Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Super-producer Dan Ubick Reveals The Soulful "Riddims" & Sounds Behind The Lions' Soul Riot 2LP (The Witzard x The Lions Interview #2)

"This new batch of tunes came straight from the heart on all fronts. With everything that's going on today we wanted to make an album that speaks to peoples emotions and frustrations while also giving them a chance to dance and release some stress," lamented Lions producer, guitarist, and master-mind Dan Ubick. His LA-based 12-member+ Reggae revival group, The Lions, are gearing up to unleash their third genre-blending album, Soul Riot on Stones Throw this upcoming February 10th. While I previously conducted an in-depth interview with Ubick a couple years back to coincide with This Generation, I couldn't resist the opportunity to publish yet another all-inclusive 12-part Q&A. The Lions' 2LP Soul Riot album is currently available for pre-order over at the Stones Throw Store weeks ahead of its proper release; I must admit, I've been spinnin' an advance copy for a week or so now, and it's definitely something worth picking up for seasoned and new-found Reggae fans alike!

(1) What would you say were some of the sources of inspiration, intentional or unintentional, during the recording of the new Lions album, Soul Riot?

Wow, good question! Inspiration always seems to come from different places every time I get the chance to make a record. Number one, I guess was having a a slew of new rhythms to work with that aren't like any we've attempted before. Secondly, Shakespeare and I had a wellspring of ideas, lyric-wise this time around with many great assists from Alex, Malik and Deston on the melodic and harmonic end. Shakes and I had everything laid out, but the true magic happened when Malik, Alex, and Deston were working out and then tracking lead and harmony parts. That was very inspiring to me as the producer and when what Shakes and I had in our minds came to fruition. Lastly, Blake, our drummer, wrote most of the horns parts and then, Eddie and Otto played them beautifully and took amazingly beautiful solos. Everyone contributed pieces of heart and soul on Soul Riot and I think that's why it came together like it did.

Outside of the inner workings though it is just inspiring, over the last few years especially, to see peoples great, positive comments and messages on The Lions' Facebook page and our webpage. To see how much joy people around the world are getting from this music is just mind blowing and so inspiring to us as music makers.

(2) What was the typical track construction/recording process like during the making of this album and was it any different than the process(es) outlined in our previous This Generation-centric interview?

Similar, yes but this time it was recorded solely at my studio in Topanga.

(3) Last time we talked, you mentioned that you wouldn't mind working with some of your Stones Throw label-mates like: Madlib, Oh No, J. Rocc, Aloe Blacc, Mayer Hawthorne, Guilty Simpson, Wildchild & Percee P. Are you able to divulge if any of those possible collaborations are any close to coming to fruition?

Been lucky to have worked with all these folks you mentioned outside of The Lions save Mayer, whom I'd love to do something with, he's great. I have another group called Connie Price & The Keystones and Guilty and Percee P are on our forthcoming LP. Aloe, I have backed up a few times over the years, always fun, always professional. As far as Madlib, I played guitar on his Sound Directions and Shades of Blue albums, which were a blast, what a creative guy he is. J. Rocc, I've know since Breakestra days and we did one opening gig in Chicago for B.B. King a few years back, which was cool.

(4) How did "(Will You Be) My Girl?" recorded with newly signed Stones Throw affiliate Myron Glasper of vocal duo Myron & E ultimately end up coming about?

Oh man, Myron. What a talented guy and a gifted, natural born singer. I met Myron & E through Stones Throw and they hired me to put together a band for them to play songs from On Broadway for appearances of Morning Becomes Eclectic (KCRW), Chris Douridas' School Night, and a few other things. I got Blake Colie from The Lions to play drums, Joey Reina from Jungle Fire on bass, and Mark Cross (The Rebirth/Weapon of Choice) to play keys and it was smoking, what a great band. On the bigger shows, I hired a three-piece string section which was incredible... sounded very close to the LP. Anyway, Myron and I have kept in touch and I thought he might just sound amazing on "My Girl" so we linked up and I was right. His thing over a Lions lover's Rock-type rhythm is pretty special, a match made in heaven for me. I also have a KILLER version of Alex Desert singing it that kills as well.

(5) Would you mind telling me a little bit about The Lions' expertly executed cover of The Clash's "The Magnificent Seven (Dance)," which was recorded for a Spanish magazine tribute LP? How did the recording end up re-appearing on Soul Riot?

Yeah, I initially licensed that for a small Spanish label that did a Clash tribute LP, but it didn't get a lot of PR, which was a bummer, as I thought our version was really good. Shakespeare is on fire and the backing vocals are a really cool tribute to Joe [Strummer]. Alex used to hang with Joe, so I know some personal touches went into what we came up with. It just seemed natural. Most all of us in the band grew up being inspired by The Clash and The Clash were obviously super inspired by Jamaican music. In fact, The Clash's "Magnificent Dance/Seven" is their interpretation of an old Jamaican song, so we've brought it back around somehow. A re-re-interpretation. Anyway, I loved how it turned out and [Peanut Butter] Wolf and I thought it would be good to give it a second chance by including it on "Soul Riot." It fit stylistically with everything else too so, bam, there you go!

(6) Considering the fact that you and your fellow bandmates are seasoned musicians, all established in your own right... What exactly then, prompted you guys to form The Lions?

Pretty simple... all the guys that play in this band love Jamaican music and we formed The Lions to have an excuse to get to play music we love.

(7) What are your current roll-out plans for Soul Riot looking like... Do you have your sights set on any specific tracks for single contenders or music video plans "in the pipeline?"

It looks like "When It Rains" will be the first single [above]. We have filmed a video for it, but I haven't seen a final edit as of today, so we'll see. Planning proper begins soon though, re: "roll-out."

(8) While perusing the album tracklist on Bandcamp, I noticed the appearance of one Angelo "Dr. Madd Vibe" Moore on "Rhythm Rock." So, I was wondering if he'd a new addition to The Lions' roster or just an old friend/affiliate?

Yeah, I just asked him through Dave's (Wilder-bass) friend, Krandal and he was down. Very stoked, as the guys and I grew up being inspired by Fishbone, no question. Angelo's contributed some killer low end theremin and a classic intro for Shakespeare on "Rhythm Rock," lucky to have his vibe in the mix!

(9) What kind of side-projects, outer-band activities, and session work are you and your fellow bandmates involved in... Anything to be released upon the masses relatively soon?

Uhm, well... I know Wilder just played on Ziggy [Marley]'s Fly Rasta LP. Blake and I did Sierra Nevada World Music Festival and Dub Club with Hollie Cook which was awesome, love her. Alex is always doing acting and Hepcat has some shows this year. Shakespeare has an incredible group with his buddy Ta'raach (Erykah Badu, etc.) called LLgL TNdR [aka: Legal Tender], which is incredible. Shakes and T actually do a track on my new Keystones LP (Lucas High due out 2015) called "Listen!," which blows my mind... So good!

(10) Taking into account The Lions' apparent tendency to Reggae-ify and release original covers of well-known songs (ie: "Jamie's Cryin'" & "The Magnificent Seven"), do you guys ever intend to release an EP or full-length collection of covers?

Not really. Happy with both of those but doing a covers record isn't at the top of my list as of today. Would LOVE to have any of the [emcees] you mentioned above (plus others) rhyme over Lions riddims though. That has been in the back of my mind for quite a while. I loved the mash-up LP's Chris Macro did and think I could do something really great with our existing rhythms coupled with the right emcees. [It's] in the back of mind, waiting for the right opportunity.

(11) What kind of influence or perspective, if any, does Stones Throw label-head Peanut Butter Wolf have on the general happenings, promotion, etc. of The Lions' albums?

Wolf is someone whose opinion I trust to the fullest, as he is first and foremost a taste-maker, but also one of the foremost music historian/record collector/DJ-type people I am blessed to get to hang with and learn from. If he says: "you need the bass louder in the mix" (which he thankfully did on our Clash cover!) or "the song order might be better like this," I listen. Wolf to me never comes off as a know-it-all though, he just wants his artists to feel good and supported, but offers good suggestions if need be.

(12) This one has little to nothing to do with The Lions (or maybe it could); But I'm curious to know... What were some of your favorite 2014-released albums, EP's, or singles?

Oh man, I don't even know, it probably not what you'd imagine. I loved that Ray LaMontagne song Dan Auerbach produced "Ojai," that was killer. Great story, great chord changes. The New Basement Tapes are great [to] me, especially that song "Kansas City" with Marcus Mumford. The Jim James track on it is incredible, too. Holy crap! Hollie Cook's "Twice" is pretty solid all the way through. I got a chance to dig in while playing with her and just fell in love with those songs... great changes/good songs, super cool Tiki/Reggae vibes and Hollie sounds just like the record live. I love how Prince Fatty is showcasing her whole personality, the production is spot on. Would love to link with him for sure.

I mostly listen to older records, but since they have finally released the entire Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan & The Band in 2014, that'd be my top choice for "favorite 2014-released," even though it was all recorded in in the late 60's. Ha-ha! The last new group that absolutely floored me was Fleet Foxes, but that's more 2011, I think. Love Robin Pecknold's songs and their harmonies are so natural and they create such a cool vibe with their dynamics.

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