Dub Pistols’ Barry Ashworth reflects on the formative influences that have shaped his life and career
“I was a bit young for mod the first time around, but ‘Quadrophenia’ had a massive impact when I watched it as a schoolboy. I dug the clothes – the Fred Perry shirts, the suits – and the scooters, just the whole style of it. And bands like The Specials and Madness ultimately had a massive influence on the style of music I make.
“I loved that whole idea of going down to Brighton in a big gang, on your scooter with your parka on, of being working class and dressing up and living like a star at the weekends. I didn’t go there on a scooter myself, I was too young, but the two tone movement and then The Clash took me down a reggae route that I probably wouldn’t have taken otherwise.”
West Is Best
“Going to live in west London from suburbia was a total change for me. It exposed me to a whole different culture. Every other house had a sound system blaring out. I remember moving into the road and thinking I was moving into the ’hood, and then realising I was the ’hood because I was always the one blaring it out. I had parties nearly every night and nobody complained about the noise. I even talked to a neighbour about it and they said, ‘If I can hear music, it’s people enjoying themselves and having a good time’. Nobody minded! Sometimes I never even made it through my front door. I’d pass out before I got there and they’d lift my legs in and close the door behind me. A totally different kind of mindset to what I’d been used to.
“I lived in west London for, I don’t know how long. I think in a whole year, I had one night in. I was out permanently. If I wasn’t on the road, I was down the pub. I pretty much partied for as long as I could, and when I met my wife she gave me an ultimatum – ‘It’s this or me’ – and luckily I chose the right path. Getting married probably saved my life, to be honest. I had the most fantastic time, but in the end I wasn’t enjoying it. It was a mess, and god knows how much money I blew.”
“I’m a first generation mockney. I grew up on a council estate in south London and went to Carshalton School for Boys. Carshalton was quite a place really. Carl Cox used to live three doors along from me up on Roundshaw. He and Paul Oakenfold used to do Wallington Town Hall before the rave scene. So quite a few of us lived around there, and the very early part of the club culture, the early Ibiza crowd, came from that area.
“You’ve got to remember that back in 1987, you never went outside of your area because everything was so territorial. You couldn’t go somewhere else where there was another gang without getting into a fight or getting into some kind of trouble. We got into a massive fight in Magaluf when we were there on holiday and we had to get off the island. We’d had 10 bells knocked out of us and had to do a runner, so we got a ferry to Ibiza. It was there that I took my first pill and it changed my whole mind. Everyone was loved-up and you could travel to different places.
“Football violence had been terrible, but the pills turned things around, and suddenly there was a network of places – Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Glasgow, all these cities – where you could go now, and instead of getting the shit kicked out of you, we had arms around each other, altogether now. And then the following year was the Second Summer of Love, which got me very much into the club scene and that was when I started promoting them. The music just sounded completely different then. Scenes always come with a chemical and with that one came ecstasy.”
“I used to run a club called Monkey Drum, and to me the M25 raves were the Antichrist. I wanted to keep it underground, and any gathering over 1,000 was selling out. We did this club night on a Monday that the Happy Mondays used to come to, as well as The Stone Roses, The Soup Dragons, Oakey, Andrew Weatherall, and so on. I remember going to Spike Island for the Roses and watching the Mondays. Much as I loved them, they were fucking awful [laughs]. It was about the energy!
“That made me decide that if they could be in a band, then so could I. Although I wasn’t a musician, I was into my music and DJing. I formed Déjà Vu, which was trying to be London’s answer to Manchester. We were pretty shit, but there was a movement at that time that included bands like Flowered Up, who were the ultimate rock band in that they had one record and then fell apart straight after. So that’s what got me started down that path.”
“I loved going to Camden Palace and break-dancing on stage. The emergence of the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and NWA was the freshest thing you could possibly hear at that time, and it just blew my mind. I absolutely loved hip hop, but house was everywhere and it became so generic and obvious.
“It was hearing The Chemical Brothers, when they were still called the Dust Brothers, fusing hip hop beats with electronic music, that really inspired me to do the Dub Pistols. I don’t think people remember how massive big beat actually was – Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers, Propellerheads… there were loads of artists who blew up at that time. There was something about that wall of sound with 100 to 110 bpm that changed everything for me.”
Dub Pistols’ album, ‘Addict’, is released by Sunday Best