Anyone who owns or is looking to own a looper pedal has probably realized that, as well as catering to us guitarists, looper pedals usually include a microphone input. This can be used to simply route the vocals through your amp or, for more imaginative musicians out there, to add a vocal loop for depth of sound. Australian street performer Dub FX has taken this potentiality and made it his own, bringing looper pedals to the attention of an entirely new audience.
Dub FX uses a Boss RC-50 Loop Station along with a GT-10 effects pedal to create vocal-only beats, and then raps over the top. His music in infused with drum and bass, hip-hop and dub step influences, and he has being turning heads across the world with his street performances. After having built up a solid fan-base, he has released several records, including a solo album, Everythinks a Ripple, and many collaborative works. He still travels the world, and seems set to bring looper pedals some much deserved attention from across the genres. We caught up with him to find out a little more about his music and his use of the Boss RC-50 Loop Station. Check out our exclusive DubFX interview below.
To start simply, how would you describe your music?
Dub FX: I guess my music is an interpretation of all the music I like. I try to make jungle, drum and bass, dub step, hip-hop, reggae breaks, or anything that is bass driven. Then I rap and sing over it.
What did you do before your music career took off?
Dub FX: I first started writing and playing music with Cade when I was 15 years old. I sang and played guitar in a few bands and made my money working in cafes, kitchens and CD shops. I got on the dole for 6 months and wrote an album to which I planned to hit Europe and start busking with. I barley used the Loop-station until I got to Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester; I saw all the rude-boys and decided to give my little red Strat and boy band reggae instrumentals a miss. I thought I’d try and make music that they would actually like, so I started to do grime and dub step.
I notice that you travel with your fiancé, ‘Flower Fairy,’ how did you guys meet?
Dub FX: I met the Flower Fairy not long after my first few busking sessions only using my mic and loops. She introduced me to jungle, liquid and dub step. She has great taste in music; she buys me records all the time. She takes an active role in my music either selling CDs or singing with me. She is awesome!
Was the genre-change difficult?
Dub FX: It wasn’t too hard, or at least didn’t feel hard as I could only do what I knew. If I was making shit tunes I was none the wiser, but being able to jam over jazz is a great tool to have as it means you can jam over just about anything. Makin a loop that sounds like grime or drum and bass isn’t the hard bit; it’s the flowing and rhyming over the top which keeps it interesting. And if I ever got stuck for ideas I had thousands of Manchester rude-boys ready to jump on the mic to show me something new.
What made you choose the RC-50 out of all of the loopers out there?
Dub FX: I originally started out with the Akai Headrush pedal as my loop pedal with a GT-6 guitar pedal as my effects. I had been experimenting with the effects pedal for a few years in bands and one day stumbled across Mal Webb, who also uses the Headrush. He totally opened my brain to the possibility of looping and how powerful the voice alone can be. I knew that combining it with the GT-6 could be something different and cool. Eventually I found out about the Boss RC-50 and the new GT-8 came out so I saved up and bought them both at once. This was awesome because it meant I could send the tempo between the pedals via MIDI, making my performance cleaner and tighter with all of the delays and oscillators. Nowadays, I have the GT-10 as my effects pedal.
Does the RC-50 help you in any way with writing songs, or is it mainly to enable you to perform alone?
Dub FX: The RC-50 has been amazing for writing music and breaking music down into core elements. You learn how to structure music in a minimalistic way and use your emotions, lyrics and melodies to keep the listener interested, making you a better performer overall. I used to play in bands and I still love to jam with musicians, but using the Loop Station has let me express myself exactly how I want to.
So is the RC-50 the best looper available in your opinion? Have you had the chance to check out the JamMan Delay?
Dub FX: I’ve never used the JamMan, but I’ve seen amazing music been made in the same way as mine with Ableton, Kaoss Pads, Akai Headrush pedals, RC-20s, and the Line 6 one, but the hardware isn’t what makes the performer good. It just gives you a different set of boundaries to help you get a sound.
Would you say there are any major boundaries with the RC-50?
Dub FX: Loads of boundaries. You can’t sync two loops together which is annoying. You only have three phrases to build on, the screen is small, and you can only undo the last thing you did. And it doesn’t sync things for you, which means you have to practice a lot.
Do you think that choosing a looper and therefore it’s limitations in any way affects the sort of music you produce?
Dub FX: Absolutely yes, the way the loopy works defines how you make your tunes. The RC-50 gives me three separate tracks to build things onto so I structure my music into three core elements such as drums, bass, and harmonies then play around with combinations of those three tracks to give the song dynamics. When I used the Headrush pedal I only had one track so I would first make the beat and then build bit by bit as I went through the songs. Once I had no more room frequency wise, the pedal allowed you to wipe everything off the track but keep the first thing you recorded, which in my case was the beat. This meant I could then change the bass line to something new without making a new beat. As a result I would end up using the same beat for 20-30 minutes and rinsing all the possibilities that beat allowed me to do harmonically and rhythmically. Once I was over with that beat I would try a new beat and groove on that as long as possible.
Using the looper with your voice alone has undoubtedly introduced a lot of new people to loop stations, particularly due to the genre. Do you think loopers are a good tool regardless of genre?
Dub FX: I think loopers are a next generation instrument. Just like any other instrument it won’t make a sound unless used by someone, and it’s up to that individual to put their personality into it and make a song. I think it has changed the way solo artists look at a live performance.
So, what’s the best way for any readers to find out a bit more about your music?
Dub FX: Type ‘Dub FX’ into YouTube and have a look at the Ben Dowden videos that come up. Ben Dowden’s videos are awesome because he uses a really good camera but doesn’t edit anything at all so you can see the performance without any bullshit. The audio was taken directly from the pedals as opposed to a shitty camera mic.
Have you got a favourite album out of your recorded work?
Dub FX: I would have to say my favourite album of mine is the Flower Fairy album “Nursery Gryme,” we wrote the songs together and I produced and mastered the whole thing. It was my first time using professional gear as I had saved up for a really nice studio.
Finally, any advice for all the musicians out there just getting into the world of looping?
Dub FX: I think that the best way to really work-shop looping is to go out into the street and really go for it. One day busking on the street is like 6 months practicing in your bedroom.
Dub FX continues to take looping into the 21st century, and is still pushing the boundaries as far as they will go and creating one-man masterpieces that turn the heads of passers-by the world over. The looper pedal really is a “next generation instrument,” and without innovators like this around, we may forget the fantastic possibilities that these tools afford us musicians.
For more information on Dub FX, visit his homepage. Failing that you can just hope that the next time you walk down your local high street you’ll hear the faint sounds of drum and bass rhythms, and as you approach you’ll see our favourite looping Australian hunched over his RC-50, layering drums, bass, and rhymes for all to enjoy.