Fall under the magnetic spells of dub. For many, it’s a genre on its own. For others, it’s more like a subgenre of reggae, defined as its electronic and more experimental version. No matter what, dub is there, with its intense bass, its echoes and its effects. A sea of slow and catchy waves where the repetitions seem to surf over the rest of the sounds. It emerged in Kingston, Jamaica, back in 1968, more specifically in the Treasure Isle recording studio. And it was pure chance, as often happens with magical events. Sound engineer Rudolph “Ruddy” Redwood was working on the song “On The Beach” by The Paragons, muting some tracks until he ended up producing what is considered the first dub cut in history.
Pachy García is a talented producer and multi-instrumentalist born in Puerto Rico and based in Los Angeles. Pachyman is his solo project and is fully dedicated to the art of dub and other expressions of reggae. His fourth album Switched-On came out a few days ago, spreading good vibes and captivating like a new episode of an adventure that’s still ongoing. In fact, this started not long ago, precisely in 2019, with his debut In Dub. Always recording in his basement studio called 333 House, Pachy takes on the task of recreating the sonic efforts of the great producers and sound engineers of early Jamaican reggae music that he deeply admires: King Tubby, Scientist and Lee “Scratch” Perry.
“I’ve been listening to reggae and dub since an early age,” says Pachy García, who comes from a country where salsa is historically very strong and where the last decade seems to have been monopolized by reggaeton. “There’s a lot of cultural love for reggae and dancehall in Puerto Rico. We’re very close to Jamaica, so music seeped into the island very early on and became an integral part of the culture.” He fell madly in love with those old roots records, based on the rawness of the sound and the drive of the performances of that time. This largely explains his constant desire to embellish his music with a truly analog sound, to immerse it in that experimental ocean of yesteryear recording.
Pachyman has already released four albums and a couple of singles, as a result of a prolific burst that every year always finds him cooking up something new. In Dub was his first manifesto. And also a declaration of love to Channel One, the legendary recording studio founded in Kingston in 1972, where two of the best session bands of the time, Roots Radics and The Revolutionaries, used to work. From the beginning, his tracks always hinted in some way at the teachings of the great dub masters. “King Tubby and his work with Augustus Pablo were the first ‘dub’ sounds that I fell in love with,” he recognizes. But other sounds – not necessarily from the reggae galaxy – also opened his mind: “I also got really into krautrock, experimental electronic and punk at a young age. I think all these genres are cut from the same cloth, at least definitely in terms of production.”
Always faithful to those spacey sounds, Pachyman continued recording his instrumental tracks. In 2020, he released his second album At 333 House, and a single not included in it, At the Controls. For his third album, 2021’s The Return of Pachyman, he once again brought in King Tubby and Scientist to “x-ray” reggae music and break it down to its bones. After that record, so well achieved in terms of production, Pachy began to outline some changes for what would follow. The first sign came last year when he invited the Brazilian singer Winter for “All Night Long”, a precious song of lovers’ rock– a style of reggae music that stands out for its romantic sound and content, coming from the last days of rocksteady and focusing on London in the 70s. “I’ve always wanted to work with vocals and collaborate with friends and fellow artists,” he says. “For ‘All Night Long’ it made sense since the intention was for it to be a lovers’ rock track.”
“Little by little, I’ve been finding things that work vocally in my music and that fit my particular style of singing,” says Pachy, referring to how he dared to sing in “Trago Coqueto” and “Toyota Nuevo”, both songs included in Switched-On. Quite a challenge for his predominantly instrumental tracklist. “I wanted to try different styles of tunes,” he adds, detailing his approach to this new album: “I went into the studio to do writing sessions that were all about having fun and less about production value. I found that in those sessions I’d try stuff and would come back to it the next day to edit it in a different way. I polished the arrangements until I had something I liked. Then I’d record the song all over again. I continued doing that until I had a batch of tunes to select the ones I liked the most.”
Switched-On forged stronger ties with Pachy’s homeland. Not only is it dedicated to the memory of his mother Carmen and father Héctor, but it also evokes the Puerto Rican music scene in the 90s – when local artists embraced the new wave of Jamaican riddims and combined it with traditional Boricua sounds. There are also more titles in Spanish, including sensory glimpses from his life growing up on the Caribbean island. Pachy affirms that these choices are not at all a coincidence: “Spanish is my first language. I grew up in Puerto Rico, and I’ve always wanted to write songs in Spanish. I’m very happy that the people gravitated to the music and vocals regardless of the language I wrote them in.”
Pachy García moved to Los Angeles in the early 2010s, and once settled there he began collecting old recording equipment in his basement to set up his 333 House studio. A small refuge to pour out his passion for dub, and to also become a true man-orchestra capable of playing all the instruments. Also, he writes and produces each song. Now, does he have a pattern or a working formula? What’s a recording day in the life of Pachyman like? “It varies a lot,” he comes forward to answer. “I used to write the drums and bass first, and then build on top of that. With this record, I wrote a bunch of songs on keyboards first and then laid the rest out. ‘Trago Coqueto’ was written on guitar first, which I hardly ever do. I still think that I don’t have a preferred way of writing.”
Before becoming Pachyman, this skilled multi-instrumentalist was already known in the underground scene as the drummer and vocalist of the LA band Prettiest Eyes, a post-industrial trio that channels his other formative interest, synth-punk and experimental rock. Almost like the complementary side of his rub-a-dub alias, in a sound universe where retro synthesizers and echo effects rule, Pachy quickly knew how to benefit from the warmth of analog sound to create another exercise in nostalgia. “I have many musical desires that need to be satisfied, but those two definitely scratch the itch very well!”