Log In

Please enter your credentials :
Lost your password ?

Don’t have an account ? Register here.

Interview With DubMaster Conte: A Citizen Of The World

Dubmaster Conte, is a key figure in the music scene blending diverse influences, a fusion of ambient, electronic, and ethnic rhythms rooted deeply in Dub.

Introduction

Stefano, aka Dubmaster Conte, is a key figure in the music scene blending diverse influences, a fusion of ambient, electronic, and ethnic rhythms rooted deeply in Dub.

He contacted me recently upon the release of his new full-dub album “Dub Protection”, to share his work and his passion for the genre. So, I thought I could share them in return!

Fueled by the punk rock vibes of The Clash and Mano Negra, later by the Trip Hop nuances of Massive Attack – and all along by his love for icons like King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry – Stefano’s path in music is a tribute to his diverse influences and self-taught mastery.

In this interview, we delve into his creative process, his evolution as an artist, and his insights into the world of dub music, offering a glimpse into the mind of an artist who continues to shape and be shaped by the dub soundscape.

Dub Master Conte front street portrait

Dub Prevades Everything…

Nice to meet you, Stefano! I’m glad we managed to do this. Tell us a bit about you: Who are you? Where do you come from?

My name is Stefano (aka Dubmaster Conte). I was born in Milan, Italy. During my life, I had the opportunity to travel, live, and work in different countries. Because of these life experiences and my attitude, I feel like a citizen of the world.

And, what first got you into music production? Who inspired you to make music?

I started playing bass guitar in a punk rock band inspired by The Clash and Mano Negra, where also I had my first contact with Reggae and Dub.

But I decided to produce music later, after getting involved in the Trip-Hop scene (Massive Attack, Tricky, Smith, and Mighty, etc…) and electronic bands such as The Orb. All these acts were influenced deeply by dub music. Dub pervades everything.

Do you have theoretical musical knowledge?

No, I learned to play bass guitar by myself, then studied scales and keyboard notes self-taught, and the experience did the rest.

Tell us more about your musical journey: How would you describe the music that you typically create?

Honestly, inspiring and dreamy. With an emphasis on (but not limited to) groove, and of course deeply influenced by Dub in all its subtlest nuances.

Some different inputs and influences brought me here:

  • Ambient music
  • Trip Hop (early style)
  • Hip Hop (old school)
  • Ethnic
  • Old Blues (sometimes)
  • …and many other different styles.

As long as the music remains genuine, honest, and heart-driven I love it.
I love to take inspiration from all around, but One Love remains for Dub and Reggae.

I can tell that listening to King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry made the difference. They got deeply in my soul and heart. It’s something that had a big imprint on my creative process and in my career.

It was pure Magic when I first listened to them and it still is now. My head and heart were pulsing to those basslines, grooves, and soundscapes: that sound was smashing Babylon to the ground.

Talking about smashing Babylon to the ground: you’ve just released a Dub album (Dubmaster Conte – Dub Protection), very different from what you produced before. Can you tell us more about it?

I have different musical projects/bands where I do different musical tasks (i.e. playing bass guitar, programming beats, or playing with synths and samples).

In every case, I always put Dub influences and techniques in all my acts (be it playing basslines, mixing, or using effects creatively and musically), but in the end, I really wanted to make a Dub album by myself, Dub is my great passion of the heart, my musical roots. My teacher.

It wasn’t easy because I had to stick to some precise rules and not go too far away with musical contamination and cross-genre inspirations.
It was a very big challenge because I listened every day to the great masters of Dub and Reggae. I am very happy with the result and I’m going to continue down this path for sure. Dub is a spiritual journey, a serious thing, a musical prayer to Creation.

What is your favorite song in that album? Why?

Songs are like sons and daughters to me, so it’s difficult to say. It mainly depends on the moment.

On my new album tunes like “Moa’s Claws“, “Inner Fire” and “Dub Fire Pon Babylon” are more on the Steppa style while “Roots Stimulators” is more oriented on an old dub fashion. “Guidance Dub” has got very good feedback from listeners.
Check also “Dubbin Pulse” and “Trimming Buds” for an electronic dubby touch and “Dubbing Inna Jungle” for a tropical vibe.

In short, I have told you almost the complete album, but you will find more surprises. Just check it out!

Just for the record: if you could open a show for any artist, who would it be?

If he was still alive: Lee “Scratch” Perry. The Maestro, a Chaman of Music.

DubMaster Conte’s Production Flow

I’m always interested in what Producers are using: can you tell me more about the way you work?

I recently switched to hardware for mixing, composing, and recording real instruments. I use my DAW mainly for mastering. If I have to run my software plugins, I play and sequence them on my hardware: I use the PC as a sound module. I found that using hardware is more practical, and great for quickly catching up musical inspiration.

Concerning Dub music:

  • I prefer to use instruments (real and virtual) and not samples/loops. But there is no strict rule on this matter, it depends on the track.
  • I also like to sample some elements myself, from my records (i.e. drum rolls or vocal snippets).

If I sample some acoustic drums I like to chop them, to keep that particular drum old school sound, and rebuild the groove with sequencing. I love to program drum beats by myself.

I am an old user of Akai’s hardware. MPC before and now also Force. I use them to do sequencing with my synthesizers and sound modules, I get very excited about their MIDI capabilities and find them perfect for doing sequence editing.
For laying down drum parts and beats they are perfect too, and their pads help me a lot to maintain a live feel. Those pads can give you a real feel for drums and samples playing.
Akai is also the sampler of choice for drum programming and also for chopping and sequencing keys or voices (and I still own my old s950).

For ethnic and exotic real instrument sounds comes Kontakt from Native Instruments. For more experimental sounds and sound design Reaktor is the choice.

I love Le Skank, not being a guitarist has helped me tremendously and has taken me out of the burden of using guitar samples for my productions (which are often not very editable).

For bass guitar, I like to play it by myself (although I want to try BassTone X soon). I do not use many effects on bass and sometimes it is recorded D.I. through the desk. If I need a more shaped sound I use a Line 6 hardware for bass before recording.

Sub basses instead are programmed by myself on a simple bass synth (mainly Novation or AIR). For Synths, wow… so many! My hardware choice anyway comes from Novation but I like the Native Instruments ones very much (Massive, FM8, Absynth..) and of course, the ones that come bundled with the Akai hardware (AIR) which I find exceptional and easy to use.

My mixing desk of choice is Soundcraft, they have great gain, dynamics, and EQs on their consoles. I also use TLAudio preamps and Aphex dynamics processors in the signal chain.

Interesting, I see we have things in common! And, what about the effects? In Dub music, effects are part of the artistic process…

Of course! I use Spring reverbs, Filters, Phasers, and Delays (Tape, Analog, and Digital) as sends/returns for dubbing. Filters and Phasers/Chorus plus dynamic effects on single tracks. And EQs are very important to properly shape the sound.

Akai hardware comes bundled with great effects (MPC and AIR). Also, my DAW of choice has plenty of high-quality plugins (I still use the latest version of Cakewalk Sonar Platinum fully loaded, the last before the company closed now. Now you can legally find the software for free on the internet but with fewer plugins).

Dub Station is a very good and cheap delay (as are many other Audio Damage plugin effects that I use). PSP Vintage Warmer and Native Instruments Dynamic and EQ plugins are also among my favorites and Alborosie Dub Station is an interesting one to check.

For the phaser FX, I use a Mu-Tron replica and the Dub SPL-4 plugin for shaping instruments and creating space in the mix.

As for hardware effects I like Roland and TC Electronics Delays and Lexicon’s reverbs but also some guitar pedal effects from Boss that are useful in creating crazy effect chains.

And, about the technical stuff: does Dubmaster Conte mix his tracks himself?

Yes. I love to do it.

I use EQ and Compressors on single channels to shape the dynamics of the sound. But I prefer to not overdo it (I do not like too much compression in Dub). I love to use the EQs on my mixing desk because it is a non-symmetric EQ and gives the sound a better life and natural approach.

Then I use Send/Returns to dub the sound (on single channels) with different effect chains that I build up according to the track vibe. I run everything on my hardware through the mixer and record the final mix on my DAW, dubbing it live. I love to record different takes.

And, the mastering stage?

I use a classic signal chain for mastering (Mastering EQ, Master Compressor, and Limiter. If necessary a Stereo Spread before the limiting stage). Metering is necessary to check the final signal (phase, final volume, peaks, etc).

Before mastering I like to bounce the final mix through my outboard mixer so I can add some analog sum to my final track and sometimes some special FXs are added in the last stage on the final mix (but always before mastering) to give some more analog life and soft compression to the track.

I used different software during the years (sometimes a mix between different software modules), to name a few: T-Racks, Abbey Road plugins from Waves, and Izotope (the last is used mainly for soundscapes/ambient projects)

So it’s not the part you’re the most comfortable with, then?

No, I’m more comfortable with composition. Creating music from scratch. Then I love mixing and dubbing in the same measure as composing. I use the mixing console as a creative tool, an instrument. And I love using Send Effects on single tracks. That’s the heart of Dub music.

Mastering is more of a scientific process than a creative one. But over the years I managed to master it (I hope). It’s also possible to put some creative input in the mastering process but in the end, you have to stick to some rules and create a product that can be pleasantly listened to on different sound systems.

With all your experience, maybe you have some tips or advice for our readers…?

As told before:

  • Use the mixer console (hardware or software) as a creative tool.
  • Use the effects (delays, reverbs, phasers, …) as instruments.
  • Play around with them, moving their controls during the tune. Especially having fun and dreaming while playing, mixing, or dubbing.

Listen to your heart for inspiration and dare. Music is Creation. Also, remember that Dub and Reggae are Jah music so keep a spiritual attitude while creating, mixing, and dubbing the track.

The Future of Music

On a more global subject: what’s your opinion on modern mainstream music and music production?

It changed a lot, social media impacted the music industry, and not always in a good way. Music production has evolved so much and given opportunities for so many people to be able to develop and produce their musical ideas without having to spend crazy amounts of money. There are plenty of free plugins that sound crazy!

This is very positive even though it has produced so many and sometimes too many musical outputs.

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

Less appearance, more substance (or essence, I do not know the best word for it).

I can’t agree more… A lot has changed since the beginning of the internet and social networks… How do you feel it impacted the music business?

It was impacted tremendously but it was a double-edged sword. On one edge it has spread music a lot, but on the other one it has given less and less to the musicians who are engaged in creating music daily.

Having too much material can also cause a lowering of attention in the average listener and now with the advent of smartphones, the average listener’s attention span has gone even more way down, but as far as Dub Reggae listeners are concerned, it is little different, being mostly quality listeners and real lovers of the genre. Dub/Reggae is a serious thing that can transcend and beat down Babylon.

What would you be doing right now if it wasn’t for your music career?

I really do not know. Music is part of my life in a very deep way. It is medicine, it is comfort, it is pure pleasure, it is joy, it is a journey, it is a prayer.
Most of all it’s communication on a universal level. It is a communication between people of different cultures and races, something unique in the human and artistic experience. Something really special.

In my opinion, Music succeeds in reaching people’s souls from all around the world, and it’s a need that humanity has.

And now? What’s next for you?

My next Dub Album. One Love. Blessings

Blessings to you Stefano, and thank you for your time. It was a real pleasure meeting you. I’m happy we talked, you’re a very talented Dubhead.
Big up!

Dubmaster Conte Interview with Matt from SoundFingers – Mar. 10 – 2024

7 comments

  • играть в money train

    This is a good tip especially to those new to the
    blogosphere. Simple but very accurate information… Many thanks for sharing this one.
    A must read post!

  • Nathan Purcell

    I will right away grasp your rss as I can’t to find
    your e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter service.
    Do you’ve any? Please let me recognize so that I could subscribe.
    Thanks.

    • A

      Hi Nathan,
      I don’t have a rss feed yet, but you can subscribe to the newsletter by filling the form at the bottom of this page.
      Cheers!

  • Phil Cleeves

    Great interview Matt. I love all the production questions. Please keep doing these.

  • Lester Magbual

    I’ll immediately grab your rss feed as I can’t to find your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service.
    Do you have any? Kindly let me realize in order that I
    may subscribe. Thanks.

  • Brenners

    Love the interview. I’d not heard of Conte before, but am gonna dive straight into hos vibe. Great interview, love the part about muisc being medicine. One love, Brenners.

  • Good read. Haven’t heard about him before, but his stuff is solid.

Leave your comment

Matt

I founded SoundFIngers in 2018. I dedicate my time to designing, programming instruments, and managing my website, ensuring that every product carries a piece of my crazyness, passion and expertise. I've been bitten by the Dub virus a long ago but I love all kinds of Blues/Rock music, HipHop, Electro, and more...

A music studio room with a mixing desk, guitars on the wall and hardware audio modules

Join Our Community!

Subscribe to receive our latest articles and insights in music production. Our content is crafted to provide valuable information and techniques for musicians and producers at all levels.

  • Music Production Guides
  • Early Access to New Content
  • Exclusive Free Plugins

"You can unsubscribe anytime. For more details, review our Privacy Policy."

No spam, ever.

Cart

See what you got there