XXY in Conversation: Gentleman's Dub Club
XXY in Conversation: Gentleman's Dub Club
Headlining at festivals such as Nozstock and Soundwave Croatia this summer, Gentleman’s Dub Club are bringing you a revival of reggae and dub, with very much their own gentlemen’s twist. From confessions of wearing pink as a child to dreams of being able to bounce like Tigger, Louise Harrison, one of our contributors, had the opportunity to chat to Jonathan Scratchley, lead vocalist of GDC.
Louise: This month’s issue of XXY Magazine is exploring the theme of Neverland; for example, looking at things which occurred in your childhood and which are still relevant in your adulthood. How would you say your childhood and growing up influenced what you are doing now?
Jonathan: Well, my dad is a conductor and the first performance I ever did was with him. It was the children’s opera that he had written, called ‘Momotaro the Peach Boy’, a Japanese folktale in which a couple that couldn’t have a kid found a boy in a peach by the riverbed. I mean, that has impacted me pretty big, I had some issues around wearing pink for quite a few years.
L: If you were not doing this, what do you think you would be doing now instead?
J: Well, I’m not just in a band. I also run an events company, so that takes up quite a lot of my time. I wanted to be a pilot – the first time I went abroad was when we flew out to Greece and my mum took me to the cockpit and I just chilled there for ages. I remember being above the clouds and loving it – so I desperately wanted to do that. Maybe if I had tried a bit harder instead of going out all night raving, it could have happened.
L: So you formed in Leeds, I’ve heard it has an amazing music scene.
J: It’s absolutely incredible. We were really fortunate in coming out the time we did. It was kind of like the end of the big drum and bass movement. I went up there in 2004, during the peak of a few different styles, but there was this real influence of dub music and dub culture on electronic music, and that’s what I think was the driving force behind a huge number of artists. It was a fortunate time to be there – the Hessle Audio guys, Rusko, Submotion Orchestra and Andy Lemay were all there too. There was just this amazing hub.
L: How did you come up with the name Gentleman’s Dub Club?
J: Well, we had to have a name. We essentially are a group of middle-class white kids – so that’s the idea of gentlemen – and hopefully with the aspiration of becoming gentlemen. We also love dub music, and we thought it probably makes sense for us to make the most out of how strange that is, you know what I mean? It’s our own take, nothing traditional, but taking influence from what has been done before.
L: Looking at the idea of influences and origins, could you explain in brief how a song comes together from the original idea to a final production?
J: Well, there’s no cast, really. Essentially, when a good idea materialises, it will then be worked on. That can come up in lots of different ways, one individual coming up with a song or the idea coming out of jamming during a rehearsal. If you are writing music, I would have to say structure and arrangement are possibly the most important things. It is basically like saying that if you cook a really nice meal and then splat it on a plate and don’t care about what it looks like, no one is going is going to enjoy it as much. If you can arrange it in the right way and put it across well, then people are willing to enjoy it more. So jamming as a band and playing through structures has been fundamental in the process recently.
L: That’s definitely a good way of putting it. What are your lyrical inspirations and are you galvanised by social issues, such as British culture and power of the people?
J: In a way. We are working on the new album at the moment and this is where we are kind of going with it. It is escapism.
L: Through lyrics?
J: Yeah, exactly. So we might be influenced by something and I might feel like trying to get a point across. The point is celebrating the positive stuff and looking at a way of getting away from that emotionally, physically and mentally – a celebration that is painting the other option, I guess.
L: With the revolution of new technologies and what effect this is having on the music industry, I would like to ask you a bit about your creative process. For example, how do you record your music? What software do you use? And are you into the gear and technical side of things?
J: The instruments develop individually; for example, we introduced two SPDs which are like trigger drums. Those have been really great for the unlimited bank of sound, and we have been using them for the stage shows and recording tracks. For the actual core, we have probably gone backwards rather than forward. We try to record our drums through analogue gear, valve compressors and analogue reverb so it has that natural feeling to it. But in the actual producing of the tunes, Toby, the bass player and the main producer, does it all on logic and he does most of it within the box. And then we will do the final mixing with all the analogue gear. We do embrace new technologies individually, but as a band we embrace the old school route.
L: With festival season coming up, I see you are headlining at Nozstock this year, with acts such as Jurassic 5, Foreign Beggars, Slamboree, Split Prophets, Dr Syntax + Pete Cannon and many more; who else are you looking forward to in the lineup?
J: They have all been massive influences on us. We played with Jurassic 5 last summer in Croatia and they were so good. Their live performance was really, really inspiring. I can’t wait to see that again. Foreign Beggars and the old skool hip-hop guys from the UK have been a big part of what we do as well. The thing that actually amazes me is seeing our name placed above artists I consider much bigger and that have influenced us. It’s strange because I don’t just feel proud, I see it as an honour.
L: Would you say you prefer the British festival scene or the European scene?
J: We have a lot more experience in the British scene, so that is kind of helpful. International festivals, however, are amazing for us because we get the chance – I don’t want to sound really cheesy here – to communicate with people who really understand our style. For example, we get to play a fair amount in France, Italy, Poland, Eastern Europe, Slovakia and all around. The amazing thing about doing those performances is the connection with the audience – the engagement is profound. You can really feel that they understand, know, get and love dub and reggae and I think that is really important with this type of music. Sometimes, we will play for maybe a slightly more middle of the road British crowd and it will go down great, but they need those quick fixes. When you play at the right event, you realise that they are in it for the group. The crowd understands that this is collective music and the relationship between the drums, the keys and the bass are what drives it. I absolutely adore playing at international festivals, but I think it is impossible to say which one I prefer, because they are so different.
L: What do you guys do to have fun? Are you always thinking about/working on music?
J: If we ever get the opportunity, we go to the driving range, or play a bit of golf. We all play football, too. Obviously, we like to go out and listen to music and shows. There is a real diverse musical taste across the band – from heavy metal to lounge jazz, from classical music to punk.
L: For any aspiring musicians, what would be your best bit of advice to them?
J: I think it goes without saying, but it is really simple actually. You just need to make sure you are doing what you enjoy, because if you do that then you will put in the effort – the kind of effort that separates success from failure. But you can’t just focus on working hard, you have to enjoy it as well because everyone within the music industry fucking loves music. They want to listen to music and fans want to revel in it. It is all there for you as long as you enjoy it.
Written by Louise Harrison,
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