Electronic music collective Dreadzone coming soon to Cambridge
British electronic music collective Dreadzone are marking their 30th anniversary this year and as part of the celebrations, the band are currently on a UK tour.
In 1993, the group – led by Greg Roberts and Tim Bran – released their debut album 360° on Creation Records, the label which was also home to the likes of Oasis and Primal Scream.
Now in 2023, as they celebrate this landmark anniversary, the album has been remastered for a vinyl release which came out on October 13.
The ‘30 Years of Dread’ tour will hit Cambridge in December. Drummer and bandleader Greg, who was also a former member of Big Audio Dynamite (BAD), notes that as well as touring, Dreadzone are also working on a new album – their ninth studio effort.
“There have been some great live shows,” he says, adding: “still trying to finish the next album, though – it’s taking a bit of time, just going back and doing some different mixes.”
Greg, who also works as a DJ, says the new record, which he and the band started before lockdown, was due to be released this year.
“We wanted to follow up [2017’s] Dread Times and then we started writing stuff and then lockdown happened,” he explains, “so we sort of focused on other releases, like Dubwiser Volume Two , which is more like collaborations and a compilation.
“We’ve come back to revisit and obviously Spee [MC Spee] took a back seat from the band, live and recording, from last year, so it’s been a bit of a journey with this album because of lockdown really, I think.”
Back in the early ’90s, Alan McGee, founder of Creation Records, heard the demos for Dreadzone’s 360° album in a limousine on his way to a gig in Japan and instantly decided to sign them.
Greg Roberts and Tim Bran signed the original deal and then holed up in a studio in 1993 in Queen’s Park, west London, to make the first Dreadzone album.
The template of dub, trance, electro and sampling combination for which Dreadzone were to become well known for was evident in their debut.
Tracks included the first tune originally started by Don Letts, Leo Williams and Greg – House of Dread, and the spaghetti Western-influenced, Ennio Morricone sampling The Good the Bad and the Dread.
Reflecting on their 30th anniversary, Greg says: “We didn’t really think of it as a massively long-term project, but at the same time we came from Big Audio Dynamite; we’d sort of burned brightly for five years and then we left to start something new.
“You’ve just go to go off and do something that you believe in, and be as creative as possible, try new things, don’t be afraid to experiment, and be in love with somebody and then be in love with the music, get inspiration from all over.”
Dreadzone opened the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 1994 and began to bring their unique blend of electro, dub and reggae to a wider audience, going on to chart several singles including their top 20 hit, Little Britain.
Core band members Greg, original bass player Leo Williams, and reggae vocalist Earl Sixteen are joined in the band’s current line-up by Blake Roberts, Greg’s son, on guitar.
“We don’t have a clash of egos, which is what a lot of bands have, so we have a very fine balance of personalities,” observes Greg, “and we’re all very happy doing what we’re doing, and the crux of it is me and Leo, the bass player.
“We’ve been playing together in the rhythm section, next year it will be 40 years – when I joined BAD in 1984. We met yesterday for lunch – we’re just best of friends.”
Greg adds: “We’ve got a clear vision of what we want to do and we write good songs – got to keep writing tunes, keep making music, keep wanting to turn on the computer at night and experiment and see what you can come up with next, and work with different people.”