Dreadzone’s genre-busting sound mixes up dub, rock, folk, electronic and dance. The current line up for this their 7th album and 20th anniversary year is: Greg Dread, original bassmaster Leo Williams, Tim Bran, MC Spee, and legendary reggae vocalist Earl 16, alongside Chris Compton on guitar and Bazil on technology. Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Lena Cullen also features on two tracks.
The electro-dub pioneers formed when ex-Big Audio Dynamite drummer Greg teamed up with Tim and Leo, and for a while Dan Donovan. Tim came back to co-produce with Greg, and play on the new material.
Greg talked us through the making of the new single Too Late. Like a magpie, he collects bits and pieces for his songs, and brings them out when the time is right.
I was going through some stuff and heard the guitar on ‘Is Vic There’ from Department S. It’s an outstanding riff and I sampled it, then later put a 140 bpm beat on it and had the idea of going half-time and breaking it down.
Greg and Leo from Dreadzone had been touring as the rhythm section of BAD (Big Audio Dynamite) with Mick Jones, and he let them use his studio to make their new album. With drums set up there, they could jam around their tracks to get a live feel. Greg says that what sets them apart is the fact that they are fundamentally a live band, and not just working from electronic stems like many DJs.
Leo put a bass part down - we wanted it dancey but rock too, and my son Marlon played keyboards. I’d written short simple lyrics about a tempestuous relationship.
Mick then sang a counterline vocal and recorded a guitar part that gave it a Clash-like BAD feel. He said “What about castanets?”, and it really worked. A friend played them and they are at the end of every 16 bars.
Mick played his white Gibson Les Paul on the track, and Leo was on Fender Precision Bass. Greg says Native Instruments Reaktor is one of his favourite bits of kit for keyboards, and he uses it extensively on the new tracks. He recorded live drums on a Gretsch kit at Britannia Row Studios, which were punched through in the single mix from Cenzo Townshend.
Cenzo has worked with The Vaccines, Snow Patrol, and Florence & The Machine, and cut his teeth with BAD on the No 10 Upping St album.
There are also remixes coming of some of the album tracks, from a dubstep mix of Too Late by Russian duo Teddy Killerz, through to jungle and house versions.
We put the main emphasis on the dance floor stuff in the remixes and left the main songs more in an album setting with more bass.
Dreadzone are always reinventing themselves musically, and Greg revealed that one new process he is using is to listen to classical tracks and re-imagine them. Though there will be other influences on the next recordings.
I’ve been listening to King Tubby and Lee Perry lately and there is something sublime about them. The next album will be very dub and reggae orientated.
Dreadzone’s album Escapades is released on 9th September and the Dreadzone tour starts on 19th September at The Scala in London.