By Juan Cruz Molas y Molas
It’s like this, I found out that Mad Professor was coming to play to Córdoba. Really big words, Mr. Dub, The Dub Master. Last year, after an unexpected event, he could not get here in time, the storm delayed his trip, and then he had to go to Lollapalooza, but this guy is cool, he sat down, signed some records, took some photos with the fans. Anyway, the thing is that I find out about this, so I communicate with Casa Babylon, I think... someone must cover this... maybe take a portrait, I don’t know if someone ever took a portrait of Mad Professor in Córdoba, a good one I mean, a good close up. Even if it was just that, Horace Andy was impossible, and Lee Perry was complicated. Luckily, they confirmed us that yes, we were going to be able to be in the soundcheck.
A year later the same storm threatens the night. From my apartment, an eleventh floor, you can see how the lightning illuminates the bus station and the road junction. The cars begin to shelter under the bridge, cabs specially. The humidity is unbearable, but fortunately we have air conditioning. We are fundamentalists of air conditioning. As a good ignorant I didn’t know much about Mad Professor's story, I knew the minimum, the website, "Ariwa Sounds", and some Wikipedia, but not much else. So, I call El Ángel Barrial (The Angel of the Neighborhood), Juan Serabián, a connoisseur of the subject, infinitely more than me. One hour and a half later he arrived home and brought a set of questions. Questions, questions, questions... What the hell do you ask to Mad Professor?
El Ángel: I brought these questions... I thought about asking him something like: "Reading about your story, we learned that you were born in Georgetown, capital of Guyana. What memories do you have of your childhood and, also, if it was at that stage of your life your approach and interest in music? How did this influence your artistic career? "
Molas: Good question, I have some very similar questions that I did that time I wanted to interview Horace Andy, do you remember? He cared shit about...
El Ángel: Yes, he was protected by two security guards, very strange...
Molas: Well, let's use these questions, mix them with yours, give them a twist and go...
El Ángel: Open Wikipedia to see if we can get something else...
Extract from Wikipedia:
Mad Professor (born Neil Joseph Stephen Fraser, 1955, Georgetown, Guyana) is a Guyanese dub music producer and engineer known for his original productions and remix work. He is considered one of the leading producers of dub music’s second generation and was instrumental in transitioning dub into the digital age. He has collaborated with reggae artists such as Lee "Scratch" Perry, Sly and Robbie, Pato Banton, Jah Shaka and Horace Andy, as well as artists outside the realm of traditional reggae and dub, such as Sade, Massive Attack, The Orb, and Brazilian DJ Marcelinho da lua.
Fraser became known as Mad Professor as a boy due to his fascination with electronics. He emigrated from Guyana to London at the age of 13 and later began his music career as a service technician. He gradually collected recording and mixing equipment and in 1979 opened his own four-track recording studio, Ariwa Sounds, in the living room of his home in Thornton Heath. He began recording lovers rock bands and vocalists for his own label (including the debut recording by Deborahe Glasgow) and recorded his first album after moving the studio to a new location in Peckham in 1982, equipped with an eight-track setup, later expanding to sixteen. Fraser's Dub Me Crazy series of albums won the support of John Peel, who regularly aired tracks from the albums. Although early releases were not big sellers among reggae buyers, the mid-1980s saw this change with releases from Sandra Cross (Country Life), Johnny Clarke, Peter Culture, Pato Banton, and Macka B (Sign of the Times). Fraser moved again, this time to South Norwood, where he set up what was the largest black-owned studio complex in the UK, where he recorded successful lovers rock tracks by Cross, John McLean, and Kofi, and attracted Jamaican artists including Bob Andy and Faybiene Miranda. He teamed up with Lee "Scratch" Perry for the first time in 1983 for the recording of the album Mystic Warrior (1989).
Fraser's son continues his father's musical tradition, produced dub under the alias Joe Ariwa.
Mad Professor has released hundreds of original recordings and has worked with several reggae and non-reggae artists. He is perhaps best known for his 12 installments of the Dub Me Crazy series and 5 albums under the Black Liberation Dub banner. Among his original releases includes collaborations with other artists and remixes like Massive Atack, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and the Argentines Nairobi, among others.
End of the extract.
After investigating, we printed the questions, and Delicia, my girlfriend, looked for us, the storm was stronger. We tried to go by waterfront, but it was cut by the crescent, so we took two laps along the road junction, through Barrio Juniors and Gral. Paz and arrived at Casa Babylon, which for our fortune was closed. They tell us that Mad Professor was going to arrive half an hour later. We were famished and decided to go to the Eco-chori at Avellaneda bridge. I ate mine in a voracious way due to the extreme nerves for the interview that was coming. It was that type of nerves that you have when you are about to give a very difficult oral exam and you are not quite sure what you know, that feeling in your stomach. We tried again, and the place had already opened.
As I write these words and try to make an entertaining text, actually, today is a day ... I don't know, is one of those nostalgic days, the city is quiet, there is no noise. Ten years passed, ten since the first time Mad Professor played at Casa Babylon. 2008 was a fun year, I remember that I made some good friends, like Redri for example, we were friends already but that year we became more friends. The amount of things that happen in ten years, and yet, it happens really fast. You live like in an illusion, trying that the passage of time doesn’t affect you. And in that sense, we must recognize that Casa Babylon has remained valid in time, true to its essence, betting on its place. Even in those moments, when the area had become muddy, the house remained standing, giving legendary concerts and unforgettable parties. But going back to history ...
When we entered Casa Babylon we saw that Mad Professor was beginning to connect his machines, Karen Fleitas was also there with her tremendous voice, accompanying him. I don't know if you remember, but she was part of the protest hip hop group "Actitud María Marta". My friends went to buy some beers and I took advantage of the moment, went on stage and after a brief interaction I took these pictures that you can see below:
Mad Professor. Soundcheck, 8/2/2018 - Casa Babylon.
I must admit that Mr. Fraser is a very nice guy. When I went on stage, I first introduced myself, we talked a little bit about our magazine, he asked me some questions, and then I took those photos that you saw before. It didn’t bother him, he kept on doing his thing. A very professional dude.
People began to arrive, and with them the smoke of weed, cigarettes and spilled beer. Typical odors of an event like that, how could there be a Dub gig without its cannabinoid ally. Now anxiety had overtaken us three. Deli guarded the dressing room door, waiting for one of the owners to come out, and El Angel looked to the opposite side, watching the bar and the rest of the dance floor. To tell it better I prefer to leave it to El Ángel to narrate the following.
Well, I don’t know, I don’t remember very well what was previously narrated, but some things are true, I have to clarify that Tedy is actually really cool, and that the entrance to the dressing room, although we were nervous because we saw that time was running and that the moment of the gig was approaching more and more, it was very simple. In any case, El Ángel did look for Tedy and found him.
A faint light outlined the figure of Mad Professor. I remember that he was sitting quietly facing forward, waiting quietly for the concert to arrive. Slowly and trying not to invade his tranquility and at the same time not getting too nervous, I went up and asked if I could ask him some questions, that it would not take more than ten minutes. But the nerves and my inexperience played against me, my questions were very bad, half of the things I asked were already in Wikipedia. "What was it like to do Dub in a Punk era?" I asked him between other questions. As he was responding I was feeling worse and worse, I was thinking how I'm going to ask Mad Professor that, I was ashamed, I liked the question, but I don’t know, it felt like I was asking stupid things.
"You have to remember, at that time the world was a more segregated place. As a black youth you listened to two things. You listen to either reggae or you listen to soul. Yeah, for me as a black youth, I don’t really listen to punk. Punk is something for white boys with earrings, with safety pins in their ears. Punk is not for me. We never listened to punk. We didn’t even know punk exist. We don’t like it because it’s not our style. So, it was like, a million miles away. Nothing to do with us. The scene was quite segregated", replied Mad Professor.
I felt like an idiot. We thought about that question within a context, of many specific questions. I had to improvise, I didn't have the time I had counted on, and the truth is that I improvised badly, a complete amateur, random, repetitive questions, a lack of respect towards this Dub Emperor. You are always in search of inspiration, and you often stay in the mold, in thinking and you don’t act, you can be years in that situation, that art of infinite buoying, of procrastinating. Leisure is important, it seems to me, free time, the air, the countryside, putting the mind blank, but you can fall into a state of inactivity, and we don’t realize that you have the power to really do what you want If you propose it, slower or faster, it happens that everything has to be now today, and that doesn’t work either, it can become very distressing if you don’t go out a little bit. I like it when I interview someone, and they tell me some inspiring phrase, Mad Professor told me at one point in the interview that:
"You just start doing something and then it multiplies, one day you make a song, next day the song is underrated, next day people like the song, next day make another song, and you work in that every day. So, you don’t stop and think. You don’t stop and think. You just do it".
You just do it, you just do it, it's like that, it's very clear, like Nike's slogan, but it's right, it makes sense. After this I asked him if I could take him a portrait for the cover of the article, which he kindly agreed.
When I left the dressing room I was invaded by a strange feeling of happiness and satisfaction. The nerves had dissipated. Deli and Juan were waiting for me expectantly, I smiled, and they hugged me. It didn’t matter that the questions were horrible, I did it, I achieve it after so much time of wanting to talk with Mad Professor. And most importantly, I was able to take the portrait. But that wouldn’t have been possible if Deli hadn’t been able to find us, if El Ángel hadn’t come to investigate, if Casa Babylon hadn’t been so good to us, if Mad Professor hadn’t come to Córdoba. Everything is done as a team, I think that is the moral of this, or one of the morals, to collaborate, to unite.
Disclaimer: What happened next, for entertainment reasons, has been slightly exaggerated, which does not mean it is less true or significant.
FRAGMENT NARRATED BY EL ANGEL (read in a kind of film noire accent for more pleasure, thank you very much).
The house was dyed black. Walking through that place was unbearable, it was full of people. Every time I saw Tedy, someone intercepted me and started talking to me, I had nothing but grunts to offer them. I went to the bar, Beer! I told the cantinera. Argg! It was hot, but I took it in one gulp, threw the can on the floor and crushed it with all the weight of my foot. One who was about to greet me, seeing this, fortunately, walked away. A few seconds later Molas comes and shouts at me, Ángel, there he is, Tedy! Tedy sees this and begins to hide. You will not escape from me this time, damn rodent! I started to go where he was, one of the guards tried to stop me, but I dodged his fists, fainted him from an uppercut to the chin, and fell against a couple who was snogging around. The other one passed over my shoulder and threw him against the bar destroying hundreds of liquor bottles. Tedy ran desperate all over the people of the place, in direction to the dressing room. Fortunately, Deli saw this, intercepted him by putting her foot and Tedy rolled down the stairs. It was there when I, El Ángel, grabbed him by the neck, raised him against the wall and pointing him with my index finger I told him: Mad Professor, idiot, Molas is going to go there and he's going to have a few words with him! Two fists are drawn, and you have all the numbers!
End of the narration of The Angel.
Mad Professor. Soundcheck, 8/2/2018 - Casa Babylon.
Mad Professor - The Roots Of Dubstep (2012).
Massive Attack v Mad Professor - No Protection (1995).
The show was incredible, the rest of the night we danced without stopping, Mad Professor delighted us with pure deep bass and marked beats, and the classic psychedelia that I will never be able to get used to, always surprising, always so cheerful. After so much time Fraser is still the same child who built devices and amplifiers, the same profesor loco. Here I leave a video of the final greeting:
When the show finished, we left Casa Babylon full of energy, and also very hungry. The storm had dissipated, now it was a light drizzle. We took El Ángel to his house and with Deli we went to eat some hamburgers. We thought on the night we had lived, and I remembered the last thing Mad Professor told me:
"Life is there for us to take, for us to be a part of it. You just have to do what you have to do. You are here for a purpose, you have to do that. I can’t’ really say what’s the next set of things to do, you just have to feel it and bring it out, it’s really up to the individual".
At home, and after an intense night, I feel safe, with the warmth of the girl I love. The sun is starting to come out. Everything is more beautiful with the light of dawn.
Text, photography and video by Juan Cruz Molas y Molas.
Una mirada auténtica sobre la subcultura.
(An authentic look about subculture).