knows how to get a good sound. We did it all with Paddy Free co-producing, so its all New Zealand flavours. It was a tight crew, we're all friends. The other thing, Dave our drummer went a bit more crazy on this one, and also not doing so many ballads, if you know what I mean. They're more instrumentals, which is kind of where we started out. "We did the last album in two weeks. This one we've had a couple of months to do it. We've had a bit more time to prepare. Rather than have such a tight deadline, we've had a bit more time to experiment.

"This is the closest album we've done that sums up the band as a whole, and captures that live feel that we've got. The character of the band has changed quite a bit, just from being on the road a lot. We've been overseas, and been checking out what other people are doing, and checking out how crowds overseas take your music, and what they go off to. For example, in France, they liked the more spacious, crazier stuff, than the funkier, groovier stuff, which is quite interesting."

The overseas experience has strengthened their belief in what they're doing. "If anything, the travel we've done in the last year, because we've taken it to different parts of the world, has made us realise is actually original. Most people who came along said 'wow, we haven't heard anything like this'. That makes us think 'okay, well, don't aspire to be anything else that's happening, this is where we're from. We're from the South Pacific, and living here is just so much different from the rest of the world, so much cleaner, open space, just a different lifestyle. I think that's something we should treasure, and be proud of. I think it's okay for us to be completely Kiwiana, South Pacific, and not try and aspire to be a UK style dub reggae act or whatever."

Tiki says the plan for this year is "get the album in the stores, release it, let the public get into it, then hit the road. We've got some gigs around New Zealand, then it's off to Australia, and France is on the cards. Canada is another area we want to nail. We'll definitely do a big New Zealand tour at the end of the year, when its nice and warm". Ah, dub in the summertime, nothing's finer.


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