Interview: Dub Inc – Bridging the World Through Upbeats (August 2023)

Words by Marco Canepari / Photos by Gaetano Piazzolla

Just a little over a month ago, amidst the scorching summer vibes of Southern Italy and the infectious energy of Ariano Folk Festival, we had an exceptional musical encounter. A few hours before they were scheduled to ignite the crowd with their electrifying performance, we had a laid-back chat with two of the key players in DUB INC: Aurélien “Komlan” Zohou, one of the band’s charismatic lead singers, and Grégory “Zigo” Mavridorakis, the rhythmic heartbeat of the group on the drums.

DUB INC, the groundbreaking French reggae outfit, has been wielding their musical magic for over two decades, setting audiences wild across the globe with their unique mix of reggae, dub, ska, hip-hop, rock, and a tapestry of global influences, all wrapped up in inclusive and thought-provoking messages.

Aurélien “Komlan” Zohou & Grégory “Zigo” Mavridorakis @ Ariano Folk Festival 2023 © Gaetano Piazzolla

Our conversation kicked off with a peek into the band’s remarkable journey and what has happened over the last five years since our last “e-meeting”. Komlan, the expressive voice behind DUB INC, shared some insight into the challenges they faced during the two-year pandemic-induced lockdown that put a damper on their creative connections. “Since Millions [released five years ago], we’ve all experienced two years of lockdown. We pretty much halted all communication during that time because we didn’t want to post anything online unless it was meaningful. So, for those two years, not much happened. We did try to organise some shows, but the lockdown made it impossible“.

Despite the challenges, Zigo, the band’s rhythmic purveyors, emphasised that their musical activity remained fervent: “During the lockdown, it was quite challenging. However, after that period, we made a decision to work on a new album, even though we had released the previous one just three months before the lockdown. We set up in the studio, spent a year crafting the new album, and eventually resumed touring about a year and a half ago“.

The lockdown experience led them on an introspective journey, giving life to Futur, an album filled with their innermost thoughts and emotions. Komlan noted, “During the lockdown, everything felt different for us because we weren’t touring. We had to find new sources of inspiration, which influenced the direction of our new album. Our songwriting became more introspective as we delved deeper into the questions that everyone was pondering during that time. Writing the lyrics was especially affected, with us singers having to dig deeper due to the lack of travel. The lyrics now carry more nuanced meanings and are often more poetic, which is an exciting development in our writing“.

Zigo agreed, highlighting the unparalleled unity that blossomed among the group members during this transformative period. He remarked, “Yes, it was more introspective, and it was a valuable experience too, in a way, because it was an excellent way to spend our time and compose music together. Every day on tour for the past year and a half, I’ve observed us joking, with no arguments among us. And I realised that we’ve been together for 25 years, and we’ve never been this close. Perhaps these two years, two and a half years for us, drew us even closer together“.

Zigo also emphasised the fact that after 25 years, DUB INC has developed a strong family-like bond which is at the core of their success. He said, “First and foremost, I think it’s a story of family. We remain friends and continue to love making music together. Also, I think all our new challenges keep us engaged because we’re trying to perform in different countries like the US, this helps keep things fresh and exciting“.

Komlan added, “It’s essential to keep the tour experience interesting. If it becomes too routine, it could get boring, but we’re never bored when we’re together“.

Despite two decades in the music scene and counting, DUB INC’s socially conscious music has always fearlessly addressed issues such as racism, corruption, and environmental concerns with no sign of waning. Komlan pointed out that while their thematic concerns remained unwavering, their approach had evolved. “Our inspiration mostly comes from what we observe in the world around us. While the themes we address have remained consistent for over 20 years, our approach has evolved. For example, we recently collaborated with other singers to create songs addressing immigration and the tragic stories of people crossing the Mediterranean. We’re constantly trying to shift the themes and find new perspectives“.

Zigo specified, “The core themes remain the same, but we aim to bring new perspectives and colours to our music by shifting our focus and looking at things from different angles. Traveling extensively also plays a significant role in shaping our perspective“, he said, highlighting their commitment to keeping their music fresh and relevant.

Speaking about what they see in front of them when they tour and take the stage, Komlan and Zigo celebrated the evolving tapestry of their listeners, spanning a wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds. Zigo marvelled, “You can find teenagers who just discovered the band last month with the first album or the latest album. We feel very fortunate for that because we sense something within our audience“.

This deep connection with people of all ages and walks of life underscored the universal appeal of their music confirmed by Komlan. “Indeed, we see people of all ages, backgrounds, and origins in our crowd. It’s like a big melting pot, reflecting the diversity in our music. Whether it’s teenagers discovering our music for the first time or older generations who’ve been following us, there’s a shared energy in the crowd when we perform. It’s heartwarming to see“.

When we ventured into their international performances, Komlan expressed his palpable excitement about breaking new ground, especially in the United States, where DUB INC presence is still burgeoning. He eloquently shared, “Performing in the USA was like a fresh start. While in France, we’re better known and have a more established fan base, in the US, it’s as if we’re starting from scratch. It’s exciting to introduce our music to a new audience, and it reminds us of our early days in France. And that’s also a key, as we were saying earlier, to be there without feeling bored because it’s like a rebirth for us“.

Their unwavering willingness to explore uncharted territories and adapt to diverse audiences has kept their live shows perpetually exhilarating, Zigo assured. “Each new place we perform offers a unique experience, and it’s a good challenge for us. Even if people don’t understand the lyrics, and they don’t understand the lyrics in France too at times, you can feel the same energy in the crowd. I think that’s very cool. That’s about the message. Music is the message and we can feel that the message goes to the people even if they don’t understand the words”.

Komlan added, “We are professional musicians, but we aim to play music for the people like a family can play music together, not like professional musicians. We try to play music like people who love to play music together, like a tribe playing music together. I think people feel that and they love it”.

In the realm of musical influences, both Komlan and Zigo unveiled their eclectic tastes. Komlan praised artists like Sika Rlion from Réunion Island and Raging Fyah from Jamaica. Zigo added with enthusiasm, “In the band, we don’t just listen to reggae music. We listen to various genres like hip-hop, rock, and sometimes electronic music”. This rich tapestry of musical interests undoubtedly contributed to their genre-blurring sonic signature.

Peering into the future, Zigo unveiled their plans, including upcoming shows in France and the possibility of an international tour and new music coming up as well… “Today, it’s our last show for this summer. We start again the tour in September with some shows in France and for the next year, we will probably continue the tour maybe in different countries. We’d love to keep the year after the album for the international tour. Additionally, we’re working on new musical projects and have some fresh ideas in the pipeline…

Komlan teased, “Yes, we have some ideas. The story continues...”

As stage time drew nearer for the musicians, we posed to Komlan and Zigo our signature “big question” to conclude our interview: How would they introduce their band and music to someone, perhaps in the US, who had never heard them before? Komlan summed it up perfectly: “I would say we are a reggae band, but we are seven musicians coming from really totally different backgrounds. Our music is a fusion of influences and origins, drawing from North Africa, West Africa, and hip-hop”.

Zigo specified “Most of us have really grown with rock music. So our energy, live energy probably comes from this rock background“.

…and Komlan closed “Yeah, I think all this melting pot inside of reggae music“.

As our conversation drew to a close, it became evident that DUB INC’s narrative transcends their music. It embodies resilience, unity, and a commitment to evolving their sound, inspiring audiences from all walks of life.

Whether you’re a long-time devotee or a newcomer to their music, the rhythm and lyrics of DUB INC carry a universal message. As they expand their reach globally, one thing is certain: DUB INC’s story is far from over, and they continue to make an impact through their music and message.


Photos ©: Gaetano Piazzolla