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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. 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 remixer of choice for adventurous rock and techno acts, most notably revamping Massive Attack's entire second album under the new title No Protection.
Mad Professor was born Neal Fraser (or Neil Fraser) circa 1955 in Guyana, a small country in the northern part of South America. He earned his nickname as a preteen, thanks to his intense interest in electronics; he even built his own radio. At age 13, his family moved to London, and around age 20, he started collecting recording equipment: reel-to-reel tape decks, echo and reverb effects, and the like. In 1979, he built his own mixing board and opened a four-track studio in his living room in the south London area of Thornton Heath. Calling it Ariwa, after a Nigerian word for sound or communication, he began recording bands and vocalists for his own label of the same name, mostly in the lovers rock vein: Deborahe Glasgow, Aquizim, Sergeant Pepper, Tony Benjamin, Davina Stone, and Ranking Ann, among others. Amid complaints from his neighbors, he moved the studio to a proper facility in Peckham, South London. In 1982 he recorded his first album, Dub Me Crazy, Pt. 1, and quickly followed it with a second volume, the successful Beyond the Realms of Dub. 1983 brought two more volumes, The African Connection (often acclaimed as one of his best) and the fairly popular Escape to the Asylum of Dub.
The Ariwa studio was moved to a better neighborhood in West Norwood during the mid-'80s, and upgraded for 24-track capability, making it the largest black-owned studio in the U.K. From there, Mad Professor really started to make an impact on the British reggae scene. He produced major hit singles for Ariwa mainstay Pato Banton and Sandra Cross, and also helmed the breakthrough album for conscious reggae toaster Macka B, 1986's Sign of the Times. At the same time, the ragga era was dawning, and all-digital productions began to take over reggae. As the ragga sound grew more and more dominant, Mad Professor's brand of dub got spacier and weirder; while ragga detractors complained that Mad Professor's work sounded sterile compared to the dub of old, many praised his otherworldly effects and inventive arrangements. The Dub Me Crazy albums reached the height of their experimentalism during the latter part of the '80s, although by the early '90s they were showing signs of creative burnout. The 12th and final volume in the series, Dub Maniacs on the Rampage, was released in 1993.
Meanwhile, Ariwa continued to prosper as a label, with further hits by the likes of Macka B, Pato Banton, Sandra Cross, female singer Kofi, Intense, Jah Shaka, John McLean, the Robotics, Sister Audrey, Peter Culture, Johnny Clark, and others. Additionally, he began to collaborate with some of reggae's better-known figures; most crucially, he teamed up with main influence Lee "Scratch" Perry for the first time on the 1989 set Mystic Warrior. In 1991, he produced the first of several albums for the groundbreaking veteran DJ U-Roy, the acclaimed True Born African; he also went on to work with the likes of Yabby You and Bob Andy. He switched his focus to touring in 1992 and released the 100th album on Ariwa not long after.
With his high-profile collaborators, Mad Professor started to make a name for himself outside of the reggae community, and soon found himself in demand as a remixer for rock, R&B, and electronica acts. Over the course of the '90s and into the new millennium, he would remix tracks by Sade, the Orb, the KLF, the Beastie Boys, Jamiroquai, Rancid, Depeche Mode, and Perry Farrell, among others. His best-known project, however -- and the one that truly established his credentials -- was 1995's No Protection, a completely reimagined version of trip-hop collective Massive Attack's second album, Protection. Perhaps creatively refreshed, Mad Professor's own albums started to regain their consistency in the mid-'90s. Mixing electronics with rootsier, more organic sounds indebted to the earliest days of dub, he left behind the Dub Me Crazy moniker to launch a new series, the subtly Afrocentric Black Liberation Dub. The first volume was released in 1994, and others followed steadily into the new millennium, albeit at a less prolific pace than the Dub Me Crazy installments. More collaborations with Perry and U-Roy followed as well. In 2005, Mad Professor celebrated Ariwa's 25th anniversary with a tour of the U.K. alongside Perry and the double-CD retrospective Method to the Madness. In 2009 he released two albums, Times Hard under the moniker Mad Professor vs. Joint Chiefs and the back to basics Audio Illusion of Dub.
Mad Professor (born Neil Joseph Stephen Fraser, 1955, Georgetown, Guyana) is a 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 highly successful lovers rock tracks by Cross, John McLean, and Kofi, and attracted major Jamaican artists including Bob Andy and Faybiene Miranda. He teamed up with reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry for the first time in 1983 for the recording of the album Mystic WarriorReleased in 1989.
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.
Mad Professor has released hundreds of original recordings and has worked with a number of 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. The following is a partial discography of his original releases including collaborations with other artists and remixes.
Original recordings 1983 – In A Rub A Dub Style1985 – A Caribbean Taste Of Technology1992 – True Born African Dub1994 – The Lost Scrolls Of Moses1995 – It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Professor1997 – RAS Portraits2001 – Dubbing You Crazy2001 – Trix In The Mix2005 – Method To The Madness2007 – Dub You Crazy2008 – The Dubs That Time Forgot2009 - Audio Illusions of Dub
Dub Me Crazy series 1982 - Dub Me Crazy1982 - Beyond The Realms Of Dub (Dub Me Crazy, Pt.2)1983 - The African Connection (Dub Me Crazy, Pt.3)1983 - Escape To The Asylum of Dub (Dub Me Crazy, Pt.4)1985 - Who Knows The Secret Of The Master Tape (Dub Me Crazy, Pt.5)1986 - Schizophrenic Dub (Dub Me Crazy, Pt.6)1987 - Adventures Of A Dub Sampler (Dub Me Crazy, Pt.7)1988 - Experiments Of The Aural Kind (Dub Me Crazy, Pt.8)1989 - Science And The Witchdoctor (Dub Me Crazy, Pt.9)1990 - Psychedelic Dub (Dub Me Crazy, Pt. 10)1992 - Hijacked To Jamaica (Dub Me Crazy, Pt.11)1993 - Dub Maniacs On The Rampage (Dub Me Crazy, Pt.12)
Black Liberation series 1994 - Black Liberation Dub (Chapter 1)1995 - Anti-Racist Broadcast (Black Liberation Chapter 2)1996 - The Evolution Of Dub (Black Liberation Chapter 3)1997 - Under The Spell Of Dub (Black Liberation Chapter 4)1999 - Afrocentric Dub (Black Liberation Chapter 5)
Dub You Crazy With Love Series 1997 – Dub You Crazy With Love2000 – Dub You Crazy With Love (Part 2)2008 – Bitter Sweet Dub
With Lee “Scratch” Perry 1990 – Mystic Warrior1995 – Black Ark Experryments1995 – Super Ape Inna Jungle1996 – Experryments At The Grass Roots Of Dub1996 - Who Put The Voodoo Pon Reggae1996 – Dub Take the Voodoo Out of Reggae1998 – Live At Maritime Hall1998 – Fire In Dub2000 – Lee Perry Meets Mad Professor2001 – Techno Dub
With other artists 1982 – Rhythm Collision Dub (With Ruts DC)1983 – Punky Reggae Party (Positive Style) – Anti Social Workers1984 – Jah Shaka Meets Mad Professor At Ariwa Sounds1985 – Mad Professor Captures Pato Banton1989 – Mad Professor Recaptures Pato Banton1989 – Mad Professor Meets Puls Der Zeit1990 – A Feast Of Yellow Dub (With Yellowman)1996 – New Decade Of Dub (With Jah Shaka)2000 – The Inspirational Sounds Of Mad Professor2000 - Massilia London Experience (With Massilia sound system)2004 – Dub Revolutionaries (With Sly and Robbie)2004 – From The Roots (With Horace Andy)2004 – In A Dubwise Style (With Marcelinho da Lua)2005 – Moroccan Sunrise (With Borrah)2005 – Dancehall Dubs (With Crazy Caribs)2009 - Revolution Feat. Pato Banton And Mr. Professor (With Tugg)2009 – Nairobi Meets Mad Professor – Wu Wei2010 - Izrael Meets Mad Professor and Joe Ariwa2012 - The Roots of Dubstep
Since the 1990s he has remixed tracks by Sade, The Orb, The KLF, Beastie Boys, Jamiroquai, Rancid, Depeche Mode, Perry Farrell and Japanese pop singer Ayumi Hamasaki. His best-known project, perhaps, is 1995's No Protection, an electronic dub version of Massive Attack's second album, Protection. He has also done a version of I&I for New Zealand reggae band Katchafire. Mad Professor has done three versions for New Zealand electronic group Salmonella Dub.No Protection – "Dub version of Massive Attack album Protection" (1995)Soul Coughing – "Sugar Free Jazz (Multiple Remixes (Most were released on the Sugar Free Jazz: Slash In-House Cassette))" (1995)Black Orpheus Dub – Dub version of Black Orpheus for the AIDS-benefit album Red Hot + Rio produced by the Red Hot Organization (1996)Urrun Dub – Dub version of Fermin Muguruza's Urrun (1999)Salmonella Dub – "For The Love Of It" (1999)Salmonella Dub – "Tui Dub" (2002)Salmonella Dub – "Mercy" (2004)Miss Kittin – "Happy Violentine (Mad Professor Smiling Orange Dub)" (2005)