- Mobile Performance
- Electric Speed
- Schematic as Score
- (Re)purposed Clothes
- Collaborative Spaces
- Device Art
- Digital Dub
- Rise of the VJ
- Sample Culture
Neil Wiernik and Greg J. Smith in Conversation
Greg J. Smith: Throughout the history of Vague Terrain, we've both had an interest in the intersection of digital methodologies and other specific creative spaces. I know dub is important to you as a musician, why do you think the "production legacy" of dub music is eternally relevant for technology based art?
Neil Wiernik: It's not that I see it as important as much as I see it as one of the few analogue art forms that has made the transition to digital methodologies naturally, almost as if it was there all along.
GS: Sure, that is valid. I'm not sure if a lot of people recognize that fact though. DJ & Remix culture are undoubtedly indebted to the idea of the selector and versions, but how do you think the way that artists (I won't limit it to musicians) use tools, the way people engage technology?
NW: I think that is mostly because most people only have a vague understanding of what dub is or where it comes from and I don't blame them for that, simply because dub music is one of the few music styles that crosses boundaries beyond its own form. For me the reason for that is mostly that other forms of music are is defined by a style, and dub is defined by a sound or a feeling that is created via studio tools, where it became a musical style. So it is hard for your average music fan to distinguish that the sound of artists like The Clash or The Police or Massive Attack, all of which have derived their sound from this "studio" sound. I think these artists that are inspired by the studio technique or sound that became known as dub from the Jamaican studios in the '60s have in some ways made this their own by incorporating it into their style of music. I'll use an artist like Pole or DJ Spooky as an example - they make music that is today distinctly defined as being dub music, but if you put the output by these artists side by side with the work of King Tubby, for example, you can only vaguely hear the references. These artists are working in different genres but using the same techniques and tools to create the sound we have come to know as dub. Dub is much more then just throwing a load of delays and reverbs on into an instrumental mix of music, it's about the ambiance between the sounds, the space in which the reverb and delay occupy that makes it "that sound".
GS: Ha! You've reworked that cliched adage about jazz being the "space between the notes" into ambiance (atmospherics?) for dub. Well, with your comments about "technique vs. genre" in mind, could you introduce the audio submissions that you've curated for Vague Terrain 10: Digital Dub? I'm interested to hear how you'll tie them all together.
NW: With what I had just said in mind, I decided to choose artists that had their own distinct flavor of digital dub but that made obvious references to the genre of origin or at least in one way or another were nodding at the Jamaican studios that laid the groundwork for them back in the '60s. DubRocket, for example, takes a more traditional approach to the genre, but with a strong historical perspective referencing the electronic dub of The Scientist (Hopeton Brown, also known as Overton Brown); The Straggler (Kevin Lynn, better known for his work with King Cobb Steelie and Holy Fuck) also takes a more well known approach to dub music first explored by the post-punk artists of the 80s that worked closely with experimental dub pioneer Adrian Sherwood.
Ohrwert and Jonah K come from the school of the second generation of post-dub artists that grew out of the dance/club and rave culture of the '90s. This is the first moment we see a real embracing of electronic music elements and dub music to create a new distinctive style. It's also the moment when you start to find new music forms and subgenres developing out of the early referenced digital dub work of artists like The Scientist and Adrian Sherwood.
The last two artists selected for audio submissions come from the third wave of post-dub musicians: Segue (Jordan Sauer) and naw (a personal project). This work is in some ways are the furthest removed from what we would traditionally call dub music but it is firmly rooted in its techniques and form - using the digital studio as a tool to reference the dub pioneers of the '60s. These artists draw an equal amount of inspiration from experimental music as much as the form, style and feeling of dub music to help create some thing unique.
How does all this tie together? Dub lends itself as a tool for storytelling, whether it be through words or instrumentals. Much like how you referenced my reworking of the concept of Jazz, as the ambiance between the sounds making dub music "dub", it's also the feeling evoked by this atmosphere between the sounds that make it dub - no matter what period of time you're referencing. Unlike other forms of music that become diluted through cross-pollination (i.e. blues, jazz or rock) dub music is always dub because I think it is a feeling, not a "style".
GS: Well, the way that you've framed this selection of audio works via time is quite helpful. That thought, and indexing of waves of dub culture is a good segue into the new text by Eduardo Navas. Eduardo's text Dub, B Sides and their [re]versions in the threshold of Remix is a thorough examination of the history and influence of dub. The text expands beyond backstory and contextualizes dub culture in light of global production and remix culture. Eduardo has done double duty for us this issue and he also conducted an interview with Paul D. Miller which addresses geography, cultural memory and intellectual property. On the topic of interviews, we've also had our close collaborator Corina MacDonald interview Kevin Martin (aka The Bug) about his techno-dancehall hybrid, which predates the dubstep phenomena by several years. He's got an incredibly unique take on dub and listening to him talk about production and his influences is quite informative. Last but not least, we (very recently) discovered Aguno a photographer whose been working on the idea of "dub photography" for the last few years, he's provided us with a small selection of some of this vivid and abstract work. Enjoy!
Greg J. Smith & Neil Wiernik, Toronto