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Interview: Gentleman's Dub Club

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Proud Leeds 8-piece (9 including the engineer Harry) Gentleman’s Dub Club have been around the block once or twice over their 12-year career. 

Racking up over 500 live performances across small, medium and huge venues, festival stages, house parties and club nights, they’re a band that flourishes in front of a live crowd. Playing with their tempo and volume in live sets, blasting charismatic and dynamic dub tunes and feel-good vibes, it’s fair to say they’ve honed their craft in front of excited (and sometimes pretty bladdered) audiences. 

Since their humble beginnings sifting through the ramblings in bassist and keyboard player Toby’s basement, the boys have played Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Croatia’s Outlook Festival (which lead vocalist Johnny is heavily involved in the organisation of) and have been championed by the most respected underground reps such as David Rodigan and Huw Stephens on 1xtra and Radio 1 respectively.

Before a heated round of crazy golf at Brick Lane's Junkyard Golf, we spoke to lead vocalist Johnny, bassist Toby and keyboard wizard Luke, about their early years up north.

Johnny: “There was a scene in Leeds, it all came from Leeds, it wasn’t beyond [it].”

We all came from loads of different backgrounds…and we came together at this time in Leeds when dub music was a really important part of the student scene... We just went raving and really enjoyed it. Then as musicians, we recreated it. We all had the time then and the space to be able to do that.” 

The time and freedom from the responsibilities of a 9-5 or paying council tax were aspects of student life that Gentleman’s Dub Club really took advantage of – in terms of learning, soaking up as much knowledge in as short a space of time as possible and for putting in that all-important groundwork for a new band.

Toby: “We definitely really threw ourselves into it because it’s so competitive. If you kinda go half in, then it’s no good. We also had to think of ways of showing ourselves out from the crowd. One of the first things we did was get booked on line-ups with loads of DJs because then the live band would walk on and it’d be like damn, there’s so many more dynamics and control over the crowd.”

“We also had the suits and you know, it was something a little bit different. If you’re going into something at uni then it’s definitely worth thinking about how you can stand out. Especially now when like…there is such a saturation of everything out there.”

Donned in their dapper 3 pieces with a uniquely brash yet sensitive dub sound, Gentleman’s Dub Club began rising through the ranks, appearing on line-ups with prominent jungle and drum & bass DJs, fellow dub stylers and reggae artists. And despite “a lot of years driving in a car with all of your equipment piled on top of you for 6 hours, not getting paid much and really slogging it out” GDC’s live shows made it all worth it. 

Johnny: “It’s weird because it’s literally just constant good fun. It’s like a life hack: be in a band!”

Toby: “Generally it’s been pretty euphoric the whole way with big elements of being really tired and not having any sleep. But the euphoria kicks in even harder when you’re tired, I think.”

And although the boys have had their fair share of peaks along the way, I have a sneaky suspicion their new album Lost In Space, due out on the 25th January next year, will signify a major high point. Crafted through a hot combo of the meticulous teachings learned from The Nextmen while working on the Pound for Pound album that came out earlier this year, and literally being locked in a shed in the arse-end of Wales, Lost in Space is a bold step for dub music everywhere.

Johnny: “We almost went back to how we made music when we first got together as a group. [The album] is based on a story that was originally written and then we took that story and got into this barn in Wales, where we locked ourselves in for a week, and just jammed.

“It’s quite a quick way of working (well for some!) but not for the producer who then had to go away and work out what all those weird, weird ramblings were. But it was like a through-thought that went through everything in the album and I think that continuity is present in the final product.”

Toby: “So many ramblings, my god. But I mean, the last album Dubtopia was set on a tropical island, then before that was The Big Smoke which was about London and the city. It sort of felt like the next step was to go fully intergalactic.”

Luke: “It’s the only place to go!”

Johnny: “Next we’re going into the atom. Inside The Big Bang.”

Toby: “We’re all really into basic astrophysics, at least, we’re fascinated by it. We were also watching a bunch of Rick & Morty at the time so we had some crazy, mad inspiration.”

The first pre-released single ‘Stardust’ screams re-runs of Rick & Morty in a Welsh shack…in the best possible way. Rooted melodies, punchy brass sections and psychedelic lyricism (“Stardust rushing through my blood stream / I found myself lost in space”) all make for a tasty starter that leaves you waiting eagerly for the main course. 

With two more singles set to be released ahead of Lost in Space and 5 more live dates until the end of their UK tour, GDC are ramping up the anti at an alarming rate. If you can’t wait until January 25th, make sure to catch the guys at one of their few remaining shows:

2nd November – Cardiff

3rd November – Exeter

8th November – Birmingham

9th November – Manchester

10th November – Bristol   

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