After its brilliant performance backing Matisyahu at the MACC in June, the Dub Trio returns to Maui on Sunday as part of the Panic Point Music Festival on a bill with Sublime with Rome, Pepper and Iration.
While the musicians emphasize reggae playing with Matisyahu, out on their own this phenomenal powerhouse sounds more, as a Dutch reviewer noted, as if dub pioneers King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry had started a metal band in Jamaica.
A subgenre of reggae, Jamaican dub evolved in the early 1970s as instrumental remixes of popular songs, emphasizing bass and drums, tweaked with echo and reverb effects. Later on, major U.K. groups such as The Police, The Clash and UB40 helped popularize dub.
Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Dub Trio has just released a new studio album, "IV." Besides touring as Matisyahu's backing band, they've worked with Faith No More's lead singer Mike Patton, hip-hop artists such as 50 Cent, Mos Def and Common, and Lady Gaga during her early career.
With "IV" the Trio takes dub to a whole other dimension, unleashing a ferocious hybrid of intense metal, rock and punk infused with dub effects.
"IV" has already been hailed as their heaviest work. Trio drummer Joe Tomino explains: "Wherever we make a record there's no preconceived context. There's a logical musical progression from our first record. It is more intense and heavy in every sense of the world."
Describing the new album, Dub Trio's bassist Stu Brooks has reported, "Parts of the record are aggressive and at times disturbing, and other parts are beautiful, emotive and chilling."
"Our music definitely has a balance; it's a yin-yang thing," says Tomino. "There are a lot of beautiful moments and there are a lot of aggressive moments. When it's really aggressive, dark or intense, we feel no need to restrain ourselves. We can push it to the limits. Especially live, we could just play noise for a minute, a bunch of the most annoying noise you've ever heard. It's the mentality of anything goes with the Dub Trio.
Performing together for about a dozen years, Tomino, Brooks and guitarist Dave "DP" Holmes collectively developed a passion for dub experimentation.
"Traditional dub music is really rhythm-based, it's all about the bass and drums," Tomino notes. "It was just natural for us when we started playing music. We started improvising and playing different kinds of rhythms, a lot of electronic music. We all had a passion for it, the way it sounded. I had some old dub mix tapes that a friend of mine had made. And we'd listen to all these mix tapes in my car going to gigs. We were really discovering the music and all really getting inside it. We all just fell in love with it. King Tubby was huge for us. He was a super influential player for the Dub Trio.
Utilizing a battery of effects and electronics,Tomino in concert can add delay or loop effects to his drum kit, while each member of the band has the ability to dub the other.
"We don't necessarily record anything we can't play live," he says. "When we play live, everyone's playing multiple instruments. At the core it's guitar-bass-drums, but both Dave and Stu play keyboards and I have pads and electronic samplers. There are a lot of gadgets like pedals onstage so we can recreate the dub style you hear on the record. Everyone's multitasking. We have 21 inputs for a trio, a lot of sound."
Born to a drummer father, Tomino grew up around music. Joining his first band at the age of 12, by 11th grade he was working professionally as a drummer, influenced by legends like Gene Krupa.
"My dad had the Gene Krupa-Buddy Rich 'Drum Battle' album," he recalls. "Gene Krupa was one of the reasons I started playing drums. It was Gene Krupa and Tommy Lee when I was about 12."
The genesis of the band began when Brooks and Holmes met at the Berklee College of Music. After moving to New York, they auditioned for a drummer and Tomino completed the trio.
In demand as seasoned session players, both collectively and individually - Tomino joined The Fugees for their reunion tour in Europe in 2005 - they worked with Lady Gaga before she hit the big time.
"We recorded a bunch of demos with her before she broke out," he explains.
"A couple of the tracks we played on made it onto her debut album."
The collaboration with reggae star Matisyahu began in 2007 when he invited them to back him on a John Lennon cover for Amnesty International's Save Darfur "Instant Karma" album.
"We're all New York guys, and he attended a couple of shows we played," Tomino reports. "He asked us to record a benefit track for the Saving Darfur album, which had a bunch of big artists playing John Lennon tunes. So we did 'Watching the Wheels.' A couple of years later we did an improv gig around Hanukkah time and it worked so well he asked us to tour with him. We've been playing together ever since and did the live ("Stubbs II") album with him."
Both the reggae star and the Dub Trio have appreciated their creative union.
"It's great, the feeling's mutual," he says. "His music is so open-ended and there's a lot of improvisation, and he loves dub and changing things up. We can impart our sound into his music and interpret a lot of his songs our way."
Their Maui show with Matisyahu showcased the Trio's ability to unleash a colossal, mesmerizing sound.
"I love the fact that there are no other bands that sound like Dub Trio," Tomino concludes. "I love that I can close my eyes and play something with these guys and we're all on the same page 99 percent of the time. It's really special to have that chemistry. It's different every night. The band takes risks and people respond to it."
Multi-Na Hoku-winning musician/kumu hula Keali'i Reichel performs at the McCoy Studio Theater at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday with two "Solo Sessions" shows.
Earlier in the year Reichel's Halau Ke'alaokamaile was the top winner at the 48th annual Merrie Monarch Festival, taking first place in Wahine Kahiko and Wahine Overall and second in the Wahine Auwana category; plus the halau's Tori Hulali Canha was crowned Miss Aloha Hula.
In May he was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, along with Ernest Ka'ai, Andy Cummings, the Richard Kauhi Quartet and Pat Namaka Bacon.
* Tickets are $35 standard, and $65 for VIP, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, as above.