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Salmonella Dub - Dub Medicine

Author: Cyclone
Friday, 24 August 2007
Formed in 1992 as a “bad taste” covers band, Salmonella Dub are back with the rootsy Heal Me, their first proper album since 2003’s One Drop East. The collective, whose studio is situated in the beautiful Kaikoura on South Island, needed time out.

“I think we got a bit carried away with touring,” Penman says candidly. “You get into that role of being on the road and you neglect the creative process. It’s been really nice to slow down and actually go back into the studio.”

Salmonella Dub – its core Penman, David Deakins and Mark Tyler – are legends in NZ. The band broke through in the late ’90s with the accessible Killervision, home to For The Love Of It, but they regarded the LP ambivalently. By the early 2000s, when Inside The Dubplates clocked up multi-platinum sales, Salmonella Dub were reconciled with their crossover status. Reportedly, Sacha Baron Cohen emailed them – in the character of Ali G – to express his fervent admiration.

Even with an expansive back catalog, Salmonella Dub are challenging themselves musically, pushing their Pacific reggae into uncharted terrain. Heal Me features more vocals than their previous endeavours. The group co-produced the LP over the internet with longtime British associate David Harrow, who’s based in Los Angeles. Penman touts Heal Me as “a U-turn back into our roots.”

“It’s a lot more of a seamless album,” he says. “We’ve had more time to work on it. We’ve finally finished building our studio in Kaikoura. We put time into the rhythm section last year and then the bulk of the work was done at the beginning of this year. It wasn’t intentional but, certainly, the vocal side of it is a lot more evolved and a lot more in-depth – and it’s probably a lot more musical because we’ve had the time to put into it, playing-wise.

“One Drop East, the last album, the final process became a wee bit of a rush. This album, we’ve had a more consolidated – or group – approach to it, combining forces right down to the lyric writing, and we’ve all been involved more in the singing.”

Did Salmonella Dub feel compelled to reinvent their sound-

“The most important thing is to enjoy the process as players – and that’s where I think we had burnt ourselves out, playing the amount we’ve played over the last few years. If you’re not creating when you’re out touring, you start to regurgitate the same stuff,” he says. “By the end of last year we had become a show band in that we were tending to repeat ourselves. For that reason, it’s been about seven months since we’ve played a live show.

“It’s very important to have that passion for what you’re doing, ’cause people soon pick up on it if you’re on stage and you’re not passionate about it.

“It’s a really good turning point for us – and we’re pretty much reinventing our whole set.”

In the interim, Salmonella Dub have pre-empted a series of strong Kiwi urban acts – from Concord Dawn to Shapeshifter to Scribe.

Following Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings, NZ has been lauded as a future cultural hub. But what Penman loves most about NZ is the relative anonymity it affords him when he’s off the road.

Much of Salmonella Dub’s appeal with younger crowds lies in their club influences – notably drum n bass. Its members have DJed as the Salmonella Sound System, incorporating live elements. In fact, they’ll be launching Heal Me with a DJ date on NZ’s ski fields.

“The last lot of touring we’ve done has been more festival or, for the UK, more pub venue-style. We’re still DJing quite a bit, but we’re diversifying,” he says. “We’re not actually doing a lot of shows in clubs – we’re looking at other alternatives in how we can present the different styles that we do.”

The group are fortunate not to be tied to any one scene – and that is down to their versatility. They will embark on a tour with the NZ Symphony Orchestra in February.

“It’s been a work-in-progress for seven years,” Penman admits. Again, the idea is to stretch the musicians. “We’re almost taking it away from clubland to a more ‘serious’ genre – playing with an orchestra is gonna be very challenging and quite exciting!”

And Salmonella Dub won’t be leaving it as long between LPs next time.

“We’ve vowed to go back into the studio before the end of the year to start working on the next project, now we’ve got a discipline there,” Penman says. “So, although we will be touring, we really want to keep our momentum going in the studio.”

WHO: Salmonella Dub
WHAT: Heal Me
WHEN: Out 3 September through EMI