Interview with Andrew Penman from Salmonella Dub

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Salmonella DubI caught up with Andrew Penman from Salmonella Dub and chatted with him about outdoor festivals, the Freak Local EP, their new Freak Controller album, and dub music in NZ. I had just got back from nine hours of work on a building site and was still in my overalls and Andrew was walking the coastline of Kaikoura sipping on a gin and tonic!

Could you please give me an overview of your latest EP, Freak Local, because this kinda passed under the radar for me.

Freak Local was released back in June – the recording process for the new album started in November in Kaikoura, we trialled some of the material on our tour with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and toured with Whirimako Black and The Mighty Asterix.

In April we had Whirimako come down here to Kaikoura running youth programs, song writing and conducting workshops.  We also did a bit of work in the studio which resulted in the Freak Local single which got airplay on stations from ZB to the Rock, quite unexpectedly. We finished the six tracks in June and then toured through Aussie, and then came back and worked on the album Freak Controller in July.

So it sounds like Salmonella Dub have been very busy.  And now you have an upcoming tour of Australia?

Yeah we head off next week – trial the new stuff before we bring it home – kinda the way we have been doing it the last couple of years and I guess since Tiki has been doing his solo thing we’ve gone back to our roots a bit with the core line-up and bit more of a collaborative team with what we are doing. 

That’s what is exciting with the new album and working with Whirimako, which is just a honour in itself, and having MC Mana up here in the studio here in Kaikoura. I particularly liked what we came up with in the Up and Running track.

Yeah it’s a beauty, such a roots New Zealand vibe.

Cheers, it gives me shivers each time, getting out and mowing the lawns is what we do here in Kaikoura. Mana’s been here the last couple of weeks and we’ve had him emptying the compost and doing the weeding its been great –  living the lyrics! (the lyrics of the song go – this is the way we do it yo, get out and mow the lawns and do the gardening…)

Yeah it’s good to know artists actually do that, especially with the way you ran your Kaikoura Roots Festival and  the eco-side of things – for me that’s what its all about.

For me personally the vibe we created at Kairoura Roots was all about creating a community in a short space of time.  It’s unfortunate we ended up cutting it but artists just blew up around us and we couldn’t maintain that kind of line-up and keep the same feel of the festival, a fine metaphor for it is like a good painting, you get to hang it on the wall.

It’s a bit of a catch-22 scenario.

Totally, but it was never about being a commercial venture for me, festivals rise and fall, it was about creating a model and I think we achieved that and there was nothing else we could do with it.  Better to leave it on a happy memory than see it get corrupted or whatever.

How do you feel about the state of outdoor festivals at the moment?

It has gone a bit commercial – festivals are almost in direct competition and some festivals end up getting wiped out.  There are always new things coming up and some good little festivals over the summer, but they don’t quite have the same direction I hanker for.

It would be good to take it back to the days of Destinations, I’ve got some mates that are doing some outdoor festivals starting at the grass roots level and I think that scene is slowly coming back.

Yeah totally, everything reinvents itself eventually, things rise and fall. I think things get too big and fall over and then start again, a bit like geography really, we get an earthquake and an ice age and everything is gone and then starts to reemerge.

So getting back to the new album and your  upcoming tour of Australia – how does Sal Dub and New Zealand dub sound go down over there?

It’s quite interesting when we stated to go over there back in ’92 – back then you had dance culture which was really hand-bag house and Occa rock stuff, pub stuff and some folk in between. I guess over the last ten-fifteen years with the Australian thing is that New Zealand’s stuff is something new.  We took Pitch Black over with us first then Shapeshifter, Fat Freddy’s, Kora, Cornerstone, then we took everybody on the Dub Conspiracy tour.

The thing I see in Australia about the Aotearoa roots electronic and dance culture is that it’s at the forefront, and it has created its own voice and is meeting international standards and pulling huge crowds.

So further abroad how is the Sal Dub sound received?

It’s all over the place, I don’t really know how it got there.  The hardest thing about Aotearoa as a starting point, and the best thing, is that we are isolated from the industry, we are at the ass end of the universe and it costs so much to get it out there. 

But I hear stories form people who have been at full moon beach parties in Thailand and hear DJs dropping Sal Dub tunes and all through the surf industry in Brazil and then backpackers in tree houses in Turkey! 

At the moment were sticking with what we know and are building it up from home.  We are  looking at the UK early next year, haven’t been back there for a few years.

With such an extensive back catalogue how do you decide what tracks to play, on tour?   Obviously if it is a release tour then a lot of the new stuff.

Well we have the main stuff in our sets that has lasted the test of time, like Dub Tom Foolery - we wrote that in ’93 and it still works. What tends to happen is that you tour an album and a couple of tracks seem to stick.  But the advantage of having a extensive catalogue and how we do things is that we can mix it up depending of the crowd, a bit like DJing really. When we started we were the odd ball and supported many diverse acts, from dance parties to rock stuff.

Because of the way you started out, Sal Dub has actually laid a bit of a blue print for electronic, dub and dance music here in Aotearoa.

I feel a bit arrogant saying we created it, I guess we have just been around for a while, but the thing that excites me at the moment about the music is the fusion that is happening and and its an Aotearoa voice, because now we have something reflective of our culture and our landscape. 

People ask us how does it feel competing with bands you helped out like Shapeshifter and their doing better than you – it’s not about competition, from my end it’s exciting that this stuff is crossing over to a bigger audience.

New Zealand Dub has defiantly defined itself.

Totally – NZ dub as a genre has two main tendencies – it has the Pacific influence, and then there’s the white boy punk side of it. Adrian Sherwood  was pushing production techniques back in the ’90s and the Beastie Boys and Bad Brains brought this new sound to the States.  As a nation we were influenced by this more so than any other nation I think.  Among music circles NZ has become a credible and inspiring place to come to.

Well thanks for your time and good luck for the tour.

No worries, cheers.

More info:
Salmonella Dub website

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