Over the years, The Guide has interviewed people on the phone who are apparently in some odd locations on the other end of the line.
But The Dub Pistols’ mainman Barry Ashworth has got it sussed – when we talk, it’s early evening for Barry who is on a beach in Thailand, having just finished a four-hour DJ set. There’s reggae playing in the background and it certainly beats a rain-swept Portsmouth.
As he says: ‘I was actually just coming out here for a holiday, I was out here for three weeks, but then people kept on asking. It’s a beach, it’s somewhere nice to play, so… This is just me and a box of music.
‘I’ve got a couple of shows here and then I’m off to New Zealand to do a festival there.’The Dub Pistols formed in the mid-90s, riding the big beat wave with their blend of electronica and dub. The band’s bio describes their history as two decades which ‘have been a riot of storming shows, missed opportunities, big bad basslines, calamities and triumphs – with scarcely a dull moment in between.’Which is putting it mildly.
But now they’re coming back to The Wedgewood Rooms, one of their regular haunts, in what is shaping up to be a busy 2020.
With album number nine, Addict, due in the autumn, a major fundraiser for Portsmouth-based music and mental health charity, Tonic, of which Barry is a patron, their own festival The Mucky Weekender, and a documentary chronicling their history due to come out, there won’t be much down time.
‘Yeah, it’s a good time to be a Dub Pistol.
‘We’re planning to drop a record a month throughout the year, leading up to the album in September,
‘Obviously we’re doing The Wedgewood Rooms which is always one of the best nights, it’s such a fantastic place to play. They’re are an incredible bunch of people there, and it’s always a mad show.
‘And we’re involved with Tonic Music – we’re doing Barry Ashworth’s Flying Circus for them,’ he will be going wingwalking in May with a bunch of his musician friends, ‘and I’ve got single coming out for that. I’ve done a version of [New Order’s hit] Blue Monday with a Canadian band called Dubmatix, which I thought just suited the vibe – it’s a reggae version of it.’
As a long-term supporter of Tonic, why does he feel so passionately about the subject?
‘At the moment there’s 84 suicides a week among men – the rate is ridiculous.
‘Then you put it into the [music] industry and it goes off the charts, and everyone thinks everything’s okay and it’s not.
‘I’ve been very lucky, I’ve got away with a lot, but I’ve lost people along the way, so anything to raise other people’s awareness has got to be something positive.
‘Sometimes there isn’t a week that doesn’t go past where I’ve lost someone for no reason.
‘Cancer, things like that, you understand that takes you, but when you don’t realise that people close to you are that desperate… surely life is worth living?
‘If you can reach out to one person, that’s it.
‘There’s none of us who haven’t suffered, trust me. It might look like to everyone else like everything’s alright, but that’s not true. ‘And sometimes those that shine bright, shine very quickly.’
Given everything they’ve got going on, it’s no surprise to hear that The Dub Pistols have little time for nostalgia.
When asked if they’ll be doing anything special to celebrate their 25th anniversary, Barry can’t recall when that would actually be. And don’t expect them to mark any of their eight previous albums’ anniversaries either.
‘When people say do a best of, we haven’t got a best of album to put out – it’s like raising the white flag, saying: “I can’t write any more music”.
‘It’s the same thing as celebrating anniversaries because you’ve got nothing else to sell. I would prefer to think that we’re still relevant and releasing music that people are waiting to hear, rather than being stuck in the past.’
But there is one way they’re taking stock, with the release of the long-awaited documentary, WCPBG? (What Could Possibly Go Wrong).
‘It’s been a long time in the works, but I think you expect that from a documentary if it’s going to cover a period of time.
‘I think we’re getting to the “redemption stage” of the story now. We’re just learning how not to fall over and make complete arses of ourselves the whole time, and not to be so selfish, you know?’ he laughs. And have the documentary makers been given editorial control?
‘Well, I’ve co-produced it and co-directed it, but it’s the same as anything, I’ve never tried to deny anything I have done or haven’t done. It’s all been lived out in broad daylight – you can’t polish a turd.
‘There’s no faking it.’
‘It’s what you’d expect from The Dub Pistols, we’re not trying to make ourselves look any better than we were – we’re just a bunch of idiots who got away with it…’
Last year the band launched their own festival, The Mucky Weekender – named after their 2012 single – up the coast in East Sussex.
It was such a success, they’re back for more this coming September, with kindred spirits like Gentleman’s Dub Club, Don Letts, Too Many T’s, and many more joining them on the bill.
‘I’ve always been a promoter, I knew a guy who had some land… To be honest, I think our whole marketing budget has been £30.
‘People just turned up – a couple of thousand people – and it’s just amazing.‘I couldn’t have been more satisfied, it was almost emotional. We just want everyone to come and enjoy themselves.’
THE DUB PISTOLS
The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
words by Chris Broom