Cited as an influence on Limp Bizkit and Korn amongst others, Dub Pistols have had a tough couple of years. The band’s album Six Million Ways To Live was deemed to have inappropriate lyrical content after September 11th and was pulled from the release schedules by Geffen. Now, with the album released on the band’s new label Distinctive, lead Pistol Barry Ashworth speaks to musicOMH during the band’s UK tour.
Barry Ashworth cuts the figure of a contented man, despite the fact that his band are due on stage at Cargo in a couple of hours, promoting “new” album Six Million Ways To Live. I use the word “new” advisedly, since the Pistols had the album sewn up by 2001. So why the delay?
“Basically the album took too fucking long to come out because of September 11th,” offers Barry. “The lyrical content – stuff about blowing up the White House and shooting terrorists – was all too freaky. I couldn’t believe what was happening that day. So we ended up leaving Geffen, and despite the fact we’d been playing to 2,000 a night in America we just disappeared. Now Distinctive have taken us on though, people have started to work with us again. In fact the best moment of my life was the other day, performing Problem Is with Terry Hall on a radio session.”
I ask what the Specials man was like to work with, bearing in mind the track was recorded in Ashworth’s front room. “Terry was easy – very quiet but he knows what he wants. We’ve just agreed to do some more stuff with him for the next album.” Which neatly answers the question – if Six Million Ways To Live was recorded in 2001, surely the new one can’t be far off?
“It’s 80% done,” says Barry, “Despite us spending eight months of this year on the road. We had our laptops with us and recorded sounds and songs – they just need a bit of studio work.”
“The lyrical content was too freaky – I couldn’t believe what was happening on September 11th.” – Barry Ashworth on why the new Dub Pistols album has taken over two years to be released.
At this point Barry’s mum phones. “She’s my biggest fan, she even wears the T-shirts! Trouble is she hasn’t seen us since a Kiss FM gig in Crystal Palace Park in the ’90s. We were the only white rap band and sounded totally out of place. We got pelted with missiles and a load of abuse, which was probably what we deserved as we were a bit ropey, and she hasn’t been to see us since!”
Asking about the album, I touch on the track Still Breathing, where the lyrics muse on God’s status. “It’s one of those songs that will become more relevant – having been on the scene so long, I’ve caned it, consumed it, lived it – and come out the other side. With all the bands I’ve been judged on my lifestyle which is a pain in the arse as there’s more than that. Having lost a few friends to overdoses I realised there’s more to life than mixing tranquillizers with weed!”
The Dub Pistols sound is unique, and when I ask if the US-UK tensions come off in the music, Barry nods vigorously. “Totally. We found it hard to find a US MC with anything to say; there was nobody with a different level of rhymes. Soldiers was the track that broke us, and we were recording an album when Universal got taken over, so were fully expecting to get dropped at the end of it. But our manager Richard Bishop – who was managing The Crystal Method in the US at the time – went to meet Jimmy Irvine, the founder of Death Row Records, who was saying, “This is the best hip hop song I’ve heard for 15 years, and it’s a band we’ve let go!” Richard put him straight, told him we hadn’t left yet, and two days later I was flying out first class to LA and doing a deal.”
“I realised there’s more to life than mixing tranquillizers with weed!”
– Adamson’s new songs have taken on a deeper meaning than before.
With Six Million Ways To Live released, Barry’s happy that the band still sound relevant. “When we recorded Point Blank, our first LP, Norman Cook had just gone big time, so we didn’t want to be the sound of Norman’s sweaty jockstrap. Someone in America heard our sound initially and we did alright with hits like Cyclone – well before Soldiers. It was fucking mad, we had people like Limp Bizkit and Korn on the phone saying we were their inspiration.”
So what does he think of the Audio Bullys? “I’m good friends with them but criticised them in a magazine recently – I thought their live show could have done with a bit more. It’s not having a go, it’s me saying I know you’ve got more to give.”
And with that, the Pistols prepare for their set, as part of a tour Ashworth calls, “Balancing the books.” With Billboard Chart number two, Official Chemical likely to be the next single, the signs are good and the band are now free to exploit their own music.