40 years of Dub
Photography by: Richard Aldred
By Nicholas Da Silva aka ZOOLOOK
So, just how sane is the Mad Professor? On the content of his character and the results of his recordings, he is one of the sanest record producers. To understand the sanity of Mad Professor, we have to go back to his early childhood.
Neil Joseph Stephen Fraser (1955) was born in Guyana, a small country in the northern part of South America. As a child, there wasn’t’ much technology around. The only thing in his house with technology was a light bulb and a radio.
One day Neil asked his mother, “how does the light bulb work?” She said she didn’t know and that he should go to the library and get a book, which he did. Neil went to the library and got a book. He then asked her what is the man doing inside the radio? She said there’s no man inside the radio. Neil replied, yes, there is. Sometimes he talks, and sometimes he sings. She said, “Look, there’s no man in the radio.”
So one day, when she went to work, Neil took a screwdriver and went to the back of the radio and opened it up and said, “Oh, she was right. There’s no man in the radio.” Instead, there were resistors, capacitors and dials, and all sorts of things. When she returned home, the back was still off the radio, so she told him to go to the library and learn about the radio. So Neil went to the library and got a book, and he taught himself electronics and built a radio before the age of 11.
Neil would earn his nickname, Mad Professor, from his friends at school, amazed by the experiments he carried out as a youth. You could say that his curiosity as a child set him on a path to Dub Madness!
Mad Professor – 40 years of Dub
Release Date: October 15, 2020
Copyright: 2020 Ariwa Sounds Ltd
Total Length: 58:59
Total Tracks: 15
Genre: Dub Reggae
Having built a radio and telephone system at the age of 10 years, it was no surprise that his interest and subsequent career in electronics, along with a love of Motown, Philadelphia International, Treasure Isle, and music of all types, propelled him onward.
At the age of thirteen, Mad Professor moved to England to live with his father. He discovered that his father had a fancy for electronics that he didn’t know when he was in Guyana.
His father had various books on electronics. Mad Professor was able to build more complicated things and approach electronics more professionally.
In the early Eighties, Mad Professor built his own mixing desk and launched Mad Professor along with the Ariwa Studio/ label from his front room in Thornton Heath.
Mad Professor had no idea he was going to become anything in Dub. He was interested in music and interested in recording. Dub, he thought, was the future. He thought it was futuristic. There was nothing like Dub. In his words:
“If you go back to 1970, there was basically a handful of musical genres. Literally a handful. On one side, you had soul music, which would have encompass Motown, your James Brown kind of thing. You had the word funk just coming in, which was like a more kind of dancing version of soul, you know. On the reggae side you just had reggae, which evolved basically from ska, then it became rock steady in the late 60’s. Then it became reggae by 1969.
So basically, reggae was the cover name that most of us as Caribbean kids in England were into. Reggae in those days, the popular artists were Maytals, the Melodians, and John Holt. Just about that time, the talkers came about… people like U-Roy. U Roy ended up with like three hit songs in Jamaica. And in those days, whatever hit in Jamaica would naturally reflect and become popular in England. By the end of the 1970s, you had U-Roy with hits like ‘Version Galore,’ Wear you to the Ball,’ and “We can never get away.’
“These were the first records where the artists were actually talking. Like U-Roy would be saying, ‘Version Galore’. And he would be chatting as opposed to singing. The guys in the background like John Holt and the Paragons or the Melodians would be singing like, “You will never getaway. You will never getaway, I hear them say you don’t love, you don’t care for me, not anymore. And then U-Roy would come in saying, “Well right on!, huh!” This was the new exciting thing for us kids at this time. This was all we wanted to here. That was the genre.”
“So what happen next was the people who made the records, the producer, would have the song on the A-side and then on the B side, there would be a version with just instruments; the A-side without vocals. What happen after that, they took it one step further. Instead of just having an instrument version, the started to drop out part of the version. And this is the beginning of Dub. Where they had the drum and bass going. What we use to call bass and drums.”
“And it’s just literally bass and drum. That’s what it was. No rhythm guitar. No horns, nothing. And then, obviously when Tubby started to play, he started to put some echo in. And this is how dub began. By 1971, this was the new exciting format. You never heard anything like that before. And in a dance, it would give you a lot of excitement and I was drawn to that.”
Mad Professor’s early works included sessions with Ruts DC, Reggae Regulars, Merger, Jimmy Lindsay, Mikey Dread, Johnny Clarke, and many more international artists.
DUB ME CRAZY, the first in a 12 part series of albums, became his beacon for the label. With an episode releasing every year, the titles all told a different story.
Beyond the Realms of dub – Dub me crazy Pt2, The African Connection – Dub me crazy Pt3, and Dub me crazy Pt 7 – Adventures of a dub sampler.
Mad Professor’s use of distinct variation and surprising sound effects were unique for this time. His Dub creations, and the cool sound and clarity of his mixing, encouraged many artists to the growing label.
By the mid – Eighties, the studio/label moved from Peckham’s launch base to Whitehorse Lane, South Norwood, where it is still located. There, he incorporated remix projects for the Orb, 400 Blows, Beats International (Lindy Layton), Sade, and Brilliant.
A heavy schedule of touring Germany, Holland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Austria, Italy, Yugoslavia, USA, Canada, and Japan, while still managing to produce the various artists’ projects, was an enormous workload. The label by then had a healthy 104 albums with more in the infancy stage of planning.
By the mid-Nineties, Mad Professor’s profile increased to legendary status, after remixing Massive Attack’s second album, ‘Protection’.
‘No Protection’ was instantly received by all corners of the globe, benefiting from Virgin / EMI international launch pad.
Professor’s Dub tours increased to be a significant part of his schedule, along with further remixes which include: Clementine, Tracy Spencer, The Boom, Danny Red, Depeche Mode, Jamiroquai, Rancid, KLF, Beastie Boys, Cidade Negra, Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction) along with the Massive Attack dub extravaganza all benefiting from the Mad Professor touch.
Production work for various major labels included: Sony Music, EMI, Arista, Warner Brothers, Capitol Record, and Virgin Records.
In 1998 the Ariwa record catalog contained over 155 titles, including over 30 dub albums from Mad Professor, three albums from U-Roy including the classic True Born African, seven albums from the Upsetter, Lee Scratch Perry, and many classic Lovers Rock albums, including Country Life – Sandra Cross, If I gave my heart – John Mclean, Black with Sugar – Kofi.
By the end of the Nineties, Mad Professor’s Ariwa label gained international notoriety in many territories throughout the world. Mainly known for its Dub, roots, and Techno/drum and bass catalog.
The turn of the century saw new releases from Lee Scratch Perry – Techno Party, Macka B – Global Messenger, Mad Professor – Trix in the mix.
In 2004 Mad Professor worked with Sly & Robbie at Ariwa, where the Taxi gang laid down their versions of Ariwa rhythms; over 100 rhythms were recorded. An album titled ‘The Dub Revolutionary’, was released by Sanctuary Records owned Trojan Label.
Some of those rhythms also formed the backbone for the next album from Horace Andy From the Roots. Also released by Trojan, this is Horace’s third album for Ariwa Sounds.
Around this time, Mad Prof collaborated with Mafia & Fluxy to produce Dancehall Dub and 2 Sci-Fi Dub albums. From Mars with Dub followed by A new galaxy of Dub.
By 2005 the Ariwa catalog passed the 200 figure, bumped up by new albums from Max Romeo, U-Roy, and young protégée Joe Ariwa.
Fresh demand for the dub show has taken the Ariwa Sound to many far-flung places. In 2003 Mad Professor was invited to play at the Greenpeace festival in Manáus, Brazil.
Since then, Mad Professor has become an annual visitor to South America, playing Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela. He’s also performed in Australia, New Zealand, Estonia, and Portugal.
In 2005 the dub show played Seoul in Korea, driving several hundreds of fans crazy to the warbler sounds. Bangkok in Thailand in 2006 and Goa in India in 2007, courtesy of the Big Chill. The Mad Traveler also played Dakar, courtesy of the Senegalese govt. Mad Professor is also involved in the Back to Africa Festival, an annual celebration in the Gambia, committed to the positive movement of descendants of Africans back to Africa.
40 years later and Mad Professor is still one of the leading figures in Dub. A true pioneer and technician in the art of Dub, his contribution has inspired the development of Dub for the next generation.
When asked about Analog Dub versus Digital Dub, Mad Professor had this to say:
“I’m a person of the old school. My studio is pretty much an Analog studio, but we do have a digital room to record digitally. I’m from the old analog school. I still have tape machines. I’m not that bothered about people who want to use the latest things because it’s not the matter of the latest technology; it’s how creative the thing is used. I think to do Dub, it is in its most creative form when done analogically.”
Maaad Love & Respect!
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