Larger than life and media savvy with a constantly buzzing demeanour that makes for highly engaging company, he was one of the so-called ‘summer of love’ originals in the late 1980s alongside electronic music contemporaries such as Paul Oakenfold and Danny Rampling.
From being a promising schoolboy footballer, Barry went to Ibiza at the same time as the UK dance scene’s ‘founding fathers’ and it changed his life. He started promoting club events, and soon began indie-dance band Déjà Vu who were contemporaries of the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays.
By the mid-90s he was DJing and had started the act that he remains the lynchpin of to this day – the infamous Dub Pistols. The name captures the essence of Barry and the band’s music – punk ethics with a dub mentality – and they initially made waves with their ‘Point Blank’ album in the late 90s big beat scene that spawned Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, and the Chemical Brothers.
Their second album ‘Six Million Ways To Live’, signed to major US label Geffen, had its release postponed because of the numerous prophetic references in it to the events surrounding 9/11. Featuring Terry Hall from The Specials and reggae legend Horace Andy, it led to more high profile remixes (Moby, Limp Bizkit, Ian Brown etc) and film soundtrack work (Blade II, Bad Company etc).
After wriggling out of their major label deal, the Dubs signed to Sunday Best Records, the label run by BBC Radio 1’s Rob Da Bank – of Bestival fame. The ‘Speakers & Tweeters’ album saw them again collaborate with Terry Hall from The Specials on a number of tracks, including a version of seminal Specials song ‘Gangsters’ that they started playing out live. Terry Hall is on record as saying that singing with the Dubs – and realising how much love was out there for his former 2-Tone band – was instrumental in one of the biggest reunions of recent times, The Specials reforming. Indeed, having also played live with the Dub Pistols a few times, guitarist Lynval Golding personally asked the Dub Pistols to support The Specials at some of their first comeback shows. Barry was in ska heaven.
The ‘Speakers & Tweeters’ album also began a long-term association with UK hip-hop stalwart Rodney P, which continues to this day.
Recorded in Barbados, their fourth album ‘Rum & Coke’ was where the wheels fell off the Dub Pistols wagon (temporarily), with carnage of all sorts occurring in true Happy Mondays style, but the band still managed to turn out a body of work hailed by fans and critics alike. As well as the usual regulars, the album also featured Lindy Layton (formerly in Norman Cook’s Beats International project), DJ Justin Robertson (Lionrock/Deadstock 33s) and celebrated trombone player Ashley Slater (also in a band with Norman Cook, whose Ashley-sung ‘Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out’ single topped the charts in the mid-90s).
Every summer the Dubs play two or three festival gigs per weekend, and have played all the major UK ones such as Glastonbury, Bestival, Womad, Secret Garden Party, Big Chill, Glade, Snowbombing, Lounge On The Farm and so on – as well as many internationally. Despite – or maybe because of – some riotous performances, they always seem to be invited back.
In tandem with his music career, Barry hosted the US TV show portraying the Bullrun rally in the mid-noughties, which included an infamous encounter with Paris Hilton. He’s had cameo roles in the films It’s All Gone Pete Tong and SW9, and guested on TV football show Soccer AM as a knowledgeable football pundit (he’s a Liverpool fan, his family hailing from Merseyside originally before moving down south).
In late 2010 Barry was one of the silent musicians – alongside Billy Bragg, Pete Doherty and Orbital and lots more – who made up the Cage Against The Machine recording, releasing a cover version of John Cage’s infamous silent ‘4’33’’’ track in an attempt to scupper Simon Cowell’s annual X factor Christmas No.1 shoe-in (as Rage Against The Machine had done the previous year). The track charted highly, but didn’t quite manage to keep Matt Cardle from the top spot.
As well as being interviewed for numerous TV and radio shows and for hundreds of magazines and websites, Barry has also taken to the mic himself to record filmed interviews with acts like Leftfield, Alabama 3 and Howard Marks.
Somewhat of a non-stop workaholic, the Dub Pistols recorded the title music for the forthcoming Knife Fight movie – the political drama starring Rob Lowe (The West Wing) that’s being released to coincide with the 2012 US Presidential election.
The Dub Pistols won the Best Live Act award at the 2011 DJ Magazine Best of British awards.
After playing a multitude of festivals this summer, including Bestival and Glastonbury, Barry Ashworth and the Dub Pistols are currently on tour this autumn in support of their new album, “Crazy Diamonds”, so watch out! The gun-slinging outlaws are back in town!