Dubcentral is seen by many as the foundation of soundsystem and bass music events at the turn of the new millennium. While Sheffield has always had a history of established Jamaican soundsystems such as Conquering Lion, a new generation has emerged in recent times. For crews like 20Hz, Liquid Steel, Studio45, Semtex and many others, a lot of inspiration came from Dubcentral events down at The Everyone Centre on Broadfield Road. We caught up with former Headcharge promoter Alan Deadman, founder of Dubcentral, and Paul Lee and Gita Patel, whorun the sister drum & bass event Feedback every month at Corporation.

Alan – what made you start Dubcentral?

Alan: To be honest we didn’t start it! It was a bunch of people playing reggae at the Vine on a Sunday – two students at Sheffield Uni and Nye [Cooper, aka Dubcentral resident Meerkat]. It turned into Dubcentral when Headcharge got involved to support that event. We’d always wanted to get something dubwise going in Sheffield. Jamie from Headcharge coined the name and we started bigging up the Sunday session at the weekend all-nighters – the staggering remains jamming it up at the Vine. One thing that inspired me was the first dub night I went to – Operation Soundsystem at Tony’s Empress Ballroom in Blackburn.

There appeared to be a bit of a lull last year. Would you say this was due to increased competition or perhaps a movement in trends away from dub and roots music?

Gita: I think it was a lot to do with loads of nights coming out and getting in high profile acts, perhaps also the crowd evolving. I don’t think it’s because the younger people don’t like dub and reggae.

Alan: I don’t think our product has declined, but a lot of younger people have been partly inspired by Dubcentral and are now doing their own nights. The promoters are often a similar age to the punters, which is important. I think dubstep has also had an
impact.

Gita: Yeah, because a lot of people would turn up to Dubcentral and expect dubstep and get confused when there was reggae playing, but if those people stayed they really enjoyed it.

Do you think dubstep has had a positive impact overall?

Alan: As a musical appreciator it was a quantum leap in music – easily as significant as the arrival of jungle. But as my son Alex says, because of the changes in music production technology it was a lot more accessible than jungle and drum and bass. In many ways dub reggae has influenced younger soundsystems, but dubstep has given them something to play.

Feedback has enjoyed quite a lot of hype. Why is that do you think?

Gita: I think we’ve diversified the touring network within drum & bass and probably booked less typical artists that other nights might not go for.

Paul: I think it represents the fact that a lot of drum & bass artists like Black Sun Empire are still producing really quality music. They’re crossing over into dubstep and the production is so good that it’s almost undeniable. We’re noticing a lot of young people coming to Feedback, whereas last year it was probably 50-50 with older punters. Drum & bass has always been there but I think it’s turning heads again.

Where do you see the future of Dubcentral, Feedback and the other subsidiary events that fall under the Mad Hatters Family?

Alan: I want to see some massive events – Mad Hatters, three rooms, kicking off! My ultimate fantasy would be going back to the NYE events we did at Club Shhh.

Gita: Dubcentral is the root of all the other nights like Feedback and Dark Crystal and I feel we’re bringing it back with the upcoming Jah Shaka gig. We also want to bring in more creativity, do more production and get dubplates made.

Tell us a bit more about the Jah Shaka event…

Gita: It’s Alan’s retirement gig! Booooo!

Alan: It’s been a long time coming and it feels a bit like the top of the tree. A lot of bookings are about relationships, so although our gig with Young Warrior (Shaka’s son) had some negatives financially, it enabled us to get in contact with Shaka’s management. It’s the original UK reggae soundsystem and hasn’t played in Sheffield since ’86. I think the younger generation would like to see the daddy of it all!

Dubcentral Presents Jah Shaka Soundsystem at Corporation on Saturday 16th April

Interview by Liam Shrivastava.