Legendary dub reggae producer Mad Professor tells Davina Morris why he went back to the old values for his new album, From The Roots : Horace Andy Meets Mad Professor.

Mad Prof in his studio.

Sleeve "From The Roots".

Horace Andy.. Live.

One of the leading producers in dub reggae, Mad Professor, has worked with artists from Macka B up to Massive Attack. After setting up Ariwa Records over two decades ago, the Guyana-born producer - often describes as a new school version of his mentor Lee "Scratch" Perry - went on to take dub into the 1980s digital age with his popular "Dub Me Crazy" albums. The last week of November 2004 saw the release of his latest offering for which he teamed up with veteran artist Horace Andy. From The Roots : Horace Andy Meets Mad Professor takes music back to "old values", as the Professor, aka Neil Fraser, explains.

DM : What can fans expect from the new album?

MP : When you hear it, it's very likely you'll think it was recorded in 1976 or 1977 because we went back to old values with this album. It was real musicians playing real instruments. We had Sly & Robbie involved, a group called Knowledge and a number of other artists.

DM : What elements do you think made you one of dub's most significant producers?

MP : It would probably be easier for those who know me to answer that. I just do what I have to do. But, basically, I started my label around 1980 and it was one of the first black labels in England that had a studio as well. We dealt with a variety of styles, dub and blues, and then we went on to lovers rock, and then we went back to doing more crossover dub. The label - and myself - have seen a number of trends come and go. And in this business, if you can stand the test of time, I guess you're respected for that.

DM : Do you feel that you've received the recognition you deserve throughout your career?

Mad Professor doing his dub show in the U.S.A.

MP : Those who know me well would probably say that maybe I should be on TV more often or something like that. But I'm regularly out of the country in, say, Australia or Japan, because there are many parts of the world where they love and respect what I do. I think England has more-or-less become Americanised when it comes to music. In the past fifteen years we've seen a trend that's encouraged youngsters to try to be the next Will Smith or Alicia Keys, as opposed to being an original artist in their own right. So I'm not really interested in trying to push myself up on the MOBOs or any c**p like that.

DM : What do you dislike about the MOBOs?

MP : I think they glorify Americans far too much. But, in fairness to them, they are not the only ones to do that. But there's a vast number of talented British people who can't get their tracks heard or who can't move forward because there's no media outlet that will support them. There are so many radio channels, yet we hear the same old rubbish all the time.

DM : Are you a fan of modern dancehall?

MP : I've learned to accept it. I think the bulk of it is really lacking in musical content. It's all about dancing to a beat. You have to go with the trends, but I think we have to remember where the music is coming from. We've had some great musical icons who made music with intelligence and wit. To slip into this phase where we're only interested in dancing to a beat is very sad. It's been suggested that the powers that be are trying to put an end to black music. But we're the ones who allow it to happen by reducing the standard of our music and accepting any old thing. Even this business with homophobia in reggae - we should have made sure it never got this far.

DM : How?

MP : There was never any need for artists to make music about killing people. You go into a dance and in order to get props the guy on the mic might shout out things like "All who don't like battyman say 'yo'" and the whole place will say 'yo' because they don't want to be associated with gays. But that kind of thing was never meant to be on record, it was strictly for the dancehall. We've heard the argument that people are misinterpreting the lyrics, but - whether you mean it or not - why would you want to make a record about killing somebody or make music that disrespects women, like you don't have a mother or sister. Somehere along the line, we've lost the plot, lost our sense of morality.

DM : How do you describe Lee Perry?

MP : Lee Perry is a guy who was ahead of his time in his creative work and he's still appreciated widely to this day. And of course, he's very eccentric. He's an icon and an encouragement to us all that there is life after 60!

DM : What else are you up to at present?

MP : I'm working on recycling a few Ariwa outputs because in 2005 we celebrate our 25th anniversary. I've just completed a number of new albums and I've a got a couple of new artists that I'm working with. I'm pretty excited about that.

Lee "Scratch" Perry.
Interview : Davina Morris (The Voice UK)    Photos courtesy of Mad Professor

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