With 15 years experience under their belt and over 120 festival shows to date, Salmonella Dub are veterans of the music scene, wi th a unique mix of dub, jazz, drum and bass, electronica and reggae that's paved the way for many of the bands they'll be sharing the bill with. But even with this wealth of experience, drummer Dave Deakins says the boys gig routine runs anything but smoothly. "We don't have anything down like clockwork, we are very much an off-the-cuff, hope-for-the-best type of group."
Whatever their strategy, it seems to have worked if their gold and double-platinum records are anything to go by - and after all those years, they still have an incredible passion for playing live shows. "Both festivals and gigs have such a pumped-up vibe - and I say this with my arms spread like an eagle as I sit at the kitchen table recapturing the emotion," Deakins says. "We're like monks focused in on the Zen of music, our thoughts amplified 100 times over by a massive PA system - it's amazing, I love it!" (I think that's dub speak for 'life is great'.)
Playing the massive Pyramid Rock Festival this new years eve, younger bands on the bill have Salmonella Dub to thank for opening Australian ears to the genre all those years ago, but when it comes to the idea of mentoring, the boys concentrate on teaching larger life lessons. "I once taught Reno from Shapeshifters how to shell a gooey duck," Dave says. Turns out there are more clams at a dub get together than you'd have expected, but at festival shows a band needs all the Bear Grylls-style knowledge they can muster. They're playing their music out in the elements and there can often be casualties. "Once a small possum went to sleep in my kick drum before a festival," he says. "It turned out okay in the end - we all chipped in for a high tech hearing aid for the little fella."
A nice gesture that may or may not be true, but certainly wouldn't have been possible in the early days, when they hardly had enough spare change to feed themselves. "I can recall in the early days … we had to beg for hotdogs at the hotdog stand. It wasn't a good scene, that." Those days of begging are well and truly over now, as well as the partying, if Dave is to be believed. "It's all early-to-bed and late-to-rise; I may allow myself an extra cup of green tea if I've been especially good."
Not the crazy booze-fuelled lifestyle that fans may have expected but a good night sleep will come in handy with plans for more albums and shows on the way next year. "2012 is time for a radical reinvention," he says. "Either that or we may make an album slightly different from our last one." And for those making the trip to Phillip Island to bring in the New Year, Dave has some advice for dealing with the summer heat of an Aussie festival. "I find deep meditation and looking at pictures of igloos particularly good. That, or wearing a deep freezer for pyjamas."
BY RACHEL CORBETT
Salmonella Dub play Pyramid Rock Festival alongside Scissor Sisters, The Living End, Gotye and more at Phillip Island from Thursday December 29 - Sunday December 1.