A Brief History of Dub Edit Culture (1980 – Present)

Have you ever been on a dance-floor and one of your DJ mates has whispered into your ear, “I prefer the dub version of this, the vocal is just too cheesy, I only play the dub”. DJ’s love dubs, and they love to tell you how much they LOVE them! Why? Well, it takes a big tune and usually makes it into more of a longer drawn out groove-based mix with less vocals, more effects and parts of the song you might not have noticed as much with original vocals drenched all over it. 

Francois K summed it up pretty well at Red Bull Music Academy back in 2013: “The idea of dub is that you really sort of deconstruct first, and then reconstruct a track around very, very basic elements and use lots of processing and lots of delay, and things of that nature, to make it very sort of otherworldly and completely not like the original was, when it comes to the arrangement and the aesthetic of it.”

Most readers of Stamp the Wax will know the history of Dub mixes and some of big dogs of the scene. Francois K, Shep Pettibone, Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan to name a select few, but where did the art of the dub mix go? Personally for me it’s something I’d love to see more of. Shouts to everyone still doing them, I see you! I’m all here for the School of Francois K to open up in New York in 2022 to start teaching the next generation how to master this art. Someone hit him up for me, yeah? I’d be his first student! 

Dub mixes are certainly not just for underground boogie, soul and disco. It’s not uncommon to find amazing dub mixes attached to pop, rock and RnB, amongst others. You’ve just gotta look and you’ll find them! 

It’s hard to choose a few faves as I could put together four compilations of my favourite dubs but the following really capture the art of it. The ones I’ve selected aren’t necessarily rare, unheard of or forgotten but in my mind every one of them is a masterpiece in the dub mix world that deserves a shout out! Enjoy!

Also, whilst we’re at it, one small request to all the artists and labels out there: can we bring back the 12 mix, Dub mix, Acapella, bonus beats on every record please? 

Buy CC:DISCO’s most recent compilation First Light Volume II.

Raw Silk – Just in Time & Space (Dub) [West End Records 1983]

As I type this and listen to it at the same time I have full blown chills and the hairs on my arms are all standing up. To think a production from 1983 still has such an effect on me is nuts! In my humble opinion, this has to be one of (if not the best) dubs ever made. It’s a slow burner that just takes you to another place. There’s a big focus on the piano, with small hints of the vocals, tiny in-fact. In saying that, the vocal is also just as good because of its honest and sweet lyrics. But for dubs… this is the one!!!

Alexander O’Neal – Criticize (Crucial Dub) [TUBU RECORDS 1987]

Terry Lewis, Jimmy Jam and Steve Hodge production – you know this was always going to be good. This is one of those dubs that can really drive a dance floor if played at the right moment. This dub really lets the track breath, really working it back into more of an instrumental journey without going anywhere too crazy. One for the end of night to give people that warm fuzzy feeling – proper eyes closed moment.  

Hercules and Love Affair – Blind (Frankie Knuckles Dub Mix) [DFA Records 2008]

This record almost didn’t happen, yes can you believe this?! It was a time when Frankie didn’t believe he was relevant any more, that his sound wasn’t in with the new generation, so he really hesitated and took ages to finish it. This would become one of the most pivotal record of the 2000s. It wasn’t just an amazing record but another clear reminder that dub mixes were not dead. To me this is pure perfection, vocal version is also incredible, but there is something just so beautiful about this dub that of course ONLY FRANKIE could do and DFA knew this, so thank you DFA!!!

Willie Colan – Set Fire To Me (Inferno Dub) [A&M Records 1986]

Apart from the fact it slightly reminds me of the underwater donkey kong video game music, it’s also a Balearic core shaker dub mix. Over 10 minutes of banging percussion and beautiful heart melting horns, it’s a staple to any DJs Toilet, diarrhoea or Ciggie break playlist. With highs and lows throughout the whole production it’s something you can certainly keep a crowd swaying into the early morning while the sun is rising. The minimal lyrics in this cut also adds to getting lost in the music on its own. Willie you did bloody good on this one, didn’t ya!!!

Loose End – 999 (Dub) [Virgin Records 1984]

This is a monster!!!!! My ultimate dub, I felt originally the vocal version was a little cheesy but after years of playing the dub I actually went back to OG. Lots of dub mixes do lose drive and punch but this almost is a remix and has more way more punch than the OG – it’s that banging drums section that just makes it POP!

Buy CC:DISCO’s most recent compilation First Light Volume II.

Image: Several key figures in the Dub Mix world: Junior Vasquez, Frankie Knuckles, Francois Kevorkian, Tony Humphries and Shep Pettibone. Image courtesy of Junior Vasquez.

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