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Interview: Scientist (2012)

Interview: Scientist (2012)

Interview: Scientist (2012)

By on - Photos by Seb Carayol - Comment

"Having my experience, it's like I had a X-Ray vision of the console"

Those who know, know: within the Holy Trinity of Jamaican dub music, the heaviest of all is Scientist, thanks notably to a series of visionary albums he did in the early 80s -when he was supposed to be just an apprentice at King Tubby's, who got murdered in 1989. How did a 16 year-old kid become the most legendary dubmaster of all time? The best way to know was to go ask him in person, in Los Angeles, where he's been residing for years. It's all about electronics, folks.

Scientist

Might sound surprising to people who have been collecting your music on vynil, but you don't really dig that format?

There's a whole bunch of built-in flaws with all vynil and analog systems that they've been able to solve with digital. The moment you hit the tape with an analog system, that's a second generation, allright? Then you have to cut the stamper, that's one more generaiton, then do an acetate, that's the next generation. By the time it comes to vynil, it's like four generation-degraded. With a digital recording, it stays one generation the whole way through. From studio to studio you got the same reproduction.

There's a whole bunch of built-in flaws with all vynil and analog systems that they've been able to solve with digital

So Hopeton, how did you become that teenage prodigy of dub?

It's just from electronics, really. My dad was a TV repair man and I'd repair TVs, too, building amplifiers. One day, I was 15 or 16, I had a friend that was doing some work on the building around King Tubby's studio and I followed him around there. Tubby, too, was first an electronic ingeneer, doing the same thing tan us besides running his studio. I started to give a hand and skip school to go to Tubby's. He was from the hood, the ghetto-ghetto. Waterhouse, Kingston. That was one of the roughest place in Jamaica.

What made you, as an uptown 16 year-old kid, think, "I need to go every day to Kingston's toughest hood and meet this guy"?

It was the dub stuff. His "Roots Of Dub" album was intriguing, how he'd do certain sounds. Plus every tyime I would test King Tubby's music on an amplifiers we were building, they would overheat! With every other type of music they'd work fine. That's what kinda got me into Tubby's cause I remember the first time I played a Tubby's record, the amplifiers that had been perfect all day played different. I thought there was something wrong with the record.

What attracted you to dub more than vocals?

Really, you get up every day, and you hear vocals every day. Vocal tracks playing on the air. So there's no big difference between one vocal track and the next vocal track. But when dub came out, it made everybody want to know what this was.

There's no big difference between one vocal track and the next vocal track. But when dub came out, it made everybody want to know what this was

Did you sneak in to meet Tubby?

Not really. No. He thought I should be in school. He thought I was smoking too much weed, he thought I had too many crazy ideas.

Like what?

I just had a different approach, the way I ended up using his console. Lots of people were scared to do a lot of things and they thought it wouldn't work. I crossed the barriers with all of that. For instance, everybody told you you're supposed to record flat. And when I record flat without an EQ, it didn't sound good to me. They say that when you record with EQ you can't reverse it, which is true, but I was recording bass knowing what electronic is. See, that's the difference.

Can you tell me again how you ended up recording your first tune there, "On My Way to Marvelly," by Barrington Levy?

At the time, Tubby's main apprentice was Prince Jammy, but he was unreliable, sometimes he wouldn't show up. I was young, but Tubby trusted me, I had the keys to the studio, I ran the place pretty much, collecting money and stuff. Tubby was barely ever at the studio cause he was running his electronics business. So Barrington and Junjo Lawes, the producer, called Tubbby but he couldn't come, or he didn't wanna mix anymore for people, he had his reasons and they were valid. So Jammy was not showing up, and Barrington needed to leave soon. I told Junjo I could do it and Tubby didn't object, even though Junjo was like, "He's a kid, he doesn't know anything about the studio!". I was 16… But having my experience, it's like I had a X-Ray vision of the console. Junjo looked at me very mean and said, 'Okay, come'. I couln't believe this was happening. I was really nervous, but the song became a #1 hit!

It was on… What attracted you more towards Tubby's studio and not, say, Lee perry's? What did his dub have that Perry didn't?

There's a lot of misconception, you know. When I first started to go to Tubby's studio, Lee Perry wasn't really doing any dubs. He was just a producer. The difference was, Tubby was an electronic ingeneer. So me and him had something in common. Tubby knew the console. It was a hell of a advantage.

A lot of people today, they'll tell you, "Oh, I'm self-taught," and that's why the music that comes from down there is so different now. My edge was pure electronics

You two knew music inside out, literally.

That's right, that's how we got to manipulate the sounds the way we do. That's our advantage. In Jamaica, there are no other sound ingeneers that have the same background than us. Not that I know of. A lot of people today, they'll tell you, "Oh, I'm self-taught," and that's why the music that comes from down there is so different now. My edge was pure electronics. Noboody taught me how to record either, I just had access to the studio and it worked. The first time I mixed it wasn't perfect, but that's what happened. And then again, I was willing to… to do all the things that everybody said, "Don't do".

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