Joe Gibbs and the Professionals
African Dub – All Mighty (VP Records)
Meat Puppet Feels Professional: Meat Puppets drummer Derrick Bostrom dug deep to recall his favorite album.
Derrick Bostrom: Being a teenage punk rocker was slim picking in late-1970’s Phoenix, Arizona. Our local scene of desert misfits hadn’t yet coalesced, and besides, I was too young to go to shows in any of the cool clubs. But one hot July afternoon when I was seventeen, I got to meet one of these mythical punk bands in the flesh. Sure, it was only The Police — not a band I had any high regard for (they were on commercial radio, after all), and it was only an in-store, not a gig. But they were affable blokes and had time to chat, so I peppered them with questions. Specifically, I trolled them for some word-of-mouth about some of the outrageously-priced records in the import bin. Sting was adamant. “GET AFRICAN DUB!!”
It was a good tip. Back then, I would scour the fanzines for vinyl recommendations. I’d buy as much as I could afford of anything they drooled over. But though I’d read the impossibly glowing reviews of reggae albums, I’d yet to risk any cash on a purchase. But, star-struck by Sting’s prodding, I took a chance on “African Dub-All Mighty,” the first volume in the “African Dub” series by Joe Gibbs and the Professionals.
Nowadays, my shelves groan with dub platters. And sure, I love all of it, but you always hold a special place in your heart for your first time. The otherworldly playing of Jamaica’s finest studio musicians, along with my first exposure to the audacious conceit of the dub mix (performed on the “African Dub” series by Errol Thompson) opened my ears wide. I loved the album’s unapologetic breaking of the fourth wall, its inherent lack of commercialism and its at-best-tenuous relationship to fidelity.
In time, I discovered the true greats of the style, King Tubby, Lee Perry, Prince Jammy, etc., but “African Dub” was the album that got me started. Now, many a rabbit hole later, I can reflect on my obsession. It now seems inevitable that the deconstructionism of dub would seep into my own drumming. Dropping the beat or to flipping it upside down in the middle of a phrase just comes natural to me now. No matter what I do, there’s always gonna be that odd hitch in my time that at worst makes me sound like The Dead’s Bill Kreutzmann on a very bad night, and at best makes my playing uniquely my own. Dub helped keep me from becoming a more reliably bland hard rock drummer. And to think, I owe it all to Sting. Thanks man!
Meat Puppet Feels Professional: The Meat Puppets‘ Live Manchester 2019 live album is out May 6 on DC-Jam Records. The band plays with Mudhoney on May 20 at the Regent Theater.