Interview: Daniel Haaksman Talks More Dub Infusions

Haaksman, currently busy puffin’ away and working on several new projects, took a few moments to speak with Slant about the influence of dub, both personal and universal.

Interview: Daniel Haaksman Talks More Dub Infusions

With last year’s Dub Infusions 1989-1999 and the new More Dub Infusions, Berlin-based DJ/remixer/journalist Daniel Haaksman has compiled an exquisite collection of dub-infused downbeat artifacts that is not only perfect for aficionados of dub but it’s also a gorgeous introduction to the genre for the mainstream masses. As far back as Cyndi Lauper’s “Witness” (from 1983’s She’s So Unusual) to Sinead O’Connor’s Faith & Courage (produced by famed dub producer Adrian Sherwood) and Perry Farrell’s Song Yet to Be Sung, dub music has been an influential force in pop and rock. But nowhere else has dub’s influence been as potent than in electronic music. Haaksman, currently busy puffin’ away and working on several new projects, took a few moments to speak with Slant about the influence of dub, both personal and universal.

Why did you decide to start the Dub Infusions series?

As a DJ I’ve been playing dub-influenced music for many years. Daniel W. Best founded his label Best Seven and asked me if I’d be interested in putting together a compilation for him. He came up with the title and I provided the selection of music and the artwork. I decided to create [Dub Infusions 1989-1999] as a sort of look back at 10 years of dub influence in dance music. The album starts chronologically with the dub version of “Dub Be Good to Me” by Norman Cook, one of the first tracks I played when I started spinning in 1989. It’s also one of the very first sample-based dub tunes. So yeah, the first issue is both a chronological view on one decade of sample-based dub plus a very personal view on tracks that influenced me. Each track on the compilation has a personal relevance to me.

More Dub Infusions is noticeably different from the first installment. What did you intend to bring to the listener with each album?

Dub Infusions 1989-1999 had more of a laidback rhythm because I felt that the slow beat was very crucial in reestablishing the genre in the ’90s. Yes, it’s a ’90s compilation so-to-speak. With More Dub Infusions, I wanted to show that dub is not only limited to a slow groove but that it can be found in basically all musical genres. You have the techno dub of Berlin’s Rhythm & Sound, you have it in the William S. Burroughs track, in the hip-hop beats of Roots Manuva and the Fantastische Vier, and you have it with Detroit man Recloose. My intention for both compilations was to present the listener [with] a basic vibe and insight into a particular sound, some of the seminal tracks of 90s dub as well as the different shapes that dub-infused music can have these days. I can [also] live out my old vinyl digger passion in presenting tunes that are forgotten, or that never saw more exposure, like the “Lundaland” mix of Biggabush that was only released here in Germany on 12” or the Sly & Mo tune that never made it out of Austria.

Gus Van Sant and William S. Burroughs’s “Millions of Images” is the only track on the new compilation that was released prior to 1998. How did you come across it?

It’s one of my all-time favorites. I first found it in 1990 in a small London record shop. Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould had a 7” label called SOL on which the track was released. I’ve been a long-time reader of Burroughs and collected a few of his records but this tune is definitely one of his best. I later found out the track is part of a short movie project that Gus Van Sant did with Burroughs in the mid ’80s. There’s a rumor that Burroughs may be the founding father of dub music in general. Historians still argue about it, but apparently Burroughs spent some time in Jamaica in the late ’60s. He always traveled with a tape machine onto which he recorded his poetry. [The machine also had] effects such as echo and delay and, as the story goes, Burroughs met the young King Tubby one day and showed him what one can do with sound when using the effects. Before leaving Jamaica, Burroughs left his tape machine behind and the rest is history.

What about Die Fantastsiche Vier’s “Tag am Meer?”

That track is for the trainspotters. Originally it was the backing track for a pretty big German hip-hop tune from the early ’90s. The crew is from Stuttgart, which is in the south of Germany. They used to DJ at a club called On-U, where Rainer Trüby was spinning too. He provided the Fantastische Vier with many rare groove samples, [including the] guitar on “Tag am Meer.” It’s a reference to the club and the time.

Are there plans for another installment in the Dub Infusions series and, if so, would you ever consider compiling it as a mix?

I’m working on two more compilations. Dub Infusions 3 is scheduled for late next year and I’m already laying out the sketches. But I’m focusing much more on a DJ compilation that I’m putting together for my company Essay Recordings and that should come out in early 2003. It’s not going to be another dub record though—more with a view on blues, funk, and hip-hop. And it will be mixed. I intended not to mix the tracks for Dub Infusions because there are already zillions of mix CDs and this series is not about DJ skills but about music. Outside of northern Europe (and the U.S.) it’s really hard to find dub tracks so I thought an unmixed CD would make much more sense for radio airplay and DJ use.

Speaking of radio, popular artists often lift elements from more underground influences to the mainstream surface. How do you feel about the integration of the genre in mainstream pop and rock?

The more, the better. Dub is the most flexible genre and has been a presence in mainstream culture for a long time. Like soul, it’s a sound that will always be in demand because it’s the perfect vehicle for communicating specific moods and feelings.

Isn’t dub, as a genre, an amalgam of different influences to begin with? What are its origins?

Dub is a studio technique that was [officially] invented by King Tubby in the late ’60s. [He discovered that] music could be deconstructed, stripped down to its basics [and] the elements of songs could be laid bare. And out of this deconstruction something new emerged. The vocals would just drop in and out occasionally and the focus was much more on the rhythm or the bass, the rhythmical backbone of a song. As dub is about a structural analysis of music, it can basically be applied in any type of genre.

Do you think dub can ever be “mainstream?”

I can’t imagine any dub tune making it into the Top 10, but as a technique it appears pretty much everywhere. Take No Doubt’s “Hey Baby,” for example, where you hear lots of sounds that originally come from dub music.

Why do you think dub has experienced such a renaissance in the past few years?

I think it’s for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that dub’s instrumental, mellow groove is very easy to consume and works perfectly as a background soundtrack. The whole renaissance—at least over here in Europe—actually started in the chill out rooms of big raves. As there weren’t many laidback, relaxed tunes to chill out to, DJs in the late ’80s and early ’90s started digging for old dub tunes. I had a decisive experience in 1990 at a Frankfurt rave where Alex Patterson from the Orb was spinning. Coming down from a pretty heavy E experience, I laid down on a sofa to relax. Patterson was playing lots of original Jamaican dub stuff. It was very peaceful and warm in contrast to the harsh four-to-the-floor rave sound and gave me the perfect aural surrounding. [It was] a very crucial moment in my clubbing life. Another reason for the renaissance of dub is that besides the functionality of dub, it is a musical genre that very much relies on technology. And as we’ve experienced a very intense occupation with technology in terms of music-making in the last decade, dub had a huge comeback. It offered itself as the perfect playground for experiments, which included reflections on musical structures in general. And that’s why you’ll find a dub vibe—or at least dubby elements—in basically all of today’s electronic music. Another reason could also be the ’90s resurgence of weed-smoking. There’s no better soundtrack for being stoned!

Will current dub releases be able to stand the test of time like classic ’70s Jamaican dub has?

Absolutely. Good music always will stand the test of time.

Sal Cinquemani

Sal Cinquemani is the co-founder and co-editor of Slant Magazine. His writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, The Village Voice, and others. He is also an award-winning screenwriter/director and festival programmer.

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