Salmonella Dub: Getting freaky massive
Wed 18th Nov, 2009 Features 5300 viewsin
Salmonella Dub are incredibly popular in their home country of New Zealand. They’ve won countless awards and have become one of their country’s most successful musical exports since Crowded House. They’re also insanely popular here, with their shows constantly selling out. It’s a wonder that Australia hasn’t claimed them as our own yet, especially considering Peter Wood, long time member, splits his time between New Zealand and Queensland.
Wood, the jovial trumpet/trombone player and sometimes keyboardist, is running around trying to get the best reception, laughing at his own antics and doing his best to answer my barrage of questions. I start off asking why he thinks reggae is so popular in NZ. “We didn’t start the New Zealand reggae scene, but we did start off quite early in the picture,” he muses. “Having played now for so long, we all researched it and understand a bit of its history, how it started in Jamaica and how they took American style R&B and put their own rhythms to it.” As to the Pacific Islander aspect, “reggae has always been popular in New Zealand, with the Maori population really relating to it. So we seem to have gone down that road a little further than Australia might have, even though you had Men At Work singing about vegemite sandwiches in a reggae style!” he chortles.
I ask him how he defines his band’s style, and with a laugh he mentions pretty much every genre under the sun. “We do ‘house dub’ where we put house beats with more dub reggae over the top,” he says, before adding drum m’ bass, reggae, soul, R&B and funk into the mix. He laughs as he tries to think why so many New Zealand bands, such as Fat Freddy’s Drop, Shapeshifter, and even the Flight of the Conchords, are featuring this mash of sounds currently. “I’d say it’s because of the multiculturalism of New Zealand,” before getting sidetracked on a discussion about drum n’ bass and jungle and dancefloor hardcoreness, which came from nowhere but had us both giggling for a while.
We move on to their latest album Freak Controller, which Wood describes as a massive effort on behalf of all involved, and vocally stong, even despite the absence of Tiki Taane who left to start a solo career in 2007. The guest vocalists include Whirimako Black, who is quite popular in the New Zealand Jazz scene, and combines traditional Te Reo Māori singing with a modern influence. “We first worked with her through the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and we heard her and said ‘wow, that’s pretty good, let’s go record some stuff with her!”
She’s joined by Asterix, who Wood describes fondly as living “the life of a Rastafarian and has reggae down pat.” MC Mana, formally of Rhombus, also joins the guests. “And we can’t forget our drummer,” Wood adds, “who’s been on every album ever. Even in the Tiki phase, people would ask ‘who’s that other voice?’”.
Side tracked myself by the mention of the album they recorded with the NZSO, I asked how that turned out for them. “Outstanding!” Wood grins, but he won’t be drawn in on if there will be another one, or with another orchestra. “The show takes about two years of planning, and you’ve got to ask them two years before that,” he chuckles, “so even though we’ve got it all scored, I really can’t say… ask again in two years and we might have the thumbs up!” he laughs again.
Returning to the album, Wood tells me the production “was such a huge job one producer was not enough! So as well as Paddy Free being the main producer and arranger, we had Ant Smith from Sandcastle studios in Sydney, who’s now our saxophone player, and he was involved in the recording of the horns. A huge part of our production was recording of the horns,” he continues, “with the pre-amps supplied by Joe Mallone, based in Brisbane. He makes the pre-amps by hand in his workshop. Ant arranged and mixed a couple of tracks, Ian McAlister helped record at Sweet Juice at Christchurch. Guy Denfield helped with the composing and recorded all the drums and bass and got the rhythm beds all sorted. There you go, 4 producers! Plus the band, plus the guest vocals!” He laughs.
When I ask if there were any issues with such a large crew, he confidently tells me there isn’t. “There will be the occasional clash and the odd complaint, but the band is really empathetic to the fact this was a huge undertaking, and the sound develops. There’s not much debate, but there is a lot of tweaking,” he laughs, “can you change this, EQ that; and in the end it all irons out nicely.”
Salmonella Dub’s Freaky Controller is out in Australia through Virgin/EMI, and you can catch them at the inaugural Subsonic Festival in December, check out ITM’s Festival Page for more info.