Our April edition of the Dubspot Podcast is a deep excursion into the deep end of dub culture with a raggabass mixtape from Dub Gabriel.
Dubspot Podcast: Dub Gabriel
This month’s podcast comes from San Francisco-based producer, DJ and purveyor of all things raggabass, Dub Gabriel. Always evolving his sound, Dub Gabriel has been a force in the dub and bass scenes since the late 90s cutting his teeth at clubs like The Limelight and Twilo in NY. This mix is an hour long journey, weaving through laid-back dub and heady bass music with a common thread of steady sub pressure. Dub Gabriel’s latest full-length album, Raggabass Resistance, features collaborations with some of the best known artists in the dub and bass scenes including U-Roy, Warrior Queen, The Spaceape, and Jahdaan Blakkamoore. The album was released to underground and critical acclaim and further solidified Dub Gabriel as a master of all things dub. We asked Dub Gabriel about his production process, track selection, his musical beginnings and what’s in store for 2014.
How did you get started in music?
Dub Gabriel: I started to play bass guitar when I was 14. With an avid interest in punk rock, I quickly started to play in bands. By the early 90’s, I was in a band that was signed onto NYC’s Moon Ska Records and was touring nationally full time throughout my mid 20’s, till I left the band and moved to NYC in 1997.
Can you talk a bit about your track selection in the mix? What do you feel is the unifying vibe or feeling in these tracks?
DG: In electronic music, genres have become a dime a dozen. But as far back as the early days of techno, dubstep, jungle & illbient, some of the most progressive producers have not only been exploring the foundations that came out of Detroit and Germany, but they have also drawn deep on the roots of digital dub, reggae and dancehall as pioneered by the likes of King Tubby, Scientist, Lee Perry and Steely & Cleevie. By mixing sound system culture with dance music culture they have given rise to productions that for the most part have outlived the genres they were packaged in. So when I thought of doing this mix for Dubspot, I freed myself of concerns of BPMs and subgenres, and focused on the Jah and Bass in bringing dance floor tracks that also keep in the tradition of dub and sound system culture to bringing modern roots music.
What equipment did you use to make the mix?
DG: About 1 ½ years ago I decided to move back to my foundation and DJ exclusively on vinyl. So, the majority of my mixes since then have been just live mixes where I hit the record button and lay down a set. But for this mix, I decided to take it back to Ableton & the APC 40 since I have been receiving a great deal of great new music from friends that I wanted to feature. A few of the tracks were from vinyl, which I digitized with my Technics 1200 going through my RME FF800. Once tracks are laid out in Ableton, I decided to do some live dub passes using the track control knobs on my APC 40. I set up 3 sends, one for delay using Soundtoys Echoboy, one for Reverb from Softtubes Spring Reverb and one for Filter using Soundtoys Filter Freak. I like to do live passes with the APC 40 instead of drawing automation because it isn’t as perfect. I want that human feel and like to have things that might be a little off to give a more human swing to a track. Sometimes things can get too perfect and stiff, so I like bringing a human element back into a mix.
You’ve been known as a popular DJ in the underground NY scene since the 90s. Was this before your productions? How did your experience DJing in clubs and underground parties help you in your music making process? Was it a natural transition?
DG: Actually, it was the other way around. I already had years of experience in the studio before I started to DJ. I lived for years at a commercial recording studio where I would cut my teeth on a 1” 16 track when the studio wasn’t booked and already spent years working with different band projects in different studios on 2” 24 track and eventually having my own ADAT studio to work in. Well, before getting into DJing I was already into producers using the studio as an instrument, so I was heavy into King Tubby, Lee Perry & Scientist. And since I was also a bass player with interest in production, people like Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble were very inspirational as well as people like Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Rick Rubin.
I was living in Williamsburg in the late 90’s paying $400 a month for rent and scraping to survive. My friends and I would go to art openings and dot com parties (first wave) for free food and booze when one night at a gallery opening I met the girlfriend of Peter Gatien, who owned the Limelight. At some point through the night, I was asked if I would like to DJ at the Limelight for some art opening that she was hosting. I never DJed before, besides college radio, but in the desperation of being a struggling artist in NY I was happy to take the gig (and the money), which led to many other gigs at the Limelight as well as playing places like Twilo, APT, Knitting Factory, Cooler, Galapagos and eventually running a long standing party called Brooklyn Massive that went from 1998-2005 until I moved to Berlin.
How would you describe your studio setup? Do you have a particular go-to piece of gear?
DG: I think my studio is pretty streamlined and functional. There is always something new to add to the list of what I would like, but over all I think my studio is in a good place. Some of the gear I use all the time is of course my 8 core Mac Pro which is stocked with Logic & Ableton, but I mostly use Ableton since I have been using it since Live 2. I can work really fast in it. With Ableton I am only using Live and don’t use any Ableton effects or use Max. Instead, I use Waves, Sound Toys and Soft Tubes for most of my processing and use Native Instruments Machine & Komplete. I would also say that 80-90% of my synths come from my Moog Little Phatty. Having a Moog creates endless sounds. For controllers I am endorsed by Keith McMillen & Akai, so I have a QuNexus, QuNeo & APC40 . Soundcard is a RME FF 800, which I bought in 2006 and it is still running great and hooked up with Adam A7X speakers. I also try to keep one really good channel mainly for vocals, but used for most tracking, so I have a Rubert Neve designed Amek 9098 mic pre & a Neuman TLM 103 mic. I also keep hooked up in my studio a Fulltone Tube Tape Echo for when I want to get some real tape delay, nothing like the real thing. I also have a small collection of analog dub sirens; custom theremin and circuit bent stuff when I need to add some chaos to a mix.
You seem to be an avid collaborator and you’ve worked with reggae legends (U-Roy, Warrior Queen) to people like Michael Stipe of REM. What is it about collaboration that you’ve made it such a big part of your music making process?
DG: The best thing about collaborating is getting out of my grip and into a new space. For everyone I have ever worked with, they bring their own little twist to a track, which I like. It brings something I am creating into a new direction that I might not have thought of before and then when I am blessed to work with artist who have inspired me though the years, it makes it even better.
What can we expect from Dub Gabriel in the future? Any upcoming projects or releases?
DG: The end of last year I launched a 7” vinyl series that was inspired by the long history of the 7” in reggae & dub. So far, we released Dub Gabriel feat. U-Roy w/ remix by Ming & Subatomic Sound System. Also, Dub Gabriel feat. Warrior Queen & Dr. Israel w/ remix by Shotnez ( a.k.a. Ori Kaplan from Balkan Beat Box ).
Now, I am finishing up the next two releases which will come out over the summer and will be Brooklyn Jungle Sound System (Dr. Israel & Dub Gabriel) w/ remix by Dubmatix out of Toronto & Dub Gabriel feat. Ranking Joe w/ remix by RSD ( a.k.a Rob Smith from Smith & Mighty / Bristol )
Esgar – Let’s Go
Moresounds – Tek Life (Ghetto Dub)
Bim One – Chicken Fight master fix
Kahn & Neek – Percy
Alter Echo & E3 – Warning Dub
Dub Gabriel feat. U-Roy – Luv n’ Liv (Timeblind Remix)
Lee Perry vs. Digital Mystikz – Obeah Room
Paul St. Hilaire – Nah Ina It
Dub Gabriel feat. The Spaceape – Is this Revolution? (Jack Dangers Colonial Dub Remix)
6Blocc – Sweet Dub
Mungo’s Hi Fi – The Stinger
Carnnibal & Clerk-Champ
Dub Gabriel feat. Warrior Queen & Dr. Israel – My Gun (Shotnez Remix)
OSC & Dubsworth ft Ranking Joe – Ital Vital
Gorgon Sound – Righteous Dub
Dub Gabriel feat. MC Zulu – No Lies (Thornato Remix)
Vibration Lab feat. Linval Thompson – Tribulation Time (RSD remix)
Junior Roy – Run Di Session
Leroy Brown – Money Barrier (Skully Version)