El Dub on his own

BY ISAAC HERMAN | JULY 31, 2014 5:00 AM

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Lee Walsh, or as he is more commonly known as, El Dub, wasn’t always a solo act. But it runs out that it was what he needed to kick-start his career.

“I played in a band called Lunar Funk Theory for about 12 years before discovering ‘looping’ my music,” said Walsh, a career musician who first picked up a guitar when he was 12 years old. “I think that what I’m doing now is really cool and interesting, but there’s still nothing like jamming with other people.”

Walsh is a “looper musician,” a trend in music in which the performers record their sound on the spot, then uses those loops to layer their sound, essentially creating a one-man band. Iowa City residents will have the chance to hear looped music at 10 p.m. Saturday at the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St.

This way, the musician can create the background tracks on the spot, and then perform their instruments live over the recorded music. In addition to handling the looping machine, Walsh plays guitar, keyboard, and synthesizer on stage. In order to provide the drum track, Walsh is an avid beatboxer.

“I first got into it about four years ago and was experimenting for a while — the first few shows were not great,” Walsh said with a laugh. “After a while, though, it started to click, and I got a lot better at handling the equipment.”

With no other instruments on stage to back him up, Walsh’s equipment is key to having a successful show. The most important machine is the loop station, which records and plays back all sounds from the synthesizer, keyboard, and guitar.

In addition to that, looper musicians require clear and crisp sound from their speakers, because the lack of live instrumentation can affect the sound quality. Usually, this means a lot more bass to convey El Dub’s mixture of funk, reggae, and blues.

“I’ve booked musicians with loop machines before, and they always want to set up their own equipment,” said Craig Golden, the owner of music venue Space in Evanston, Illinois. “They have a certain way of doing things, and the sound guys we have aren’t used to it.”

Walsh has been touring the festival circuit around the Midwest for around 10 years and has played numerous times at the festivals Shangri-La, Bella, Project Earth, and others. He has also released two full-length CDs as El Dub, and is working on a third.

His booking agent is his wife and fellow musician Angie Walsh, whom he met while playing together as part of Lunar Funk Theory. They have a 5-year-old daughter, who they bring along on tour.

Balancing a family and constant touring is tough, but Walsh has found ways to make it work.

“We tour in a big, 25-foot RV, and we pull a car behind us as well, so what I’ve done is that when I book shows, I book them in one city and the surrounding cities,” she said. “So what we do is hold the RV in a campground for that entire week and drive out to the shows. That way, it’s a little more stable environment for our 5-year-old.”

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