Photography by: Alexis Rieger
Originally from Saint-Etienne in France’s industrial heartland, Dub Inc fuse classic roots reggae with dub, dancehall, ska, hip-hop and African influences. They create an intoxicating musical hybrid with highly charged and socially conscious songs which have earned them cult status in their native France.
Their wild, high-octane live performances led to an ever expanding and loyal fan base. With a fierce independent spirit and away from the media spotlight, Dub Inc have become the most successful reggae band playing in Europe today, and are now a fixture at major festivals across the world, having already appeared at Paleo, Francofolies, WOMAD and headlined Rototom Sunsplash or Summerjam.
Charismatic lead singers Hakim ‘Bouchkour’ Meridja and Aurelien ‘Komlan’ Zohou sing in English, French and Kabyle (a Berber language native to Algeria). Backed by deep rolling bass (Moritz Von Korff), keyboards (Frédéric Peyron and Idir Derdiche), guitar (Jérémie Grégeois) and drums (Grégory “Zigo” Mavridorakis), Bouchkour and Komlan convey strong positive messages through their striking vocals creating music with a truly universal appeal.
Since forming in 1997, Dub Inc have produced six studio albums, two EP’s and a live album. Their latest album, ‘So What’, perfectly embodies the potent combination of infectious energy, distinctive melody and engaged, combative lyrics.
To celebrate the release of ‘So What’, Irie Magazine caught up with Komlan to discuss their new album and to explore the meanings behind the songs that speak about love, respect and peace for all.
IRIE. How did music become your life’s work?
Komlan: You know, when I was young, I didn’t think I would play music. I was a big cinema fan. When I was at Lyceum, I started to study cinema and the techniques. Music came in my life because I was always a big music fan. I was one of those guys who bought lots of magazines about music. During that time, there was no internet so I would send letters to my favorite bands asking them to send me their first cd, their new album, their new mixtape. I didn’t know that I would play music.
One day, Jérémie, our guitarist and Zigo, our drummer, were good friends of mine. It was usual for us to go to a lot of parties together. Saint-Étienne is a very small city and if you are 18 years old and you love music and partying, you will meet something interesting for you.
One day, I saw them.. I will always remember that day because it was during the World Cup in France in 1998. The game was played in a stadium in Saint-Étienne.
I said to the guys, ‘hey guys, you have a band. That’s incredible’. There were three members in the band at that time. I said to them, ‘I want to try something with you guys’. The day after, I went to their rehearsal place with them. And after that session, they said, maybe we have to find another singer and a keyboard player. In two months, the band was completed. It started like that. It was just for the fun. We never thought that one day the band would be popular. We were just 18 years old and it was just for fun…. to play together, to experiment, to try different thing. To mix reggae with african music. Mix dub with rock and roll… with hip hop and soul. It was a hobby for us.
After 3-4 months, we did our first show and that’s when we understood that something great happen together and that we would work together for a long time.
IRIE. You just returned from Spain having performed at this year’s Rototom Sunsplash! What was the vibe like for you guys? Did you preview any new tracks from the new album?
Komlan: For our summer tour, we played two songs from the album, the songs we released on Youtube, ‘Triste Époque’ and ‘Grand Périple’. It was a very good test for us. You can feel how the people liked the songs when you’re on stage. Rototom is the best festival in Europe for Reggae music so for us it was really important to try this at Rototom. Rototom has a very special vibe and we love this festival.
IRIE. September 23, 2016 is a special day… the release of your 6th album, ‘So What’. Can you share with us the meaning behind the album’s title?
Komlan: You know, we composed this album last year and since then, you know what has happened in France with terrorism. Terrorism has started something that has brought out the extreme right. Racism in France has now become more present in politics and in the streets… everywhere.
We composed the album in this atmosphere… one of fear and terror in these suspicious time. And we live that because we all come from different origins. You can feel that in the streets.
The week after the terrorist attack at the Eagles of Death Metal concert (Nov 13, 2015) at Paris’ Le Bataclan venue, you could feel the people look at you… something changed.
You can feel it in this album. One part of this album maybe more dark… a little bit more sad… and one part very light. Because after this kind of act of terror, you are sad at first. You think about your children… about your future together… about the future of your country. You are very angry! The day after, you want to start all over again. You want to be positive. You want to say to the people… “So What!”
What will we do now? Will we start to fight against each other? What do we want now? Our album is a message of hope. It’s a message for the people who were not represented after the terrorist attack.
After the act of terror, all you saw on television and on the news was fear…. be careful in the streets, be careful here; be careful on the train stations; be careful in the airports. Now… we know that a lot of people wanted to say that they don’t want to be careful… that they want to live normally! They want to fight against terror with positivity and unity. That’s why we use this name for the title.
When we finished the album, that was a question to us…So What? What do we want to create for our future? What do we want to create for tomorrow. And that’s why we chose that title.
IRIE. What do you hope your fans take from this new release of So What?
Komlan: We hope that our fans understand that they are not alone. There are a lot of people in the world that only have television as their form of information to learn about what is going on in the world. When they are with their family and they watch and view the negative news, they begin to feel and express what they see on TV.
We want to say to the people that in our band, we are all diverse yet we are always together. The
terrorist will not destroy our unity. We want people not to be divided. We want them to know that the establishment that uses this fear of terror will not destroy our unity.
We also hope that our message of peace explains to them how we are all the same. You can be very angry one day, even afraid of whats happening outside. It’s normal… but you have to move forward. Don’t stop living. Try to see farther then what is presented to you… go outside with a new attitude. The world is not as the tv says it is; not as the terrorist want it.
The world is what we want to create it. In our lyrics, ‘Love is the Meaning’, we say, “You don’t like this world. You say this world is shitty… well, you are one part of this world.” If every part of this world wants to change, the world will change. It’s important to say that to the people. You are one part of this world and you can change that part of this world. You could change a look on somebody face with a smile; you could share something with someone who is not of you culture… share something with a stranger. That is the thing we can change.
IRIE. Which song resonates most with you on the album?
Komlan: For me, I think ‘Love Is The Meaning’ is important. I think it is the answer to ‘So What’. Each song has a different vibe. ‘So what’ is important too because it speaks about extreme rights. This year in France we have our elections as do you in the United States. You guys have Donald Trump and we have the facist, Marine Le Pen, who is first in the polls. ‘So What’ speaks about this. For me, these are the two most important songs.
IRIE. Tell me about the track Maché Bécif? It’s a favorite here at IRIE Magazine.
Komlan: It’s good that you mentioned this song. Hakim wrote this song. ‘Maché Bécif’ basically says that you can’t force me to believe in your God. We actually say this in the verse… “You can believe what you want to believe in, but please, respect what I want to believe.” This is important. Hakim sing this in Kabyle.. Kabylie is a part of Algeria that has been oppressed by Algeria for along time. In the 90’s, Algeria was a very dangerous place to be in with the radical muslims present. The Kabylie part was like the resistance. The song was written to say that I want to keep my freedom…. keep my way of living… keep my religion.
Hakim wanted to write this song in a way to speak for the french people and he used this dialect to speak to the North African people. In France, sometimes, Hakim is in front of people who say, “hey man, you are Arab, you are North African, you have to speak about Allah…”
Hakim doesn’t want that. Hakim says, “You can believe what you want, but with your guns and your words, you will never force me to believe like you.”
IRIE. Respect Hakim!! We here at IRIE are big fans of Dub Inc for many reasons. Most importantly, we have maaad respect for you being an independent band! How are you guys able to pursue the independent spirit by producing, distributing and performing your music your way?
Komlan: Being independent is a big job and a lot of work. We are growing which allows us to do this. We have a manager and a distributor for our music and merchandise. We know to stay independent now means a lot of work. For the week of the release of the album we did everything by ourselves. Packaged and shipped CD’s, posters… one by one.
As a band, we have 2-3 meetings a week; we rehearse together. We then speak 1-2 hours together to discuss choices for the band and the label. It’s a lot of work but it’s the only way to stay totally free. We want to stay free. We love our freedom. We know that we are lucky about that. Everything we do, we do together. We choose together, we think together. It’s very important for us . We all earn the same money in the band. Every member earns the same money and every member has the same voice. This is very important.
Independence is also a message that we want to communicate with our audience. We want to say to the people, do it by yourself. Try by yourself. Don’t wait for someone to do what you want. Being independent was not by choice. When we first started the band, we did it independently because no one wanted to hear about us. They didn’t care about a small band in a small city. Here we are today!
Our message to everyone… do it by yourself.
IRIE. We love how you mix languages within a song. I don’t know of many other bands that can do what you do and do it so well. Is there a formula for this perfection?
Komlan: There is no formula. You know, each time is very different. For the song, ‘Justice’, Mellow Mood came into the studio and they sang in english. In the festivals, the easy way is to sing in english. It can be interesting if we say something in english and french, and then Mellow Mood continues the topic of the song in english. We when we set out to do this album, we wanted to play with the new generations of reggae artists. Naâman is the new French generation in reggae and Mellow Mood is the new European generation.
It was a very good vibe to share this song with them. They are very conscious too. They have a lot of love songs in their album. I remember them saying, “Yeah mon, we have to do more conscious songs.”
IRIE. Can we expect a Dub Inc tour in the US in 2017?
Komlan: I hope! But you know, it’s very difficult to play in the US. We did it in New York. It was a very good experience for us but it was also a very expensive experience. It’s also very difficult to find your audience in the US!
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say or share with the IRIE Magazine audience?
Komlan: We are really happy to do this interview with IRIE Magazine. I hope that the IRIE Magazine audience will discover our band and will like our music. We are the same family and I hope we will meet our US audience soon. A lot of love from Dub Inc!
IRIE. Give thanks, Komlan! Much Love and Respect from everyone here at Irie Magazine!
Official Website: Dub-Inc.com