A disciple of Lee “Scratch” Perry, Mad Professor was one of the leading producers in dub reggae‘s second generation. His Dub Me Crazy albums helped dub make the transition into the digital age, when electronic productions started to take over mainstream reggae in the ’80s. His space-age tracks not only made use of new digital technology, but often expanded dub’s sonic blueprint, adding more elements and layers of sound than his forebears typically did. Working from his own studios, Mad Professor has overseen more than two hundred albums including ground-breaking remixes for Massive Attack, Sade, and Pato Banton.
In the mid-’90s, he returned to the basics, debuting a more retro-sounding style on the Black Liberation Dub series. Additionally, he ran his own studio and label, Ariwa, which was home to a stable of vocalists (with an emphasis on lovers rock and conscious roots reggae) and some of the finest British reggae productions of the era. As his reputation grew, he became a re-mixer of choice for adventurous rock and techno acts, most notably revamping Massive Attack’s entire second album under the new title No Protection.
Born in Guyana, Fraser earned the Mad Professor tag from his childhood fascination with electronics. At the age of nine or ten he built a radio from scratch. Moving to London at the age of thirteen, Mad Professor continued to experiment with electronics. He bought a semi-professional reel-to-reel tape-recorder in 1975, but was unable to record in sync. This prompted him to purchase more and more equipment. By the following year, he had begun experimenting with dubbing.
Dub music, which combines reggae music and recording studio trickery, seemed to fit Mad Professor’s musical and technical tastes perfectly and his early work remained faithful to the traditional Jamaican dub pioneered by King Tubby, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Augustus Pablo. Mad Professor’s early work was characterized by few vocal tracks and heavy echo, reverb, and phaser effects on the instrumentals. Eventually, he began to experiment with electronic sounds and effects alongside the traditional instruments. Synthesized sounds began to find a place in his mixes. This experimentation caught the attention of artists outside of reggae and dub genres and led to Mad Professor’s work with electronic artists, most notably Massive Attack.
Today, he is the proprietor of Ariwa Records, Britain’s largest African-owned studio complex. In addition to his own output, he produces a sizable stable of artists, most notably Makka B., the Twinkle Brothers and U-Roy. Despite his accomplishments, however, his musical profile in the U.S. has been minimal, due largely to the fact that so little has been written about him in the mainstream or alternative pop press here. He continues to release records and perform live all over the world.
Live at S.O.B.s, NYC
April 18, 1995