EXCLUSIVE! Jah Raver interviews John Brown's Body about new dub album | MIDNIGHT RAVER
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EXCLUSIVE! Jah Raver interviews John Brown’s Body about new dub album

As someone who has been a fan of dub reggae for some twenty-five years I must say that the new dub album by John Brown’s Body Kings and Queens in Dub is one of the most extraordinary dub albums I’ve heard in more than a decade.  First, the idea of bringing in the world’s best dubmixologists and reggae producers to each produce a track for the album is brilliant.  There are so many talented artists out there right now pushing all kinds of limits in the dub genre.  Also, the fact that the original tracks, which appeared on 2012’s Kings and Queens, are so strong, well-composed, written and produced gives the mixologists a huge advantage when entering the studio to do the remixes.  What JBB has given its fans is one hell of a heavy and hammering dub album and certainly one of the best reggae releases of 2015.

I spoke with our good friend Randall Grass of Shanachie Records, whose recent Yabby You box set Dread Prophecy:  The Strange and Wonderful World of Yabby You is not only the best Yabby You compilation ever released but just may be the best reggae release so far this year.  Shanachie signed John Brown’s Body to their very first record deal.  I was interested in getting Randall’s thoughts on the band.  Here is what he had to say:

“John Brown’s Body, yes we were the first label to sign them. A little backstory; I started my reggae radio show in 1979; I tried to support American-based reggae bands but I didn’t find to many that I felt were strong enough. Blue Riddim Band was an exception.  And in the 80’s I got a 7” single in the mail from an upstate New York band called The Tribulations. I played it and was really impressed with the organic roots sound and also the songwriting. I played it on my show.

In the late 90’s I was sent (can’t remember by whom) material by John Brown’s Body, an upstate NYC reggae band. I listened and had the same reaction I’d had to Tribulations. In checking them out I saw that they were touring a lot and playing to the “jamband” audience. The songwriting was very good. I thought they could be that rare thing:  an American “homegrown” reggae band that could be successful. So we made an offer and proceeded with a three album deal.

In talking with Kevin Kinsella,the main front-person of the band, I happened to mention that they reminded me about of Tribulations and I told them the story of getting that record. Turns out John Brown’s Body was a new incarnation of Tribulations!  The band toured a lot and though did not become  huge, did well enough. Aside from songwriting the quality of their singing stands out. Besides Kevin Kinsella’s vocals, second vocalist Elliot Martin brought a very distinctive high tenor voice to the proceedings (he continues to be lead vocalist today). So the band had two excellent vocalists. They’ve been doing it a long time now and their most recent album I thought was quite strong.”

I had a rare opportunity to sit down with Drew Sayers (sax) and Tommy Benedetti (drums) from the band and talk with them about the new dub album and about the band’s future plans.  Big thanks to Sam Wilson for making it happen!

WAR:  Who’s idea was it to have each track from the Kings and Queens LP mixed by a different dubmixologist?  Is this something that came from the label or within the group?

DREW: “It’s something the band has been wanting to do for a long time, but I have to say when talks started about this particular project it was a fully collaborative thing. Lem and Eric at Easy Star and the band together made a list of people we wanted to work with, a few of which are Easy Star artists to begin with (Ticklah, Lord Echo of the Black Seeds, Michael Goldwasser). I ended up reaching out to some other people as well, for example Dennis Bovell was just a shot in the dark. I am a huge fan of Pressure Sounds out of the UK and they have released some great music of his – a band favorite is the album ‘Decibel.’ I just found a general contact email on their website and they put me in touch with Dennis. It was a true honor to talk with him and have him on this album. Just the idea of having some of your favorite musicians re-interpret your music and apply their own style and approach is very humbling for us.”

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  1. Etienne says:

    Sweet record. Not sure I agree with the statement that people aren’t producing dub versions. Maybe I listen to too much Roots Garden and Tuff Scout, because every track they put out always has a dub version. As for albums, reggae does seem to have returned to it’s singles roots.

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