Your artist name: International Observer
Your real name: Tom Bailey
You live in: Aotearoa New Zealand
Title of your last album: Bat
What is your personal definition of dub?
Dub has become a broad field of activity, which is only right for an experimental form, but I do value a connection to the early
old school attitudes and ideas.
What makes a good dub?
Deconstruction and subversion. The radical element must be present with the narcotic/soporific.
Which aspects of dub music fascinate you the most?
The rebellious spirit which refuses to accept the mainstream version of song/reality. There’s also something shamanistic about the mind altering aspects.
How did you discover your passion for dub and how did you develop yourself and your music since then?
My first experience of dub was „Garvey’s Ghost“. By chance I got to know it before encountering the original „Marcus Garvey“ album, so my mind was blown twice in reverse order!
What or who had the biggest influence on you?
In the late seventies I followed a London sound system called The Mighty Observer who demonstrated the radical use of bottom end in a live situation. That began a love affair with large surface area of bass bins and the righteous music coming out of them.
How would you describe your style of dub?
That’s for others to say, but I don’t feel confined to any one approach.
What does your process of creating a dub track look like?
Generally I pick an arbitrary starting point and improvise until something interesting arises, then I pursue it to see if something can be grown out of that idea. That can take minutes, hours or days. There’s no fixed pattern.
When are you satisfied with a dub track you produced?
Sometimes never, but you have to move on before overworking a good idea.
Dub doesn’t need a vocal original.
What is most essential when producing dub music?
Love of dub.
Does a Dub need a vocal original to be a good dub?
Which one of your albums do you consider your best work up until now?
Not for me to say.
What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?
What annoys you in the studio?
When you’re not working on dubs, what is your favorite thing to do?
What do you listen to besides dub music?
Everything I hear. From inane pop to classical masterworks to birdsongs.
My greatest musical role model? J. S. Bach!
If money and time didn’t matter: Which music project would you like to realize?
Money and time don’t matter.
What do you prefer: Studio work or sound system performance?
I love the occasional sound system gig, but it’s really the days
spent in the studio which are most interesting and rewarding. Something compels me to go in and do it.
What is your greatest musical role model and why?
J. S. Bach, for the contrapuntal basslines
Is there a sound system that you particularly appreciate?
Memories of the Mighty Observer are strong.
What are your personal top 5 dub albums?
I’m writing to you on the day that Lee Perry has died so I’d like to say something about him. I was lucky to cross paths with him on a couple of occasions. Once, playing keyboards on his History, Mystery and Prophesy album. That was an intense session at Compass Point studio in Nassau. The legend is that he had fallen
out with Chris Blackwell, but the fact that he was happily working in Blackwell’s studio doesn’t support that. Perry was a a flamboyantly eccentric artist, so it was all to easy to misunderstand him, but his track record and influence are remarkable. I think one of his main motivations was simply to bring reggae music to the world.
Much later, I toured with him and Mad Professor in Australasia. His eccentricity had reached spectacular heights by then and some of my strongest memories are of mundane things like going through airport security with him. He seemed to love setting off alarms – and that’s a great metaphor for his work in general. So, although I love so many of the early dub artists, today I would choose any five albums by Lee Scratch Perry, the upsetter.