At first glance it looks like the kind of wooden box you would lock your brother in until he started crying—but it’s actually a revelatory piece of percussion.
One lot of England fans who may not be at this year’s FIFA World Cup are the “Great Escape” playing England Supporters Band—they've been banned from bringing their instruments to the games by FIFA. Despite this, they are still spending £40,000 to travel out to Brazil to test whether the ban is actually being enforced, and they will be bringing a new addition to their drumming setup with them—The Dube.
The Dube is the proud invention of former Coventry City and Aston Villa striker Dion Dublin. At first glance it looks like the kind of wooden box you would lock your brother in until he started crying—but it’s actually a revelatory piece of percussion that comes in all different shapes and sizes. Dion has used the instrument to create a new World Cup song—“The Winner In You” (which samples the New Radicals and is played with his band The Establishment)—and is currently teaching schoolchildren how to use the Dube. A lot of famous musicians also own the instrument.
I spoke to Dion about the World Cup, how he invented a brand new instrument, and whether he thinks it’s a greater achievement than every last minute winner he scored at Coventry City.
Noisey: Inventing a brand new instrument is pretty cool. Did you just think to yourself ‘I want to invent a new instrument’?
Dion: It’s a little bit strange. I didn’t know this before but I’ve always been a percussionist, tapping what I can tap, making rhythms, making music. One day I decided to go to a hardware store—I picked up six pieces of wood, a hammer and nails, and built a box. It probably sounded useless at the time but it’s taken me to where I am today, and it’s been well received from drummers and percussionists like Josh Devine from One Direction and Robbie Williams’ drummer.
I love Josh Devine—he’s just released a song with Wheatus. Was there a lot of trial and error in the manufacturing process?
Yeah, it’s evolved a lot from the time I made the first one. I’ve spoken to professional musicians, who have told me what I should do. I’ve listened to some, I haven’t listened to others. Courtney Pine was the first person to suggest building a family of Dubes, so I decided to make different sizes. People in Birmingham, Norwich and Chesterfield have made it, people in India have made it, and it should be on Amazon by the end of August.
I'm going to ask for Amazon vouchers for Christmas in that case. Did you play any instruments as a kid?
I’ve got three brothers and a sister; everybody played an instrument. When I was at Manchester United and I broke my leg in 1992, I took up the sax. I play it on The Establishment’s album.
So breaking your leg was a blessing in disguise?
In some respects maybe. I think percussion’s just been lying dormant in me for some time, and my musical aspirations have been unlocked now I have the time. I’m passionate about getting The Dube out there. Once it’s just kicked that door down, The Dube will take off, and I won’t stop, I’ll keep pursuing it. I know there’s a market for it.
Awesome. What’s this ‘door’ that you say you need to kick down?
I don’t know, I think a lot of people are frightened of change. They know what they know and they don’t want to give it a go. But when you give something new a chance, you think ‘oh hold on this is better than what I had’ and people will carry on using it. The percussion world are now thinking it’ll take them to the next level. It’s internally mic’d, all you have to do is plug an XLR cable into it and you’re up and running. You’ve got an acoustic drum and an amplified drum so it kills two birds.
Are you taking it out to Brazil for the World Cup?
You know what, I was asked to go out and do some work for BBC Radio 5 live there, but I’ve got best man duties to perform instead. But yes I would’ve taken one with me. Just for my own ear though, just to pass time. I would’ve sat on the beach and played rhythms to myself. That’s how the love came about.
That sounds beautiful. Could The Dube be this year’s vuvuzela? Is there a Dube craze on the horizon?
Well it would be very different to the vuvuzela. The Dube is a proper thing. A lot of people don’t think it is because it looks like a wooden box—which it is—but it’s turned into a very intimate, well made percussion drum with a very serious sound and serious contribution to percussion and drumming. People need to give it a go and find out. Once people realise, it’ll start to break down the doors of distribution companies. I’ll put my hand on my heart, I’ll continue until I’ve made this a successful venture.
On the website it says that The Dube can be used for DJ sets – what kind of people have bought it?
My brother’s a house DJ so we’ve played sets with it, and because it’s so simple it just sits on a stand. If you can plug it in, and you haven’t got an external mic, you can walk around with it.
And you’ve been teaching people to play it, too?
I go from the bottom, I don’t mean in terms of drumming talent, in terms of age group. I go into schools and teach young children to play it. I put numbers, letters and colours on the Dube. I ask a young child to play the number 1, the letter A, and the color orange. What they don’t realise is that they’re learning rhythm and coordination. They can write it in their school books, and then when they go back to it they know what they’ve been playing. I go from there all the way to the top of the tree with Stevie Wonder, who has a Dube himself.
What’s more satisfying—teaching young kids how to play the Dube or scoring a goal?
If you invent something and you get it on the production line regardless of what it is, and it’s come out of your own head and built with your bare hands and you take it into school and see 30 children playing 15 Dubes, with smiles on their faces and they don’t want to stop, there’s no bigger thing in my footballing career that’s better than that.
Amen brother. So if you could choose between making the Dube a worldwide business or winning the World Cup with England which would you choose?
The Dube hands down. Every single time.
I’d choose the World Cup. But that’s just me. You wrote a song for the England fans called “The Winner In You”—how did that come about?
I was suggested it by a friend of mine, it’s a New Radicals song—everybody knows the chorus and the rhythm to it, and my band The Establishment changed the lyrics to it and we decided to give it a go. We think we’ve produced a very good England song with a good loop and a good chorus on it. It’s been well received. I play the percussion with my brother Eddie in it and the saxaphone over the middle eight.
Are there any footballers that you’ve played with that have hidden musical talents?
Matt Jansen is a very accomplished pianist. Peter Schmeichel is a very good pianist and drummer. He’s one of those people who you really want to have a go at because he’s so talented and talks at the same time. He has a band back in Denmark as well.
Lev Harris is currently watching the World Cup — @LevHarris1