Dave Woodhall talks to Dreadzone founder member Greg Dread.
Dreadzone are one of the most innovative British bands of modern times. Evolving from Big Audio Dynamite, they are celebrating twenty years together with a new album Escapade, and a tour that starts next week in Wolverhampton. We spoke to drummer Greg Dread and asked him if he was thinking of making a career with the band after all these years.
“I think there might be a chance of it now, after twenty years and seven albums and still going strong. The core are still together obviously because we were in BAD before and that was thirty years ago so it’s what we do and we do well. We’ve got a big catalogue, we’ve got the desire to step on stage, we’ve got a great band and always writing new stuff so yes, twenty years and we’re in the position now that the big success is not available to bands like us but we have longevity, we have a history and a back catalogue.”
It’s interesting that you talk about not being able to get success now. There are some bands who are still making great music but they’re so obviously bitter that times have changed and they’re not in the charts anymore.
“You can’t feel bitter about it, you’ve just got to be aware of the position. The charts are for other type of things, Saturday night X Factor pop or the new bands, so even if you make a great record people won’t take notice of it. We’ve got Mick Jones on our single which I think is great, we’ve got a great video for it, I think it’s one of the best things we’ve done since Little Britain, it’s not as major success but I’m glad we’ve done it.”
Dreadzone have constantly re-invented themselves over the years. Does our audience move with you, or do you find yourselves making new fans with every release?
“There’s always going to be people who say they loved (debut album) 360, we got people who preferred the chill-out stuff on Second Light, it’s a lot more dubby than earlier stuff, Once Upon a Time was much harder, and it just reflects who we are. You do feel you can move on, there’s always some catalyst for us to reinvent ourselves and the people who are in the band. Me and Tim wrote 360, Leo joined which helped for Second Light, then Tim went off and did something else, we did Biological Radio and that was different. Obviously losing my brother (guitarist Steve Roberts) in 2006, we had to rebuild after that so Eye on the Horizon in 2010 was a reflection of that and this new one is all about the great time we had playing again with with BAD in 2011, revisiting that era. It’s about the relationships from that time so there’s quite a lot of love, the kind of break-up tunes which isn’t the sort of thing we‘ve tackled before…I don’t like talking about it really, it’s not the best feeling to be able to be in a relationship then it finishes. You have to be able to purge yourself of everything by putting it all to music. It’s a great feeling.”
You played the Undercover festival during the summer with a few old-school punk bands such as the Cockney Rejects and Chelsea. How did that go?
“A lot of our audience were there but I think the punks appreciated the connection to the Clash with Mick. We’ve got that attitude live so people, even if they don’t like what we’re doing, can appreciate that on stage there’s a real volatile energy there.”
It’s also true that people now are broader-minded and listen to a wider variety of music than they used to.
“The internet means that there are so many ways to listen and in particular the dance genre has expanded. In America they call it EDM which rather than being derogatory is a good way of channelling your music into a new market. I certainly listen to so much different stuff. Classic FM in the morning, film soundtracks, I have to listen to new stuff for my DJs sets. At the weekend I played Prague did a mix of different stuff, a sound system show of specials and remixes, break mixes, drum’n’bass, all kinds of stuff so we do mix it up a lot.”
You have Mick Jones playing on the new Too Late single.
“It was brilliant. We did the BAD thing and we were rehearsing at his studio, the Bunker. We plotted up in there, wrote and recorded the new album there. He was around a lot and we have that tune, with the Department S sample, and we got him to play on it and sing the backing vocals, we finally got him on a Dreadzone track after all these years.”
Do you get pissed off that interviewers always want to ask you about him?
“Not at all. I’m prepared to shout it to the world. He was a huge influence in my life, I was grateful for the chance to join BAD; when he was auditioning for the band a lot of musicians were big Clash fans in awe of him but I’d come from a different background, much more dance and reggae and we jelled instantly. He liked the fact that I brought those influences. He gave me a drum machine and from there I learned how to use keyboards and sequencers so five years later I was ready to start working on my own stuff. He’s been a big influence on me, it’s great to work with him again and we’re all still friends.” You have twenty years behind you, what more is there to come from Dreadzone? “I don’t want to lay out too much but we’ve got our own label so we’re probably going to repackage some of the older stuff, plus a live DVD. I’m working with a new project, house music with a few people and film soundtrack ideas. It’s a creative, productive time as regards the anniversary and all the stuff we can put out so we’re a very busy Dreadzone, and we’re going on tour this week starting In Wolverhampton.”
Dreadzome play the Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton on Thursday 10th October. The album Escapade is out now. www.dreadzone.com