A stalwart of the American West’s reggae scene, McPullish has arguably crafted his greatest work yet on his 2020 release Lone Wolf McDub. Tumbling in like a skanking soundtrack to a forthcoming auteur’s fictional exploration of the Wild Jamaican West, McPullish’s stunning work more than matches the dynamic homage of an album cover.

Now residing in Austin, Texas, the producer and multi-instrumentalist spoke in-depth about influences, challenges, and aspirations, while highlighting key tracks, his approach to dubbing, and his collaborative Human Digital project with Ryan Moore from Twilight Circus.

TGT: I’m really loving the album! How did this release come together, and what were your key influences here, both for the music and for the artwork?

McPullish: Thanks for the positive feedback. I recorded this album in several short sessions over the course of two years on analog tape with live instruments. Key influences were vintage Jamaican dub sounds, Spaghetti Western soundtracks, Neil Young’s soundtrack to the movie Dead Man, and I was listening to Bunny Wailer’s Blackheart Man album obsessively at the time, which was an influence on the sound and production.

The artwork was done by my friend Dan Allison Reid, inspired by action and Spaghetti Western films, pulp art, and Texas landscapes. Dan included the mythical jackalope and an action sequence involving a ninja, benidub siren, and sound system. People love the album art. I hope the music lives up to the cover.

TGT: Related, what drew you to an all-instrumental release? What challenges did you face along the way, or are there any intriguing back-stories for specific songs?

McPullish: I have always loved instrumental music and envisioned this album as completely instrumental from the start. One challenge I came across was recording myself playing drums to tape. I had to recruit my daughters to play the drums while I set levels to record and crossed my fingers, playing the drums in a different room than the tape machine and hoping it worked out.

I was at work one day and a delivery driver asked me ‘Where’s Slim?’ referring to my absent coworker. That became the title for one of the songs and seemed to fit perfectly, invoking a film score/incidental music. Slim sounds like a rustler or ranch hand from a western film. I got the idea for the song “High and Lonesome” while driving across Louisiana and Texas on seemingly endless highways and backroads.

TGT: “Hero Rides Again,” and its companion dub, are real standouts. They seem to strike a perfect balance between old and new, as well as between driving and hypnotizing. How do you approach dubbing your own music, and any relevant studio tips you want to share?

McPullish: That is the first and only song I recorded banjo on. I think different instrumentation adds to a different vibe. When I am mixing dubs I try to let the music speak and dictate the “narrative” of the track. My approach really depends on the song. One tip for interesting dubs is to mix them live in one pass, not using too many effects but really manipulating the effects and sounds. I try to surprise myself with new sounds when mixing dub versions and bring out aspects of music that might not be obvious in “regular” mixes. Feeding effects back into themselves can be interesting for unique dub sounds. I love mixing with analog gear and touching knobs in real time.

TGT: Obviously a project like this, especially with the 12” vinyl release, has been years in the making. What else are you working on now, and where do you see the McPullish sound going beyond 2020?

McPullish: It was years in the making because I’m busy with work, children, and have lots of things going on other than music.

I am excited to release Lone Wolf McDub on 12” in December. We have lots of recordings ready for release including a bunch of stuff recorded with Ryan Moore (Twilight Circus) for our collaboration project Human Digital, featuring various singers, Judah Eskender Tafari, Linval Thompson, Chezidek, Mark Wonder, and more.

I also have some McPullish tracks that were recorded in Jamaica with various artists that we plan to release in 2021 and a release with my friend Sgt. Remo, a new cut of the classic Bandelero riddim featuring various singers.

TGT: You’re now based in Austin, Texas, yet used to represent Denver, Colorado. Given the Western themes on this release, do you feel that Texas, or the American West in general, is impacting your work? And what’s the dubwise scene like there, COVID-realities aside?

McPullish: Yes, I lived in Denver and my first 7” release was a song called “Colorado Springs Blackout” named after an incident in which Nikola Tesla caused an electrical blackout in that city. I love the landscapes of rural Colorado and Texas. This album was definitely influenced by and is invoking those landscapes.

The dub action in Austin is limited but we have a pretty diverse reggae scene in general and I’ve been lucky to be involved in many cool events and shows.

We ran a series of monthly events for a while featuring different Texas-based custom sound systems called Dub in the Yard, the first sound clash of its kind in the city featuring King Remo and Lionway, and we used to run an annual sound system party at the Austin Reggae Festival called Charlie’s Dub Corner. The venue Flamingo Cantina is the main spot for reggae in Austin and they have showcased hundreds of great reggae artists for many years. They booked my first gigs here opening for icons like Mad Professor and Macka B. I hope the Cantina can hang on and reopen soon. The Austin reggae scene is like a big, diverse family.

TGT: You play all the instruments on this release. And you even did the catering. How do you manage being a one-man studio band (in a sense), and what culinary wisdom can you share, given that the food has led to such poignant works?

McPullish: It took years to get comfortable playing various instruments and multitracking, learning to create grooves with overdubbed parts. Engineering solo recordings can be a pain but it’s also nice to just work and not have to verbalize with others much during the process. If a song does not work I can just throw it out and move on. I am not committed to parts like people might be in a band setting. It’s all about the tracks working together and never an ego battle with other musicians.

The catering credit is a joke, like indie movies where one person has 20 credits and does everything. The extreme of DIY. I do love to cook for family and friends. Not sure about culinary wisdom. I like the concept of cooking with fresh ingredients, not over-complicating and thinking about the whole plate and multiple dishes and how they will combine to create a great meal. It’s similar to mixing a song in many ways.

Release date: 20 September, 2020 (Charlie’s Records)

While it’s been a few years since the experimental Black Metal White Reggae album was released, it’s clear that the style and tastes of McPullish are still evolving. Over seven instrumental tracks, plus a bonus dub cut, a sense of exploration emerges: this album will take you, it’s that captivating.

“High and Lonesome” rides the guitar and keys until the groove crashes in, both revelatory and somber. There’s a soaring melodica, tumbling drum breaks, and an exquisite sense of timing. McPullish performs all parts on the entire release, and it shows in the best of ways on “Hero Rides Again.” Embrace the funky spaghetti vibe, led by the plucky banjo; the riddim section is heavier here, as are the dub effects.

Rolling back a bit, pushing a late 60s influence with the atmosphere and the driving skank, “Mirage Dub” furthers the heavyweight sonics. Echoes and haze, percussion ablaze. “Where’s Slim” clears the air with its intro, before an eloquent vibe emerges, deceptive in its simplicity when the instrumentation is considered. Rocksteady in a cloud, if you will.

Another longer tune, “Uncharted” brings the most pulsing beat yet, along with a tough guitar riff. Call it haze, cloud, thickness – McPullish has truly crafted a unique sound here, that’s consistent yet in no way repetitive as the album progresses. “Curly’s Lament” pulls it back just a bit, while still allowing the digitally affected low-end to lead and dominate.

“Eastern Passage” rides off with some nice digi-drums and a surprisingly epic theme in tow. The 80s lean is appreciated, conjuring up a sense of optimism amidst a storm. Wheeled up, “Hero Rides In Dub” recalls an album standout, now dismantling and rebuilding it with energetic swells of grandiosity. A perfect ending to a splendid album, don’t lose sight of Lone Wolf McDub.

More info:
McPullish Bandcamp

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Editor: Global Reggae Charts Magazine