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Culver City Dub Collective's Unique Mish-Mash


Maybe there's something in the water. Culver City, California is the home to incredible creativity. Of course it's where this show is produced. There is also a reggae band here with some pretty impressive celebrity connections. Producer Derek Rath digs into the wide-ranging sounds of the Culver City Dub Collective.

DEREK RATH: So what's in a name?

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: Core members Adam Topol, who plays drums for Jack Johnson, and Franchot Tone - yes, the grandson of the Hollywood actor - coined the name Culver City Dub Collective first as a musical reference point. But it's also, very literally, a collective effort.

(Soundbite of song, "Lel's Sweet Inspiration Dub")

RATH: Listen to the "Lel's Sweet Inspiration Dub" from "Dos," their debut CD and immediately you'll hear loving references to the sound of early dub reggae, not what you might expect from two white boys from Culver City, California.

(Soundbite of song, "Lel's Sweet Inspiration Dub")

RATH: Dub is the term for an echo-laid and reggae production technique recorded in smoke-filled studios, Ganja hot boxes, shall we say. And dub techniques are now frequently used across the board in pop music. Adam Topol.

Mr. ADAM TOPOL (Culver City Dub Collective): It was just like the one dub record that was made on like lots of caffeine and Red Bull, you know? So it has a slight different flavor.

(Soundbite of song, "Lel's Sweet Inspiration Dub")

RATH: But dub isn't the only influence to emerge in the making of "Dos."

Mr. TOPOL: We had always talked about how amazing the old guys were, but there's no way to reproduce what they do. We wanted it to be warm and something new. So that's what we ended up doing, maybe some more bossanova or even something like a jazz sound that's more like a Gil Evans type of vibe, you know?

RATH: Gil Evans is the brilliant jazz producer and orchestrator for Miles Davis, amongst others, and unlike the convergence perhaps, but one made possible by the Collective's cast of characters.

(Soundbite of song, "Waltz for Tomahawk")

RATH: What you're hearing here on "Waltz for Tomahawk" is an orchestration from acclaimed arranger Dave Ralicke with outside the box keyboard work by Money Mark of Beastie Boys fame. He too has worked with Jack Johnson.

(Soundbite of song, "Makuta")

RATH: The guest musicians started shaping their very dynamics of the project and Franchot Tone was inspired to include his love of Afro-Cuban music with the song "Makuta."

(Soundbite of song, "Makuta")

RATH: And Jack Johnson himself gives a bluesy contribution with his soulful vocals and guitar on "Crying Shame."

(Soundbite of song, "Crying Shame")

RATH: Likewise, the group's label mate, singer-songwriter Ben Harper, adds some exotic guitar work on "Eloise."

(Soundbite of song, "Eloise")

RATH: Dub reggae is still the bedrock of the Culver City Dub Collective. Most exciting for Adam and Franchot was involving veteran reggae superstar Winston Jarret and his band. Adam.

Mr. TOPOL: And they came in and in classic style just went in there in one take and just did "Big Long Gun." Those guys blew us away and they just couldn't have been more professional, more chill and kind.

(Soundbite of song, "Big Long Gun")

RATH: The CD "Dos" probably couldn't be done by a major label. Made on the fly by a disparate group of musicians, it's more serendipitous creativity than hook-laden songs aimed at the charts. The Culver City Dub Collective really is the sum of its parts, making music just for the fun of it.

(Soundbite of song, "Big Long Gun")

RATH: For NPR News this is Derek Rath.

(Soundbite of song, "Big Long Gun")

COHEN: The new album "Dos" from the Culver City Dub Collective is out today. More to come after this. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Derek Rath