Fun is of utmost priority for Gentleman’s Dub Club, the nine-strong Leeds gang that has ranked top 10 in UK Reggae iTunes charts for weeks — rubbing elbows with Mr. Marley himself — with their EP Open Your Eyes. They started as a strictly live band, starting raucous UK parties featuring the Jamaican music gestalt: reggae, dub, and ska, with electronics and even some grime. But their recent successful studio stint, and the promise of their forthcoming debut album, reveal Dub Club as true musicians and enthusiasts — not just a roving crew of revelers. Though, that’s certainly part of it.
Jonathan Scratchley, the mild-mannered lead singer with the coolest name ever (DJ Johnny Scratchley? I say yes!) spoke to us from their UK tour about how nine white guys successfully making dub can even exist, what it’s like to work with The Wailers, and their butt-naked fans.
How did you get nine people to commit to this? Is it hard keeping everyone around?
Well it certainly is difficult. We are very fortunate. The way it started is that there were three of us, we found a delay unit, a mic and a few speakers, and we started making noise. We couldn’t have organized anything at that stage. Then this guy came down, and he said ‘I love it, it’s perfect, I wanna turn it into a band and take it further.’ And he’s still our manager.
Is everyone a devotee of dub and its relatives?
Yeah sort of. I mean we pretty much met wearing that same hat. But the real inspiration was that we became good friends at Subdub, which is a dub night here. We started going out listening to music in a way we hadn’t heard before, with huge sound systems and bass-centric music, and even though we’d come from diff backgrounds like jazz an drum’n'bass, it seemed to be our calling.
How did you get into it?
Well I was always into more reggae to be honest, but I think that’s because it was before that point, I was too young to go to club. would only listen to my hi-fi speakers. I remember listening to dub and I didn’t understand it to be honest, because I couldn’t hear the bass on it. The moment I stepped into that environment, it all made a lot more sense. And now i love it.
You guys didn’t go for a subtle band name. Most bands are really gun-shy about labels.
Yeah, it felt very natural at the time. Essentially the idea is that we’ve always just been a live band. Lately, we’ve been working and producing good recorded music. But for three or four ears we were just a live act. We love this idea of creating our own environment, a club.
Honestly, I thought you guys were a gimmick when I first heard of you. 9 white guys from London called the Gentleman’s Dub Club making dub music. This was before I listened to the album of course. Do you encounter a lot of resistance like that?
Not really, not really. We live in quite a good bubble really. We’ve been lucky enough to play a hell of a lot and play to massive crowds. We haven’t really come up against anything negative. I suppose if we wanted to go and get credibility in genuine dub and reggae circles we’d encounter that, but the fact is, we’re just doing what we’re doing and people will come along and listen to it. As long as there are people there, we’re fine with it. Some people will go to Jamaica for 10 years to learn and immerse themselves, but we haven’t done that. We literally have always done what we’ve done, and hopefully the tongue-in-cheek nature translates to the listener in a positive way.
But you’ve worked with The Wailers, I’d say that’s genuine. How did they feel about what you’re doing?
Yes, a couple of times, and it’s been amazing. We played right after them, a show they were headlining. It was one of those out of body experiences talking to them, and I just felt like we were there for their own show, but they stayed for our show rather than going back to the hotel, which is a real honor.
Do you find that a lot of people these days have lost touch with or don’t know anything about dub or reggae or ska?
Yeah potentially. Like you said there are a lot of offshoots that have come from dub. In definition, all dub is doing is taking a song apart and turning it into individual parts, giving it a mystique or mystery that wasn’t there. That in its essence it actually should relate to everyone.
What can people gain from learning about it?
You know I’ve seen to a lot of documentaries about peoples lives, and so many people cite dub and reggae at the heart of their musical drive. For example house music, the four to the floor, there’s not a big difference between that and dub music. I think it goes a lot further back, but we’re all under the roof of dub. Really we are an electronic group, but it incorporates reggae, soul, trap, bits of dub and ska and elements of disco. It’s Dub-DiSka.
What is the craziest thing that has ever happened at one of your shows?
Well, I once had four girls get completely naked at the front of the crowd that was really…distracting. They just went for it. Oh, and I once nearly killed myself when trying to stage dive. I think I went a couple of beats too early, and a big group flew to get me but not in time — just in time for me to hit my back on the floor. I was fine except for the shock.
Your debut album will come out in the spring, what should we expect?
It has a very varied bpm, and we really opened up quite a few of the tunes. A lot of them were written acoustically, then turned into dance. There’s a dub song, some slowed-down house, reggae, ska, much more electronic, trap music. The through-thought is me and my stories and vocals…It’s much freer than the music we’ve made in the past.