With Guitars felt that with Dreadzone headling along with Adam Ant and The Damned at the Bearded Festival 2012, high time we reworked our original 1995 interview with the band recorded just as the ‘Second Light’ album was released Tony Woolgar had coffee and cake with the then trio, talking is of both albums and labels to date and John Peel, Morricone the birthday and that night’s gig.
You may have seen them at last year’s Glastonbury or on the last Megadog tour. One of club culture’s dynamic live artists along with Sabres, Underworld and The Prodigy, Dreadzone bang out the heady mix dub bass. Tight as f**k drumming and assorted samples/keyboard sounds, all accompanied by an ever-changing stream of images projected onto a screen behind them The effect is mesmerising, a soundclash of onstage dub-mixing and acid atmosphere.
There are three units to Dreadzone – Greg Roberts, sample addict and rhythm scientist; Tim Bran, mix master and computer junkie, and Leo Williams, dub bassmaster general. Greg and Leo were originally members of the mighty Big Audio Dynamite, Greg forming screaming Targets with BAD’s Don Letts, meeting Tim while working on their debut album, ‘Hometown Hi-Fi’. Tim had been carving out a reputation mixing and producing, programming and playing with people like Black Radical, Dream Warriors, Omar, Mica Paris and Julian Cope. The collaborations with Greg started out as dub experiments but soon took on a life of its own. Over cups of Marriott Hotel coffee and slices of Tim’s birthday cake Dreadzone recall why they set things in motion.
“We wanted to make some music that was really honest and that reflected what we wanted to do, Tim explains.
“Not getting too complicated by writing songs,” Greg adds. “We were inspired by club culture1q and things like that; we wanted to make a collage of day-to-day inspirations. Dreadzone’s three years old now and gaining strength every day.”
Dreadzone came into being in the summer of 1992, Greg recalls a time of angst and depression. “Screaming Targets ran its own course, it just sort of ran out of energy,” he admits. “We had to stop what we were doing and let it die, as it were, and be reborn as something else, strip it down totally, take in lots of different inspirations; do a bit of travelling, get a bit of reality being on the dole. Having to spend time worth my family. All of us were going through different times at the time., just a time of upheaval, and it started from there.”
“Birth of a new baby, wasn’t it?” Tim confirms.
Dreadzone’s debut album emerged on Creation in 1993 after Alan McGhee heard a taped version.
“We did the album and then we did the deal. Tim explains, “Which was an interesting way of doing things, as people either liked it or didn’t, they took the album and brought it out. Creation was a slight step aside from signing to a normal dance label – we are not a dance group, we are an album band”
“It was necessary in that direction.” Greg adds. “We had to learn that we were never going to be top of their list of priorities. It was absolutely necessary to be with that kind of label with that kind of approach, because they are from a rock ‘n’ roll songwriting background.”
“It was nice to come from an indie point of view.” Tim considers. “We thought it would be to our advantage, whether it was or not we don’t know. But the album came out and it got good reviews, so it was a good start, a good fan base to build on.”
The second album ‘Second Light’ has just been released on Virgin after they made an ‘amicable departure’ from Creation, who have appeared to have dispensed with the club side of their roster mow that Oasis are huge.
Where the first LP left you with a “what the hell was that?” feeling, ‘Second Light’ has a more spiritual base. Dreadzone consider it as a progression.
“If you look at all the things going on around you, there’s an overwhelming desire to just be different, to stand out in the mainstream album format,” Greg contends. They have no favourite tracks, preferring to point out the way the tracks flow together. There’s not an obvious movie track either like The Good, The Bad And The Dread’ either.
“There’s a track called ‘Canterbury Tale’ which is influenced by Powell & Press burger. Quintessentially English movies.” Greg explains. “It’s basically like a string quartet jammin’ with trance keyboards and rimshot drums. It’s a very country track; it could be a film soundtrack and opens with a sample from Powell & Pressburger movie. I don’t think there is anything as obvious as the Spaghetti Western theme, it’s something you could take wholesale and apply it to music, and it makes great atmospherics.”
“Very strong image-wise.” Tim adds.
“Morricone must have some Jamaican blood in him; a few people have sampled him.” Greg concludes
“Jamaicans watch a lot of his movies.” Leo adds.
“Larger than life, absolutely.” Tim agrees.
“This album is like our soundtrack to our film,” Greg insists, “but leaves a lot of space for you to imagine your own movies when you listen to it.”
Though ‘Fight The Power’, Dreadzone’s response to the odious Criminal Justice Act, pulls no punches with the song’s message, they admit they’re not a political band.
“We do obviously have political views, and when something takes our eyes…” muses Tim, “it’s just case of doing something…”
“It was an extension of ‘The Warning’, which was the first track that Dreadzone released; the bassline was sampled and put together with a double time beat, and that is probably the nucleus of Dreadzone.” Greg explains. “Along with what was going on at the time, like riots; having the TV on all the time and just running, all these different elements making up a track – that’s gotta say something. It does gonna express your anger at ridiculous situations. It’s a good way to use samples, no lyrics, no songs, so you create a documentary of the time. Legal wise, they make sure that their samples are always cleared.”
“You have to; otherwise you’ll be in trouble.” Tim Explains. “A couple actually refused, On the first album we were refused a sample, which we eventually did on the bass. It’s part of the game. We’re paying respect to these people. It amazes me that people say no when we explain in personal letters, not just through lawyers; just saying “”look, this is in total awe of the composer, in ad admiration, in tribute, but they still serve us damages. It’s their prerogative, but…””
“it’s annoying when you build up a whole track,” adds Greg, “and you feel that the sample is so integral to it. It’s really part of the inspiration…”
“We try to put that across to them, Tim continues. “We replaced it with a live instrument, and it actually sounds better now. It’s cool. It makes you think on a different angle. We had to replace a lot of samples on the first album. It’s like money is more important to these people…”
The funny thing is that if they say no they’re not making any money, but they could make money if they said ‘oh, yeah, we take 50% of the track, then,”” Tim contends, “Each is strange, maybe they don’t get the music.”
one person that does get the music is Radio 1’s John Peel who has played Dreadzone’s live sets from last year’s Glastonbury Festival and this year’s They are quite pleased at Peel’s support.
“Initially it was a great compliment,” Tim enthuses Tim, “because that guy has heard so much music…”
“He’s always in the forefront, isn’t he? Leo makes sense of our positive gaggle.
“He knows that he can help bands, if he takes bands under his wing and he helps them. “It’s a personal thing for him.” Tim continues. “It’s a two-way thin. He gets satisfaction out of seeing bands do well, and we get their help. We did the Sound City thing in Bristol. We were the last onstage on the last night, which was great. Peelie came down and introduced us. Angie Nightingale as well has been playing our records, so it’s nice to know there are people are looking out for us and they are honest about it. They are not being told what records to play, they play what they want. If they like something they give it their help.”
“John Peel definitely our favourite DJ, though,” Greg smiles, “We Always listen to his show, that’s how music should be, that is how our music should be presented.”
“It’s not programmed radio, says Tim. “They play want they want. It’s the anarchic side of Radio 1. I dunno what Radio 1 think about it, I suppose they feel they have to perform that right and say “oh yes, they can carry on.”
“They’re old school, that’s how it should be, mot having a monopoly on what is played. They pit a thrash track next to hard techno; it just shows that there’s there is a common bond.”
Dreadzone have not done an ‘Essential Mix’ yet, but the idea’s definitely intriguing, Other future plans include a lot of gigs.
“Each one being an event in itself.” Greg insists. “Making all the right moves to just implant the sound of Dreadzone into people’s minds so they can listen to it, soak it in and then appreciate it for what it is. It’s an album you can listen to; it’s not totally instant, though it does connect with a lot of people. It’s a case of going around the world, really, spreading the Second Light of Dreadzone.”