Interview: Submotion Orchestra


Heralded earlier this year as ‘one of the most interesting and creative projects emerging in the UK today’ by Gilles Peterson, Submotion Orchestra have enjoyed a successful summer festival season and are currently in full-swing of their UK tour.  A unique blend of soul, jazz, dub and electro, the 7-piece live dub project bring a unique sound that has attracted a wide appeal. 

“Submotion began as a live dubstep project but now we’re trying to move as far away from that as possible!” Tommy Evans (drummer and song writer) is dismissive of the “recent rubbish” currently being produced within the genre:  “We think that dub is on the way out.  Although we want to maintain elements of dub in our music, such as sticking to 140 bpm, we’re looking to incorporate much more contemporary jazz among all sorts of styles.”  He reels off a wide range of artists in response to the group’s musical influences, from Brian Blade and Joni Mitchell, to Chopin, Miles Davis and the Beach Boys.  “Every member of the group has their own unique influences and contribution- we’re all classically trained and build upon a wide range of classical, jazz and pop music.”

Tommy is one the original founders of the group.  Having been commissioned by Leeds Art Council in 2009 along with Dom Howard (Ruckspin) to write and perform a piece of live dub, the foundations were laid for exploring the possibilities of the style further.  “Looking back, the piece at the time was terrible but Dom and I agreed live dub had potential to be a success.”  Based on people he knew and recommendations, Tommy rounded together the seven piece that is now Submotion Orchestra: Ruby Wood (vocals), Taz Modi (keyboard), Simon Beddoe (trumpet), Danny Templeton (percussion), Chris Hargreaves (bass) and Dj Ruckspin (production).  “No one really knew each other before playing together; jamming together allowed us to see what would come about.”

Currently touring the UK, their live performance is what makes Submotion unique: ‘There’s no use of backing CDs like so much other dub, we create all our sounds on stage.  We have a conversational approach, meaning each performance is different; we know how the songs will start and end but try out new ideas in the middle, using signposts to keep the performance tight.” This means the group’s style is constantly able to progress, “We currently feel like we’re on the tip of the iceberg.  There’s potential for more ambience, more grime… I think it would be cool to do a project with a choir or a string quartet.  Right now our rhythm section’s extremely tight so we’re able to experiment”.

The New Year will see the group touring round Europe, before working on their second album ready for another busy summer festival season.

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