Bunny Lee & The Aggrovators - Super Dub Disco Style

Money In My Pocket Dub
Super Rockers Dub
Shalin Temple Dub
Portobello Special Dub
The Dub Specialist
The Aggrovators Special Dub
The Revolutionaries Heavyweight Dub
The Bomb Dub
The Killer Dub
The Scientist Dub
Dubbers Delight
Man Never Imitate Always Originate
Dub Vendors Choice

'Super Dub Disco Style' features the dub mixing skills of two of the most multi-talented engineers to come out of Jamaica. Pat Kelly is mainly known for for the haunting singing voice that powered dozens of hit songs, and nearly had him signed to The Beatles' Apple label. And Stanley 'Barnabas' Bryan is also a deejay, percussionist and drummer, who played on big tunes for Sugar Minott, Junior Reid and Tenor Saw. Both fell under the spell of King Tubby's seismic experiments with dub music in the early 1970s, Pat Kelly as an engineer at Tubby's own studio in Waterhouse, and Barnabas at the larger Channel One Studio, run by Jo Jo and Ernest Hoo Kim.

Pat Kelly: "I remember there was like a three year lapse when I forget about myself and my singing, and I was just into the studios. I worked at Randy's before Tubby's, and I was the only engineer there then, so I did dubs and everything, and then I start working at King Tubby's. I think I did a lot of things that nobody explored at Tubby's before. I get better quality recording, separation of sound that you could call stereo, but it's a mock stereo it's not a genuine stereo. But nobody did all of that before. I was more the vocal man who mix vocal - not that I didn't like dub, but I gave vocals my special attention. I liked the blend of instruments. If you listen to my mix it's a blend, nothing really sticking out sometime. A lot of other dubs, something sticks out, or becomes contrary or overloaded. I didn't mix like that. I liked it to be musical. It wasn't very hard, because most of them were very good songs, they were unique songs, so you couldn't generally go wrong. And really you could do anything with a dub and get away with it."

Bunny Lee: "Pat Kelly was not really a dub specialist, but him mix a whole dub LP for Yabby You using my riddims and him have a good feel for the dub. He was really a vocal specialist, but he was versatile and very good at all record and mixing."

Meanwhile, Barnabas had been part of the extended family at Channel One Studio since he was a young boy.

Barnabas: "From an early age I always love the music, and I guess it was just born in my bones, heh heh! The first time I went in the studio was in the early '70s and I went in to enquire about some services for a lady's jukebox. That was the first time I set foot in Channel One and they were recording that song 'Every Nigger Is A Star' by Boris Gardiner. That was my first visit, when I was about 13 years old, and I sit down and watch how they record and roll the tape, and it really interest me, you know. Then I end up living just across the street from Channel One, so I naturally get involved in the whole organisation. I used to deejay on the mic on Channel One sound system from about '74 when I was only 14, and I started to learn engineering from Ernest (Hoo Kim), he was really my teacher. I used to watch him from a young age, and of course Jo Jo (Hoo Kim) was a very big encourager. So I started mixing about '76, but before that I started to play percussion in the studio alongside Sly Dunbar on drums, on songs like 'Queen Majesty' by the Jays and 'War' by the Wailing Souls, those were some of my first recordings."

Bunny Lee: "Barnabas was one of the main man at Channel One. And him have him own group named Gifted Roots. Him was a good little drummer, like the best replacement for Sly Dunbar. He used to sit and watch Sly and when the syndrum come in he would write down Sly's settings. He played drum for me on all those tunes like 'Educate The Children' and 'Investigator' by Cornell Campbell. He learned to play just like Sly."

Barnabas: "Some of my first drum recordings were for Bunny Lee. I play the drums on tune like 'Investigator' and also 'Simmer Down' by Johnny Clarke - those were some of my real early recordings as a drummer, you know. Bunny Lee was always one of the good encouragers. So after a while I became the leading mixer at Channel One - most people wanted me to mix their songs. I think the difference is that I'm a musician, compared to the other engineers who never really play music - thay was great also, but not actually musicians. And that helped a lot within the mixing ability of me, as a musician, cos I know the music that kind of way. And most times, I was there when it was recorded, like Ernest would be the recording engineer but I would be there as well, really feeling it from scratch. I'd be at the studio every day, whether I'm working or not, so the music was always interesting in the brain, so it keeps me there."

Bunny Lee: "Barnabas was a really good engineer - most of my tunes at Channel One it was Ernest or Barnabas who do them. He was really imaginative with him mix, him definitely have him own style. I did carry him to Tubby's ca I did get a job for him there, but Jo Jo looked after him at Channel One so him stay there, cos Jo Jo lived good, you know."

Barnabas: "It's true, Bunny Lee wanted to take me to engineer at King Tubby's, but at that time I didn't think it was a good move to leave Channel One, which had 16 tracks, to go to Tubby's, which only had 4 tracks. And Channel One was in my area where I grew up as a boy, so I was feeling more comfortable there than going to Tubby's in Waterhouse. So I never actually engineer at Tubby's. I just went there one time to visit."

Whereas most Channel ne dub mixes sound very different from those mixed at King Tubby's, it is much harder to distinguish some dubs mixed by Barnabas, as he also introduced a filtering effect in imitation of the famous hi-pass filter, or 'squawky' at King Tubby's. It seems likely that 'Money In My Pocket Dub', 'Super Rockers Dub', 'Portobello Special Dub' and 'The Aggrovators Special Dub' were all mixed by Barnabas at Channel One, applying an EQ sweep across the echo return.

Barnabas: "Tubby's really was the King! I was listening to a lot of his dubs back in the day when I deejayed on the sound, and I used to deejay on most of those dubs he mixed. I really was loving his work over the years, so I kind of patterned after him. So I try and follow that filter sound. you do it with the equaliser on the individual channel on the board and you get that sound. Sometimes you do it with the hi-hats and sometimes you do it with the horns, you just fool around with the equaliser, it just all depend on how you feel."

The remaining tracks were mixed by Pat Kelly, and are mostly versions from the Ken Boothe album 'I'm Just A Man' which had been voiced in one night at King Tubby's. Pat Kelly remembers the original filter at King Tubby's as being like a secret weapon, which no one else could understand.
Pat Kelly: "We had this one hi-pass filter, which you could patch into whatever track you want. It affected like if you use an EQ, like a graphic, but it was this knob that you could rotate, so you get a different effect than if you was to push them up individually. When you rotate it, it's all simultaneously, and you get a different effect, ca you're skipping from one frequency within a few seconds. You generally use it on the track with the rhythm, the guitar, the piano, etcetera, because it's more effective at that frequency. Also often on the drum track to pick out the hi-hat - it's extra effective on those frequencies.

"I think what was most effective those days, everybody have a different sound, and it was emphasised that we should be different. I know Tubby's have an ear for the songs, and know which have a good feel to it, and those were the songs he would demonstrate his dubbing skill at. But with that sort of talent, it's like most people who's gifted, they don't know it themselves. People make a big fuss, but it's nothing to you, you wonder what the big fuss is about. Tubby's have his people who work for him, like myself, because the hype was still strong. So this producer may want Tubby's to mix, and he might leave his tapes. And when he come back, he thinks it was Tubby's, but maybe it was really someone else like myself! I mix a whole lot of things for many people, but often the producer don't credit the engineer properly, they just put King Tubby's Studio."

Interestingly the track 'The Revolutionaries Heavy Weight Dub' bears the fingerprints of another great engineer. The phasing sound on the hi-hat track was actually printed to tape by Errol Thompson at Joe Gibbs' Studio whilst he recorded the backing track. Hence you can also hear the effect clearly on the matching vocal cut, 'Ain't That Loving You' by Ken Boothe. Bunny Lee was a constant visitor to all the major Kingston studios in the late '70s, and always had a keen ear for a new style or sound effect to catch the public's attention.

Barnabas: "Bunny Lee was one of my favourite producers - a very interesting producer who always just know how to get you in the vibe. Bunny Lee was really a vibe producer. He just know what to say to the musicians and the engineers, he just know what to say and do. His sessions always fun, a lot of humour, heh heh!"

Pat Kelly: "I probably mix about thirty LPs for Bunny Lee in my time. And in those times half the music you hear by other producers, it was really Bunny Lee give them the riddim track, and they just say they was the producer. And Bunny Lee never said anything - he never used to sell the track, just give it, and he's still doing that to this day. Everybody's trying to be like Bunny, but there's only one Bunny Lee!"


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