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Dub Trio: These Cats Have Claws

March 21st, 2008 9:48am EDT
Dub TrioAs the backing band for Mike Patton's Peeping Tom, DP Holmes, Stu Brooks, and Joe Tomino have performed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and in front of 10,000 fans at Madison Square Garden as openers for The Who; individually they've performed with 50 Cent, The Fugees, and Mos Def; and together, as Dub Trio, they create a sound Holmes describes " a cross between metal, punk, rock, ambient, and dub music." Starpulse spoke with Holmes about the trio's latest release, Another Sound is Dying, how fireworks make the recording process easier, and the notion of Funishment.

What significance does the name "Another Sound is Dying"? have in the context of the album and where you guys are right now as a band?
It comes from a Tenor Saw song. "Ring the alarm, another sound is dying." Someone suggested, "Ring the Alarm" as an album title. Someone else suggested, "Another Sound is Dying." That seemed to fit the mood and context of what the album sounded like. We're not actually relating it to a type of music dying. Sometimes you might say that a song or a sound system is "killing." Sort of like that.

Are there musical trends or styles that you see as dying today?
We would hope so. The stale pop music, emo pop. We would like it to die. Hopefully it's dying. Also a lot of good music is dying.

Like what?
Anything not mainstream. I guess it's not dying, it's thriving, but it seems to be getting taken over by the mainstream.

Is that necessarily a bad thing?
I think so.

Why is that?
People, especially in America, listen to what's fed to them. A lot of people don't search out new music. The whole mainstream thing has kind of taken over that.

What, then, in terms of reggae and dub, would you recommend to the average fan of mainstream radio?
Anything by King Tubby. There are so many compilations. He's a great dub engineer. There's an artist called Scientist--the album is called "Curse of the Evil Vampire." A bunch of King Jammy. The whole time period I like is the late 60's up until the late 70's, before it got too electronic.

Dub Trio

What is it about the genre of dub that caught your attention, that you felt a connection with?
Its stripped-down element and the creative quality of it. Dub is taking mainstream, popular music of the time, in Jamaica, and stripping it down, having effects, and just tweaking it out in the studio, remixing it. Kind of making a mainstream song kind of creative and heady.

Do you see dub and reggae as genres that have the potential of appearing on mainstream radio or being incorporated more often into songs?
I would hope so, because it's pleasing to my ear. I can never tell what's going to be popular or not. Hoping, yes. It might do us some good.

Were there any bands you were listening to during the recording of "Another Sound is Dying" that you found influencing you for this recording?
Not really. We don't try to make our albums sound like anything else, consciously. I try not to listen to any music while we're recording. Collectively, we had been listening to heavier music. We'd been listening to Mastodon, Meshuggah, and The Dillinger Escape Plan. And we're always listening to dub music as well, King Tubby and Scientist.

How did the recording process for this album compare to your previous efforts?
Not too much of a change. The first two were recorded at a studio called Studio G in Brooklyn. We recorded with the same engineer that we've always recorded with, Joel Hamilton, but this time we actually went out to New Hampshire in the woods. We took a bit more time to record it. That's probably the only difference. Different location, more time.

What sort of effect did you see that having on the finished product?
Worth the more time thing. We got to hone in on more sounds better than we had in the past. We got to have more time adding things, putting more layers in. I think we made it sound a little bigger than the last couple.

Did the location have any effect on it?
A little bit. We spent about $400 on fireworks. We recorded and shot off fireworks the whole time. That made it a bit more fun, as opposed to being locked up in Brooklyn, rushing, trying to get everything done. We got to release a little bit in between the recording process.

Did you guys blow any stuff up?
I feel like we did. A lot of bottles and cans. We'd shoot bottle rockets at shit. We shot them at each other. We shot one at Joe, the drummer. But nothing big, nothing major.

While you guys were shooting bottle rockets, did anyone raise the concern of poking an eye out?
Yes we did, actually. Or injuring a hand. But we were lucky.

Did you find that sort of release of tension during the recording process to be useful?
Yes, totally. It made it a bit lighter, and less stressful. The last two records, there was a lot of rushing. We did the first record in 5 days, the second in 8, and this one in 12. Just a bit more time to go outside, smoke, shoot off fireworks. I think everybody was a bit more relaxed about things. It gave us time to think about what we did previous to that, y'know.

What is the songwriting process like in general for you guys?
Basically, one of us would come in with a riff, or a couple of ideas, bring it in to rehearsal, teach everybody else, and just play around with it. Maybe somebody else has an idea as well, and just kind of put things together and flesh them out naturally. None of us really go in with a full idea. We're always developing each song. We all write it together. Somebody comes in with an idea, and we all flesh it out and everybody puts in their input and it pops out a complete song.

The songs have no lyrics. How is it that you decide on the names for the songs?
That's a good question. A couple days before we're supposed to hand in the titles for the songs, we all just kind of come up with titles. Some of them end up humorous or silly. One song on the record is called "Funishment." That's a mix of fun and punishment.

How did that come about?
That was something our bass player Stu's grandfather said to us at the breakfast table one morning. We were talking about touring, and how it's sort of punishing, but it's fun. And he said, "Oh, so it's like fun-ishment." We thought it was kind of humorous, so we decided to call the song that. We have a new song that's not on the record, but I think we're naming it after a critic that gave us a really bad review. Just 'cause.

Is that piece more on the aggressive side?
Yes.

DUB TRIO plays "Felicitacion"



What inspired the album artwork?
We decided to work with this artist, Martin, who does most of the Ipecac artwork. We shot him a bunch of ideas, and by the end of it, we were like, "How about you just throw us some of your ideas." He sent us a bunch of stuff, and he sent us this one, and we all immediately said, "Yes!" we loved it. The cute cats--it's humorous--they're bleeding at the mouth. So it's kind of dark. And there's three of them and three of us. It worked with the album title, the death thing.

The cat is also a creature that is gentle, but has the hidden potential to become very aggressive. This duality of nature is similar to the duality of your music.
Yeah, exactly. That works as well. Our music is pretty, but it can also be fierce.

Would you say that this album has more claws?
Yes. Each album has gotten more and more aggressive. I don't know if it's that we live in a city that's so aggressive and it just keeps building that way, but yeah, I would say it has more claws.

Does it also reflect things from your life and things that are going on in he world?
I would say so. The environment dictates what our sound is. Living in New York City, that aggressiveness tends to come out in our music. I don't know what our music would sound like if we lived in New Hampshire. The other stuff in our lives--touring can be stressful. That rubs off a bit.

Was 2004 a more placid year for you guys?
I suppose so. In 2004, we were just kind of starting. We hadn't tapped into this whole aggressive nature. A bit, but it wasn't full blown back then.

Have any of you become more aggressive in your character?
A little bit, maybe. As time goes by you tend to not take as much shit from people. In that way, I feel like we're become a bit more aggressive.

Do you have an example?
Say we go to a show, we're opening, and the venue tells us we can't have a sound check. In our music and our setup, we definitely need a sound check every time we play. We'd definitely be way more aggressive about getting it. We tend to get it because we put up a fight, instead of being wishy-washy and saying, "Ok, If you say so."

So the Dub Trio from 2004 would be more wishy-washy?
Maybe so.

You mentioned Meshuggah earlier and in an interview I did with Mike Patton , he said Meshuggah is music that makes him cry. What sort of music affects you in a similar way?
Meshuggah doesn't make me cry. It makes me pretty amped up and excited. I like some of the more ambient groups. I like Mogwai a bunch. Sigur Rós. If I was emotional that day, maybe I'd cry listening to them.

How about music that conjures up a sense of dread?
That's a tough one. Maybe some Kid 606. It's very edgy and grating on the ears. Or an artist called Oval. He does some dread-full music, but it's got a pretty tune though.

Kid 606 and Dalek are both Ipecac. Do you think, in the future, the Dub Trio will be collaborating with them?
I'd like it. Kid 606 would be a great collaboration for remixes. We're friends with the band Dalek. I feel like that would be a great collaboration. Hopefully touring. I feel like we could do well with touring with some of those bands.

In previous interviews you guys mentioned that you would like to record a full length album with Mike Patton.
Sure. Yeah, we've talked about it. Mike Patton is definitely a busy guy. You have to catch him at a rare off time. But we've talked about it, and we like the idea. We all have a connection, and we all play well together.

When is it that your interest in him as a musician began?
Early 90's. Faith No More. In high school, I liked Mr. Bungle a lot. Kind of went through that phase, went through his career a bit; Fantomas, Tomahawk, always liked that stuff. I just always kind of liked him. I always liked what he's done and the choices he's made in his career.

The sort of blending of genre that he does and that you do, do you think that's something that will become more prevalent in music in general?
I would think naturally, it would have to. There's only so much you can do in a certain genre before it gets too stale. But, yeah, I feel like it will be. There are already so many cross-genre things. There's all this electro-rock out there. Even like metal electronic music. Stuff like that.

Have the three you of you thought of a name for the music that you guys make?
Not really. If somebody asks, "What do you guys sound like?" We say it's a cross between metal, punk, rock, ambient, and dub music. It would be good to come up with a title.

So far it seems like, with you guys starting out not having a name for the band, and name's being the last thing that you guys pick for your songs, that a specific genre name for what you do...
...would be an afterthought.

Exactly.
Our band name was the same way. we didn't even come up with it. We were gonna call our band Sic 'Em Kids. When we first started, we were doing pick-up gigs, at bars and restaurants and stuff. Just kind of improv-ing and on the side making some money. One bar owner just kept writing that we were a trio and that we mainly played dub/ambient music, and they threw "Dub Trio" on the board outside. That name just kind of stuck with us. Before we knew it, people were calling us that, and it was done.

Looking at the places where you've performed on the tour so far, the one that I noticed as interesting was Asbury Lanes in New Jersey, which is literally a bowling alley.
Totally. Have you been there?

Yes.
We played there a couple times.

Is that one of the stranger circumstances you played under?
Yeah. It's probably one of the strangest. It's one of the cooler ones. It's not the best location to play, but I like the environment. Playing clubs gets boring, so when you get to play a bowling alley, and you get to bowl a couple of rounds, it's a welcome change.

Is bowling something that the three of you enjoy?
Yeah. We enjoy bowling. I think we like pinball over bowling, though.

When it comes to strange places to perform, what rivals Asbury Lanes?
Madison Square Garden. That was a strange one. We played there with Peeping Tom, because we play in that band. That was definitely one of the strangest shows ever.

Was that opening for The Who?
Yeah. If those were consecutive days, Asbury Lanes, and that show, that would be pretty weird.

Do you see bowling as an activity someone could easily do set to your music?
Yeah, why not?

What are some other activities you see your music as a fitting soundtrack to?
Pretty much anything, I think. I feel like it can be engaging, but it can also be good background music for anything. Pinball would be good. Maybe a game of street hockey. Walking down the street on your headphones. Good subway music. Cooking dinner.

With all the excitement that's going on with you guys, with the new album having been out for a while, and headlining your first tour, what would you say is the soundtrack to your life right now?
The latest Queens of the Stone Age record, Era Vulgaris. The new Radiohead record, "In Rainbows." and The Birthday Party's, "Hee Haw."

For tour dates, music, videos, and more, visit Dubtrio.com

Interview by Ben Kharakh
Starpulse.com contributing writer