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Taken from Ransom Note (Aug 16, 2023)

Adrian Sherwood interviews Panda Bear and Sonic Boom

Adrian Sherwood has reinterpreted and re-crafted the last Panda Bear & Sonic Boom album into a masterpiece in dub so it was only right they had a big old chat about dub.

by Ransom Note


Photocollage
Photocollage


Panda Bear & Sonic Boom 2022 album "Reset" has had a makeover from the most excellent Adrian Sherwood. "Reset in Dub" as its name implies, is a dub version masterfully re-crafted by the legendary British dub producer.

Breathing new into the original tracks, Sherwood elevates the originals with a transformative, deep-dive dub exploration, enlisting musicians from iconic groups such as the Sugarhill Gang and Tackhead.


As we've been such big fans of Mr Sherwood for many a year and similarly Sonic Boom and Panda Bear we ask Adrian to sit down and ask the questions that matter.



Adrian - You mentioned to me that "Cherry's Dub" by King Tubby is a major touchstone for you both. What is it about that record that inspires you?


Pete - I think I think we both love dub in loads of different ways. That track is such a sweet song, though, that Eric Donaldson song and then dubbing it with all that echo. It's just like, you know, it's a whole thing. But I think we've both been into different dub for a long time. And one of this questions is, what was the first dub record? The first dub record I owned was Basement Five.



I found out Don Letts sang for them originally. But the stuff I have is in the hips and him singing, but that was the first I had that 65 to 80 basement five album. And then one day I came across the dub EP that they did from it, I'd really liked the album, so I bought it. And that was the first dub record that I owned. But yeah, and again, we're back to the thing where it's, it's not really a reggae band, I mean, sort of punk reggae, I suppose. But it was really interesting thing to hear Doug also with that sort of almost like metal guitars and stuff and he's really odd punk metal new waves of guitars and the dub effects.


Noah - it's really wild to me how many different types of sounds and expressions they got from a very minimal sort of set up.


Adrian - This new version features contributions from some of my regular ON-U sound collaborators, including Doug Wimbish & Skip McDonald (Sugarhill Gang, Tackhead), drummer Horseman, Alex White, Mark Bandola, "Crucial" Tony, Ivan "Celloman" Hussey, and Matthew Smythe. I know you're Sugarhill fans and love those early Flash records, are there any in particular that you enjoyed?



Pete - They were all super slick. I presume they were doing those tracks playing to a drum machine cause they're so tight?


Adrian - I think they were playing to a click.


Pete - Wow, that's a special skill! I was lucky to see them I guess it was the first tour they did in 82 or 83 I think it was. I didn't really wanna go but it was a free show, went with some friends and it was just stunning. I don't think they had a band playing live I just remember Flash and the furious five doing their moves so I'm not sure if they were using backing tracks or.


Adrian - Probably. You'd gone from a band playing a residency in the States for a week in one place and then another band would come in and suddenly then along comes disco or DJs. And it was great for the promoters like it is now. They prefer to support one person than 7 or 8. But Flash didn't make any of those records they just stuck his name on them. He just gets credited for the message.


Pete - The Sugarhill Gang as well those records, they just had a really nice vibe. And I mean, they were sort of in the charts right? You'd hear him on G boxes in pubs and stuff they were they were just sort of pervasive in the culture at that time.


Noah - It's funny how other rappers have the time really hated on those Sugarhill MCs they didn't like them.


Adrian - Well, at that time it was just kind of happy-clappy stuff. I used to love things like The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron and things like that. And thought-provoking things. But I think I think that record, particularly, you know, White Lines and The Message and those things that they were, they were unbelievable and just last the test of time.


Pete - Yeah, the production on White Lines is just stunning, and the humour as well that they're dealing with this really, really gritty subject code but they're making all these quite funny jokes about it. Really kind of mocking thing, it's a really bold projection.


Noah - that sort of thing goes back to Jamaica. And that's something that directly inspired us for recent stuff is this idea of writing about subjects that are really kind of tough and heavy, dark, serious, difficult, but trying to imbue them or kind of wrap them in a costume that sort of more cheery, almost like kind of like a Trojan horse. You kind of fool somebody into having to confront this stuff.


Adrian - What is it about this Reset album that lends itself so well to being reworked as a Dub album do you think?


Pete - Jim Dickinson said to me one time if you've got the song, it doesn't really matter if it's great. It doesn't matter if you've got the worst recording on the worst fucking day if you've got the fucking song, you have it.


Noah - The opposite is kind of true as well.


In action
In action


Pete - Yeah, I mean, he was a producer. He wasn't saying don't worry about it. But he was like, you know, what I do is nothing. It's what comes in through the door. And that's really what it is. And I think that's what happened with Reset: when Noah started sending me back the songs I knew straight away that we had something really good. If the song is just good it doesn't matter if it's a jazz version, or an icicle version or whatever, if the melodies and the songs good, it'll translate.


Noah - I also think it may not sound on at first glance, but it's pretty minimal, like the setup and the architecture of the songs. And I think that allows for a lot of like the space and you can sort of choose your own adventure sound-wise with the material.


Adrian - I agree with what the producer says. Big congratulations on the songs. I think you can hear where you're coming from and where you've been and everything and also it conjures images and good songs always put a picture in your head, which these ones do. And good songwriting nowadays, it's such a difficult thing, you can make something sound good very easily with computers and technology and whatever but there's nothing to replace ideas and great songwriting. This for me was fun because you know, I could just minimalize a little bit what was already quite minimal, and it kind of sat really nicely when we put our players on to join what you've done.


Pete - I think we got lucky with things. Some bands you listen to like Kraftwerk, where you can just hear everyone is really just owning their own space within the song and kind of keeping out of each other's way and just really almost all the elements are awesome. And we were kind of lucky with that. I mean, no, I played a lot of the bass parts and keyboard parts and stuff. It's back to the Jim Dickinson thing. We have a really good song and everyone who comes into it sort of feeds off that then they're straight in there and enjoying themselves. Even though it was really fucking tough times to be in and it didn't feel like great fun doing it because of the times we were doing it in. I enjoyed it!


Noah - I enjoyed it too. I didn't enjoy the lockdown, but the making music part It was like the only it was the only thing that really took my mind off everything.


Pete - It was a salve it really was. For me, I was fried by the whole event and the events around me and things happening with friends and family that wouldn't have been so bad in normal times. But yeah the songs were really good and everything seemed to fit into place. Like yourself both of us came into this with an understanding of how things work ideally and again we were very good at finding the space in between things which was a big part of it too.

Adrian - the album is brilliant. I did the whole record using the first thing you said to me, the "Cherry Dub", trying to keep a joyous feel to it. Make it spacious and big.


Pete - Adrian, do you remember the first Dub record you heard? What was it & when did it occur to you to apply the technique to other genres?


Adrian - Weirdly the first time I heard a dub record, I was standing outside a club in 1970-71. There was a club in town in High Wycombe where I grew up and they were playing things there. We used to go to parties. They were playing b-side's where they had the original on the A side and what they called 'versions' on the other. And the version is really what evolved into what became 'dub'. These dub versions, rather than an overdub, or a stripped-down dub where they took things in and out. The first album I can really remember sitting at home and listening to, it wasn't the best but it was Ital Dub by Augustus Pablo and the album by King Tubby Meets The Upsetter People From The Grass Roots. But I thought of that as a more commercial dub record but everything came from 'Version' which to this day is unique to Jamaican music. Where you have multiple adaptations of one rhythm. You say look at your album you could take your favourite track say "Whirlpool" or something and then get a DJ on it and then get another saxophone or something else and multiple versions of something if there were a demand for the rhythm itself.



Noah - which is kind of funky cause with Reset we were doing the same thing. Except it wasn't the rhythm of the song it was the intro of the song. We were taking the intro and creating a new song on top of it.

Adrian - yours is all about melody, it's really lovely. I have melodies going around in my head coming back to me from it.


Pete - When did you start doing dub yourself?


Adrian - I'm not a musician and I had a distribution company and I was working with a Jamaican man who was like my dad because my dad died and this guy had looked after me since I was about 13 and I started this distribution company with him when I was 17. And I started a label following that and started meeting musicians. We'd be sat at home in the evening listening to tunes and having a cup of tea and a spliff at the time listening to those records I mentioned earlier. I saved up some money and ran my own session. So I hummed some baselines to a local bass player who's actually a Calypso bass player. I then hired the studio and got Mark Lasady and Angelo, Linda Lusardi the model's brother who's an absolutely brilliant engineer Mark, he's still going. And he engineered it and then got all the musicians together. And then Chips introduced me to Dennis and Dennis ended up mixing it for me. And I made a whole album, I think for about 200 quid, put it out, and it sold every bit as well as anything else I'd been putting out and I thought, Oh, this is easy, have I just bluffed my way along. But I just did it for fun and made a record I wanted to hear back at the house you know, I was going to any small delay model a more reverb you know, it was all magic hang turn it all up but to this day is my dear friend and that was my start. And after that it was gigs and gigs and gigs and then I got my hands on a mixing desk and just persevered to create a sound really.


What was the starting point for both of you then getting into music? Was it learning to play instruments or?


Noah - I mean similar to you and so far as it was I was just having fun it just felt good to do it to make songs and record stuff. It was just one of my favourite things to do but I started taking piano lessons when I was really young. I was really lucky to have a piano in the house and just kind of fiddle around. My parents were really encouraging, another lucky strike for me.


Pete - well, they told me my things is far too big to play the violin which I think is a euphemism for your tone fucking death so I then I can really relate to when you say you're more about the sound than you are a musical person. And you know, of course you pick up musical information by mistake when you once you start making music. But it was all about the effect of the thing and the sound like you I really love effects as well and that's always been my main instruments in some ways, doing very little and then doing a lot with the effects basically, because they just know the Tremeloes and delays and reverbs they just have such an instant magic to them that I was like okay, that's kind of that's sort of where I'm going to base myself and try and find interesting things you know.


Adrian - What were your favourite vocal groups then?


Noah - Beach Boys, Beatles, Temptations, Zombies, all of those. Sam Cooke I wouldn't call a vocal group but on something like bring it on home to me the way the two voices go together and that song is a really big one for me.


Adrian - You've got a lovely voice and sound and it touches you which is really good. And if you actually go into that stuff and really get your songs to connect to your spirit, your own soul when you're singing and feel it. It can you know, those great teachers, they are really incredible. They just said something that touches you and you're like, wow, I want to do the same thing.


Noah - Do you think dub is sort of the first instance in popular music anyways of that, those types of techniques being employed not just as sort of like a fill in the gaps kind of measure, but really as a feature of the music itself.


Adrian - Well I still say that dub wasn't really a type of music. It's a type of version. I, like I said earlier, I mean, Hendrix was using the effects. So the effects was so important to that sonic. It has become a thing where like, there's lots of kids over France to Germany to Japan, using those techniques, but it's also very present in techno and everything else. I mean, for me, I like those records that might be my favourite or Blackboard Jungle is the album really the lead penguin where The effects are twice as loud as the rhythm. they're leaping out of the track Blackboard Jungle is so revolutionary, you've got so drastically stereo, and the effects louder than anything else. And that peeping-out thing. That's what I'm, I think you'd like Pete as well. You know, it's like that. The effects are everything, the effects of this plus the best one really, you know.



Pete - the first truly dub record that I bought is that one. I started getting into Lee Perry stuff and some of the earliest stuff, which I really love as well. And then there was a guy in Birmingham, he ran a record store. You might know this did what he used to go to Jamaica to base his stock and bring it.


Adrian - I used to like non-reggae stuff as well. And I'd hear things flying as I was going in and out of like rock tried selling my own records, and other traders doing non-reggae stuff and hearing things like everything from link right to you know, Jesus Mary Chain where the dramas seemed really tiny, and the guitars much too loud, almost, you know, I mean, and you want it to turn. So they had all these things or stuff that seemed unbalanced. And I like to this day love that as well. So in a mix, you suddenly push right to the front of the mix, and then it'll disappear off and then something else will now you know, and almost like bulb was pumping sound.


Noah - I almost wonder if it's more about like the atmosphere. The job techniques are about creating the sort of specific air and space


Adrian - Well totally. think it's also if you hear that stuff on a big sound system, which they were doing, they just sound amazing. I mean, a lot of them wouldn't have sounded very good. Having just, you know, bass and drums playing for like a minute on its own. On a regular hifi in those days, if you heard it with like, EQ parametric sweeps on the hats and stuff on a huge system. It would be nothing like it at that time.


Pete - it's a form of psychedelia, I'd argue because it's really, it's trying to stimulate people who this high right, I mean, smoking weed, I think it's really playing to that sort of audience particularly. So I call It's a form of psychedelia in a way, and like you say, with Hendrix, when he was making psychedelic music, basically using the same techniques, same things translate.


Adrian - Also, I think, after the sound, the performance on the right, people used to say, Oh, it's on Chicky Chicky. And it's like, not great musicianship, you know, try playing it and get that amount of feel. That is all live and non click all those early, great records. But it was also the tonality of those tunes that I personally love. While all my life you know, the roundness the fatness of the sound, that's that the frequencies in the high end and that stuff. Now, everybody's so used to soup Stop and that but if you play back any of those records from you know quite records going back to the 1970 you know that they still sound tonally not far off or very close to what's going on now or you play other records in that period it's only really classic really amazingly recording stuff from the states really I couldn't.


Noah - to me like a lot of the space of it is defined by the fact that there's all this low stuff and all this really clicky clicky high stuff but often the in-between space there's not there'll be stuff coming in and out but it sounds like a constant thing whereas the bass and the Hi-Hat stuff just sort of rides the whole time and I feel like that sort of sets the roof and the floor of the thing in a way


Adrian - well I think nowadays I mean yourselves myself lots of people way back have been into an audio attack you know an element of surprise something jumping out at you and that's why I think you know, you guys have got that you'd like something to just leap out as well but


Noah - another thing I was thinking is that to your point about the psychedelic part of the music is and something that I loved about it immediately because the first job record I heard was King Tubby's roots of dub that my friend Jesse Serwer shout out Jesse he had a tape of it a cassette tape and I would walk around listening to this thing over and over again. But what I would really kind of was magical about it to me was that I could tell that there was a song there but it was kind of like hidden and it was like an illusion of a song but you could hear it kind of poke through this sort of veil every once in a while where the vocals would shoot in and that that feeling of like something that was hidden and undisclosed I found really alluring still to this day.


Pete - What are your Desert Island Dub tools ? The top 3 indispensable tools ?


Technique


Adrian - (showing Pete & Noah around the studio) I like it if I can get the delays really accurate. I like using sixteenths or triplets and delays. I think the best quality reverb and delay in my armoury is AMS. I like the AMS reverb, the RMS 16 and the AMS delay and I like the Grampian spring which I swapped it for a bit of fun, something loads of money, it's worth a lot. All three are English. So now I've got the both my AMS is there in a bag in the middle of the studio. They're going back to be repaired. Because I'm about I'm going I'm going away this month. While I'm away I'm going to get them fixed. I'm sending them off to Burnley in Lancashire. Oh yeah. To be the home of IMS and on a flip right on in the studio here. Where are they from the late 70s or 80s now are right and then the Grampian I've got I just got a Japanese sticker on it, but there's the Grampian. There's electrical 2245 would be pairing. Yeah. There's a tape delay, and there's a 500-series version of the AMS reverb. That's that one there. That reverb there's a fisher That's what King Tubby used on his record as official I believe. it's one that used to be in motorcars in the United States. They have it in a car on the eighth what they call eight track things in a car. my son in law lent it to me because he is a sound obsessive and he's got a load of good gear. Harry, big shout to Harry. And I like the Auban, if you're on a budget, you can still pick those up. Stateside for like, you know, 400 bucks or something. And that's got a good spring sound as well. But those three answers your question because I've been waffling in the sense that they were the ones I would keep as my absolute. To make those three machines will be alone to make a good record is if you're on a budget, you could get three brilliant ones very cheaply, the Eventide stuffs amazing Eventide space Eventide nine, and you pick up an SD 3000 delay for about 150 quid, and you can hold analogue studio for under a grand, you know.


Reset In Dub is out imminently. Order Here



 
 

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