The Story of Subdub // For Cable London

Wrote about the history of Subdub, the infamous Leeds dub night that expanded it’s soundsystem from the North of England to become the brainchild behind Outlook Festival. // Blog piece for Cable

15 years ago – two ravers, both dispirited by the dulling sound of acid house, saw an opportunity to start their own dub revolution. With the warehouses and industrial spaces of Yorkshire forming as their backdrop, it was the spirit of dub reggae and alternative dance music that would form Subdub – the North’s attack on UK club culture.

Mark Salford and Simon Scott would form the foundations, Mark – the man with the ethos and promotion nous and Simon – the man with a background in musical performance and rigging, traits learnt from his early experimentations in a dub group in the late 80’s. “Subdub was just born out of the love of the Reggae Sound System and music we love,” says Simon Scott. Their message was to spread their avant-garde tastes for all things bass-related, by having an all-inclusive music policy, splitting sounds between different rooms.

It was Bradford’s ‘Dub Me Crazy’ night that brought Salford and Scott into contact with Mark Iration – having ended in 1996; the Iration Steppas trio of Mark, Sammy Dread and Dennis Rootikal, were looking for somewhere else to showcase their sound system. It of course made sense for Salford to proposition Iration about pairing up. So, with the help of Iration Steppa’s infamous sound system, the Subdub movement took up home at Leeds basement venue ‘The Think Tank’, now know as Club Wire.“We took our sound down there and in them days no one knew what sound system culture was about. We dropped the bass and all the Vodka, Rum, JD dropped down, man went crazy! He was like ‘I didn’t know it was like that kind of bass!’”, reminisces Iration. It was April 1998, spirits were high and things were good.

Word of Subdub spread and soon after it took up home at Leeds West Indian Centre. “It was in the heart of the British Afro Caribbean community”, proclaims Scott and it was here that Mark, Simon and co built their worldwide reputation – attracting the likes of Lee Scratch Perry, Congo Natty and Shy FX to the North, simply to play the night. “It was the heavyweight sound systems, music and vibes of the sessions that made this like a religion for many devoted clubbers” remembers Scott.

One room expanded into two, and as more and more people came, the style split between dub and reggae classics in room one, and the best in bass music in two. "Dubstep first appeared at Subdub in November 2005 when we invited Digital Mystikz and Sgt Pokes. A whole new chapter began here!”beams Salford. It’s here that they built their reputation for the eclectic and experimental, clocking trends before anyone else. So what made Subdub different? Simon Scott thinks it’s due to it’s pioneering ideas – “It was one of the first events anywhere were dub music took centre stage and jungle/drum & bass and dubstep were in the second room”.

It was when the team started hosting events in London that the parties reached boiling point. With audiences now bigger than ever before, and hubs in both Leeds and London, 2011 saw Subdub move from it’s spiritual home in the West Indian Centre to the Vox Warehouse in Leeds, and Cable Nightclub in London. With a custom sound system for every room, a different sound in each – it was eclectic, but busy – a raw addition that quickly had its name spread around the tight circles of the club scene.

It’s this same group that had the vision of starting Outlook Festival. After the crews behind Leeds’ New Bohemia and Vagabondz nights got in touch – the idea of a mini-festival in Croatia to cover the summer period seemed like a brilliant idea. Mark Salford explains; “Subdub is essentially dub reggae night, played on the Iration Steppas Sound System, with whatever other good bass music we can find for the second room. Exodus in itself is predominantly dubstep, played on the Iration Steppas Sound System with more good bass music in the second room… Which led us all to Outlook.”

What Subdub have done is managed to link what they rep – building their own network of promoters, soundsystems and DJs that inspired them to keep going. It’s a spirit that’s stretched on now for over 14 years, and in April that number will become 15. With one tribe, one union all back to experience it like the early days, Channel One Soundsystem join the Iration Steppa’s and more at Cable Nightclub on 26th April.

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