The Groove Thief traveled to Bordeaux, France, to represent NiceUp at the 2015 Reggae Sun Ska Festival. The following interview comes from backstage during the festival.


TGT: This is The Groove Thief outta Hong Kong…

D: We’ve been talking for years! I know man, big ups to The Groove Thief! For many years you’ve supported.

TGT: [Laughs] Ah, no – big ups to you! It’s alright if I ask you a few questions for NiceUp, out of New Zealand?

D: Yeah!

TGT: So, I know you’ve been doing a lot of stuff in France, you just had the French Sessions that came out. Is the French style influencing what you’re doing?

D: All music influences me, but I’ve been touring France for nine years, so this was the first country I was able to come to tour and now it’s like my second home. They’re like family, so I wanted to start working with some French artists, and young artists, the next generation. That’s what this album’s about.

TGT: Well, you’re playing tonight with young French artists as well, yeah?

D: Five singers tonight.

TGT: Cool, cool! So, what style of show are you gonna do tonight?

D: It’s a little bit of everything. Electro, drum – no, no drum-n-bass tonight – but, digital, roots, steppers, kind of everything.

TGT: And, are you gonna be doing a DJ set or a production set with some live dubbing or…

D: Tonight, because I’ve got the singers… I’ll play maybe three or four songs, and then all the singers will come on. And each do two songs. So it’s really about the singers tonight.

TGT: Oh, so you’re gonna be doing more of a showcase for them?

D: Exactly.

[the Dub Foundation stage goes crazy for Shinehead with Legal Shot Sound System: “When I say ‘re’ you say ‘load’ – re _____ re _____ re ______; cuz that’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh… pull up, pull up, pull up!”]

D: You got any more questions?

TGT: [Laughs] Yeah yeah, I was just waiting for the pull up! So in some ways you’re a bass player who’s really expanded your repertoire, is that true?

D: My main instruments are drums and bass so that’s why for me, I love reggae. It’s all about drum and bass.

TGT: So you’re Sly and Robbie, is what you’re saying?

D: [Laughs] Naw. Not even close! [Laughs again]

TGT: But, does that then influence…

D: The inspiration. My biggest one would be, I’d say, Carlton Barrett. And “Family Man” from the Wailers. Those are my two favorites. Sly & Robbie, but for me – that changed everything – was King Tubby.

TGT: Right, right.

D: That’s my hero.

Dubmatix & Soom T
Dubmatix & Soom T

TGT: So, how do you bring that 70s aesthetic into 2015, because, you know, you obviously do a lot of regularly structured songs and you also do a lot of dubs. But that’s not dub as in remixed reggae, or are you still making that approach? That you make a track and then you remix it and we only hear the dub?

D: Some tracks I want to just be dub. Cause you know, over the years I’ve expanded and done bass music, drum-n-bass, everything… but at the heart, it’s always dub. Earlier this year, I put out two free dub tunes – just pure dub. So for me, I will never leave the dub, so every style of music I do, there’s always an element of dub involved.

TGT: Yeah, OK. But then you mean the dub aesthetic…

D: Exactly.

TGT: … rather than the dub process in the traditional sense?

D: The dub aesthetic, the idea of having delays, reverbs, and just sometimes there’s straight songs and sometimes you mash them up, but dub is always there. And a lot of its in, just, the delay and the echo.

TGT: Do you find that more liberating as a producer, that you’re not trapped by the original bass, the original drums – that you can really do what you want to do?

D: Absolutely. I love all of it, but I love to have the freedom to do anything. That’s the biggest fun for me, is like, you know, when I started it was a lot a lot of dub, a lot of roots, and now today, more electro stuff – so it’s the balance, but I get influenced by coming on tour. You hear the music – [points to Legal Shot Sound System, playing Digitaldubs ft YT “Sound System Culture”] – so you get ideas, you go home, that’s how music evolves all the time.

TGT: Yeah, yeah… That’s why I was curious earlier about the French influence, because obviously the electro style is – electro dub in France is really really dominant it seems…

D: Exactly. Same with the UK with the steppers scene, everyone has their thing. You take ideas from all of them and try it out, and see what happens. And if you’re lucky, it might be OK. [Laughs]

TGT: So how do you balance getting enough production and creativity time with the deamands of being on tour, and…

D: You know what, I’ll go for maybe two or three months and I won’t write a single song, and I’ll sit down and within two weeks I’ll write five or ten, because I’ve had time away. It’s not something – I couldn’t do it every single day.

TGT: And then, are you usually focusing on the drums and bass first, and then adding the melody afterward? Or do you sometimes hear the melody and then you fill it out?

D: A lot of times I’ll start with maybe a bass line or a drum pattern, and then build the song and then strip away the drum and bass and rebuild it. So it’s really about layers, and I layer, layer, layer; and then I deconstruct. I might find, I like the song, but it’s not quite there. So I’ll yank everything out except for maybe the two or three things I like, and start again.

TGT: But are those things that you play live, perform, but have never released? Or do you prefer polished, finished productions for performance?

D: Like tonight I’ll play 3-4 tracks, two are brand-new remixes that are not released, one with Morgan Heritage, one with Mr. Williamz. And then I’ll do reversions of my own songs just for live. So it’s a little bit different, so it’s not just hitting play.

TGT: Of course. So what live interface are you using then, that does allow you to get the live dub in there?

D: Generally I’ll run Traktor with an F1 and a delay pedal. But now, that Native Instruments came out with Stems – so, I have the machine at home, but I was on tour before it was released, so when I get home…

TGT: So that’s your new toy to play with.

D: Exactly.

TGT: It seems like Native Instruments is really targeting more the EDM/techno side of things, but do you think a lot of dub artists and reggae artists are gonna get involved with the Stems approach?

D: I don’t know. I hope so.

TGT: Does that mean we’ll be seeing some Stems packages from you?

D: I’m working on material for Native Instruments now, it’s not done but hopefully if they like it, it comes out. We’ll see. Sorry, I gotta go set up. From Dubmatix, the rocka-non-stoppa from Toronto, Canada – big up to The Groove Thief every time!

TGT: Too kind – best of luck tonight! Thanks!

More info:
Dubmatix website

The Groove Thief
.the future of dub is the present.
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