Roots Tonic's Artist Tips

Publish date:

Like the finest jazz, the best dub is a product of fruitful collaboration–and few artists know this as well as the New York-based trio Roots Tonic. Not only do members Josh Werner, Aaron Dugan, and Jonah David provide the back-up strength for Hasidic reggae superstar Matisyahu, but members have found themselves in the studio or on stage with everyone from John Zorn to Coco Rosie to Talib Kweli to Dr. Israel. The group's latest partnership, Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell (ROIR), sees them going head-to-head with the imitable roots and dub bassist/production master himself. Here Roots Tonic reels off the key components to their neo-traditionalist sound.

1. Vintage Fender or G&L Bass
A bass that can crush eardrums and find the poop note. It has to have dead, dirty strings on it. I never change my strings until one breaks, which is rare. You get a much warmer sound with old strings. In fact, it's best to eat fried food and then play directly after to break the new ones in. Josh Werner

2. Cowbells, Woodblocks, Odd or Weird Percussion
I once played a Lipton Instant Iced Tea can for a recording. I spent a bunch of shekels in the Bazaar in Jerusalem on all of these bells that I suppose are for tourists. I use them with a bunch of shells and shakers that look like goat hooves. It gave [the recording] a real creepy sound and I played them moving all around the mic so you hear it with a different intensity depending on how far away I am or if it's sweeping from right to left. Bill Laswell used a [Korg] KAOSS Pad on a lot of my percussion. I think a KAOSS Pad on anything sounds great for dub. Jonah David

3. DigiTech Whammy II guitar pedal
I mainly use this for computer-sounding digital-mess noises and basically things you're not supposed to use it for. I couple this pedal with my stereo tremolo pedal to create an R2D2 effect. If I add analog delay and reverse delay on top of that, I can get R2D2 with a little bit of flpspslpflpspfp action going on. Aaron Dugan

4. Insides of a Teletubby
I string four of them together and feed them into my pickups. There's nothing like hearing "big hug" one octave lower in reverse. Aaron Dugan