Concert preview: Dub Trio

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Most of our concert recommendations are implicit: The reason why we write about a show is that we want readers to go see it.

I'll go one step further and mandate that readers go to see the Dub Trio open for Clutch tonight, February 28, at the Newport Music Hall.

Drawing comparisons to legendary hardcore group Bad Brains, this Brooklyn-based trio plays an amazing blend of rock, post-hardcore, dancehall and reggae that is recorded using the techniques and traditions of dub. Each song is a collection of powerful rhythms, and the band uses the studio to piece each track together from intricate pieces and parts.

Rarely is a record so technical and easy on the ears.

Last week, I wrote a Marquee preview, and now I'm giving you more from my interview with drummer Joe Tomino.

You guys have some interesting freelance gigs. I read that you play with the Fugees and your bassist [Stu Brooks] actually plays bass for G-Unit. Yeah, [the Fugees] did a reunion tour in ’05, and I did a couple gigs with them in ’06. But they haven’t done anything else since then. Stu and [guitarist] Dave [Holmes] actually do some sessions for G-Unit. It’s a lot of hip-hop sessions, some rock ones here and there. I did a track on the new Ying-Yang Twins record.

It’s funny because we do all these weird hip-hop sessions, all kinds of sh--.

Is it frustrating to go from creating your own music to doing what someone else wants? It depends. Studio work is really like you’re there to do what a producer wants. They’re like, “Do this thing” or “Do that thing that you do.” Inherently your sound is there to some degree because you’re obviously playing the parts. But as far as it’s presented production-wise – your tone, however it’s mixed – is really up to the producer and the engineer.

But you try to get your sound out there on any project you do, I feel like. Hopefully, it comes across. You’re only there for a couple hours, you do your part, and then you’re gone. So who knows what they do with it after that.

So it’s got to be pretty liberating to sit down with a record like New Heavy and be able to fiddle with it the way you want. There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like doing your own music, first and foremost as an artist.

You guys get many comparisons to Bad Brains, mainly because you have hard-rock and dub influences. But you guys really blend a lot of the influences on each track. You know, it’s funny, none of us listened to Bad Brains, like as far as our roots. All of us started in rock when we were teenagers, you know, and got into funk, hip-hop, jazz and whatnot in college.

As far as the Bad Brains and the rock thing, we really started exploring the heavy stuff in between writing Exploring the Dangers of and New Heavy. There was a window of like a year and a half where we really came into the metal and the post-hardcore and punk.

We’re not fronting like we’ve been doing that sh-- since we were teenagers. I feel like it just seeped into the writing process naturally. We didn’t say, “OK, for the next record, we gotta reinvent ourselves or it’s gotta be this Bad Brains thing where it’s like hardcore and then it’s reggae.”

But like Bad Brains, your sounds change so drastically from one part to another. How do you go about putting the pieces together? With our music, people draw that comparison [to Bad Brains], and I definitely see it. And I love Bad Brains, don’t get me wrong, but the way we interpret our music is that it’s dub first and foremost. And to us, dub doesn’t necessarily translate into reggae.

It’s more of the concept of dub – how they do it in the studio, sort of post-production, putting together a track together from preexisting materials. That’s how we approach it.

We have this riff – and maybe it’s heavy or maybe it’s hip-hop or something – and we want to put it together, and we want to do it in sort of a dub fashion. So maybe it’s just the bass and drums in the A section, and in the true dub form, in the B section, maybe we drop out the drums and it’s just the guitar and bass.

It’s more of a process rather than it is saying, “Alright, we’re gonna do this section reggae, this section rock and then this section reggae again.” Some of it might fit into that, but we don’t consciously set standards on what we’re trying to do form-wise.

On traditional dub records, the studio acts as its own instrument. Does taking the dub approach make the songs difficult to play live? I feel like it’s not as difficult in the studio for us, because we started doing it live before we did studio. When we recorded our first record, it was like, “F---, how are we going to do this?” We’d never done this in the studio.

And we took the approach of how the old-school [dub] records were done. We said, “Alright, let’s record tracks strictly as rhythm tracks. We’ll go in there and get the basic bass and drums and then maybe a guitar part. Then we’ll pare it down from there or add on something.”

It’s just like those dub records were done: picking or adding or taking away. We didn’t go in and say, “We’re gonna do all these layers now and then we have all this stuff to choose from.”