Mad Professor with Dubtronics

Monday, July 3; Firehouse

Jun 28, 2000 at 4:00 am
Unless you're a dubhead, chances are you know the Mad Professor as the guy who reconfigured Massive Attack's transcendent record Protection and named it No Protection; if you are a dubhead, you probably know the Mad Professor as pretty much the only non-Jamaican dub producer worth his salt, one whose best work is as inspired and heavenly as dub-canon principals King Tubby, Lee Perry and Augustus Pablo and whose music is equally hellbent on carrying on a tradition laid down by his forefathers and pushing it into the future.

Without dub, there would be no drum & bass, and the art of the remix would have manifested itself in a totally different form. The music also informed early rap music, and, sans its influence, the booming bass you hear cruising through your alleyways would exhibit itself differently. That's a lot of influence for an art created on a tiny Caribbean island, but it's one that permeates present-day music. You can hear its influence in techno and house, too. Dub, for those who have heard the term bandied about but don't know it, is, simply put, a reggae remix, and its early artists, Tubby and Perry, transformed reggae tracks into totally weird, pot-induced bass excursions that rumbled sound systems.

The Mad Professor, who was born Neal Fraser in Guyana but grew up in South London, harnessed the power of the early originators, pushed the bass up even more -- his production studio, Ariwa, contained more fancy gizmos and, because of tech-advances, was more technologically informed than Perry's Black Ark -- and, starting with his first releases in the early '80s, gradually developed a style that coupled echo-laden brass bursts and itsy-bitsy rhythm taps. The result is deep, nearly subharmonic sounds, beautifully textured and thick with character. It's the closest thing to 3-D music there is, and you can almost hear the sound of space when listening to the Professor. Don't listen to us, though -- listen to the testimony of the artists who have asked him to dub-ify their work: the Beastie Boys, the Orb, KLF, Perry Farrell, Jamiroquai and Rancid, among others.

Every proponent of drum & bass, North Side bounce producer, techno freak or hip-hop geek interested in exploring the history of his or her art is advised to check the Professor. It's the first don't-miss show of the summer.