The road to Ska Fest, part two: Dub FX


Part one, Katchafire, here:


As the boundaries between musical genres blur more with each year that passes, labeling things has become a favourite pastime of many music fans. Australian-born, UK-grown vocal-master Benjamin Standford, better known as Dub-FX, understands the need for labels, but has found himself at the wrong end of some confusing ones. “I label things all the time. I need to label shit in order for me understand what I’m listening to,” says FX from his home in the forested hills outside Melbourne. “They’ve labeled me a ‘beatboxer from Australia,’ and they’re both misleading labels because I am from Australia but my sound and everything that I do comes from the UK [and] beatboxing is like three per cent of my show, if that. I make a beat and I loop it and that’s it! I only beatbox one or two bars, maybe four at the longest. The rest of the time I’m a vocalist. That’s what I am really, because everything comes from my voice.”

The move to a solo-based vocal performer was a natural one, propelled by an encounter with a beautiful little piece of musical technology. “I was playing in loads of bands using effects over my voice, doing delays and stuff, in 2006 I saw this guy using a loop station. He wasn’t using effects, just a loop station. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, if I got a loop station I could use the effect going into the loop station and create completely different, cool stuff,’” says FX of his musical epiphany. “I was already making bass lines with the effects pedals, but I wasn’t able to record them, mix them and sample them in real time. Once I saw this loop station, I thought ‘I could do that,’ so I just sort of put the two together and went out in the street and performed, basically figured out how to use it properly.”

It was that street performing around Europe that honed his skill and turned Dub FX into a live phenom. “When you street perform, you’re basically getting paid to practice in front of people who are giving you immediate feedback. You can see straightaway if a song is working or not. In terms of preparation, there’s nothing better than street performing because once I’d done that for a few years, I could go into a club and be able to read an audience really easily, just be able to tune in to the consciousness in the room and give people a show that’s well-rehearsed, because I’ve performed it on the street in so many situations.”

The sounds that Dub FX brings to the people take from such a vast array of genres, moods and topics that it’s nearly impossible to box him into a genre label with any accuracy. It’s a purposeful tactic employed by FX. “People do label me as dub-step and the thing is, while I do dub-step, I do drum n’ bass, I do hip-hop. I purposely mix it up as much as I can so no one labels me as a particular genre. At the end of the day I’m listening to music I like and trying to emulate it with the resources that I have.”

A lot of that freedom stems from the fact that as a solo artist, he’s free to follow any sonic whim that passes him by. “The beautiful thing about what I do is I don’t have to check with anyone. I don’t have to rehearse with anyone. Anything I want to do in the moment I can do. If I decide I want to extend this or extend that, I can do that,” says FX.

Those sonic elements, working in unison with FX’s uniquely sculpted talent and sense of musical freedom, provide the template for special, memorable live experiences each and every time he takes the stage. “It’s not like I’ve made it all in the studio and I’m just triggering it live like a lot of people do. I’m making it there and then, so the sounds that I make are for that moment and those people. It’s a unique performance just for them.”


Dub FX w/ Flower Fairy and Cade, Yasiin Bey (Aka Mos Def), David Hillyard & the Rocksteady 7, Victoria Ska Fest

Ships Point (Inner Harbour), Sat. July 13

Tickets $45–55 included in Full Festival Pass ($139.50 early bird) or Harbour Pass ($75 early bird)

The road to Ska Fest part three, listening primer, here: