Dreadzone... Left two Light
Published on March 26th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Dreadzone are set to follow up the recent reissue of their classic 1995 album Second Light with a series of live shows in the UK and Europe between April and August – click here for dates – so Rocksucker fired over some questions to the group’s head honcho Greg Roberts, aka Greg Dread, whose appetite for touring was thoroughly whetted by spending last year back on the road as drummer of Big Audio Dynamite.
Before you delve into Greg’s illuminating replies, check out this choice cut from Second Light, which is now available in remastered form with a bonus disc of material from Dreadzone’s Glastonbury ’95 performance…
How have this year’s Dreadzone live shows gone so far?
So far this year there have only been three shows, but it’s been a great start to the year considering that we lost a computer drive to the great disk graveyard in the sky the day before the first show. Some preparation for original Second Light songs was missing but we managed to salvage it from some backups, and with a new laptop and new member on board. We played a fresh set with more instrumental songs in and a good balance between the old and the new. A little Second Light segment at the end of the show works really well.
To what extent were you involved with the remastering of Second Light? Are you pleased with how it turned out? Would you consider doing similar with any of your other albums?
I attended but just left it to the same guy who has done our last four albums, Matt Colton at AIR Studios. He is quality and has made it have more warmth and bass end. I am well pleased. Maybe if we re-release 360 we will remaster it if the original tapes are around. We were lucky that Virgin had all the DAT tapes.
“Life, Love and Unity”
The term ‘reggae’ has been used in some quarters as a description of Second Light. Do you consider it as such at all? To my ears, it has far more in common with, say, Leftism than Bob Marley (I appreciate that’s quite a simplistic analysis, but still…) I suppose ‘dub’ might be more on the money. Do you prefer to steer clear of such simple categorisations?
Not really, though there are quite a few reggae flavours as much as the dub. I think we just emphasise the influence of Jamaican culture in our and other UK music so it could be anything from that root. We were founded in the light of the new dance and techno movement in the early ’90s so have always straddled the two, and other influences including Big Audio Dynamite mean we cast our net pretty wide. I categorise it as Dread music.
How much trouble did you have getting clearance to use the various samples on the album?
Not so much; having Virgin and major label backing helped smooth things through at a much more lenient time for sampling. Nowadays you can’t really get away without people squeezing you for as much as they can get. Five lines of dialogue: two grand, please. It goes without saying that stuff goes under the radar anyway. It’s not like we’re Lady Gaga or anything.
Speaking of which, will “Lana Dub Rey” be receiving any kind of ‘proper’ release? It’s ace, by the way!
Thanks! I doubt it, not unless they hear it and want to use it. I did it because the song touched a feeling inside me for the kind of dreamlike year I had last year, so one night I took the audio off YouTube and stuck an old skool dub riddim behind it. It seemed to really suit it, not least because her vocal melody is like a dub bass line anyway. It’s not really a remix like the countless dubstep or whatever ones out there on YouTube. I wanted to keep the feeling of her vocal and cushion it with a groove that is simple and respectful.
John Peel apparently cited Second Light as one of his all-time favourite albums. Did you get to know him at all?
We met a few times at various festivals and BBC sessions. We were even invited to attend This is Your Life when they did him. I can’t say we knew him that well, but he was a fine man, very down to earth, easy to talk to and beautifully eclectic.
I remember seeing you perform “Little Britain” on Top of the Pops. Did the success of that song take you by surprise? Were you living a ‘pop star’ lifestyle at that stage?
“Little Britain” (live on Top of the Pops)
Hardly; things were a bit more organised, but it all happened so quick that you don’t really get a chance to savour it. That’s why I drank in every last drop of the BAD reunion last year.
In fact, listening back to the Second Light reissue, and of course the Best Of, must have brought a lot of good and bad memories flooding back. To what extent do you still feel in touch with who you were back then?
Mostly all good memories. The bad is just getting dropped and having to deal with how to keep going, which is what we have done. It’s probably good that we weren’t too big; we have been able to build a steady, good little concern from what we began. It was a magical time but so much has changed in my life since then and continues to.
Is there a follow-up to [Dreadzone’s 2010 album] Eye on the Horizon in the works? If so, do you think you’ll continue to use guest vocalists?
We are working on a bunch of new stuff, although some of it was lost on the computer crash. But we will be featuring guest vocalists on this one. Earl 16 and Spee have both been with us for fifteen years and ten years respectively so I am keen to work with some new guests, a couple of girl singers I am already working in, to complement our regular singers.
How did you enjoy taking Big Audio Dynamite on the road last year? You played some cracking festivals; which ones stood out for you and why?
“A Party” (live at Lollapalooza 2011)
It was the best year ever, or at least for a long time. As I said, I savoured it well. Great times…like flying to LA to play the Roxy as a warm-up and then the drive through to Palm Springs to play Coachella, hanging with Danny de Vito, then onto play Roseland and hang out in New York. Really great, some of the best times. Lollapalooza as well in Chicago with the backdrop of the great city on a summer’s day. Fuji Rock was bizarre, it just rained all the time, but still great to go to Japan for the first time. Some were better than others. Dreadzone raised the roof in the dance tent at Glastonbury whilst BAD played a bit of a damp one in a rainy field to lots of people waiting around for a secret Radiohead set.
What do you think of the current state of electronic music? Have any particular artists caught your imagination?
It seems very healthy and very full of multi-genre-bending artists. I am always on the lookout as I DJ as well, but for me I always tell everybody about Trentemøller. He is a most remarkable electronic artist; his sonic approach and melodic understanding is amazing. For his last two albums anyway. Quality stuff. Been exploring SoundCloud recently, discovering stuff like SBTRKT and ESSÁY.. So many different artists doing cool tracks, too many to mention.
I couldn’t help but notice you hobnobbing with the comedian Jim Jeffries on Twitter. How do you know him? Just so happens I’ve been watching his stuff to death over the last month or two. The man’s a genius.
I wasn’t really, I just sent him a message! But we did meet him as we went to the recording of his last DVD. He comes on to our song “Beyond a Rock”. It was a great night. He was drinking throughout the show and seemed well pissed after. Such a uniquely funny guy, but I fear almost too much for some of the sensitive types these days who are easily offended. Class.
“Beyond a Rock” (from Eye on the Horizon)
At the risk of coming across as somewhat stalker-ish, your comment about FSOL teaming up with Noel Gallagher caught my eye too!
wow can Amorphous Androgynous/ FSOL really make Noel G listenable. good to see them back
— Greg DreadZone (@dreadzonemusic) February 29, 2012
Would you consider working with someone at the absolute opposite end of the musical spectrum to yourself? If you had free rein to choose, whose sound would you love to have a bash at ‘Dreading up’?
Oh, the list could go on and on. I love good songs so have no problem working from melody first. Who? Hmm…not Noel Gallagher, as you may have noticed. I don’t know. I love that Gotye song “Somebody I Used to Know'; would love to have a go at that. Some of the Drive film soundtrack that I have been getting into, moody electronic stuff. Could easily do another Lana del Ray, loving her at the moment. A lot of good songs could take a Dread-up; I even did one of Nat King Cole once. Would love to do a ‘Bowie in dub’ record.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Erm no, can’t think of any at the moment. Could give a shout to our newest member who is also a drum and bass producer, DJ Bazil.
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Are we talking just music artists? Ok then: Ennio Morricone, The Who, Beethoven, Vaughan Williams and Trentemøller.
Greg, thank you.
Thanks very much!
Dreadzone’s groundbreaking 1995 album Second Light was released on 5 March 2012 by EMI as a two-disc special edition featuring previously unreleased live concert material from Glastonbury 1995.
The Second Light Special Edition comes complete with an entire disc of bonus material including the John Peel session track ‘Maximum’ and a 45 minute live set from Glastonbury in 1995.