Dub In The Roots Tradition - Scientist

King Tubby's Answer
Dub Bible
Dub 16
Pick Up The Dub
Don't Rush The Dub
No Dub Island
Love You Dub
When I Love Dub
See A Dub Face
One Man Dub
Sunshine Version
Dub Livity
Babylon Fight Dub
African Daughter Dub
Home Version
Reggae music is continually developing and mutating, even when it appears relatively static; take, for example, the late seventies, a time when international attention increasingly focussed on the great Bob Marley, and the successful hitmaking studios like Channel One and Joe Gibbs. However, that was by no means the whole story; independent producers like Lincoln 'Sugar' Minott, Leon Synmoie, Linvall Thompson, Jah Thomas, Percy 'Jah Life' Chin, Henry 'Junjo' Lawes, Ossie Thomas and others were laying the foundations of what would soon become known as 'dancehall' music.

During the same period another producer had started in the business. Errol 'Don' Mais, born in Kingston 9th February 1950 and a resident of Greenwich Town, had started recording in 1976. His first production was Earl Zero's 'Home Sweet Home'. By 1980 he had hits with singers like Philip Frazer, Sammy Dread, Michael Prophet and Little John. Don sang himself, using the name Jah Bible. He also had success with deejays like the duo Peter Ranking and General Lucky, and Toyan. Like fellow producer and Greenwich Town resident Bertram Brown, he used the fine Soul Syndicate band for his sessions. latterly he had begun to use a group who were to change the direction of the music when they became known as Roots Radics. But perhaps most importantly, Don had been the first to utilise the talents of a 16 year-old mixing engineer based at King Tubby's in Waterhouse, Hopeton 'Overton' Brown, better known as 'Scientist':

How I came to recognise Scientist, right, one day I went to the studio. There were some guys workin' - I really don't know their names, but I see them workin' - an' I hear a lot of sounds that the guy find on the board. So I say this guy sounds good, but I never really use 'im that said day. I went to the studio the followin' week - Jammy's was the one who was workin' an' (when it was) our time fe work, he say he's tired. I didn't say anything, more than: Tubbs, send Scientist round, yunno. So Scientist came around - a lot a people was critcisin', say Scientist don't know anything about the board. But I wasn't watchin' that, 'cause I hear the sound that the kid find weh I really love. 'Ca I love unusual sounds - I don't love the sound weh everybody 'ave, yunno. An' it jus' work - he's a great kid, yunno. When you find a kid with an unusual sound, you got to really work with 'im. We use to carry 'im home in the mornin', like 3.00, 3.30. Sammy dread use to 'ave this lickle red Rover. He jus' use to like to work with us, yunno.

Scientist had been born in Kingston on the 18th April 1960. As a teenager living in the harbour View district of Kingston, he gained skills in basic electronics from his father who was a tv and radio repairman. These skills were soon in demand from the local sound men in his area. A friend recommended that he visit King Tubby:

How I got introduced to Tubby is by a nex' friend that was doing a welding job; (he) was telling me that I should try and meet Tubby's, because he build amplifiers and he knew that Tubby's could wind some of the transformers that I needed to build my amplifiers. So he had a welding job to do that grille that is around Tubby's property there, and I went there with him and he introduced me to Tubby's. I told Tubby's that I like the mixes that he were doin', and that the mix that he were doin' was a good way to analyse how the amplifiers were performing.

Well after goin' to tubby's, buyin' parts from him like transformers and different components to build amplifiers, I used to tell 'im: hey tubby's, I can do that work, and he joke it off and say: you're a little kid - you know a lot of big men come here and they take years and they still can't do it. So he had some extra work that he needed done in the shop, y'know, windin' transformers, repairin' televisions, he would ask me to come and check him occasionally to help with some of this work. Then we develop a friendship and he made me a bet one day, when Jammy's was in Canada - (he said) 'I bet if I send you in that studio there you don't know the first thing to do'. So I said: OK, I'll go in there! (laughing). He gave me the first opportunity - I don't remember exactly which record was the first record I get to actually mix, but from that time I didn't really pay attention to repairin' televisions - I found recordin' a little less borin'! (laughs).

This is an understatement; at Tubby's, Scientist found the room to experiment.:

Before gettin' the full opportunity to go in the studio to mix, I was tellin' Tubby's about (how) I was tryin' to build a console. At the time it was a bit crazy, it's not like in today's technology where you could use software and design everything on the computer. I was even talkin' to him askin': 'Tubby's, what about if we could get those faders to move by themselves?' Surprisingly, twenty-something years  after, Neve came out with these flyin' faders... we had to use the tools that we had, (and) try an' mek the best of it... At that time I was so anxious to get behind the controls, if somebody want me to go to studio six o'clock in the morning, I would make it there. I had to make use of the opportunity that I was given.

A lot of stuff, like for example, echo, that was discovered by mistake - and a lot of interestin' sound effects was discovered by mistake, yunno, accidents! (laughs). That 'bong' sound, how that came about is like a feedback, and the way it work, you 'ave to get the feedback right before it reach the level of feedback (laughs). That was discovered by leavin' the tape machine on input, and it created a feedback, so we quickly say: what happen if we shorten the feedback a little bit (laughs).

After Dynamic had the (4 track) board for years, couldn't do anything with it, Tubby's got it and Dynamics sorry the day they sold it to him (laughs). That board - and I've worked on many boards - is the only board that I've worked on so far that has that type of high pass filter - yunno, sometimes you can hear like the frequency changin'? You 'ave other boards that 'ave high pass filters, but nothing (else) have that sort, and the way how he combined it to work, MCI - the people who made it - wasn't plannin' to ever use it that way. In today's recording technology, the console itself is (would be) primitive now, because we didn't really have all the sophisticated equalisation that we needed, that we have in today's technology, or the mutes. But what did give it the edge is because when you (are) mixin' dub, it's much more flexible mixin' it on 4-track than you can on 16-track. it's hard to manoeuvre all those instruments. On Friday evenings a lot of people who had sound systems would come and they would need dubs, Tubby's was the only place in Jamaica where if you fifty different sound men, they would get fifty different mix, they didn't get the same mix each time, because I was mixin' live. It's the only place in the world where somebody is actually cutting acetate, like a stamper, live. No where else in the world did that, no copy tapes. So you find that a lot of people who had sound system like to come to Tubby's, because each time they would know that they would get a different mix. When you're mixin' like a dub, there is no way you would be able to exac'ly duplicate every sound effect...

Each day workin' there was completely different man (laughs), each day there is no comparison. Man, a lotta great things happen there. At first, when you doin' it, it wasn't so much a big deal, but when you 'ave the opportunity to sit back years later and actually remember some of the stuff there, so much great things happen there. At the time we all was takin' all those things for granted. We didn't mean that it was great works. One thing I learned from Tubby's though, like when I would mix a record. I would tek it ti 'im and say, Tubby's, how this sound? He used to say it don't really sound too good, but his reason for doin' that is to let you always keep tryin' harder. Years after, he confess; he said a lot of that stuff you were doin', it was good, but I was scared at the time that if I let you know how good you doin', you probably would have gotten swell-headed and stop tryin'. He was truly a genius.

He's a very innovative person, a well disciplined person. I learnt a lot from him in the electronics - recording engineering is what I learnt on my own, but as far as electronics, I learned a lot from Tubby's. He's a man who really minds his own business, one of those guys that it's really hard to catch him in a hearsay conversation. he's just stric'ly come to the studio, do things that is studio or electronics-oriented, not a guy that would be in anybody business, a really private person in other words. He was a great fan of Jazz, yunno, like Charlie parker and those guys.

Given what he had to work with, he was way ahead of people who had more money than him at the time. If he had the same money strength like Dynamics and those other studio(s), the whole recording industry and music scene - if he had lived to work in his studio - it would be much, much differentr, we would be gettin' much better quality.

Following his stint at Tubby's, Scientist went to work at Channel One from late 1979, where he became resident engineer. He forged a commercially successful partnership with Henry 'Junjo' Lawes (and Linval Thompson) that brought him to an even wider audience in the early 1980s, via a series of dub albums like 'Scientist Versus Prince Jammy', 'Scientist Meets The Space Invaders' and 'Scientist Wins The World Cup'. From 1982 he was second engineer to Errol Brown at Tuff Gong. By 1985 he had moved to the USA, currently residing in Silver Spring, Maryland, and still actively pursuing his career as engineer. Asked to define dub, he had this to say:

Well, dub is really what you could say a masterpiece of the engineering - engineers using the recording equipment to bring about musical changes, a musical environment where Reggae music is the music what brought forward the remix, or most of what we hearin' in hip-hop. Actually, Reggae is really the mother of a lotta music. There is no other music in the world that has the kinda versatility that you could make dub. Hip-hop is slightly there, but not like Reggae. With Reggae, when you make a mistake, it finds a place and fits in.

This compilation, the first ever dub album from the Roots Tradition label, has had to wait nearly twenty years to be reissued. It comes from early in the career of Scientist - he was only seventeen or eighteen when he mixed most of these tracks - and producer Don Mais himself was only ten years older. Don spent some time in New York during the early eighties, where he was a popular performer on the New York dancehall scene, before returning to Jamaica. he currently resides in Linstead, from where he reissues his catalogue of hits on 45rpm. the rhythms herein have long been classics; Don Mais was one of the first producers to recut them in the new style. Blood & Fire are proud to present them as the true foundation of dancehall.
Steve Barrow - April 1996
© Blood & Fire