Paperhouse: On Dub

So, you like dubstep. Good for you. But have you heard of dub?

Before dubstep, there was a lot of good electronic music. In fact, there was even electronic before computers. You’re probably aware of reggae and Bob Marley’s music. But if you’re only aware of Bob Marley’s now-iconic music, you’re missing out on some of the most innovative electronic music.

Dub grew out of reggae in the late ’60s and was pioneered by artists like King Tubby, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Scientist. Reggae, which focuses on offbeat rhythms, staccato chords, and call-and-response vocals, is often criticized for sounding uniform in sound design; however, dub sought to resolve this problem. By removing vocals and emphasizing the drum and bass parts of the track, dub music focuses on the talents of producers and their ability to manipulate the now-archaic gear they owned. Before the invention and proliferation of the computer, electronic backbeats were incredibly difficult to generate, let alone fine-tune.

Through their extensive knowledge of their equipment (and ability to modify it), dub producers were able to add extensive amounts of echo, reverb, and delay. Creating dub versions of reggae tracks served as an opportunity for producers to differentiate themselves and showcase their labels’ equipment. Similar to the way The Velvet Underground influenced almost every rock band that followed it, these dub producers heavily influenced the originators of techno, jungle, drum and bass, house, punk, trip hop, ambient, hip hop, and dubstep.

To begin to appreciate and love this incredibly powerful type of music, I recommend getting a copy of Scientist’s Heavyweight Dub Champion, waiting for a sunny day, and letting the good vibes flow.