drummer Joe Tomino of Dub Trio“Even though dub is at the bottom of every song you hear,” says Dub Trio drummer Joe Tomino, “we’ve never put any boundaries on it.” Indeed, the Brooklyn band’s recent LP, New Heavy, expands on its reggae-rich 2004 debut, Exploring The Dangers Of, by incorporating rowdy punk and crunching metal into its more chilled-out Jamaican-influenced material. In that sense, the album’s title is as descriptive as the band’s name.

Need a refresher on dub? It evolved from reggae and ska in the 1970s, when DJs would remix records by adding effects like reverb and echo, emphasizing the rhythm section and often removing all but a few snippets of vocals. On stage, Dub Trio manages to manipulate its own music as it’s being played, using samples of dub-style sounds and microphones looped through signal-processing units.

“I’ll count off a tune,” Tomino explains, “and we’ll play the A section. Then maybe the B section is much more dub and has more room for improvisation and effects, so I can bring up a delay or a reverb. While the groove is still going, I can turn the effect on and off and tweak its parameters in real time. There’s a lot of one-handed drumming going on.”  

Tomino might use digital delay on parts of his kit to create a slap-back, echoing effect–or he might just create that sound manually, by, say, striking his snare or a small timbale in a series of progressively softer strokes. It’s an amazing thing to see. “It’s very interactive,” Joe says. “It’s fun to watch and pick apart live.”

Michael Parillo