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Studio One Dub (SJRCD 089 - 2004)

Bionic Dub
Take A ride Version
Sky rhythm
Taurus dub 2
Dub Rock
Rastaman Version
Jah Jah Version
Creator Version
Running Dub
Hi Fashion Dub
Pretty Version
Race Track Version
In Cold Blood Version
Chase Them Version
Feel The Dub
Different to all other styles of Reggae, Dub is the language of the studio engineer and the sound-system operator. From as early as the late-1950s, Dub plates (also known as acetates or reference discs or soft wax) were used as a way of making a sound-systems musical choice unique. The direct-to-disc Dub plates did not have the manufacturing cost of a fully processed record and so were a cheap and quick way for a producer of testing the dance crowd's response to a new recording. A track could be recorded in the studio in the day and played at a dance the very same evening. These discs were unique one-off pressings and therefore an original Studio One dub plate is a serious collector's item today.

By the late 1960s, a new definition of Dub was emerging. A Dub plate could now also be an instrumental cut of a certain track still made exclusively for the dancehall and used as a musical bed for the dancehall DJs to rhyme over. Eventually these became available to the general public as the "version" track featured on the B-side of a 45-rpm single. To this day all singles made in Jamaica have the version of a song on the B-side.

The version started off as simply the original song or track with the vocals removed but as time went on engineers and producers began to experiment with dropping in and out different instruments and using echo and reverb to make a version more interesting. All these sonic experiments were done with a mixing desk and tape machines. One of the reasons for this experimenting was that the soundmen who operated the sound-systems and bought the Dubs from the producers were always looking for ways to keep their sounds unique and would therefore ask for an exclusive mix of a track.

It is this relationship between studio engineer. producer and sound-system operator that is directly responsible for the phenomenon of Dub.

Sylvan Morris was the sound engineer at Studio One from the early sixties until the start of the seventies. As well as helping develop the classic Studio One sound in the studio, Morris was also responsible for hundreds of versions that appeared on Studio One singles during this time. In the 1970s Studio One released a series of twelve Dub albums, such as Dub Store special, Zodiac sounds and African Rub A Dub, many of which are collectors' albums today. Mixed by the Dub specialist - a/k/a Coxsone Dodd - they contained Dubs of many classic Studio One tracks. Originally released in startling silk-screen covers and selling at a higher price than normal LPs, these were some of the finest Dub albums to be released in Jamaica.

By the 1970s many budding Dancehall DJs and singers were using these previously exclusive Studio One dub-tracks to rhyme over. This meant that even though Coxsone Dodd had retired from running sound-systems at the end of the 1960s, Studio One still dominated Kingston's dancehalls.

How did you start as an engineer?
I was working by a place named Comtec, a telecommunications place. I went to a technical high school to do electronics, radio and TV. I was quite young at the time, about 16. I was doing my apprenticeship on taxicab radios, police radios, aircraft radios. I was there about a year; they called me the professor. Straight from there I came by Duke Reid and I sojourned there for a short period, about nine months, around 1962. The Jamaican's "Ba Ba Boom time" I remember working on. I won the Jamaican Festival. When I left Duke Reid I came straight to Coxsone. I was here for a period of about eight years during which time we did a lot of good stuff. Because I was sort of happy.

Do you remember the house band around 1965?
Well we used three different bands. One by the name of Sound Dimension. Jackie Mittoo was the main arranger at that time. Leroy Sibbles played bass, Eric Frater guitar, Phil Callender drums. We also had Horsemouth. And Robbie Lyn. He came on roughly after Jackie Mittoo left.

What about when Jackie Mittoo left in 1968?
Well, Leroy Sibbles and myself were the mainstay at that time. He used to call me His operator. when we were recording I didn't sit down much as I was always dancing, so they used to call me the Dancing operator. And if they didn't see me dancing they would stop playing and say, What's wrong, Morris, and I'd say, I don't like the beats. we would come together and try something else until they find the groove and they'd see me dancing. And so that's how we worked for a while.

And these were two track recordings?
We would do the rhythm tracks first and after we'd do the over-dubs, some voices. And depending on the type of tune we'd probably do some horns. We'd actually run it from one tape to another tape, so you'd actually have three sessions of dubbing.

How did you help create the Studio One sound?
Well there were some innovations that I did that I think helped the situation a lot. I created a loop from the Ampex machine, which we used for the voices. We looped back the playback head into the recording so you had this delay. And it was a fixed delay but it sounded so right. And so when you added the voice it sounded fantastic. Also I remember creating a bass box. I noticed the back of the speaker had a heavier sound than the front so I created a bass box where I put an aperture at the back, and put a mic at the back, not the front. there was an electronic voice mic at the time, a ribbon mic, and it was broken and I used some silver tape from one of these tapes that we had and created the ribbon. I think this is one of the things that made the sound the way it was because we used a mic and pick-up and mixed them together.

How many mics were in the studio?
Well, I tell you, on occasions you only had about two mics. Sometimes one! So it had to be strategically placed in such a way to pick up everything.

How many people would be in the studio?
Well, you'd have bass, two guitars, a lead, a drummer, sometimes three horns and percussion.

what's the difference between working for Coxsone and at the start when you worked with Duke Reid?
Well, here I had a lot more control. Because most of the time after Mr Dodd decides what tunes he wants, because he would make auditions, then he would the total control to us, so sometimes he wasn't even there in the studio when it was going on, but afterwards he would listen and channel things. Because he saw me at the time as such a genius so he said, just work with me. So he left me up to it because he knew I had so much good in me.

Would Coxsone do dub-plates to test the sound?
Yes, well what happened we had a dub machine. This is another thing that helped the sound a lot. The soundmen came in and you'd suggest rhythms to them and they'd ask what's good and then they'd promote it. Sometimes they'd actually change the name of the tune, the reason being that if another soundman came and wanted this tune, he wouldn't know which tune because he'd changed the name. A lot of the time they'd try to hide the sounds.

Where did you work after Studio One?
When I left here I went by Harry J. I did a lot of work here with Bob Marley, about three albums. At Harry J's studio, I worked with many producers. GG Ranglin, Joe Gibbs, we did a lot of work with the group Third World.

What do you think of the work of King Tubby?
Me and King tubby we rapped, because we were in the same profession, we weren't rivals, we respect each other. He was an individual like myself and we knew what we were doing so we didn't have to interfere in the next man's area. One of the things I most admired is the reverb, the way he used his echo. And his recordings were technically correct in terms of sound.

which other engineers/producers do you respect?
ET (Errol Thompson), he's with Joe Gibbs. King Jammy was another chap. Carlton Lee; he worked by dynamic for a period. Scientist, he does his stuff. Junjo Lawes was a guy who really stood out. I think because he was a bit innovative in the things he did.

Do you think that engineering is the same today as it was?
No, it's lacking badly. Because of advances in electronics. A lot of this computer stuff, you find the personal sound, the live thing, the feel from things done live, you realise that there's something missing. And the economical situation, you find constraints - when a man does the same rhythm he uses it many times. But in those days every tune was different.

What can you tell us about versions?
Yes, well I would say the soundmen drove us into this area. Because we started to do drum and bass on one track and the rhythm on the other. So, like I say, the soundmen would come, everybody would like to get his tune sounding different. So we had given this to one soundman and another soundman would say, let mine sound a little different. So this is how we came to drop in some of the thing and drop out some of the thing, to give it that version thing.

Would Coxsone encourage that?
Well, let's face it, if your sound men take it and go off then it's a good thing to get into, so that's how he capitalised on the situation. At the start Coxsone wasn't too into the version on a single because he liked to give them a full package, but then after a while it took off so you'd have to give them another version.

Did you enjoy doing versions?
Yeah man, because it meant you had to be skilful, make a sound different. You had to use echo, reverb, equaliser; you had to put them on the drum, all kind of things, so we had to be innovative.

How did dub plates come about?
Dub actually started from what we called a reference disc in the early days. now a dub is actually the musical backing from a recorded vocal track. You'll hear the sound system men refer to Dub Plate. This dub plate would at times be a 10" with 4 different tracks on it.

So this was a way of making backing tracks exclusive for the sound system?
Well, yes, this was it, because even in sound system clashes you playing a regular 45 isn't the thing. It's more the dub plates you can play the more you are rated and you are playing songs your opponent can't play.

And that's the same today?
Yes, the same today.

Where did the idea come from?
We first used the dub plate to toast in the dancehall in the early days, say 1960. Just the rhythm track and Count Machukie would be toasting. Nowadays people make specials. They take the music from a very good record and the DJ says something special about the person who pays him to do the special. But this is all the same dubbing process. Another term is soft wax. In the early days we used it a lot to test a song in the dancehall because it would be too expensive for you to go make a master and stamper and then press two or three records just for this purpose. So this is why in the early days you term it reference disc. you get your song, Bob Marley track or whatever track, and put it onto this dub plate and you play it all over.

Do they dissolve or last forever?
Well, not too much because I still hear guys boasting that they are playing dub from my time and it's a long time since I've been making any dubs.

So how many do you think you've made?
Loads man! Thousands! Thousands! Because that was the thing of the day, that's how we usually made our money, sound system coming in and buying dub plates. That's what happens now with 'specials'.

Who mixed the studio One dub albums?
Well most of the time it was me.

Was it good fun doing them?
Well, yes it was fun because it pays off! It has been a very important part of the business ever since. Because it's additional income, you understand, you have to run with the vocal then you come back, mix and play around with the music and put it out there. that's what the people demanded... You see, you play the original, then you play the version on dub plate and the crowd would go wild!

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