Jungs & Mädels – On a Dub Tip
Digital Download (and LP if you can find one!)
I have a feeling that this is the first German release I have written about on my blog. France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Estonia and of course the UK have all featured so this is indeed new ground. So what do you think of when somebody mentions German music? Everything from 80s big hair rock, impenetrable techno noise, Einstürzende Neubauten, 99 Red Balloons and Hansa Studios covers my limited knowledge. This is of course lazy on my part and I am not being totally serious… but don’t you hate it when people pigeon hole a county with one particular group or style of music? Every country has a rich and varied heritage and Germany’s own music scenes are just a valid. It is just a matter of taking the time to look under the surface, delve a bit deeper and you always find some gold.
On a Dub Tip
This compilation of eleven pretty heavy industrial dub influenced tracks jumped out from the crowd because it is a bit different. I am getting a bit tired of the emails talking about the next great reggae artist and all you hear is some kind of poppy, r’n’b, reggae mash up. That’s fine for some, but not what I want. I like my music to have an edge, Peter Tosh, On U Sound, Jah Shaka and Prince Far I, they all have that edgy attitude, that gritty individuality that draws me to them. This compilation was originally released in 1998 and although admittedly it only touches reggae’s outer boundaries, it does have that swagger and a certain ‘cool’ about it that impresses me. This is possibly helped by its rarity and the fact that not many know it even exists. I guess this is the kind of reward you get when you dig, fuck off Scorpions this is what we want from Germany!
The press release that accompanied the tracks does a very good job of setting the scene. It is actually an interesting historical piece on what the music industry was like for a small label in the late 90s. CDs ruled the airwaves and vinyl was even more underground than it is now. I am not one to cut and paste too much from press releases, I prefer to give you my own interpretation, but I am going to make an exception here. It is well written and comes from the horse’s mouth. So below we have the story of ‘On a Dub Tip’ courtesy of main ‘jung’ Henrik Lafrenz.
“Jungs & Mädels on a Dub Tip was released as a vinyl LP 20 years ago. We had mobile phones and e-mail addresses, but no Facebook yet. The 20th century was coming to a close, with the millennium bug threatening to halt all computers. Better to rely on analog technology, for the time being. We were interested in beats, bass lines, and echoes. We had an archaic, gigantic drum computer, the Dr. Böhm Computerband 2000. We even had a Roland Space Echo, the same model that Lee Perry had used. And a lot of other gear, some of which may have been digital. (We weren’t so narrow-minded.)”
“To hold a vinyl record with your own music on it in your hands was, of course, a big dream. But there were hardly any pressing plants left, and pressing an LP cost about as much as producing a CD. This we had already done several times — with the result that boxes of unsold CDs lay around everywhere. The vinyl record may have been pronounced dead, but people had also discovered that CDs weren’t that sexy.”
“When the border to Czechoslovakia opened, though, things started moving again. There was a pressing plant in Loděnice, ordering from there was not only cheaper, it didn’t have to be a minimum of a thousand records. You could order tiny editions — 100 or even only 50 copies. The records came by air freight, and you had to pick them up at the airport. You signed some customs papers, and then boxes full of records appeared on a conveyor belt. It was pretty exciting.”
“We had tried a seven-inch at first. It wasn’t very loud, didn’t sound particularly good, but hey, it was vinyl, with our own music on it! Crazy. You had to have a “label” of course — call it a company, a gang, or whatever. We called our label “Jungs & Mädels” (“boys and girls”), and of course we were itching to make a long-playing record next.”
“Dub was a genre under which the different approaches that we took could somehow be subsumed. The idea was: we’ll make a nice compilation out of our tracks, and then everybody can get as many records as they like. In the end we ordered 300, and they all went somewhere. No boxes of unsold copies. I have exactly two copies left, but only one of those is in the correct cover.”
“Vinyl was, in fact, hardly dead in 1998. On the contrary, there were so many records that some of them didn’t even get real covers. Techno, house and hip hop often came in black or white, unprinted sleeves that sometimes had a hole in the middle — so you could read what was written on the label, or see that it, too, was unprinted. Which was of course the maximum of cool. Sometimes there’d be a sticker with some artwork. That’s how we wanted to do it, too. For our first important pitch, we weren’t quite ready for total anonymity.”
“Our headquarters were in Hamburg’s Karoviertel. That’s where the strings were pulled, and that’s where the fax machine stood. Annette (Kerschbaum) selected some of her photos, some of which she had taken in New York, the mecca of unprinted record sleeves. Sven (Seddig) worked out the right shade of black for the sticker: dark-green black on a black sleeve that would look cool.
But the mixing desk was in Jochen’s (Stroh) flat in Berlin. The fun with dubbing only begins with a big mixing desk. You need some sends, to put delay on discrete signals. And mute buttons, to be able to drop an instrument out for a couple of bars. With those techniques, practically anything can be turned into a dub version.”
“Lars (Fenin) had tracks, Jochen had tracks. Lars had one on which Jochen played bass. Let’s think of a title — how about “6000 Dub”? (Since 2000 was drawing near, the stakes had to be upped significantly.) The Top Banana Trio got dubbed. Peter (Imig) operated on his boxes to produce an ambient specialty. Bente (Faust) from Off Ya Tree also had something that fitted in. Just give me the DAT, how many copies do you want to order? That was the spirit back then.”
Even twenty years on you can still feel the enthusiasm in Henrik’s words. That excitement of getting your first vinyl long player pressed. That is the point isn’t it of music, getting it out to the listener? Even though today’s kids have been hoodwinked by the corporate crapshoot that is streaming, we all know vinyl will always be music’s soul. There is no substitute for holding that sleeve in your hands and when it is your own music, how special is that?
To celebrate the twenty year anniversary of On a Dub Tip there is now a digital version available on Bandcamp. This is part one of a series of three re-releases. In this age of tight economics a digital release makes sense, I don’t blame Henrik for not releasing a twenty year old album on wax! But if you search you can still find one of those 300 vinyl copies, try Discogs for starters, there were two at the time of writing for a very reasonable price. So reasonable that I picked one up myself, sorry…
I know I haven’t gone into much detail about the music, there are so many styles here that ultimately it is one you have to listen to yourself in order to fully appreciate the scope. But I will try and give you a whistle stop breakdown of Jungs & Mädels, and if any of the following words and phrases chime with you then please investigate, you will be rewarded. I have made some of these up, they are my brief interpretations of what the tracks say to me, but hey there is always room for new music genres!
Harzhof – Dark and industrial, hypnotic, bassy, a film noir mind melt. Brian Eno on a bad trip.
Wat Shall IK Di Noch Seggn – Up-tempo semi steppas and mightily catchy.
Pull It Up Operator – Digi dancehall for a corrupted generation.
Beatdope – Big hard beats, uncompromising sci-fi acid hip-hop.
6000 Dub – Naked funky bass work out.
Diese Augen – Sophisticated, smooth and jazzy, ideal for the darkest Hamburg hang out.
AK Drummer Und Sinustone – Drifting alone in space with only an electronic tone for company.
Moobelken Mix – Cool bass driven dub trip, something to accompany the most introspective mind.
Salute – Let’s up that BPM for a techno dub workout.
Beatnix – The sister song to Salute.
Early Cut – The most reggae track, skanking in an industrial space.
I hope you like this piece, and yes I know it is only a little bit reggae. But I bet a lot of you have dance music in your veins as well, so I hope you will get something from it. If you don’t mind sharing this on social media it would be appreciated. See you next time.
Bless, Paper Lion