Benjamin Stanford a.k.a. Dub FX gained fame as a street artist, producing songs and sounds on the spot, using only his voice and an effect pedal. Stanford developed his style, originally mainly based on Dub, Hip Hop and Trip Hop, to also embrace elements of reggae, jazz and soul. Born in Australia, he started his career in the UK and since has performed in over 40 countries. His third album „Thinking clear“ will be released August 26th. We were lucky enough to get hold of the ever-restless traveler for a Skype interview.
The new album
I feel like my mission in life is to self-empower people, to try to inspire them to think for themselves and do things on their own. That’s my general message.
indieberlin: Dub FX, the follow-up of your last LP „Theory of harmony“ from 2013 is coming out soon. Tell us a little bit about the new record. When and where was it recorded?
Dub FX: I wrote a lot of the lyrics and the vocal lines and melodies for the album while I was on tour between 2013 and 2016. Then I finally came home by the end of last year and started recording. We spent about four months writing, recording and producing the music. It was quite easy cause I had a lot of the songs already in my head.
indieberlin: This is the first album you recorded in your own studio, the Treetop Studios.
Dub FX: Yeah, I live in a forest near Melbourne, about an hour’s drive from the city. I got a house out there in the middle of the forest with a studio that I’ve been building up for about three, four years. It’s great that we were finally able to really use the studio properly for once.
indieberlin: What influenced the LP, its topics and its title?
Dub FX: My lyrics are generally influenced by what happens in my daily life, what I see and absorb from the world around me. I just try to make my lyrics about that and I try to make them as positive as possible cause I feel like my mission in life is to self-empower people, to try to inspire them to think for themselves and do things on their own. That’s my general message. So the topics on this album are not very different [from my older ones]. And the name of the record just came to me, it’s a lyric in one of the songs. I felt like during the making of the album I was thinking clear, I was in a really calm state of mind.
indieberlin: It really is a very positive album although it adresses some very heavy issues. I think it’s a good one to be released in these frightening times. Where do you get your positive energy from?
Dub FX: I think I’m naturally a positive person. Early on in my life, as a child, I went through some hardships. My parents broke up when I was very little and I had to live in a different country, which was Italy. And when I moved there I was very different to everybody. I didn’t have beautiful olive-brown skin like everybody else. I was a very pale white blonde kid and got picked on a lot for looking and behaving differently. I didn’t have any friends so I had to work out how to enjoy life by myself and learn to see the positives in life. So I guess I’ve always just been an optimist.
indieberlin: Is there any general tip or advice that you would give to anyone on how to keep one’s head clean and think clear and stay positive in everyday life?
Dub FX: Well, I generally have a pretty clean lifestyle. I do a lot of Yoga and breathing excercices. I also eat clean food, everywhere I go I look our for organic food. I stopped drinking alcohol when I was 21 and I never smoked cigarettes. I smoke weed occasionally but it’s not something that I need in my life. So I just try to live healthily […] and would recommend it to the whole world.
indieberlin: This is the first time you worked with an entire band in the studio. You didn’t just ask session players to help you out during the recording but you actually wrote all of the songs together with a band for the first time. How did it go? Are you happy with the result of it?
Dub FX: Yeah, you know, I always wanted a band but I just couldn’t afford it. I used to be a jazz singer. Till I was 23 I was in a lot of different bands but all my favourite musicians were working with older guys. They were too expensive and too busy to work with me. So that’s why I started doing my solo thing and spent many years doing it all by myself. Then in 2014 I started working with a keys and piano and saxophone player who is a very talented jazz musician and last year I got me a bass player as well. So after touring around in 2015 as a three-piece, when time came to make a new record, we went back to the studio and it all came about very naturally cause these guys had seen my audience, had played shows with me and understand what I’m trying to do.
indieberlin: I listened to the album quite a lot these past two weeks and it’s my favorite one of you, really. It has a warm, soulful sound and while it’s unmistakably a Dub FX record it just sounds „fater“ to me. I really dig the sound of it and I think people will.
Dub FX: Thank you, I really think so, too.
What I do on stage, I actually do that for free.
indieberlin: There’s a song that I find particularly interesting, which is „Unwind“ – a very personal song that seems to be about sacrifice – is that right?
Dub FX: Yeah. Look, [when I wrote that song] I was thinking about the people around me. I feel like, in a way, everybody has a right to decide whether they wanna pursue their dream or just be part of the system. Eigher way I don’t think there’s any right or wrong decision. If you wanna be part of the system and work a 9 to 5 job, I think you’re a hero. It’s important that we have every person on the planet doing their bit. But well, I made the sacrifice to decide to be an artist and also to be an artist who would not do pop shit. I really decided to go for the hardest way and that is to make positive, uplifting music cause it’s so easy to be negative, y’know?
indieberlin: Yes, it is.
Dub FX: And being able to do what I do is a dream come true but sometimes people forget that being a musician is actually not the easiest thing in the world. Some people think we lead such a glamorous lifestyle but I tell them all the time I don’t get paid to perform. I actually get paid to get on thousands of airplanes and carry my heavy shit everywhere and sit around at airports and live in hotel rooms and eat shit food. That’s what I get paid to do. What I do on stage, I actually do that for free.
indieberlin: Are there moments in your life where you question what you’re doing and where you wish for a simpler lifestyle?
Dub FX: Yeah, there are. Especially because of the way [this lifestyle] has an impact on my relationships, from my friends to my family to my loved one. I don’t get to see them very often and that’s one of the hard things. When you’re making art and you get the chance to express yourself, that’s like breathing fresh air. But if you’re doing it every day, like everything else after a while it just becomes a job. You have to do it even when you don’t want to do it. When you’re on tour and you go on stage in front of thousands of people, well… Nobody wants to see someone get on stage who is all pissed off. They wanna see you get off on the music. Sometimes you have to fake that. Or at least at the beginning of the show. Then you start getting into it and by the end you are definitely doing it for real.
Writing a hit
indieberlin: You said earlier on that you don’t want to make poppy music and I don’t think you do. Yet the album’s first single „So are you“ is a very catchy number with a great melody and it has just the right length to be played on a major radio station. Would you mind that?
Dub FX: I don’t have a problem if the radio wants to play my music. It’s just that I don’t want to conform to making songs especially for the radio. The thing is, I wrote that song not thinking that this would be a single but just because it was what was on my brain, y’know? It is a current topic, being trapped in your own mind. So the hook came into my head and we recorded it one day, really quickly, during a rehearsal. And then the next day we had to go and play a gig. And I suggested we play that song at that gig. So we recorded the song and 24 hours later we performed it for the first time…
indieberlin: Now that might be a record.
Dub FX: … and I sang the chorus by myself in the beginning and when it came back around after the first verse, everybody was singing along! And we were looking at each other like „Dudes! This is a hit!“ So well, I don’t mind my songs being played on the radio as long as I don’t have to change what I’m singing about to be on there. I think the message should go out regardless of what format it goes out on.
Dub FX will play Huxleys Neue Welt on 19.10.2016.
Interview: Bastian Geiken