TapeOp.com Jamaican electronics whiz kid Hopeton Overton Brown got his moniker “Scientist” from none other than one of dub music production’s founding fathers, King Tubby (Osbourne Ruddock). As a teenager he began engineering and mixing out of Tubby’s, later moving to Channel One and Tuff Gong studios. He is one of the genre’s most prolific and creative forces, while also remaining a sought-after mix engineer and producer. In addition to his own impressive, if not stunning body of solo work, he has worked with Jamaican legends Bob Marley, Roots Radics, Prince/King Jammy, Peter Tosh, and Horace Andy, to name just a few. Meanwhile, current artists such as Hempress Sativa, Ted Sirota, and Khruangbin have all benefitted from his otherworldly presentations of their music. To watch him mix is like watching man and machine become one. His mixes are dance-like performances on the console, and the sound pictures he paints are mystical and dreamlike. I tracked Scientist down and had the pleasure of digging deeper with one of music’s unique geniuses.
Prominent figure in the English Dub music scene for over forty years and founder of label and studio Ariwa in 1979, Neil Fraser, aka Mad Professor, is one of the most notorious and prolific second generation dub music producers. Following the lead of dub pioneers and masters, the likes of King Tubby or Lee “Scratch” Perry, Mad Professor experiments with machines in his own transgressive way. His album “Dub Me Crazy”, produced at the Ariwa studio in the ‘80s, has contributed a great deal to reggae’s transition into the electronic era. Fraser has worked on tracks for numerous artists and bands such as Depeche Mode, Jamiroquai, the Beastie Boys, Massive Attack, Rancid, The Orb, not to mention reggae musicians including Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, Sly & Robbie, Buju Banton or U-Roy. All have, at least once, entrusted their compositions to the wild electronic wizard, whose career will undoubtedly be remembered as a cornerstone in the history of Britain’s thriving Bass music.
Musical history is littered with examples of innovators using technology in creative ways that have wide reaching and lasting affects. In part one of this article we examine the techniques and equipment used in the creation of dub music, a genre that would grow to birth and influence not only reggae but pop and all types of electronic dance music, including quite notably dubstep, jungle and drum’n’bass, as well as having a major hand in the invention of the remix and hip-hop.
We’re trying to capture what living in London sounds like. Let’s hear from Cedar Lewisohn, our new curator of dub reggae, and how he’s trying to capture a sound, a culture, and an experience.
Cedar Lewisohn: “I’m an artist, writer and curator. My work is part of Curating London, a new collecting project. Over four years, the Museum of London is heading out into the city, trying to capture what it means to live in London. We’re recording everyday life, from clothes and chat to music and food. My project covers the whole of London, researching the past and present of dub reggae music.”
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The outsider quality of Glen Brown’s music may account for his relative obscurity.
Like the creations of his erstwhile peer, Yabby You, Brown’s distinctly leftfield productions were rooted in the Rastafari creed, but had a good deal more humour about them, and since he always had more ideas than ready finance, much of his output was issued in limited pressings of very small number, making most of his work very hard to find at its initial time of issue. Brown maintained a close working relationship with both King Tubby and Tommy McCook, which resulted in superb examples of instrumental roots reggae releases and sublime dub B-sides, and he had an innate feel for deejay music as well, nurturing some of the form’s best-known exponents. The most distinctive quality that defines his output is partly down to Brown’s deep appreciation for jazz music, and his actual involvement in the Jamaican jazz scene, which allowed a jazz sensibility to permeate almost all of his work, much of which made good use of expressive horn sections.
A little book by Ben Bengler that looks at the use of the mixing desk as a performance instrument from the beginnings of audio mixing in the 1930s to present day, which of course also features Tubby. If interested you can find a .pdf version here:
Thomas Vendryes Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan (France)
Abstract Dub emerged in Jamaica in the early 1970s, and, for a decade, it became a prolific and intensely innovative dimension of Jamaican popular music. Yet, during the mid1980s, while dub flourished at the international level, influencing popular music in general, the genre of dub declined in popularity in Jamaica. How could this musical innovation, so evidently associated with Jamaica, expand and develop internationally while at the same time decline in Jamaica itself? In this paper, I explore the modalities and evolution of Jamaican music production and consumption. Through a description of the Jamaican music industry context, with reference to individual artists’ paths and a summary of Jamaican dub production, I show that even as the Jamaican music milieu was highly favorable to the emergence of dub, dub proliferated as a genre only by developing ties to a diaspora of international audiences and practitioners. Keywords: production studies, Jamaican popular music, history of dub, audio-engineer, riddim, performance mixing