1) Hi Neil! We want to start this interview talking about what you’ve built with your musical experience: Neil Perch, Zion Train, Universal Egg. How was all this born? And what is it today?
Neil Perch (N) – Zion Train and Universal Egg were born out of the desire to create music as good as some of the great Inspirational Sounds that myself and the other members of the collective were hearing and loving in and around London in the 1980’s and then into the 1990’s. Like the great soundsystems Jah Shaka and Fatman. Great house music like Bobby Konders and a general semi-anarchic, ‘Do It Yourself’ ethic that existed in that time. Zion Train was the vehicle for the music, Universal Egg was the publishing vehicle for all media. Now 20 odd years later these things have become firstly great life experiences and voyages and then some more. Universal Egg is now a label with 52 long playing releases from over 20 acts and thirty one vinyl single releases. The sister imprint Deep Root has forty four vinyl single releases. Zion Train has released ten original albums and many many remixes, collaborations and propaganda messages! We have performed over 2000 shows in 20 years in almost every corner of the globe spreading a positive message and a conscious vibration.
2) << It is the beat of the heart, this pulsin’ of blood that is a bubblin’ bass. A bad bad beat pushin’ against the wall >>. In this way Linton Kwesi Johnson described dub music in his song “Bass Culture”. What is for you dub music?
(N) – I am not such a poet as the great LKJ but I would describe Dub Music as a channel to OR an expression of elemental forces of nature, full of power, expressed through the desires of humanity.
3) Dub was born in Jamaica initially as B-sides of reggae records. Today, it is almost an independent genre, often characterized by psychedelic elements. How do you see the dub of yesterday and today?
(N) – The Dub of yesterday was a very different thing to the dub of today. In JA dub only existed as a follow up to the song, the vocal.
Even the dub albums were cuts or versions of song rhythms. [quote_left] “All music is a reflection of environment and Dub music is not different in that respect” [/quote_left] This means that the JA dubs kept a lot of harmonic and melodious elements – even at the level of drum and bass line. The Dub that evolved after the music moved the the Uk and beyond is different. It is mainly electronic and written with no song it lacks melody and harmony but has the driving elements of European electronic dance music. Personally I find the best combination is when people are able to use the attractive elements of the old dub with those of the new.
4) In your opinion, what is the philosophy that underlies dub music? And what are the basic ingredients that give it life?
(N) – The underlying philosophy for Dub music, in my opinion, is the individuality of human expression combined with a deep resonant connection to the earth upon which we live. The basic ingredients that give it life are it’s ease and it’s universal nature.
5) There are two main currents in the world-wide dub: the Jamaican one and the English one. They are quite different. What can you say about that?
(N) – Jamaica and England are two very different places even though there is a heavy English influence in Jamaica and an even heavier Jamaican influence in England. This means that the Dub music is inevitably different between the two places. All music is a reflection of environment and Dub music is not different in that respect.
(N) – In the genre of Dub the normal sonic stage hierarchy is upside down and the most influential musician (sonically speaking) on the stage is the so called ‘dubmaster’. This is, in end effect, is what gives Dub an ‘inside-out’ quality. this in turn has legitimized the use of studio technology as on stage musical instruments. All of this is actually an very interesting development in music for me. Of course Music is Power so the dubmaster theoretically has great power in his fingers.
7) In dub the use of electronics is important. In some ways, today, electronics and digital technology have made music less genuine than once, but this is not the case with dub. Can you explain us how does this magic? And what about, instead, the more traditional forms of reggae?
(N) – I do not believe that the use of electronics has made music ‘less genuine’ to be honest. I think it is just a natural evolution in all genres. Music, since the advent of media has consisted of just two types.
1) Soul and Faith music
2) Money and Ego music.
For me they are the ONLY things that make music more or less genuine.
8) A very beautiful and artistic part of dub is the Dub-poetry, dub and poetry fused together. You have also worked with the jamaican dub poetess Jazz’min Tutum. Can you tell us something?
(N) – Jazzmin Tutum is a very talented African/Jamaican Dub Poetess who lives in Germany and I have had the pleasure of working with her several times. I hope we will do more works in the future. [quote_right] “I would describe Dub Music as a channel to OR an expression of elemental forces of nature” [/quote_right] Dub Poetry is a beautiful way of communicating very specific messages and is a very effective musical form.
9) There are great men in the history of dub. For example, I immediately think to King Tubby, Mad Professor and Lee Scratch Perry. Who are your musical fathers?
(N) – My Dub heroes are very many, but top dub master is King Tubby, top sound master is Jah Shaka.
10) Looking at your work, it seems that you have a good relationship with Italy. Collaborations with 99 Posse, Almamegretta, Ital Noiz. What do you think about the Italian dub and reggae in general?
(N) – I think the Italian Dub and Reggae scene is very nice as it has always had its own flavour from the early pioneers like Africa Unite, Sud Sound System and Radici to 99 posse, Almamagretta and to the current day. I think in the last 5-10 years there has been an explosion that is now dying back a bit but that is always so with musical fashions. The scene is strong.
11) Thank you Neil! See you soon in Sicily! One Love!
(N) – I hope to be in Sicilia very soon… Un solo amore.
(Riccardo Passantino, Claudio Azzarello)