…and the Doppler D – Effect

Sound Talks With…Dub Spencer & Trance Hill

In this second edition of our “Sound Talk With…” series, we had the chance to dive into the depths of semiorganic DUB music with Julian Dillier, drummer of DUB legends Dub Spencer & Trance Hill. What a pleasure it is to go scuba diving into the realms of a musician’s mind.

Photo by Severin Ettlin

What is the thing that influenced you the most to make you decide for the first time to make music sound different from the so-called standard? Different from fully electronic dub for example.

I think each member of the band would give you a different answer because it’s a very personal question. To answer your question I have to go back to my childhood because that is when I decided to make music differently. It’s probably my father’s jazz records that influenced me the most to play and listen to music that is so-called off the standard. In jazz music I realized that it is about creating something in the moment, about finding your own sound, about improvisation and connection with all the band members. It is not about designed music like most of the popular music or even classical music. I think from that moment forward I was always interested in creating music this way.

When was the first time when you guys gathered to play and made something different in terms of music creation and sound design?

This goes back way before we found Dub Spencer & Trance Hill. The four of us were already into looking for and creating new-different sounds way before we came together to make music in a DUB context as we do today. Our keyboard player, for example, has always been interested in sound creation. Our guitar player, who comes from a rock environment, considers the sound of his guitar very important and he constantly works on it. So it was already clear when we came together and decided to make DUB music, we didn’t even have to discuss what we wanted to do, we just played and that’s what came out.

Where do you think ideas for experimental sounds come from, from inside (the mind and the soul) or from the outside (the world surrounding us)?

For me music comes from the heart. It doesn’t matter whether it’s groove music, composed songs or experimental music. Music as we play in Dub Spencer & Trance Hill is always created in the moment and we are always surprised by what’s done in the moment. You may start with something that comes out of the body, a physical thing, and when you hear it you decide what’s gonna be next and you probably will be surprised by the sound you created and then try to influence it to create something new. It is kind of a wheel that spins all the time, like an ongoing process.

What’s the craziest track you’ve ever listened to?

4’33 by John Cage

Where do you feel more comfortable: Recording in the studio or performing live? Why?

Definitely live performing. And it is because of the fact of creating something in the instant. And it is not only about creating music in the moment but also about the audience. To create a moment with the public is what interests us the most. Actually our records are the teasers of our live shows and that is what we really want to do and what we are really good at.

We carefully listened to your last album and we can only say that it is a massive blast! We got interested about the meaning of its name “Imago Cells” and after researching our minds were totally blown away by all the science (and meaningfulness) behind it. What do you think are the Imago Cells of experimental music in modern times? Is it the hardware, new tech, the infinite human curiosity and creativity or something else?

Imago cells are the cells that are sleeping inside a caterpillar and are waiting to be awakened so they can help with the transformation of the animal into something different, so basically they are helpers. Human curiosity is actually a very good image of an imago cell in everything including music. To be curious about something I think is the engine of designing new stuff. You could say that every music style has its own imago cells, if I listen to the new classical music I can hear something that’s been waiting inside and I think it is the feeling of dissonance that wants to be explored. You could even say that DUB music is the imago cells of Trance because the metaphor of imago cells also works backwards. It is not only that it has been sleeping, it has to do that it cannot be something new without what it has been before that. For example, without New Orleans Jazz there cannot be modern Jazz, without DUB there’s no Trance. Every style, every moment, every period of a musical style is already the imago cell of the next period. Whenever you are creating something, you are already part of the next period, the next creations!

Now that the album is out, what are your plans for the future in terms of production and creation? (Next releases, collaborations, tours, etc)

To tell you the truth, we do not have any plans on future albums, we never do. We never have any plans until the plan is coming to us. What we want to do is to recreate this album (Imago Cells) in about 2 years. We’ve never worked so hard on an album like we did on this one, we really changed a lot for this album. Our guitar player really changed his set up a lot, he’s the one who discovered the most new experimental sounds on this album, his guitar does not even sound like a guitar anymore. He was inspired by a lot of trance music and he wanted his guitar to sound more like guitar synths. What we want to do is to play this stuff now since we feel it like the beginning of the journey. We have developed our own sound, we composed and recorded it and I think that it is performing live on stage where we will develop that sound. I am sure that when we finish developing it, it will automatically turn us or lead us into something new and only then we will know what the next step will be.

Have you ever thought about collaborating with a classical orchestra, making a fully audiovisual experience concert or something similar?

A full symphonic or classical orchestra is not what interests us or hasn’t interested us so far. I do not think we need to go in the direction of collaborating with an orchestra. What interests us is getting into new sound experiences. In early February 2023 we will play a show in Munich with Umberto Echo. He’s a Munich based DUB producer with whom we’ve worked many times for the last 10 years. He’s a sound engineer and from his decks he improvises and creates sounds and effects on our music and it is really fun. What we want to do with Umberto in February in Munich is to create some kind of a surround experience, we’ll place speakers all around the public and together with our music and Umberto’s effects we want to make the public feel as if they are immersed, surrounded by the music.

What do you think is the future of music in terms of tools and instruments and how will it affect the creators, performers and the audience?

This is a very good question. I can only take a guess. The technologies of the past decades, the digitalization have brought us to a point in which everything is different, not only the music, it’s also the music industry, streaming platforms, the way we’re paying for music or listening to music has changed a lot and I think we will go even further with this. Mankind and musicians will experiment a lot with this digitalization, we will experiment with hologram concerts and even with traditional settings like stage, audience, musicians on stage, concerts that last one and a half hours. These are very traditional parameters and we will go further into more complex sound experiences, multidimensional concepts with visuals and audio together. On the other hand I think that traditional analog music will always stay, there will be a big demand for traditional set ups as well. When we (Dub Spencer & Trance Hill) play live we actually play DJ music with instruments, DUB music is not designed to be played live with traditional instruments and we experimented with this and turned it around, we took this produced music and played it live, we have no computers on stage since we play it all with our instruments and this is also a new experience for people to come and see our show..

If through science or any other method we manage to prove the existence of a creator, god or great designer of the universe and you were chosen to play the background sounds of the encounter, which of your songs would you use for such an event?

This question is quite funny. Here I feel you are looking for this universal soundtrack, this one song, this one track that is one in all and all in one. I don’t think I’ve heard this track yet, I don’t think we nor anybody else have done any track like that. Actually I’m really curious and I’d like to be surprised knowing who is doing a track like that, I do not know if I will ever hear a track like that. Maybe it is just one single note or tone, I don’t know, maybe the tone of the Earth or something like that.

Here some of our favorite tracks by Dub Spencer & Trance Hill:

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