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Interview: Chris Lane, Reggae Writer (Part 2)

Interview: Chris Lane, Reggae Writer (Part 2)

Interview: Chris Lane, Reggae Writer (Part 2)

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"The thing about Jamaican music is that it wasn't ever just about the music"

Read part 1 of this interview.

In part two of our exclusive interview with pioneering reggae journalist Chris Lane, Angus and Chris lose the narrative thread of the discussion completely but cover a variety of topics such as the state of reggae music and reggae criticism today…

Chris Lane - PRessure Drop

Was it ever on the cards to write a book about reggae?

Yeah, probably in about ’77 or ’78, because Nick Kimberley and Penny Reel had done this Pressure Drop magazine and I got roped in for the second one. We were going to do a third one because we all agreed at the time that 1972 had been such a classic year for reggae. We were going to do a 1972 edition of Pressure Drop and write it as though it was actually 1972: “Look at this great record from Glen Brown, Merry Up. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before”. Of course we never got round to it but Nick knew someone at Pluto Press and we actually signed a contract and got paid a very small advance to write this book about reggae. It was going to be the history of reggae and I remember at the time that I even did a thing about dub and how dubs are mixed, the track layouts, why the Studio One dubs on the albums sound the way they do because they come from 2-track tape, how the Tubby’s dubs sound the way they do because they’re using 4-track tape, and the Channel One’s… blah, blah, blah. So I had that sort of technical thing going. I understood how those things worked because I’d seen it done in Jamaica and so on. But for whatever reason it never happened.

There's just so much rewriting of history that's gone on in the last 20 or 30 years. Things that I've known since I was in my teens are suddenly "Oh no, that's not the way it was"

One of the things about writing a book about reggae now is that you have to be quite careful, especially if it’s something quite definitive, that if you miss something out then someone’s going to get really annoyed and so on.

To me it’s one of the biggest problems about writing about reggae now. I’m not a great one for internet forums, I go on one forum because I’ve got a couple of mates on there and I enjoy most of the company on there, but there’s just so much rewriting of history that’s gone on in the last 20 or 30 years. Things that I’ve known since I was in my teens are suddenly “Oh no, that’s not the way it was”. Like dub. Everybody’s definition of what a dub is, is different now. I used to cut dubs. I know that originally “to dub” means “to copy” and that’s why acetates or dubplates were called dubs. If you had a dub of something you had, not necessarily a different mix, but you had a copy of something on acetate because it wasn’t yet released on vinyl, so you had it on dub. Then that sort of shifted into “That’s a dub mix” which meant that you’ve got a different mix.

Right, you mean like a special or a dubplate?

Yeah, but not a special in the modern sense where you’ve got a singer singing about you and your sound system… it’s when you’ve got your own mix. We - me and John and Dave Hendley and my missus -  were very lucky to get Scratch to mix us some exclusive dubs in the Black Ark. We got dub mixes of 'I've Got The Groove', 'History' and a couple of others, all mixed live and direct on to tape from the 4 track. A couple of those have surfaced on CD's now. And of course sounds used to go into Tubby's and whatever tapes he had lying about from Bunny Lee or Yabby You or whatever you could ask them for an exclusive mix. Me and John and Dave Hendley and my missus did this. We got these Yabby You dubs that Jammy mixed for us, to our specification, because we were over Jammy’s shoulder at the time saying “Cut the drums and bass out. Cut the rhythm out. Echo this. Echo that” and really, really getting on his tits as well, as he told us later. This was ’77, I think. About a year later Dave Hendley was interviewing Jammy for something and I went along. It was in Fatman’s flat up in Tottenham, and Dave said to him “Jammy, is there anything that annoys you in the studio when you’re mixing?” and he looked at both of us and he went “Yeah, when I’ve someone behind me, looking over my shoulder, telling me what to do and what to cut out”.

(Chris declined to comment on record on the recent controversy over Pressure Sounds use of one of these dubs)

Dave said "Jammy, is there anything that annoys you in the studio when you're mixing?" and he looked at both of us and he went "Yeah, when I've someone behind me, looking over my shoulder, telling me what to do and what to cut out"

(laughing) So what is the correct definition of a dub?

I’m not setting myself up as though I’ve got the right definition of everything, but I’ve always understood that a dub mix of something is where the tracks get reduced down to drum and bass. Whereas a version is off a 2-track tape where you’ve got the vocal and the rhythm track and you cut out some of the vocals. To me that’s a version, it’s not a dub, but people say “Oh, that’s a dub”. There’s all sorts of other things like that where people come into it from a different point of view and they’re younger and their references are different, so they pick up the term and it gets changed. I mean, you know Lol that works for John, don’t you? When he used to work for Bob Brooks he told me that someone came in and asked him “Where’s your dub records?” and he said “Well, there” and the customer said “All I can see is reggae”, so Lol’s like “Well yeah, the dub mixes are on the other sides”. The bloke just didn’t connect.

Sure, like dub is a separate genre that goes on both sides. I hate that.

Yeah, it’s just lots of little things like that. People are coming at it from a different angle, so their view of it is not the same as mine. Even on the Pama forum today someone said “What’s the first time the word ‘ska’ was used?” It was quite interesting; I mean when does it start getting used in record titles? When were people talking about it? But it got into this dull thing of “Well, the word comes from this and the word comes from that”. I’ve always been told from various people that they were sitting around, they were making their rhythm and blues tunes and someone said “You see that guitar? Make it go ‘ska, ska, ska’”. That guitar lick isn’t a new thing, you hear it in lots of rhythm and blues tunes but it’s just that they accentuated it. They just emphasised it more, then the piano jumped on it and the horns jumped on it and suddenly you’ve changed the groove because that’s the main part of the beat. But there are all these other little theories coming in “Oh, someone used to say this. Someone used to say that. Buster started it”. You think “Hang on. It’s like 50 years later; everyone’s got a theory now”. If you’d asked anyone 20 years ago they’d have said “Someone said to the guitar player ‘Just play that’”.

Did you ever read reviews of your own records and think “You’ve totally missed the point of the tune” or “I could have done a much better job than that”?

No, because if they were nice reviews I probably thought “That’s great” and if they were bad reviews I’d probably just think “Ahh, fuck off!” and didn’t think about it again. When you make records you have to know that you’re setting yourself up, that you’re going to get criticism. Even if you come up with the greatest record in the world, someone somewhere will find something wrong with it or other people will be jealous of it. A lot of the time, to be honest, I was probably my own worst critic anyway. Once a record had been released, sometimes I used to listen to them and think “Oh God, why did I let that go? Oh bloody hell. I really should have gone back and done that over”. I would always find the faults in the records myself, before anyone else did, so it sort of didn’t bother me and I didn’t really take it personally. I don’t think we got a lot of bad reviews. We did work very, very hard to maintain the standard of the records we put out. Sometimes you end up in a position where you have to put out a record that you don’t believe in perhaps as much as the last record you put out. Or everyone else might like a record but I won’t like it or I might really like something and John’s got misgivings about it. Sometimes you are doing things by committee. Even if you’re a one-man band you might have a record that you really don’t reckon, but you play it to four people and when all four people say “That’s a wicked record”, you think “Well, everyone else likes it; I might as well try a thing”. The other thing is you can’t predict what records are going to do. If you could we’d all be living in our mansions and enjoying the good life.

When you make records you have to know that you're setting yourself up, that you're going to get criticism

Going back to forums and messageboards. Do you think it’s possible to become too obsessed with reggae?

Yeah, there’s some people out there who are fucking mad.

There are plenty of people on the forums who think that writing about the music is about knowing all the records. But if you’ve got every record by everyone ever, you have no perspective on it because you can’t see the wood for the trees.

I agree. The thing is, who wants every record by anyone? I never call myself a record collector because to me a record collector is someone who collects everything by someone or every issue on a label. You know, they collect by numbers and I don’t do that. I haven’t actually got a big collection by most people’s standards. But all the records in there, I like them. There might even be records in there that other people wouldn’t like or wouldn’t be classed as good records, but there’s something about the record that I like and that’s why I keep it. There’s plenty of big hit records that I haven’t got, and I haven’t got them because I’m sick of hearing them or it just ain’t me. I can’t like everything.

I haven't actually got a big collection by most people's standards. But all the records in there, I like them

Or you know that you’ll hear them on the radio anyway, so what’s the point?

Well, that’s it, isn’t it? When I first got into reggae I never used to buy, or very, very rarely bought, singing records because I used to think “Oh well, singing. You can hear people singing on the radio”. I liked Mama Look There and a few things like that but once I really got into reggae the things that really hooked me were the organ instrumentals, obviously because that was the music of the time: The Upsetters, Crystalites, Dynamites; all of those organ instrumentals, I liked them, especially if they had some weird spaghetti western intro or mad noises or someone talking or shouting over the top, because you didn’t hear that in pop music. Even the very, very early dubs, again I always call them proto-dubs because there’s eight or nine or ten dub mixes that were released in 1970 that no-one took any notice of. I remember liking them at the time. You know when you see a jazz band on the telly, again I’m only like 13 or 14 years old, they play the tune and somebody would take a solo and then they’d stop. The bass might take a solo on his own and the drums might sort of go “Tch-tch, tch-tch” just on the high-hat but not really drumming and the piano might just come in with a couple of little chords. To me that’s what those records sounded like, they sounded like a jazz band when they give the bass man a solo. I liked that sort of change in the dynamic. I remember those from the time. But singing records, it wasn’t until a couple of years later.

How did you get into “singing records”?

Chris LaneWell, it’s all to do with getting more and more interested in the music and learning that there’s very often an original. I’ve got to give credit to Tony Rounce for this because he was really the first person who sat me down and said “You know that U-Roy record you like?” or “You know that Dennis Alcapone record that you really like? This is the original, this is the full vocal of it”. The Techniques or the Paragons or whatever. At that time I was like “Pff, these singing records…” but over a period of time it was like “You know what? This is really good”.  Of course, as soon as he’s done that he’s gone “Oh, you know that tune? You know it’s a soul record? Here’s the Impressions version” (laughs) Or whatever the obscure soul record is. Or you know that Tams LP that’s got every Derrick Harriott record on it? Or this Temptations LP which has got loads of Derrick Harriott and Slim Smith tunes on it? At the time you’d speak to someone and be like “Yeah, yeah, they’re all soul covers” but no-one actually knew them. It’s like all the ska records, if Curtis Mayfield is the king of rocksteady, then Mongo Santamaria is the king of ska, you know?

What about the similarities between Neil Hefti’s Batman soundtrack and the rhythm Abyssinians Satta Amassagana?

I’m a little bit dubious about that one. I think it’s a bit of a stretch. It might be that one of the horns players probably went to the pictures and heard it and it just stuck in his mind. It’s like, and I’ve got to give Lol Bell-Brown credit for this one: you know Jah Shakey by Rolandd Alphonso on the Far East rhythm? Where does that come from? Flamenco Sketches by Miles Davis. That opening phrase is what Miles plays, there’s the “ba da ba, ba da ba, ba da ba” in the solo part, which is from Cannonball Adderley’s solo. He hasn’t sat down and said “I’m going to make Flamenco Sketches into Jah Shakey” but he must have been playing along to it and playing some of the phrases and then gone to Studio One, Dodd said “Blow something over this” and he was probably like “Oh yeah, I was playing this this morning and it fits”. There’s some things to me that are a bit too much of a stretch but there are other things that are “This is the record that we’re going to do over today, note for note” or “Note for note as long as we can play the notes”!

If Curtis Mayfield is the king of rocksteady, then Mongo Santamaria is the king of ska

Let’s just talk a little about your interest in films and reggae which you’ve written about for the French magazine Natty Dread. Tell me about how those interests intersected for you.

The film thing, it’s just an extension of that, it’s just realising that all of those Upsetter records and the Derrick Harriott records that I loved when I was a kid, all came off films. A lot of those films I wasn’t aware of when I was a kid because they were too obscure for me and I wasn’t particularly interested in spaghetti westerns. Films like Django weren’t even shown over here, it was banned. That Ramon The Mexican, you know the Derrick Harriott things with Ramon in it?

There’s Psychedelic Train Chapter Three, and The Undertaker. They have these things with this character in it and I thought “Who’s this Ramon character?” and I saw that poster in Italy, I got it in Rome and I thought “That must be it” and I got a copy of it on VHS and it is the worst film you’ll ever see. It’s like a bloody fifth form film project. It’s absolute shite! But that’s where that character comes from, probably all by way of the Ramon Rojo character in Fistful Of Dollars.

Obviously things like Cool Breeze and Blacula are Blaxploitation films. They range from the well-known like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to the downright obscure like that thing. It’s just an extension of asking “What are the influences on this?”

Another subject you’ve written about for Natty Dread is the history of recording in the music and the technical side of it…

Well, really those two things were meant for another book that fell apart. The history of recording thing was just really to back up the dub mixing thing, to say that the dub mixes sound the way they do because they’re recorded on equipment that was a good five to seven years behind what everyone else was using. To me those 2-track dubs and 4-track dubs sound great. A lot of the 8-track ones sound good but I think there’s a very good argument for saying that the 16-track and 24-track dubs just sort of get weakened by the fact they’re mixed off so many tracks.

Have you read this article on the same subject that’s been shared on the internet a lot recently? It’s called Computer Rise by Frederick R Dannaway.

(reads it)

There's lots of words and fancy phrases in there to describe the art of mixing dub and the later shift towards digital technology in recording rhythms and there's a lot there that betrays a lack of knowledge of the basic recording and mixing process. And of course he wants to look clever by perpetuating myths about vintage equipment such as the Ampex 351 as if there were no other classic tape recorders or worthwhile music recorded on anything else. Phrases like "Studios constantly updated their equipment, enticing different sounds from instruments and singers, allowing a separate channel for each component and effect" are far too general, and inaccurate - especially for the Jamaican studios, which lagged five years or so behind their UK and US counterparts. Much of the 'classic' pre-digital reggae was recorded on two and four track, right up to the late-70's and “Custom mixing boards...” which ones are those then?

"The studio’s first offering, ‘Can I Change My Mind’ by Delroy Wilson was a chart topping hit, and a landmark change in the island sound, extending the domain of Channel One into the next era"…..  that’s nonsense….. no-one at the time thought it sounded particularly different, only those in the know would have been told it was recorded at the new Channel One set up. Channel One's sound was defined later when Sly brought in the 'rockers' tunes MPLA, Leftist, IRA, and the Mighty Diamonds hits.

"...such as Tubby’s gorgeous modified MCI mixing board...”…..  I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I'm damn sure it was never ‘modified' in any way. Why would it be? And he's nicked my 'map' - but at least he credited me! In all, the usual cut and paste job from someone who doesn't really understand the music or how it's made....

What advice would you give to people who want to write about reggae music?

If you want to do it, do it. Like anything. I’ve been very lucky in everything that I’ve done because if I’ve wanted to do something then I’ve done it. I haven’t gone to people and they’ve paid for me to do things, I’ve always done things off my own bat and enjoyed doing it, and sometimes that’s been hard but at least I’ve had the satisfaction of knowing that I did it. In the same way there’s a lot of things that I tried to do that didn’t really come off the way that I’d hoped they would do. Again, at least I tried. So if people want to write about reggae, then write about it. The only thing that I would say is that I’d really try and keep an open mind and not take everything as gospel. One of the most annoying things about reading reggae writing, especially since the 1980s, is that when the yanks got into it they sat down with some of these Jamaican singers and producers and believed every word that they were told. You’ve got to pick the sense out of the nonsense because the way that people remember things is always not quite the way it was. I’ve read so many things where I’ve just thought “Pff! What? You believe that?” I mean if you talk to any Jamaican musician it’ll be like “Yeah, I played on all of Bob Marley’s records”.

One of the most annoying things about reading reggae writing, is that when the yanks got into it they sat down with some of these singers and producers and believed every word that they were told

I’ve experienced that one many times…

Even the engineers have said it to me, like Andy Capp, Sid Bucknor “Yeah, I did all the Bob Marley tunes”. One, I’m not really interested in what you did with Bob Marley, I’m interested in other things. Two, that’s bollocks anyway. You can’t have done them all because if you did them all that means the other bloke didn’t do any of them, so maybe you did some and he did some. I think that’s one of the problems.

Noel Hawks said the greatest thing ever about reggae writing and that was “When they knew the answers, we didn’t know the questions. Now we know the questions, they don’t know the answers”.

Although isn’t there something interesting in that in itself?  When you read an interview and you think “That’s not true”.

Yeah, but all this bollocks gets repeated by other people and then that becomes the truth. History gets rewritten by people who just pick something up from an interview with someone, then that gets repeated and repeated and repeated. Then you look it and you think “Hang on”, actually if you look at the chronology of the rest of the interview and what he’s saying it doesn’t make sense. Again on the forum, someone mentioned this guy Patrick McDonald, a Studio One session guitarist. Now I’ve spoken to Studio One people, artists and Dodd, and I’ve never heard anyone mention this bloke’s name. Eric Frater mentions him in some interview. Turns out he was playing guitar at Studio One for about 18 months over 1968 and early ’69, and he’s listed the records that’s he’s playing on. You just think “Why have I never heard of him before?” but then you look at the pictures on his Myspace page and he’s playing a really nice Gibson, so you think “He’s a working musician, he’s got a really nice guitar, he’s in these bands, why shouldn’t he be playing at Studio One for all this time?” but you’ve never, ever heard of him. Whereas you’ve heard of Eric Frater, and you can hear the records that Ranglin’s playing on. Without sitting him down and actually saying to him “Look, what are you playing?” and he says “I’m playing the guitar on that, me and Frater swapped parts” or “I’m playing the rhythm, he’s playing the lead, or whatever”.

I didn’t realise that Brian Atkinson played so many basslines at Studio One. Talking to Carlton Shoe and he said “On one of these tunes they all swapped instruments, so Boris Gardiner’s playing rhythm guitar and I think Eric Frater’s playing the bass”. So unless someone actually tells you all that clearly, then all of these things are very vague and then someone comes up with a claim “I did this” and that gets repeated and repeated.

Noel Hawks said the greatest thing ever about reggae writing "When they knew the answers, we didn't know the questions. Now we know the questions, they don't know the answers"

Then everyone falls back on that Chris Blackwell quote about “There are no facts in Jamaica”.

Well, there are facts in Jamaica but you’ve just got to work a little bit harder and dig a little bit deeper to get them. It’s like all these Lee Perry nutcases. “Lee Perry produced that record”, “Lee Perry was in the studio when this record was being made, even though it’s not his record, you can hear his influence” ….. for God’s sake! “Oh yeah, that’s Lee Perry’s voice on this that and the other”. No, it’s bloody not. It doesn’t even sound anything like him. But they want it to be, do you know what I mean?

Is the reggae coming out of Jamaica in the last few years really as bad as people are saying now or is it just that people are getting old or that things have changed?

I think it’s a combination of all of that, to be honest. I’ve had this question so much over the last year or so….. “What are you listening to coming out of Jamaica now?” and I’m not, because whenever I do listen to anything it doesn’t really do anything to me. I might hear something and think “That’s all right” but I don’t go back three days later and want to listen to it again.

There’s other things I like listening to. Admittedly I listen to a lot of old music, soul, jazz, rhythm and blues, all sorts of stuff. It’s all old because I just like that feel that you get from half a dozen or so musicians all sitting down in a studio and playing together. I’m sure there are a lot of people making good contemporary music, whether it’s in Jamaica or not but I hear very little that I can get excited about. I was recommended to listen to Hollie Cook the other day and she sounds great but I’m not going to get up every morning and rush to YouTube and put on a bit of Hollie Cook. I’d rather stick on a bit of Wardell Gray or whatever. Again, that probably says more about me than it does about the music coming out of Jamaica. That’s probably just me being old and so on.

I just like that feel that you get from half a dozen or so musicians all sitting down in a studio and playing together

All I’m thinking is that for certain people the music coming out of Jamaica has been in decline since whenever…

Well, I’ve got to say I think the golden age has gone. The thing about Jamaican music is that it wasn’t ever just about the music. It was about the attitude of it and about the people who made it. Look at Bunny Lee. To me Bunny Lee is the epitome of what I always call the “personality producer” because when I got into reggae, very quickly, once you got beyond just buying a few records, you realised that you liked the Upsetters and you liked the Crystalites but they were different, then you like the Clancy Eccles and Dynamite stuff because they were different again, and then the Studio One stuff was different again. What you realise was that it all depended on who was producing the records. You realise that the producers, a lot of the time, are the ones who are actually talking on the records and making the intros on the records and giving the records that particular stamp.

Then when they started coating each other off and making records about each other and that, you realise that there are all these silly little squabbles going on and they’re all gossiping about each other, but that’s what makes the music interesting. You’d hear a record by Lee Perry and think “That sounds like an Upsetters record” and most of the time you’d be right, or you’d hear a nice, I always call it uptown reggae tune, and think “Oh, that’s a really nice cover of a soul record” and that’d either be either Derrick Harriott or Lloyd Charmers. All of these people had their own personalities and their own signature sounds, and that’s what helped make the music so interesting, the fact that they made quirky records. When the dub records came out, that’s something that no other music had. When those Tubby’s B-sides came out, even though there’s been those other ones in 1970, you listened to it and you’d think “You know what? There’s no other music that does this”. I know there’s instrumental versions of soul records and so on but just that idea of “We’ve got a backing track, we’ve got the original song. We’re going to have some bloke shouting nonsense over the top; that’s the deejay version. Hang on, Roland Alphonso’s just walked in, or Tommy McCook. Let’s have him doing a horns version. Hang on, there’s Bongo Herman. Let’s have him doing a bongo version”. All done for very practical, commercial reasons but it sort of became art. That’s what set reggae aside from everything else. But I think in the last few years, you just haven’t got that sort of edge to the music. From what I’ve heard, a lot of it either tries to be too American or it’s just re-treading the old stuff that you’ve heard too many times before. If you talk to a 16 year old in Jamaica, he’ll probably tell you something completely different. 

Where can people who enjoy your writing find it online?

They can't, as far as I know. Perhaps one day I should put it up on the Fashion blog. I'll remove all the mistakes first though!

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Read comments (8)

Posted by frederick r. dannaway on 04.26.2013
Hi, I wrote computer rise. The critical remarks are fair enough, its no easy task to try and condense the history of a genre of music into the allowed page count by Red Bull. I submitted a nine page article and they edited down and they put in all the graphics. You can argue the choices I made to try and pick a tune from each time period were nonsense, they may not have changed things in terms of some groundbreaking innovation, but they evolved to a level that the subsequent studio styles became a standard, as new technology trickled in (as he says lagging behind foreign studios). I guess it's fair to be accused of perpetuating myths of the Tubby board, but we don't really know one way or the other really what he did, but enough Jamaican scholars told me of his customizing of studio gear. The intent of the article was not to write a technical manual of how music was made but how it went from skins and wood to computer programs and to try and document some of the highlights in between. I tried to find songs that I connected with that exemplified this evolution in the technology of the music. This was written as a fan of the music, not a producer, musician or insider, and I thank you for the feedback.

Posted by n on 07.16.2013
Yo, I liked your article Frederick. Chris Lane sounds very informed but grumpy man

For Don Drummond!

Posted by chris lane on 10.01.2013
Hi Frederick, I've only just been made aware of your post, so apologies for the delay in replying.....

I was put on the spot to make a comment about your piece, but I have to say I stand by everything I said....

I sympathise with what you say about having to condense things, but what I took issue with were the inaccuracies and myths .... a bit of proper research (talk to Jammy, Pat Kelly or Philip Smart for instance) would have at least made you think about sorting out the sense from the nonsense with regards to Tubby's mixer..... and what was the studio gear that he 'customised' ..... and in what way?

I'd be interested to know the details ....... and who exactly are these 'Jamaican scholars'.... ????

I may also have been very slightly pissed off that you used my 'map' ..... it wouldn't have hurt to ask, and I might even have able to help you with a couple of things....

... and do you really think that the Delroy Wilson tune was "a landmark change in the island sound"???

When I started writing about reggae forty years ago - obviously as a fan - there was little or no information about the music, the musicians, the engineers or the way it was made..... but that's really not the case these days, so it really does irritate me that so many fairy stories get told - and retold - until they become the received wisdom ..... mind you, at least then we've all got something to talk about!

Good luck with the writing...

Cheers, Chris

PS..... I'm not always grumpy..... !!

Posted by frederick on 10.03.2013
Hello, I wouldn't have responded to a comment in the first place if I didn't massively respect the person. Chris Lane is something of a hero to me, and the first cut is the deepest! It was Red Bull that did all the images ( I guess they figure it's in the public domain and that artists sample sounds, why can't they sample some images? But again I had nothing to do with the layout or ANY images in the articles), and again they reduced the page number by over half. As I recall we were sending edits back and forth and at one point they just put it up live, and even edited things after the original was posted. I think the editor I dealt with no longer works there.

I would say the most credible source that told me that the mixer was in some way modified was from the late Mikey Dread. He referred to himself as a scholar of Jamaican music, and he and someone like Chris Lane or Rodigan, not myself, deserves that title. There is something to presenting the myth of King Tubby, or Scientist or Scratch as something of occult technicians altering imported equipment to get some unique sound. Even if it isn't true, it's part of the folklore of the music and in some ways I am sure Tubby and Mikey Dread cultivated such rumors as a tactic and strategic dissimulation of their simple methods. It's like Biblical scholars get to the point where they deny the main protagonist even existed, but the folklore of Jesus becomes the myth and despite the critical scholars, it becomes A truth, maybe not THE truth.

If I have to defend what is purely an opinion on what tunes stand out to me, I think the production in the dub of that Delroy tune was, to my ears, a new level of electro-acoustic dub artistry. It is pretty subjective to draw for tunes that seem to stand out to you as setting a production standard, and for me in that era, that's one of those tunes that hit hard enough to remember as something special. Unfortunately the editors removed the context of about 10 other songs that I tried to build a case for a gradual progression in the dub and mingling with the acoustic and digital. If one picked out a few tracks of jazz or doo wop or blues that stood out to them, legions would no doubt loudly protest their choices. I often wonder at the top five albums pick in Riddim as landmarks, but if it stood out to them then I can not really argue that. I could see any song I picked being the subject of eye rolls and irritation. I could say this song by Clifford Brown changed the trajectory of jazz, where many would scoff at such a choice. It's like picking up a length of chain and saying this link is the strongest. Of all the criticisms of the article this one seems to boil down to individual tastes and impressions.

There are so many omissions and people that should have got a mention in that article, but the feedback from scholars like Sonjah Stanley Niaah and others has been very positive. But correcting the record is a priority. I would also add that I don't take any personal irritation over the discussion of historical matters no matter if they are about Jamaican music or the soma plant of the ancient Vedic mystics, and it always puzzles me the way people seem to get angry, upset or irritated over such matters. It's all basically deconstructing myths, it's all shrouded in a certain mystery and lack of details, and vague historical records. I get passionate responses though, of all the writings I have done on very controversial subjects (like Islamic entheogens) this is the only time I have bothered to respond. I would also add that I winced hard when Red Bull called me a Jamaican music scholar, no doubt they took that from googling my name and appropriating the descriptions of myself from other editors in Daoist and tea, ethnobotany journals. My thoughts on this piece is that no one had written or attempted to write the technological evolution of reggae music. The original piece was much more of a stream of conscience, dub- prose attempt to just echo some of the major players and their equipment. I only write on subjects that seem to be neglected or that have not been treated of properly for my own reading and researches.

Posted by chris lane on 10.06.2013
Hi Frederick,

Thanks for the response.... and the kind words!

I understand what you mean about presenting the myth of occult technicians, etc, but have to admit that personally I'd rather have the truth.... perhaps I'm just too much of a pedant!

It wasn't clear that you were talking about a dub version of 'Can I Change My Mind" and I don't remember a Channel 1 dub mix from that time, so I'd be interested to hear it ....

.... and if you haven't come across the dub article I wrote quite a few years ago (Dub - A Musical Revolution), then I'd be happy to email it to you.....



Posted by frederick on 10.06.2013
I have been trying to email Chris Lane since a long time. The email I can find on the web is defunct returning automated messages. I tried recently and maybe about a year and a half ago to write that address with no joy. I would love to correspond and fact check a few things. It would be a real honor.

Posted by frederick on 10.08.2013
This is what I get when I write that address, I took out a long string of numbers:

Hi. This is the qmail-send program at
I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.

does not like recipient.
Remote host said: 550 Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable
Giving up

Posted by chris lane on 10.14.2013
That's really strange - I use that address every day and no-one has any trouble with it!

Try this one....


Comments actually desactivated due to too much spams

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