How Long Beach Dub Allstars’ Tippa Lee and H.R. collab came to be
In the ’90s, just after the tragic passing of Sublime’s Bradley Nowell, and years before the band reformed with Rome Ramirez as their frontman, it seemed that Long Beach Dub Allstars were everywhere. In fact, it was quite difficult to attend a rock festival date or a third-wave ska show without seeing at least three Long Beach Dub Allstars T-shirts in the audience. Maybe things will change again when we can get back to normalcy. Because the band recently released their first album in nearly 20 years, the fun (and extremely needed) self-titled LP. Hopefully the catchy new single “Easy” (featuring the legendary Tippa Lee) will suck you in. That's why Alternative Press is premiering it today.
We caught up with vocalist Opie Ortiz and drummer Marshall Goodman in an exclusive interview to discuss the tune, working with the legendary Lee and the band’s future plans.
Your self-titled record is your first release since 2017 and first full-length in nearly two decades. When and why did you decide to make more music together?
OPIE ORTIZ: We spoke about doing some songs just for the fans, not doing an album to make money or anything, just to show we were still doing music, and these are those songs.
MARSHALL GOODMAN: I was approached by Kevin Zinger in early 2016, and he asked me if I’d be willing to put the band back together for a one-off show. After the SRH 25th anniversary, we decided to keep going. We had been recording lots of demos over the years for different projects. We recorded progressions that Ed Kampwirth [bassist], Jack Maness, Michael Happoldt and Tim Wu brought to rehearsals and demo sessions. There were songs dating back to around 2009 when Michael Happoldt and I were doing a residency at the Shore Ultra Lounge, and I put a backing band together called Rickshaw. Opie released one of these tunes back around 2014 called "Don't Get Me Down"—this was one of the demos that we did during those 2009 sessions. Ed wrote that one.
Anyway, lots of those demos were laying around, and once we caught our stride with our live show, we figured it was time for new music. We dropped a quick single in late 2017 and then commenced to writing a full album. We used some old demos, reworked some old tunes and added some new ones for the album. "Youth" was a song Jack, Ed and I put together back in the Rickshaw era. It was called "Hold On" before. "All Gone Crazy," "Owens Brothers" and "Make A Name" were progressions done by Aaron Owens and Michael. Roger Rivas [keyboardist] submitted some progressions, and they evolved into "Tell Me" and "Easy." Devin Morrison [guitarist] wrote "Higher Rank," and Ed wrote "Roof & Floor" and the progression to "Dream." This new album is a collaboration of true Long Beach Dub Allstars!
The record came out in late May of this year. When did you start the recording process? We assume it was pre-COVID-19.
ORTIZ: We had done a small amount of pre-production for, say, five to six songs, so when we went in to record, it was like a two-week process for [the] first batch. Then we went in again and did five more. Pre-COVID. [It] seemed like a quick process.
GOODMAN: We started putting this record together in late 2017/early 2018. Our manager Ken Seaton is good friends with Cameron Webb and suggested we consider him to produce the album. I'd met Cameron previously and thought he could bring a good mix of what we were targeting—reggae with a rock vibe. So, we did a few preliminary meetings with him and officially started the process [in] early 2018. We compiled our demos using the satellite process and a Dropbox, as well as sessions at my home studio and Roger's house. The demos for the tracks were completed by mid-2018, and the lyrics were finished by early 2019—not in time to release before our 2019 summer tour. So, we held the record release a couple of times and finally landed on May of 2020.
Did you have any touring plans that were halted by the pandemic?
ORTIZ: We had a full summer tour planned, and COVID stopped everything.
GOODMAN: This really stung, but the album was well received, and we landed some modest but considerable chart positions. I'm hoping we get a grip on this catastrophe because the live music industry has truly gotten its ass kicked this year.
Tippa Lee’s been around the scene for even longer than LBDA. How did you get connected with him for “Easy”?
ORTIZ: We initially asked H.R. from Bad Brains to do that, but he sent back some other vocals that we kept on there. Roger has worked with Tippa Lee before, I believe through Dub Club, and I also did a track with him called “Unity” on a local reggae artist’s album [Nico Marks]. He nailed the chat. We thought it was perfect. We really respect his musical efforts and hope to work with him again.
GOODMAN: Tippa Lee was a great addition to "Easy." It is an honor to have him on our record. We've been blessed to have such legendary artists on Long Beach Dub Allstars records throughout the years.
There's an interesting story behind his feature on this song. It started with Roger submitting some vocal ideas for the song. He used a random sample of a guy doing call-and-response-type vocal fills. We wanted to get a vocalist to perform the idea and get rid of the sample. We sent the track to H.R. first. He sprinkled some love on it, but it wasn't what we were targeting. Roger said he had someone and brought in Tippa Lee. What he laid down was absolutely great, but Cameron went a little bit past the idea we were looking for. During the second round of mixing, I rearranged some stuff. We arrived at the magic that you hear. Which is the perfect blend of the call-and-response target with Tippa Lee and Cameron's edition.
What’s next for the band? I know we just got a batch of 10 new tracks, but is anything new in the works?
ORTIZ: We plan on recording another album and do some stuff that we did on previous albums, possibly more features and more collabs. We are already in pre-production where we work out the lyrics and some structure. I love our last release and feel very excited for new music once again.
GOODMAN: Due to the live music platform getting turned upside down by the pandemic, I'm planning to focus on recording, marketing the 2020 release and merchandising during the next couple of years. As of right now, we're getting going on writing a new record.The direction we're taking will bring a bit more of the Wonders Of The World dynamic, meaning songs that are a bit more outside of the traditional reggae format. Expect to see more tunes in the spirit of "Roof & Floor" and "Make A Name," as well as some new directions that will be produced using the same approach that has been in play since 1992.
Relax, sit back and bob your head to Long Beach Dub Allstars and Tippa Lee with H.R.