bluffers guide to dub
This piece originally featured
in Jockey Slut magazine and was written to serve as an introduction to those
who had heard the word Dub bandied about but had little idea of what it really
was. It features a track listing for a complimentary tape I made to convince
the editors of the strength of the idea. They must have been convinced because
they never returned it.
Before we begin you must clear your mind of The Orb and all thoughts of matty-headed crusty dub experts informed by the ownership of a couple of Scientist LPs. Dub, you must be seriously daft not to have realised, goes back a little further than that.
HOW FAR BACK EXACTLY ?
Dub has its roots in late '60s Jamaican dance culture. In the absence of any documentation at the time, legend, tall tale and myth have intertwined to confuse. It is however generally accepted that Osbourne Ruddock, amplifier-builder on the Kingston sound-system scene; later to be more famously known as King Tubby, 'invented' dub by cutting four radical acetate 'remixes' to play at his own Home Town Hi Fi sound system. The legend goes that he spent the best part of an entire evening cutting between these four Treasure Isle label recordings effecting them with his custom built reverb and echo machines.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
King Tubby turned the Kingston music scene upside down. Reggae had always provided instrumental cuts but his use of EQ, echo, delay, sound effects and a single-minded inventiveness, elevated the instrumental as a creative artform. His Dub cuts of popular records of the time were in serious demand. Many took his cue and experimented themselves with various degrees of success. By todays standards, the equipment used was more than primitive. But King Tubby and others like Lee Perry, Errol T and Augustus Pablo had ideas and creativity in spades. The music of this period sparks like no other. Most of it has yet to be matched. It is almost impossible to figure out how some of it was done. This is the closest music has ever got to magic.
In 1972 King Tubby opened his own studio in the backstreets of urban Kingston. For the rest of the decade records emerged from this studio that still set the pace. Collaborations with Lee Perry (Blackboard Jungle Dub) and Augustus Pablo (King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown) Glen Brown and Yabby U are neccesary staples in any musical resume of the last 40 years. Pale face crusties skin up at the slightest mention of Tubby's name yet he is reputed never to have touched a joint and frowned on smoking in his studio.
WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT DUB ?
In short nowhere. There is a good case to be made for dub as the genesis of remix culture. The early hip hop block parties in New York-manned by those such as Kool Herc (a Jamaican by birth) and Grandmaster Flash- are obviously derived from the sound system scene in Kingston. Early disco heroes like Walter Gibbons and Arthur Russell; Francois Kevorkian, Larry Levan and Shep Pettibone's, owe the madness of their dub crazy angel dust soundscapes to the experimental genius of the Jamaican pioneers. The idea of the mixing desk as an instrument and the DJ/remixer as an artist in his own right derives directly from dub.
CAN ALL THIS HISTORY EVER BE MATCHED ?
There have been futuristic
flashes since Osbourne Ruddock was senselessly murdered in 1989, but if
you want a one word answer then it has to be no. Most people who dabble
in dub rely on the illusionary cliches created by the equipment. The pioneers
were always reaching beyond the equipment. And most people use drum machines.
True dub requires the complex subtleties of a human drummer to really
make the music breathe, flex and ultimately explode. The needlessly reverential
crusty/digi scene will yeild little real reward. These days the shelves
are crammed with reissues from the essential time capsule '70- '76 period.
No excuse then for ignorance.
STRAIGHT TO IMPOSTERS HEAD VOLUME ONE
MIKEY DREAD- OPERATOR'S CHOICE
From the mind blowing African Anthem LP based on his Jamaican radio show and featuring more Coldcut samples than you can shake a stick at.
AGGROVATORS- RUNNING OVER
The master at the board EQing the track into outer space with the aid of some fire engines.
KING TUBBY- A ROUGHER VERSION
The first ten seconds of this record invent techno before going on to stretch out in a kind of rhythmic dream. Test me if you think I'm joking.
TOMMY McCOOK AND THE AGGROVATORS- AT DUB STATION
Starts out like the theme to James Bond's long lost adventure in funky Kingston before becoming simply magnificent.
KING TUBBY- WATERGATE ROCK
Rumour has it that King Tubby didn't smoke marjuhuwana. Listen to this record and you understand why he didn't need to.
ERROL THOMPSON/JOE GIBBS- JUBILATION DUB
From the legendary African Dub Chapter 3 which in 1977 turned many a punk rocker into a part time dread. Check the everything- but-the-kitchen-sink sound effects.
HARRY MUDIE/KING TUBBY- HEAVY DUTY DUB
The last drops of beauty squeezed from some sublime chord changes in a truly masterful dub.
LEE PERRY- COME ALONG
A man in incredible control of his muse. Shame he's now a pot-herb who walks around with CDs on his head.
AUGUSTUS PABLO/KING TUBBYS- ROCKERS MEET KING TUBBYS INNA FIRE HOUSE
There is no dub without a drummer as this track proves. Constantly shifting, this is heavier than Geezer Butler in steel toe-cap boots.
PRINCE JAMMY- THUNDER SHOCK
There should be no small children in the room for this one. Like a particulalrly stressful night in the Vietnam jungle.
STUDIO ONE-GREADY G
Hi jacked by the funk crowd as a break beat but really part of Studio One's Better Dub LP and a good example of Coxone Dodd's no frills approach to the dub idea.
GLEN BROWN/KING TUBBY- BLACK DUB
Jamaica's other melodica master had his own Pantomine label for which King Tubby produced some astounding dubs. Speaker testing genius.
LEE PERRY- CLOAK AND DAGGER
From the great Blackboard Jungle Dub LP. It doesn't get much better.
AUGUSTUS PABLO- KING TUBBY MEETS THE ROCKERS UPTOWN
Probably the only dub record your mum has heard of- its power is not diminished for that. Still sounds phenomenally driven.
DELROY WILSON- DIFFERENT VERSION
Notable for some abstract EQ action. Put that in your Brian Eno pipe and smoke it, eggheads.
DENNIS BROWN- BLOOD SON VERSION
Much bullshit is talked in house circles about basslines. Let the debate be suspended til y'all have heard this.
SLY AND ROBBIE- COMPUTER MALFUNCTION
From well outside the classic period this Paul 'Groucho' Smykle dub is mindful of the work of the innovators in its startling use of sound effects. Sly and Robbie hunt down the heart of the rhythm in a menacing fashion.
FRED LOCKS-BLACK STAR LINER VERSION
Another bassline from heaven/hell. Useful for checking the alignment of your ears and seeing if the plaster on your ceiling is solid.
CULTURE- ASHAMED VERSION
Dub cut of a track from the famous Two Sevens Clash LP- crying babies, running water, cuckoo clocks, car horns- its all happening here.
THE UPSETTERS- CHAPTER TWO
Lee Perry dragging things in his own inimitable direction. A prime slice of pre-Black Ark dubwise madness.
NINEY ALL STARS- DUBSTAIRS
If this doesn't have you swinging call an undertaker. A unique masterpiece which defies description.
THE CRYSTALITES- SMOKEY EYES
More life than a sperm bank but not as full of wankers.
THE PROFESSIONALS- SOCIAL JUSTICE
Joe Gibbs gets a Moog synthesiser and applies it with typical lack of respect for convention. At the same time in England, Depeche Mode have just formed.
AUGUSTUS PABLO- CHAPTER TWO
From the sublime and justifiably feted East Of The River Nile LP.
KING TUBBY/UPSETTER- 300 YEARS AT THE GRASS ROOTS
Talk about version! This appears to be an EQ-crazed take on Neil Young's Heart Of Gold. See what I mean about the drummer- if you can get a Roland 909 to sound like this then have a cigar and a rest.
AGGROVATORS- STRAIGHT TO THE OBSERVERS HEAD
Not just a great dub record
but one of the greatest records ever released in any genre. Sad to report
you won't be reading about it in the next NME All Time 100. Twisted logic
therefore suggests it is, as a result, not as good as anything by the