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Sarah Blackwood, Dubstar vocalist
|Associated acts||Technique, Client|
Dubstar are an English band, performing dream pop and alternative dance, as well as occasional pop ballads and, on later releases, guitar-laden rock with industrial twists. The group was formed in 1992 by Steve Hillier and Chris Wilkie in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Sarah Blackwood joined in 1993, replacing Hillier on vocals.
"Stars", the best-selling single by Dubstar, received a great deal of play time in clubs. Many remixes were also created of this song and it was covered by metal band Lacuna Coil on their 2000 EP Halflife. "Stars" allowed Dubstar to achieve American recognition.
Formerly known as The Joans, Dubstar were initially a two-piece band, with Chris Wilkie playing guitar and Steve Hillier singing and playing keyboards. Gavin Lee joined The Joans in the autumn of 1992 and played drums and, later, bass guitar before leaving to pursue a career at British Airways the following year. Performance artist and musician Mark Greenwood also played bass in The Joans for a number gigs in the summer of 1992. Sarah Blackwood was invited to join the band in August 1993 after her boyfriend accidentally left a cassette tape of her singing in Steve Hillier's flat in Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Blackwood replaced Hillier on vocals in early 1994, though he remained a key member of the group.
Dubstar appointed Darlington based record producer and talent manager Graeme Robinson as their manager after Robinson had seen them play in a sparsely attended Newcastle club in March 1994. Robinson renamed the band and provided studio time and produced independent demos of seventeen songs which he brought to the attention of former Sounds journalist, Andy Ross, who promptly signed the band to his Camden-based label, Food Records. Ross engaged the services of Pet Shop Boys and New Order producer Stephen Hague to co-produce a number of tracks with Robinson for their critically acclaimed debut album Disgraceful (1995), and commissioned an advertising campaign featuring Robert Steel's controversial "pencil case vulva" artwork.
The album charted well on release in July 1995, and by January 1996 Dubstar had arrived in the Top 20 of the UK Singles Chart with "Not So Manic Now";(originally written and recorded by Brick Supply) followed by a re-released "Stars" which marked Dubstar's UK chart zenith. A US album release (also called Goodbye) on Polydor Records, combining tracks from both the first and second albums, also emerged in 1998. The third original Dubstar album, Make It Better, was released in 2000, with EMI releasing a 'Best of' compilation in 2004.
Blackwood joined the band Technique to replace Xan Tyler as singer for a European tour with Depeche Mode in 2002. Shortly afterwards, Kate Holmes, the other member of the band, and Blackwood decided to write together and formed the new group Client.
Posts in 2008 on their official Myspace page stated that the recording of their fourth album was underway. However, in November 2008 they made a post to their Facebook group stating that Blackwood would not participate, and the future of the album was up in the air. Blackwood and Wilkie have worked together in the interim, as Blackwood's first solo album, 2008's Acoustic at the Club Bar & Dining, features Wilkie on guitar; the seven-track live recording was released exclusively online, and consists of acoustic versions of Dubstar and Client songs, plus covers of tracks by The Smiths and New Order.
On 12 April 2010, the band released a cover version of "I'm in Love with a German Film Star" for an Amnesty International project. Interviewed by Andrew Collins on BBC 6 Music that afternoon, Blackwood confirmed that the band were back together and would be going into studio to record tracks for a new Dubstar album, although she would continue to also record with Client. However, in December 2010, it was announced that Blackwood had left Client and a new member was being recruited to front the band.
Additional live band members
- Dean Crawley, lead melodica player (March 1998)
- Jon Kirby, keyboardist, songwriter, session musician (1994–95)
- Graeme Robinson, drums, songwriter, record producer, sound engineer, band manager (1993–96)
- Stephen Hague, record producer (1995–97)
Note: Stevo Pearce managed the band after Graeme Robinson, during 1997 and 1998.
The discography of Dubstar consists of three studio albums, a compilation album, an extended play, nine singles and six songs exclusive to compilation and soundtrack albums. All of the group's work was released by Food Records with the exception of their compilation album which was released by EMI alone, due to the closure of Food Records in 2001.
- Disgraceful (9 October 1995, Food Records)
- Goodbye (22 September 1997, Food Records)
- Make it Better (28 August 2000, Food Records)
The following singles were released in the UK by Dubstar, via Food Records:
|"Not So Manic Now" (Originally by Yorkshire band Brick Supply)||19||2|
|1997||"No More Talk"||20||15||Goodbye||18|
|1998||"I Will Be Your Girlfriend"||28|
|2000||"I (Friday Night)"||37||Make It Better|
- Stars (1995)
- Anywhere (1995)
- Not So Manic Now (1995)
- Stars (new version (vacuum cleaner in the sky)) (1996)
- Stars (USA version) (1996)
- Elevator Song (1996)
- No More Talk (1997)
- Cathedral Park (1997)
- I Will Be Your Girlfriend (1998)
- I (Friday Night) (2000)
- The Self Same Thing (2000, Food/EMI) (chart-ineligible EP)
- "Not So Fast" – Volume Sixteen (1996)
- "Everyday I Die" – Random, Volume 1: A Gary Numan Tribute (1997)
- "In Charge" – Shooting Fish Soundtrack (1997)
- "Jealousy" – Come Again (EMI, UK, 1997) / Essential: Interpretations (Capitol, 1998)
- "Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son" featuring Sacha Distel – Song for Eurotrash (1998)
- "I'm in Love with a German Film Star" from Peace, a compilation for Amnesty International (2010)
- "Circle Turns" – Record Store Day single (2012)
- Note: An American indie hip hop artist has released some tracks and video via the Internet under the name "Dubstar", but is not connected to the band in any way.
- Mark Greenwood Official site
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 172. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "dubstar.com". Dubstar. Retrieved 2009-08-13.
- Dubstar's Notes Facebook "Sarah has now decided (at the 11th hour) to not do anything with Dubstar and to concentrate on Client. [..] Chris and Steve [..] are currently figuring out how to move forward through all of this".
- "The Official Charts Company - Dubstar". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2015-07-07.