Love Their Ways
Cityscape jams with Andrew Penman, a founding member and guitarist of iconic local band Salmonella Dub, who are celebrating 25 years of killing it on the international music scene with an epic concert this month that will feature bandmates of old, including another (prodigal) Christchurch son, Tiki Taane.
Twenty five years in – congrats! How did a group of Christchurch lads become one of the country’s top bands?
I think the key has been keeping our feet on the ground and our roots in the Mainland of Aotearoa. Alongside this we have all maintained other jobs alongside our Salmonella Dub mahi. The X factor in our creativity and longevity has been our collaborative, creative process. Everyone gets to throw ideas at the musical canvas, and we have never stuck to one style.
What other band names did you workshop, and how did you decide on Salmonella Dub?
None. I remember ringing Dave Deakins from the West Coast in 1992 and telling him that we were forming a band called Salmonella Dub. We had the same musical interest in pursuing dub-infused bass music. This was after playing together in bands like the Golf Course Alligators, Manulito’s Dream State, etc. I could see that there was a niche with the change in liquor license laws, and we thought it was a great idea to break the ice with what we considered bad taste covers played in a dub style – hence the name Salmonella Dub. A classic in our set back then was Fred Dagg’s ‘Larry Loves Barry’. Our first gig was with Excellent Soul Therapy (great CHCH band) at the Westport Racetrack tea rooms on January 13, 1993. Awesome gig! I organised a tour up the coast into Takaka and Nelson.
What’s it like having Tiki back in the group?
Technically he is back for 3 shows only, but there could be another couple later next year. I am sure it will be awesome. It’s been 11 years. Conan Wilcox will also be joining us, so it will be a real knees-up.
There’s a lot of people in Christchurch who‘ll be able to remember going to one of your legendary gigs at the Dux De Lux. What were those days like?
Those hazy days of 1993 and 1994 were awesome. Dave, Mark [Tyler] and I started as a 3-piece and introduced guest percussionists Marcus Putener and then Craig Allen. We were so creative. We didn’t have a sampler, so I hotwired an old tape deck and we dropped samples from tape in real time with an old guitar on/off pedal. Loads of fun!
You guys have been hugely influential in pioneering that Pacific-style dub/reggae/drum n’ bass sound; do you feel like proud parents of that genre in New Zealand?
Not exactly, it was tough going back then. We really could only play out and about at our own shows, or as support for rock gigs or trance parties. It wasn’t until about 1998 – when we discovered young bands like Fat Freddy’s Drop, The Black Seeds, Shapeshifter etc – that we finally had some mates to take on tour around NZ and Oz. I am sure all those groups would have emerged without us.
Salmonella Dub is a band closely associated with Christchurch of course, but also Kaikoura. Obviously both places have been significantly affected by earthquakes. Have those events influenced the band’s recent output?
Absolutely! After the Christchurch quakes we dispersed from Ōtautahi and for a while Dave Deakins was the only member remaining in CHCH. This has made it extremely tough recording and practicing and, of course, we now can’t easily get to our Kaikoura studio. Next year is shaping up to be a great creative one though, touch wood. Maybe we need to drop our track ‘Platetectonics (Fartyboom)’ from our set for a bit? LOL.
You guys tour in New Zealand and overseas extensively; what is on your road trip playlist and rider?
Through the late 90s the van playlist included high rotates of Doc Scott, Aphrodite and Suns of Aqua, and DJ Shadow alongside comedy relief from the Jerky Boys and others. Our rider has been pretty civilised over the years. We are, of course, a mainland self-sufficient DIY band ;-)
Your album One Drop East paid off a surprise tax bill. What other big ticket items have your albums financed?
Inside the Dub Plates was crafted after huge tours of Australia and France. We came home to start our Outdoor Stylez tour with young acts Shapeshifter, Downtown Brown (a.k.a. Sunshine Sound System), Pitch Black and King Kapisi. That tour was a financial disaster, as we had taken on too much while out of the country, and our tour manager had been thrown the hospital pass of taking on the responsibility of a Shihad tour right in the middle of crucial promotion for our tour. Outdoor Stylez was a 26-date tour around Aotearoa, and we came home with a $50k+ debt to start recording Inside The Dub Plates. We all had to go back to day jobs … some of them quite demeaning at the time. It was all rather depressing. The sky was falling in.
Tell us about the most bizarre thing someone’s thrown on stage.
Wildfoods Festival this year – balloons of deer semen.
What can the hometown audience expect from the anniversary gig?
Our set will be a full complement of our back catalogue. We have a new album of material underway, but will hold off on introducing that live for some smaller shows mid-next year.
The highlight of the anniversary shows for me is the amazing line up of old mates that have worked with us here and around the world over the years. I am so chuffed they have all stepped up to join us. It will be a day to remember.
You have some awesome support acts; how will you guys celebrate after?
A quiet drink, a few tapas and some tall story swapping ;-)
Salmonella Dub 25th Anniversary feat. Tiki Taane
North Hagley Park