Trace a line from The Police to Sun Ra via a menswear shop, Newcastle and the Big Chill and you’ll emerge through the looking glass into the bent, sun-blitzed world of Zero dB. Where, for the last six years, Neil Combstock and Chris Vogado have been conjuring up aural mischief as remixers for the likes of Peace Orchestra, Truby Trio, Hexstatic and Original Soul Boy and the legendary Sun Ra.
Now, with debut album ‘Bongos, Bleeps & Basslines’, Zero dB are stepping from the brackets of the liner notes to deliver a joyously muddled musical adventure that veers and swoops, punch drunk, from dance floor to cocktail lounge.
Relaxing at his home in the heart of Barcelona affable Chris Vogado (first record: ‘Outlandos d’Amour’) admits he never meant to end up in a band. “I always wanted to be an electrician – and I was for a bit… it didn’t take me long to realise it wasn’t a dream job.” A stint in tailoring followed. “The worst job ever. Too many inside leg measurements. Was it women’s tailoring? No. If it had been I might not be here now,” he chuckles. On a music technology course in Newcastle he met Neil Combstock, and the pair started working together after the both drifted down to London. Alongside their extensive remix work they started releasing their own tracks, beginning with ‘Come Party’ (still, Chris says, the ultimate floor filler).
“Thirty or forty” tracks later and Zero dB were ready to skim the cream to create ‘Bongos, Bleeps & Basslines’, beginning with the title track (Chris’s top pick of the album), a barefoot-electro tribal funk anthem. His second favourite, ‘Sunshine Lazy’, oozes with affection for the bossa nova music he grew up on, all loping beats and hazy heat-shimmer vocals from Nouvelle Vague collaborator Phoebe Tolmer.
Elsewhere the record skips merrily between genres, appealing, Chris says hopefully, to any audience from WOMAD to Homelands, jazz festivals or the Big Chill. “We could fit into all four – we’ve done the Big Chill before, and I’d love to go back, but all of them really.” Robust internationalism is very much part of the Zero dB experience, actually, with Chris in Spain and Neil regularly moving between Tokyo and London.
“We recorded the album in London though,” Chris reports. “We both realised that to get a really good album together you need to be face to face. Otherwise, when you start arguing about it, it’s too easy to put the phone down.”
"We both realised that to get a really good album together you need to be face to face."
And they’ll be reunited soon, he says, to take the album on the road. “We’re producers first, really, and DJs second, but we’re going to try something live this year. The album sounds very ‘live’ and we want to capture that atmosphere – it’s going to take a big band though.”
Meantime, Neil is back in Tokyo and Chris and his wife are looking forward to their first holiday in, well, six years. “Since this whole thing started, actually,” Chris says with a mock sigh. “We might jump on the ferry and go to Ibiza. That would be nice.”