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A (ahem, part-time) journey into Dub…

October 14, 2010

3 weeks into my new University course it dawned on me: I just couldn’t do it… not in a year anyway.

While 4 taught modules totalling 8 hours a week might appear an easy part-time route, the reality is a further 10 hours per module per week of self-study. GNNNK! As each day passed, thoughts of actually recording some music with bands I’m involved with, spending time with my wife and kids, and even doing some really thorough hoovering filled my head, along with the realisation that life  as I know it would have to stop if I’m gonna get an MSc in a year. After some serious soul-searching the answer was clear: Education, learning, self-development are important, but so is having time for myself,  to do the things personally and creatively that I want (need, even) to do. Decision made. Forms signed. As it stands, I think I feel better, though I’m still not sure if I’ve halved the pain or doubled the time I have to endure it. Watch this space, as they say.

In moments of doubt, of late, I tend to turn to this… Danish men with moustaches wearing cardigans.

Workwise, I’ve been recording some demos of my own at home and am hatching plans to get something going with The Young Vanish on a more regular basis. My good friend Mr Dook Dootson of the mighty Portlands is joining me up at 3KHz studio on Monday to track a couple of new demos. It’s always exciting waiting see what he turns up with, and we usually get it down within a few takes. Give that man an old beat up guitar and let the magic happen! (Click here for Dook…!).

Down at Salford I’ve been trying to get to grips with sound synthesis. While making noises with soft-synths can help pass the days/hours/weeks, studying the mechanics behind it all (a necessary evil) is not as straightforward. I have a long list of areas to master including, oscillators, filters, envelopes, Frequency modulation and synthesis methods. So far I’m just about getting on with the “source and modifier” paradigm, and in particular, subtractive synthesis, which is quite limited. I’d like to be able to just go blank and nod in agreement at whatever anyone tells me about the subject, like I believe it all, but it’s not enough. It has to sink in…

On a slightly more creative front I’ve just put the finishing touches to a Dub mix of Bob Marley’s “lively up yourself”. The practical side of this was highly enjoyable. The academic ‘scientific report’ side, not so. It’s been good delving into Dub – something I’ve never done before. This week alone I’ve consumed the Trojan Dub set Volume 1, Augustus Pablo’s “King Tubby meets Rockers Uptown” as well as various Horace Andy, Lee Perry, Errol Thompson, Mad Professor and Scientist. So, not a bad week. Trying to replicate the Dub style seemed daunting at first, but after hours and hours of listening a lot of the production techniques revealed themselves. In en era of ProTools and plug-ins its easy to forget that those Dub pioneers did it all analogue and in real time. They had probably had a few guys manning the desk and the effects, and were fuelled by more than a skinny latte, but they had to know the track, know the gear, and know how to mix. Trying to control the feedback loop you create by patching a delay insert back into itself while dropping tracks – or whole sections of the song out using sub-groups – is not easy to get right… never mind getting the timing right, the tone right, the depth and width of the mix right. Those guys played the desk like it was an instrument. Sheer skill and intuition, and possibly more than just the one take…

I salute you, pioneers of Dub.

One final word from King Tubby.



From → dub, Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. Hello friend! I think I totally understand your decision to attend the part time program. I am sure I would do so if I had my family here with me.Even now I slightly have time for me and even when I do something away from the master program, I think I cheat on me. I feel so little when I am thinking that I have to manage all this work in a single year! But I encourage myself thinking that many others have managed to do the same thing before me. I aslo feel so little when I am thinking that some of my fellow-students like you have so much experience and knowledge upon the same attended program!
    Thank you for the useful material upon the Dub Music! Cu soon.

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