Dub Pistols with support from Albion Street.
Dub Pistols Biography
As they gear up to celebrate 20 years of riotous marauding, the Dub Pistols are prepping their seventh as-yet-untitled album in 2017 and there’ll be a documentary about the band dropping at some point in the year, too. And they’ll be out on the road, as usual, of course — the hardest working band in showbiz.
A kinda 21st century equivalent of 2-Tone acts The Specials or The Beat, the Dub Pistols are the quintessential festival band. Coming over a bit like if King Tubby and The Skatalites bumped into Terry Hall at a Goldie gig, the Dubs have reached their two decade milestone with a lot of ups and downs along the way.
They’ve worked with vocal legends like Rodney P, Busta Rhymes, Gregory Isaacs, Terry Hall, Lindy Layton, Akala and Horace Andy, while the band’s mainstays are fiercely loyal and dedicated. An unorthodox collective of musicians who each have their own personal interests and solo projects, when they come together to form the Dub Pistols some dubwise magic happens.
The rhythm section of Jack (drums) and Dave (bass) are granite-solid, and guitarist Andreas (or sometimes the rock & roll stand-in, Johnny Rockstar) provides all sorts of licks and skanking chords to nice up the dance. The brass section is on fire, and rapper Seanie Tee brings the mic skills to complement main man Barry Ashworth perfectly. They’re a proper gang of outlaws, rebels with a cause, renegade outsiders who know how to bring the good times. If you haven’t seen the Pistols yet…
Leaping about like a salmon, stage-diving into the crowd, getting sweaty with the throng and then standing for selfies with fans afterwards, Barry is a talismanic frontman — his exuberant presence at the heart of the band is the glue that ties it all together. On a level with the crowd, he’s blossomed into one of the music scene’s great characters. He may be somewhat calmer these days — why, he’s even taking flying lessons at the moment, for chrissakes — but still likes to cut loose at opportune moments.
Barry might be the heart, face and mouth of the Dubs, but they are still very much a band — as tight as fuck, and yet able to cut loose to rock venues to the core. Tracks like epic drum & bass cut ‘Gunshot’, ska ditty ’Problem Is’, early beat-freak single ‘Cyclone’ and singalong anthem ‘Mucky Weekend’ have become firm fan favourites, and onstage see the band getting deep, down and dirty. With a nod to their ska influence, and the fact that Terry Hall was an honorary Dub Pistol for a few years, they still do a lively version of ‘Gangsters’ - The Specials’ first ever single. But otherwise it’s all their own work — the back catalogue is rich in flavas.
“The next album is actually a bit more chilled-out than the last two,” says Barry. “It’s still a classic Dub Pistols album, but ‘Return Of The Pistoleros’ and ‘Worshipping The Dollar’ were more club-orientated — leaning more towards peak-time bangers. This album is a bit more relaxed, with a smoked-out reggae vibe — although there are still a couple of bangers on there.”
The guests on the next album read like a who’s who of conscious styles. Dancehall dons Beenie Man and Cutty Ranks, reggae singer Earl16, young hip-hop act Too Many T's, seminal MCs Navigator and the Ragga Twins, and long-time collaborator Lindy Layton (and dope rapper Genesis Elijah??) all bring their unique talents. Some of these will be appearing with the Dubs live over the coming year as the band present a history lesson in all the different bases they’ve covered over the past two decades. With added bass!
Band members may have come and gone, but the progression of the core of the band is constant. “It’s never like everyone leaves at once,” says Barry. “People’s priorities change: they get married or have kids and the lifestyle isn't for them anymore, so they leave — but luckily not all at the same time. So someone new comes in, and suddenly it feels like a new band.”
Being in the Dubs involves a lot of touring, but the good times make it all worth it. “Being a Dub Pistol isn't so much a job, more like a vocation — or like running off and joining the circus!” jokes Barry, half-seriously. “Keeping the band together is the hardest part. It’s like an old car — bits fall off, you replace the parts and move on.”
Back in the day, Barry was quite wild — he wasn’t nominated for Muzik Magazine’s ‘Caner Of The Year’ award in the late ‘90s for nothing. Onstage, he still likes to party along with the crowd who are lapping up a Dubs set, but he still holds it down in the run-up to those shows — he’s not a 24-hour party person any longer. Or is he?
Their regular appearances at Beat Herder festival in xxx have now led to a beer being named after Barry — Bad Uncle Barry. “He’s not really yer uncle, he’s the person you wished your mum had married cos he’s more fun than yer dad,” says Nick xxx from Beat Herder, explaining the inspiration behind the pale ale name.
As well as all his Dub Pistols activity, Barry makes music for film and TV and sometimes acts as a music supervisor for various projects. He does a monthly radio show on Soho Radio now, often playing the music of unknown acts he’s helping to give a leg-up to — he’s often helping out emerging artists behind the scenes. He also has his own independent record label — Westway — which puts out new music by DJ/producers he meets along the way. Often, their first Westway release is their first release anywhere — full-stop. “I love finding new talent and telling the world about it, it’s just who I am, and if I think someone is doing something right and just needs some help then I will help them if I can — what goes around comes around,” he says.
“People have always helped me, so it’s nice to give something back. The same thing with festivals or whatever — not everyone has a marketing budget, but if I feel a festival is run properly and doing the right things then I’m gonna shout about it.”
Does he mind that some people still hold misconceptions about him? “Someone once said that if you do a job you love, you will never work a day in your life,” he replies, thoughtfully. “It’s a cliche, but very true. I have, over the years, partied harder than maybe I should have, but very rarely have I let people down. 99% of the time I’m where I should be, doing what I’m supposed to do. My schedule has got harder and harder, so maybe I don't party all night, every night anymore but when I stop having fun then I know it’s time to stop doing this job.”
“How have I changed? My head says no, my body say yes. I've made a lot of mistakes and said and done things I’m not proud of and wish I could change but can’t. However, I have learned from my mistakes and feel I'm a wiser, more-centred human being.”
Some of Barry’s reflections will come out in the forthcoming documentary about 20 years of the band — What Could Possibly Go Wrong? There have been stages in the Dubs’ existence where it’s seemed like the world has been against them, where minor catastrophes have befallen them, where they’ve got themselves into a pickle. There are some hilarious recollections, and for a number of years ‘What Could Possibly Go Wrong?’ (abbreviated to WCPGW?) became a bit of a mantra for the Dubs, with fans taking up the ‘WCPGW?’ acronym and applying it to all manner of situations.
But now, mostly, things go right for them. Very right. “To be honest it doesn't feel like 20 years,” Barry continues. “Much of it has been a blur and hard to remember, you just keep going — looking forward — and then one day you stop and look back and go, ‘Wow where did the time go?’ So much has happened, so many ups and downs, so many lifts off into space and then crash on re-entry.”
Long may the Pistols continue to mash up the place.
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