The Dub Pistols formed about a decade ago when Barry Ashworth got together with Jason O’Bryan in west London. Jason had been half of Wall Of Sound act Ceasefire with Derek Dahlarge, while Barry was in ‘indie-dance’ band Déjà Vu who had a hit with the old Woodentops song ‘Why Why Why’ back in the day. Finding they shared a love of The Clash, The Specials, Andy Weatherall, King Tubby and Public Enemy the band launched with a string of party-rockin’ singles like ‘Cyclone’, ‘Westway’ and ‘There’s Gonna Be A Riot’ and landed a million dollar record deal with major label Geffen. “It was the start of a beautiful nightmare,” says Barry.
Chewing up hip-hop, dub, techno, ska and punk and spitting them out in a renegade futuristic skank, the Dubs began playing full live band shows and were soon on giant US tours. In the UK they got lumped under the big beat tag alongside the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim – maintaining a rock & roll attitude to their block-rockin’ beats.
Their debut ‘Point Blank’ album led to remix work for Moby, Limp Bizkit, Crystal Method and Ian Brown, and they did a track for the Blade 2 soundtrack with Busta Rhymes. Touring extensively, the band effectively swerved around the ‘big beat backlash’ in the UK and as the Millennium passed they had their second album – ‘Six Million Ways To Live’ – ready to go. A more politicised affair, the problem was that parts of the album were scarily prophetic.
“It seemed like almost every track on there could refer to 9/11,” says Jason. “The album was just about to come out, and everything just got cancelled,” adds Barry. “We just came home and sat with our hands on our heads.” On September 11th 2001 the world had changed in a day.
Eventually surfacing after the 9/11 furor had died down, ‘Six Million Ways To Live’ was particularly notable for the single ‘Problem Is’ featuring Terry Hall. Dubbed ‘the best Specials ska single the Specials never wrote’, the track led to the ex-Specials singer becoming an integral part of the band and playing a large part in this new 2007 album.
In recent years the Dub Pistols name has continued to circumnavigate the globe, thanks to a number of high-profile gigs with the full band, and various ‘Soundsystem’ dates – DJ + scratch DJ + MC – or Barry DJing solo. The band compiled a ‘Y4K’ beats and breaks album, and the pieces of the jigsaw fell into place for ‘Speakers and Tweeters’.
If you’d told a 15-year-old Barry Ashworth that he’d end up in the same band as his hero Terry Hall from The Specials, he’d have laughed in your face. But with the distinctive front man now a regular vocal presence – alongside UK hip-hop hero Rodney P and wicked young US rapper T.K. Lawrence – the Pistols have cemented their line-up.
‘Speakers and Tweeters’ does a great job of referring back to a rich heritage of alternative underground music – but then catapults it into the future. Check the roots-rockin’ skank of ‘Running From The Thoughts’, or the classic horns, echoes and rim-shots in their magnificent update of ‘Rapture’ by Blondie. One of the earliest rap hits in the early ‘80s, Terry Hall really makes Debbie Harry’s song his own with a sultry, almost comatose delivery.
You can see the dubwise ‘You’ll Never Find’ being rinsed at blues parties in Jamaica. You can see the Pistols swaggering in a bling-tastic video on MTV Base in their post-ironic cover of ‘Peaches’ by punk legends The Stranglers. You can see Chuck D from Public Enemy digging the militant hip-hop of the Rodney P-rapped ‘Something To Trust’.
A particular live band favourite is ‘Gangsters’, the first seminal Specials single, with Terry Hall exclusively reprising this memorable 2-Tone classic for the album. The barnstorming live shows have won the Dubs plaudits from across the board – from alt.rock dudes like Gogol Bordello and Perry Farrell (ex-Jane’s Addiction) to dance chaps such as Ed Chemical and Paul Daley (ex-Leftfield) – and this album looks set to win them even more converts.
Faster than a speeding bullet – Dub Pistols are set to blow.
Carl Loben - December 2006