is the mastermind behind Dub Pistols.
And the past two years have definitely
been trying times for all masterminds,
especially in the music industry. He is
getting anxious, and having an "itchy
trigger finger" would be a big understatement.
His new full-length CD of original material,
"Six Million Ways to Live" was
recorded over two years ago and has been
through the chopping block since the tragedy
of 9/11. Set to be released on October
14th in the U.S. on Distinctive Records,
home of England's progressive breakbeat
masters, Hybrid, this sophomore full-length
release is a dark, brooding testimony
to street-wise punks and a sly interpretation
of Ska-influenced Hip-Hop. Featuring the
added vocal talents of Terry Hall of the
Specials, Horace Andy of Massive Attack,
rapper Planet Asia of Cali Agent, and
the production talents of the Sight Beyond
Light crew from New York City, Six Million
Ways to Live is a thinking man's vision
of the DJ as a soldier in a world gone
Originally taking the US dance floors
by storm with the 1998 release of Point
Blank and the hit single "Cyclone",
Dub Pistols toured with a then up-and-coming
DJ Punk Roc (a.k.a. Chicken Lips), as
well as being part of the Van's Warped
Tour. A list of remix projects followed,
including his stellar reworking of tracks
by P.O.D., Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Moby,
and helped pave the way for a memorable
live show on a pier in Manhattan for MTV2
with the Crystal Method and Fatboy Slim...
a mere 12 hours before the first plane
struck the Twin Towers. In our world,
and his, things came crashing to the ground.
Fast forward to September 2003. It is
over two years since the tragedy, and
just as long since the original release
date for "what should have been Dub
Pistols' big breakthrough" CD. Speaking
to Barry by phone, he sounds winded and
slightly out of breath, busy with the
Billboard Dance Music Summit in Manhattan
and chomping on cigarettes. But he is
as upbeat as anyone can be in his position.
A bit jaded by the industry that he helped
build, starting as far back as 1988, he
is just plain happy that we all get the
chance to finally hear the fruit of his
long, hard labors.
Q: A lot has already been said about
the "new" CD, but it's not really
"new", is it?
A: It wasn't my decision. It was kind
of like a big argument and I begged them
to let me go. They offered us money to
stay, but I wanted to get out and get
some fresh new ideas behind us. I honestly
believed I would walk away with that record
and go straight to another deal, but it's
just taken two years to get it out there.
Q: When something like that happens,
does that take away from your inspiration
as an artist? Isn't that hard to deal
A: Under any different circumstances,
it would've been the biggest kick in the
teeth I could have had. Because of what
was going on, I actually understand it
a little bit. You know what I mean? I'm
still alive. So because of that, it wasn't
difficult. What was difficult was during
the meantime, having already almost written
the next album, I was thinking, "Ok,
what am I going to' do next?" When
an album doesn't come out, and I have
an album I've almost written, and then
times goes by and you realize you're getting
yourself further and further into a hole.
You're putting yourself further and further
off the radar. It can be depressing. But,
honestly, because I'm negotiating all
the time, I felt like I was just one week
away from releasing it all along. People
ask you why you haven't come out with
something new and it affects your whole
life. Yeah, it can be really depressing,
I suppose, because everyone wants to know
why you haven't come out with something
Q: What do you do as an artist, when
making music is your whole life and something
like that happens to you?
A: You can carry on making music, but
you just can't release it, because
someone else owns you, you know what I
mean? I've started my own label
in the meantime, and I've started
writing for and producing other people,
which I probably couldn't have done
if the record had come out on time.
Q: Is this you first trip back to the
states since 9-11?
A: No, actually the Winter Music Conference
in Miami for the URB Magazine party was
the first. The big Blade2/Busta Rhymes
thing. Really nice lineup. That really
saved my bacon. That was really, really
big, and I got to spin on that. It went
really well and the place just went off.
On the back end of that, I got to do the
whole "Y4K" Distinctive Records
mix compilation. That was my first introduction
Q: Other than 9-11, has there been some
other event in your life that made you
change your outlook on the music industry
or something to make you change your style?
A: You never stop learning in this industry.
The first deal my band ever got signed
to, naively, the person I signed with;
the label's A&R man; he got sacked
two weeks before the first CD came out.
And he was a friend of mine, as well as
my boss. Naively, I decided then that
I wasn't going to record for this company
because they were assholes. Basically,
they owned my ass and, at the time, I
didn't have a studio or anything. It almost
broke me financially, as well as creatively.
That's when I left that mess and formed
Dub Pistols. I don't know, I guess a lot
of things have happened to make me change
my opinion on the industry. They never
stop to cease to amaze me. The bigger
and more corporate they become, the more
problems they seem to have.
Q: You say your first record is more
of a "Dance" record?
A: Well, that's very much because, at
the time, I was DJ-ing dance floor records
and it became a collection of those types
of songs. It was an album of singles all
put together. The whole "Norman Cook"
thing had blown up and I wanted to get
away from that whole Big Beat thing because
I was beginning to get pigeonholed. I
wanted to steer away from that and get
back to something more "song"-based
and that is the decision I made with this
Q: Your job is very similar to that of
an actor's then, right? If you become
popular with one style, that's what
people expect from you.
A: Well, you will certainly have problems
if you do that. One. You'll really
put yourself down the alley way if you
do that. And two. I think you'll
just get really stagnant as an artist,
if you can't develop, who'll
be churning out rubbish. If you can't
get inspired by it, you'll get bored
Q: You have remixed a lot of talented
artists. Do you work hand-in-hand with
any of the artists you remix?
A: No. With remixes, you just get the
different parts and it's done from
a distance. The collaborations are different,
where you get people like Horace or Terry
to come in to your house, and they are
done right in the mixing. Most of the
times you do get feedback from the artists
you are remixing, though. But generally,
no, to answer your question.
Q: What, if any, are your expectations
for the new CD?
A: I don't really have any expectations.
Obviously, with it being delayed, it make's
life an uphill struggle from the start.
For me, with record finally coming out,
the weight that has come off of my shoulders
is unbelievable. I can't tell you!
It's all I ever wanted. It's
only just now that it's reached
any expectations I've ever had for
it. I think when people finally get the
chance to hear it, they will believe in
it in their heart. I honestly believe
it will carry on and continue to selling
because I expect it to do well. It's
doing really well and blowing up right
now in England.
Q: Is there a live tour planned?
A: We are actually just starting a tour
in the UK which is due to go to Eastern
Europe and Asia. Then I'm due to come
back here to America in November with
Hybrid for their live tour with Distinctive
Records. I'll be getting to spin at that,
Q: Well, I'll be sure to be on top of
A Yes, you'll definitely have to be on
top of that!
And in an instant, that ol' familiar
cellular static came buzzing through,
ending our conversation as an abrupt "goodbye".
Best of luck to Barry Ashworth on tour
and in the US with Hybrid in November.
-- Words by Carl Noone Jr.