n the calm and mellow seas of reggae dub music, Dub Trio is a rogue wave that has capsized the smooth-sailing ship most people associate with the genre. Although most people might think of dub as a combination of steady reggae rhythms, uber-low bass, sharp guitar up-strums, and liberal use of echo and delay effects, Dub Trio turns that cliché on its head by mixing violent, instrumental metal into its spine-shaking, deep-grooving reggae breaks. But if you think the combination of these two vastly different genres would be a little off-putting, one listen to the remarkable Another Sound is Dying (Ipecac, 2008) just might make you believe otherwise.

The Brooklyn-based trio took the music world by storm with their 2004 debut album, Exploring the Dangers Of (ROIR). Although they were initially warned that a three-piece instrumental band would have a hard time finding mainstream success, bassist Stu Brooks, guitarist DP Holmes, and drummer Joe Tomino threw caution to the wind and pursued their dream. Four successful albums and a mountain of accolades later, it is assumed that the naysayers have been silenced. 

The trio’s use of gritty, uncompromising resonance is the perfect contrast to their use of eerie silence and traditional dub frequencies; when it works, their King Tubby-meets-Bad Brains sound is strong enough to knock a buzzard off a shitwagon. And while their albums are a more-than-adequate introduction to the band’s skill and diversity, the true essence of Dub Trio lies in their live show, which are clinics in mastery.

  Their relentless efforts brought forth a collaboration with revered singer Mike Patton, which led to a subsequent pairing on Patton’s 2006 album Peeping Tom (Ipecac Records) and a tour backing Patton on stage as well as serving as his opening act, which in turn led to a backing-band stint with Matisyahu in 2007, solidifying the band’s nonstop road regimen.

In anticipation of The Dub Trio’s next album, which is scheduled to come out in early ’09, drummer Joe Tomino chatted with The Grixer about the band’s latest changes to their sound, their desire to stay instrumental, and how the band inadvertently insulted a member of The Who

(no names were revealed). 


You guys are well-versed in many genres and have more studio experience than most veteran players twice your age. What compels you to work in dub?

Well, I guess we haven’t always been fans of dub music. It was the kind of thing where once we came across it we fell in love with it immediately. It felt so natural to write and jam—it felt like we had already been playing it for some time. I remember sitting listening to old dub records together and freaking out, like, “Fuck, this music is amazing on so many levels.” I mean, we kinda started in 2000 with more of an electronic-music foundation and worked our way backwards.

And what stuck out most about dub when you first discovered it?

Sonically, conceptually and emotionally, it just took us there. We’ve never tried to be anything we’re not, and again, dub just came so naturally that it fit. We weren’t overextending ourselves and we weren’t faking our way through it because we always honored the fundamentals of dub. Nothing has ever been contrived in this band and neither was the conscious decision to fall in to that genre.

Your sound, however, has changed quite obviously and has grown a lot heavier since your first album, Exploring the Dangers Of (ROIR, 2004).

Well, it was a lot like our progression into dub. We didn’t listen to heavy music at the time, but our music was just kinda going there. We don’t really talk about anything before we do it, so we pretty much just let our style go where it wants; it’s all a natural evolution. Looking from the outside in, I could see how it would seem like we just halted what we were listening to and shifted. That definitely wasn’t the case.

So what can we expect from the recent writing you’ve been doing?

It’s every type of sound from our first album to this last one. It’s sludgy and dubby and it’s heavy and distorted. Once we pick up on something we like, we usually just put it in our tool bag to use later, ya know? We never really know how these records are going to come out, either. We like doing things on the fly.

The band has been releasing albums on a regular basis. Are you guys always writing?

Always writing. We tour constantly, so it gives us some time to write things out and try some new things. That’s really the best time for all of us to be together and really get the mental juices flowing.

And what’s your typical writing process like?

Someone usually brings in an idea and then we roll with it. I don’t think any one of us has every come in with a full-on song. Practice spaces are costly as shit in New York, so we try to keep things rolling. We’ve gotten really good at mixing and matching parts. I might hear some beats in my head and Stu and DP will just immediately jump on them. We actually had a week off in France this year where we just wrote our asses off. It was an amazing place to make music.

With your sound being as diverse as it is, I am sure that your iPod has a little bit of everything. What have you been listening to?

It’s all over the place—a lot of J Dilla, Messhugah, Sigur Ros, Crow Path, Radiohead… Sometimes in the van we just geek out and listen to NPR on the radio. It’s good to give the mind some breaks.

How did you get into music?

My father was a drummer, so ever since I can remember I was around a drum set and music. It really was only a matter of time before I picked up the sticks and got at it. I joined my first band when I was 12 years old, but I got really serious about it around 10th and 11th grade. That was about the time when I started working professionally as a drummer. Most of my friends just had school or some bullshit job and I was already picking up gigs left and right.

You have a unique drumming style—when did you realize that you’d found your true voice on drums?

That’s an interesting question. I think it was when we first picked up our axes in this band that I really knew who I was as a drummer. I mean, we’re each individual players who are slightly schooled and know what we like musically. I’m always developing and changing as a drummer, but recently it feels like I’m becoming more mature musically. I think it’s your late 20’s to early 30’s when that really happens to you.

How did you connect with Stu and D.P. to form Dub Trio?

Dave and Stu met in Boston at music school and then moved to New York when they finished up. They lost their drummer when they came out here, so they asked me to take his place. We played mainly as a backing band for other artists at first, and we were a hired-gun rhythm section for a while. During that time, we were all doing a ton of studio work. It wasn’t until around 2002 that we really started doing our own thing.

And how did you guys get your break?

Well, it’s funny—in the beginning people would knock us by saying, “You guys are good, but you’re not gonna make it as an instrumental, three-piece dub band. There’s not really a market for that.” That used to piss us off so much. Pretty shortly after that, after we had played a show, a guy named Lucas from ROIR Records came up to us and said he loved us. We had only been gigging together a couple of months and they signed us. Our label has been nothing but supportive ever since, and we love working with them.

That must’ve silenced the salty naysayers.

Fuck yeah it did!

Do you enjoy the challenges and rewards of being a three-piece?

Oh, absolutely. This is exactly how we like it. There’s a ton of freedom in being a three -piece that you don’t get when there are more musicians on stage. We’re able to be so tight together and really act as one unit. There’s something really special about trios in music. I think we all agree that a fourth member would mess it all up for us. In a trio, everyone has a place sonically and everyone is equally important at every moment of every song.

What compels you to keep with instrumental music?

I really don’t know if we prefer being instrumental, but this is what we are, and this is how the cards laid down. I don’t think we can really ever be anything else. I mean, that’s not to say that we won’t work with vocalists ever, I just can’t ever picture us taking on any other members.

Speaking of collaborations, what was it like working with Mike Patton?

Luckily, it was really natural for all of us. We respect him so much as an artist and for everything he’s done for music. He does what he feels at all times and he doesn’t give a fuck what other people think about his stuff. It was a total kindred-spirits thing when we got together. The first collaboration happened over the Internet and he did exactly what we pictured without us even giving instructions. After that he asked us to come aboard for his Peeping Tom project and we were totally down. We love working with Mike.

Describe a Dub Trio show from your perspective.

Actually, not too much really goes through my head when we play. This band is all about listening and adapting. We do a whole lot of improv and that makes us stay on our toes. We take the concept of dub, the actual source material, and we make it different every single night. Our shows always have a purpose, so we’re never just going through the motions on stage. That’s a fucked up things bands do on a nightly basis and you can always call them out because it’s obvious. Aesthetically, we just try to hit on every single level. Our shows are kinda like a big “fuck you” but not in an angry way, if that makes sense.

It does. What do you think people enjoy most at Dub Trio shows?

We have a totally symbiotic relationship with our crowd that makes them feel like they’re a part of the experience. The audience is always silent when we play and that’s amazing. We’re also so dynamic; it makes a huge difference to the listener.

What’s been one of your most memorable shows so far?

Stu: For me, the most memorable show was probably the 850-year-old palace that we played in Peron, France. It was this old school building that had some crazy sound qualities to it. It was like a weird dream the whole time.

Joe: Actually, the tour we just came off of was huge. We had a show with over 6,000 people, who were going apeshit. That was definitely our biggest show ever. Also, on election night this year we played a Washington, DC gig with Bad Brains. That’s about the illest show we could think of doing. When it was announced that Obama won, it was like the place blew up. It was stupid how good that night was.

What keeps you guys motivated while on the road?

Joe: I find inspiration in hearing new music. It’s challenging and refreshing and exciting. Also, food and wine inspire me big time. If I have a great meal before a show and drink some good wine, I get really inspired.

Tell us a crazy road story.

Man, that’s tough. I think we’re ready for some crazy shit to happen to us out here. Let’s see… We hit a deer in Canada in our van and I lost feeling in my leg for about an hour. We got yelled at by a member of The Who for a big misunderstanding. Other than that, life on the road is pretty mellow for us.

What is your band dynamic like off stage?

We spend a ton of time together, so I’d say we know just about everything we could possibly know about each other. We’re actually pretty mellow guys. When we’re home, we’re with our ladies and wives, but for 9 months of the year we’re always together.

What is your ultimate goal for Dub Trio at this point in your careers?

The same as it’s always been—to reach as many people as we can and to continue creating original music. I think we just really want to get it all out of our systems while we’re here on Earth. Also, we’d like to collaborate with a couple more people and maybe do some remix stuff as well. We also want to get on national television at some point.

What advice would you give to the young musicians out there?

Learn multiple instruments, create your own style and stick to it. Technique is important too, but that shit only takes you so far. Also, get your business shit together. There are a lot of sharks out there that want to feast on creativity. Don’t let them.

And finally, what’s next on Dub Trio’s plate?

Well, right now I’m driving about 80 miles per hour in our van trying to get back to Brooklyn. We just finished some recording for the new record and then we’re hitting the road again going cross-country. We probably won’t release the new record until 2009 because we’re planning on making a live DVD to go with it. I’m sure we’ll be all over the states this winter, so keep an eye out for us.


Dub Trio– “Bay vs. Leonard” (live)

Dub Trio– “One Man Tag Crew” (live)

Dub Trio– Joe Tomino (Drums), DP Holmes (Guitar), Stu Brooks (Bass)

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