After years of busking and street performances around the world, Dub FX has honed his performance skills to the sharpest degree. Anyone who caught him with us at EXIT Festival two years ago, or any of his mainstage shows, will attest to this…
But how do you capture that vocal dexterity and boil that rawness of the moment into a tangible body of recorded work?
Now on his third album Melbourne-born, globally-based Dub FX reckons he might be closer to working it out, but is also truthful enough to himself to say he’s still got room for even more improvement in the future.
Energised by clarity, seemingly turbo-charged with positivity, Dub FX is in a great place right now. Here’s how he got there…
Thinking Clear gives the impression that you weren’t enjoying such clarity before…
It’s not that I wasn’t clear before. It’s that I’m more clear now. I feel like I’m constantly pushing and challenging myself to be the best I can be at everything I do… I’m not interested in being better than anyone else but myself. I’m in a new phase of my life. I’m in a new relationship which is much more mature and supportive. I have a good label and a new band which means I have more support. I also have a deeper understanding of myself and the universe around me. I’m truly thinking clear.
The album takes off where Theory Of Harmony left us…. What have you learnt technically between albums?
The main thing I really figured out was how to capture more soul and authenticity. I find it really hard to get the same energy in the studio that I can live. I worked out that jamming in the studio with musicians brought out more energy and soul in my performance. On my last album I recorded it all by myself and then invited musicians to play their bits over a nearly finished product. This time I wrote and recorded the music in the studio with all the musicians while we jammed.
Where does the vocal instrumentation and organic instrumentation start and end?
Before I was DUB FX I was singing in heaps of different bands all over Melbourne ranging from heavy metal, jazz, reggae, hip-hop, acoustic, breaks, techno… The list goes on. When I left for Europe I decided to make it as cheap as possible and do it all myself in a loop station until I could afford musicians. I was never trying to prove I could do it all myself or make out that I’m only a solo musician, in fact I always welcomed the possibility to jam with musicians where ever possible. Making a good song is the most important thing. If it’s going to be better with a drummer so be it, if it’s better with beatboxing so be it… But nowadays my fans love my music also for the way I do it live with the loop station all by myself. It’s kind of tricky. So what I do is make all the beats myself either by beatboxing or by creating them with samples in my computer. Then I get Evan on bass and Andy on keys to jam over those beats and then I sing over the top. We try to make the song as good as it can be just with the three of us. If we realise it needs extra percussion or horns to give it a lift we add that in there. It’s all very organic.
Sounds nice and loose – no rules or rigidity….
I’m extremely open to letting the musicians do their thing with the song. I choose to work with these guys because I love their style! I always have the last say on the track but i make sure that all the musicians feel they have delivered their best stuff. It works because they trust me and I trust them.
Do you play other instruments yourself?
I started playing the drums when I was 12 and gave up after a year because my dad wouldn’t buy me a drum kit! I picked up the guitar instead and never put it down… I don’t use it in my show, though, because it’s just another thing to worry about. I do write all my songs on guitar first then jam them out on the loop station to see where else I can take the tune.
Lyrically there’s a strong message of positivity running through everything you do. Where does that come from and who has inspired you in that way?
When I was about 16 I noticed that middle class white people always seem to make depressing music while disenfranchised minority groups or “people of colour” made really uplifting music. I couldn’t work out why so I figured from a really young age that if I was going to sing songs to people I wanted to make them feel good. I think it’s way too easy to use negativity and ignorance to make music sound cool. It’s a lot harder to make uplifting positive music and not be cheesy… It’s a challenge I have embraced from the beginning.
Do you find it easy to find the right level or tone? Getting a message across without seeming preachy or empty is very challenging but you seem to have that finely tuned.
I don’t really think about it too much. I just let whatever comes out of my brain in that moment be the lyric. I don’t feel like I’m ever forcing it or meticulously going over it to make sure there’s all this complex shit going on… I feel more like I’m channelling information from another dimension. That probably sounds weird but I don’t feel like my lyrics are actually coming from me. Sometimes I read back on lyrics from time ago and think “wow that’s actually pretty clever! How did I come up with that?” Other times I hear things in my lyrics that make more sense to me later in life then when I was actually writing it! It’s really strange; as far as sounding authentic with my delivery of those kind of positive messages without it sounding weak I guess it’s just because I truly understand my strengths and my weaknesses… I’ve seen people fail when they try and add positive messages in their shows and try to say conscious stuff. The reason they fail is because they are judging themselves while they say it… No one will take you seriously if you don’t feel confident and convinced with what you’re saying. There is no point throwing those conversations in to the show if you’re only doing it because you think you have to. It has to come from a real place. It can’t be forced. Street performing is what taught me how to be authentic.
Do you think conscious messages and lyrical positivity is something electronic music is lacking or could do more of?
Not just electronic music but in all music. Again it has to be coming from a genuine place. It can’t be forced… Sometimes writing about shaking your ass is what works for the vibe of that tune. There is nothing wrong with that… The most important thing is being authentic.
Give me an album high/Give me an album low…
I was on a high recording the whole album! Recording a three-piece horn section and percussion was new for me and a lot of fun. I can’t say I had any real low moments. One thing I do really beat myself up over in the studio is capturing my voice properly. I find it so hard to sound how I want to sound in such a boring stale studio atmosphere. I don’t think I have a very good voice generally but I do know how to deliver a good performance in front of people… I would record myself and think it was fine, then listen to it a few days later and think it was the worst thing ever! I got there in the end…