As yet another Mercury retrograde yoga pose for this month, I’m posting an interview of mine, resting neatly in the dustbins of the internet. This one found a home in Remix Magazine. I got turned onto Remix by a woman who was an ad rep there and helped me get a couple of writing gigs. I’ll leave her name out of the story, but the highlight of my connection with her was a wild night in Miami at WMC, fueled by psychedelics, Timo Maas and her sexy girlfriend. Here is me and The Mad Professor talking music and tech.
Deep in the dub lab with Mad Professor.
Mad Professor is out to lunch. Sitting in a booth at a Chinese restaurant in New York, the A-list dub and reggae producer looks troubled as the waiter sets a seafood combo in front of him. “There’s all kinds of strange things in here,” he says as he pokes at the dish with a fork. “This looks like a scallop, and that looks like a frog leg, but what’s this? An alligator foot? And that looks like a duck’s behind!”
Even though he’s not sure what he’s eating, Mad Professor scoops up a forkful of the mystery mixture and shovels it into his mouth. “It tastes okay so far,” he remarks between gulps, “but if I stop speaking, you’ll know it’s foul.” Like this adventure in cuisine, Mad Professor’s auditory odyssey involves the inspired blending of exotic ingredients, coupled with a fearlessness that keeps him forever pushing the boundaries of taste and the times.
As a remixer and producer, Mad Professor — aka Neil Fraser — has worked with Sade, Pato Banton, the Beastie Boys, and others. His original tracks veer from the rootsy dub of “The African Connection” to the political blitz of “Black Liberation Dub” to the drum ’n’ bass hybrid of “Mazaruni: The Jungle Dub Experience.” His Massive Attack remixes on the LP No Protection: Mad Professor vs. Massive Attack made the original Protection album pale in comparison. This is the same man who initiated the modern British dub explosion with his 1982 album Dub Me Crazy, and who inadvertently helped birth the mutant strain of ambient-dub when the Orb lifted a sample from his “Fast Forward into Dub” track for the undulating backbeat of their epic “Blue Room.”
But perhaps Mad Professor’s most remarkable achievement is the success of his Ariwa label and studio, which he founded in 1979 in South London and has developed into a leading dub label and a sprawling, state-of-the-art studio complex. Through Ariwa (a Yoruba word meaning “communication”), he’s worked with reggae legends — including Horace Andy, U-Roy, Macka B, Papa Levi, Nolan Irie, and the mythical madman of dub, Lee “Scratch” Perry — and has released more than 100 records since 1981. Not bad for a guy who launched his career by hand-building a crystal radio in his native Guyana when he was only nine years old. Such pursuits were hardly the activity of choice for most of his peers. “Well,” he snickers, “that’s why they call me the Mad Professor!”