Music interview – Gentleman’s Dub Club: ‘I feel like it’s not a fluke that a lot of this music comes from Leeds’

Gentleman's Dub Club have collaborated with The Nextmen on their new album.
Gentleman's Dub Club have collaborated with The Nextmen on their new album.
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Dancefloor destroyers Gentleman’s Dub Club might have found an international audience for their blend of dub, ska and reggae, but they trace their roots back to Leeds, where the nine-piece band formed in 2006. Their new album, Pound For Pound, is a collaboration with London-based songwriters and remixers The Nextmen.

Singer Jonathan Scratchley said the link came via GDC’s former keyboard player who put them in touch with Brad Baloo from The Nextmen. “We realised there was a mutual connection so we went into the studio together and wrote three songs in a day,” says Scratchley. “Then we thought, ‘This is worth a little bit more effort’, so over the course of six to eight weeks we wrote the whole album. It was all really easy and so liberating to work with new people.”

The spirit of collaboration extended to a raft of guest vocalists, including Eva Lazarus, Hollie Cook, Joe Dukie of Fat Freddy’s Drop and Chali 2na of Jurassic 5. “We’re generally about being a live band so with me being the singer I generally take the lead on all of the writing,” says Scratchley. “There were a lot of people that we wanted to work with and it felt like a good opportunity to build those bonds. We’ve been touring for 10 years and we know lots of people and likewise with The Nextmen, they’ve got all their connections and links which are in a similar world but slightly different. It was just a case of seeing who we could reach out and amazingly everyone we spoke to wanted to be part of it. It was a surprisingly easy process to get some of our heroes on the record.”

To “galvanise some people power”, they decided to crowdfund the release via Pledge Music. “We shopped it around and got some interest but we realised us as a group of individuals actually had more power and contacts than any of the labels that we were talking to.

“Brad and Dom [Search] have been around a long time and they’ve worked on lots of different records that have been playlisted on radio as well as being on the underground and Harry, our manager, he manages Prince Fatty and Submotion Orchestra and Maverick Sabre, and I myself have been running events for a number of years, so we said, ‘Let’s release it ourselves and see how it goes’. It gives you so much more freedom in how you sell your record, how you sell yourself.

“We managed to get some investment into the album from a label services company, they helped us pay for some of the basics then we said, ‘Let’s get the crowd behind it’. We crowdfunded for all our physical production – our vinyls and our CDs and we hit 110 per cent of target so we couldn’t have been happier.”

GDC met up 12 years ago when they were students in Leeds. “Half of us were at the College of Music and half of us were at the university,” Scratchey explains. “I’d been at school with Niall [Lavelle], who plays percussion, and Niall was in halls with Toby [Davies, the bass player] at university. We met up there and started going out a lot and connecting with the bass/reggae-influenced scenes in Leeds which was really healthy at the time. The three of us had quite different musical backgrounds – jazz, classical, soul, drum & bass – then we started to fall in love with dub music and that was a complete game changer. Then we realised with our experience we could have a go at that ourselves.

“We messed around in the basement of 44 Headingley Lane for six months and then Harry [Devenish], who went to school with Toby cam down and said ‘This is really good, I want to manage you lot and I know a load of musicians from the College of Music’ and that was the start of everything.”

The band might now all live in London but Scratchley says they have a lasting affection for the city where the band formed. “We’ve got so much love for Leeds, we always consider ourselves to have been born there. I was a teacher there for three years after I left university, I worked in Roundhay. I feel like it’s not a fluke that a lot of this music comes from Leeds – there’s an electric combination of old and new and there’s a genuine undertone to it all in the natural attitude. Places like Subdub are perfect for that – it’ll give you a chance to not just be there with a load of students, but people who are from Chapeltown and Morley.”

Pound For Pound is out now. Gentleman’s Dub Club play at Leeds University on October 27. www.gentlemansdubclub.com