Dub From The Roots

The Black Ark studio





' want to eat me







Scientist, Dub Chemist










If you want to know what DUB is all about (at least from our point of view) you
should click over in the THEORY section. But the HISTORY of dub is this:

An important though small part in the evolution of dub played the ever-present
Coxsone Dodd. In the mid-sixties he released an instrumental track where the then
common horn section was missing, which he intended to overdub the already finished
riddim-track with, but for lack of time at that day this couldn't be done. But this
very riddim-only track went well at the soundsystems and the audiance liked it. So
from that release onward it was common to put a 'riddim solo' (later called 'dub
version') on the flipside of a record - a practice that's in use until today. These
riddim tracks, just the normal single minus the voice and plus some effects,
proved to be extremely useful in the dancehalls and lead finally to the DJ style.


In 1968 Osbourne Ruddock, under which name King Tubby was born, was the owner of the
'Hometown HiFi'-Soundsystem. One evening he checked some Treasure Island tapes for
recording quality he wanted to play at the upcoming dance. While fumbling around with
the mix of it he suddenly cut out the voice and turned up the bass in the track. The
effect was extremely impressing and he put this mix on a dubplate for testing it with
the audiance. The people at the dance freaked out that evening, U-Roy toasted to the
dubs while the bass vibrated through the bodies and echos flew all over and around.
So DUB as an own for of music was born.

Tubby soon had his own small 4-track studio where he continously produced dubs and
experimented with the sound. In this process the mixing desk itself became an
instrument and the man at the controls a musician, while the 'real' musicians merely
supplied the raw material, the elements and building blocks of the dubs. King Tubby
discovered that a track can live by sounds and the dramaturgy of the mix alone,
speaking to body AND head likewise and that there is more to music to achieve than
entertaining and dancing or - as a counterpart to that - just sitting and listening,
like e.g. in Classical music. And that's King Tubby's great achievement.

BUNNY 'Striker' LEE started a very efficient cooperation with Tubby, and loads of
dubs of his own productions, with the AGGROVATORS as Lee's studio band, were
released. Many of these records, like 'DUB FROM THE ROOTS' or 'THE ROOTS OF
DUB' are absolute essential dub records today.

But - and there is a BUT with these records and the King Tubby of that time to me -
no matter how big Tubby's achievement is regarding sound and mix, there stays one
fact: King Tubby produced mostly VERSIONS of already existing riddims (lots of Johnny
Clarke hits, Burning Spear, John Holt, Horace Andy and others) and seldom CREATED. He
RE-CREATED and RE-SHAPED. So the credits for discovering the possibilities of dub and
conquering elementary new territory for the next decades of music definitely belong
to him. But the credits for fully making use of these possiblities in my opinion go
to another man, to which I would apply the term genius without any doubt: LEE PERRY.

See more on KING TUBBY in the DIGITAL section: 'Firehouse Revoultion'!


In 1973 Lee Perry was having a nap in the backyard of his family home in Kingston and
had a strange dream, hearing the strangest sounds and music never heard before. After
awakening he reflected on the dream, took it as a singn from the Almighty and decided
to build his own studio on this very spot. After completion in 1974 it was named 'THE
BLACK ARK' and one of the biggest mysticisms of Reggae music - and music in general -
should have it's origin there.

The studio was equipped with comparatively simple equipment through all it's time: a
four-track 1/4-inch TEAC reel-to-reel, 16-track Soundcraft board, Mutron phaser, a
Grantham spring reverb and a Roland Space Echo. But with these means only, completely
independent ways of production and lots of time to experiment Lee Perry created the
100% unique sound and style that will identify him forever. He shot pistols, broke
glass, ran tapes backwards, and used samples of crying babies, falling rain, animal
sounds and TV-show audience to create music and cleaned the tapeheads with his
T-Shirt and blew Ganja smoke into running tapes to alter the sound, With records like
'DUB REVOLUTION' or 'BLACKBOARD JUNGLE DUB' the dirty and magical quality of the
BLACK ARK sound was formed, never to be re-created.

In these surroundings only Lee Perry's production skills reached a new level, he
played the mixing desk like an instrument (roll over the pic above!), modulated
everything with phaser and delays and made the 4-track-machine sounding like a 20-

"It was only four tracks on the machine," Perry explains, "but I was picking up twenty from the
extra terrestrial squad. (...) I see the studio must be like a living thing, a life itself. The
machine must be live and intelligent. Then I put my mind into the machine and the machine perform
reality. Invisible thought waves - you put them into the machine by sending them through the
controls and the knobs or you jack it into the jack panel. The jack panel is the brain itself, so
you got to patch up the brain and make the brain a living man, that the brain can take what you
sending into it and live."

The aura of the BLACK ARK studio attracted many musicians, newcomers and veterans
alike, and countless timeless classics were created there. The 'OPEN THE GATE'-Box on
Trojan is an extraordinary document for the productions of that time and one of the
best Reggae records ever put to vinyl. Check out tracks like 'WORDS', Leroy Sibbles'
'GARDEN OF LIFE' or the milestone 'CONGOMAN' by the Congos (recently re-edited by
Carl Craig). Each song - great in themselves already - comes along with a dub version
that all have a deepness in them with no words to describe it. An absolutely
essential release!

Additionally to his achievements of stretching Dub over it's breaking point and
defining a new musical dimension of its own, Lee Perry was also a gifted riddim-
master and song- writer. Loads of classic riddims were created by him in this
era and - like 'POLICE AND THIEVES', 'SOULFIRE' or 'I CHASE THE DEVIL' - even reached
Top Ten status in England. And that is the big difference between him and King Tubby:
while Tubby RE-CREATED (in this time) Lee Perry CREATED. The music done by him in the
BLACK ARK studio present the pinnacle of Jamaican creativity, Reggae at its highest
heights and greatest power.

But constant production and constant use of weed and booze took its physical and
mental toll in the late 70ies. Additionally the overall political situation in
Jamaica became almost civil-war-like, the streets being dangerous, looters hanging
around the studio and local gangsters pushing Scratch for protection money. Unable to
take that strain his wife and children left him and Perry started to walk the slim
line between reality and fantasy, reason and madness. Visitors and journalists
arrived at the Black Ark to find Perry worshipping bananas, eating money or spouting
long and violent diatribes. So in this time the BLACK ARK as a 'living brain', as he
described it before, ceased to function.

Perry spent much of his time vandalizing the Black Ark then, covering the once
colourful decor in bizarre and profane grafitty and splotches of black paint. Reels
of master tapes lay strewn on the floor, and the recording equipment was next to
useless due to water damage from a leaky roof. The once proud studio was now little
more than a junkyard.

Then in 1979 Lee Perry burnt the studio down and left Jamaica for good. The whole
story of it is not clear until now, it's one more legend surrounding the mythos
Perry, but as a reason for this final step - and point of no return - he said:

"The Black Ark was too black and too dread. Even though I am black, I have to burn it
down, to save my brain. It was too black. It want to eat me up!"

He spent some time in New York and England in the 80ies and finally married a Swiss
bussiness woman, who became his manager afterwards. The releases he turned out after
the death of the BLACK ARK never reached that quality again. He now lives in Zurich /

Additional to the records mentioned before check out 'SUPER APE', an unforgettable
dub session with the Upsetters, 'JAH LION', 'HEART OF THE CONGOS' by the CONGOS,
'ITAL CORNER' with Prince Jazzbo or 'KUNG FU MEETS THE DRAGON'. All highly


Another person who impersonates dub, especially in the early 80ies before the Digital
came, is Hopeton 'Overton' Brown, also kown as the SCIENTIST.

He started off as an repairman for TV's and radios in KING TUBBY's electrical shop,
using his downtime to experiment with the equipment in Tubby's studio and thus
learning the art of producing Dub from scratch. But he reached his creative heights
only in the early 80ies when working as a fulltime producer for CHANNEL ONE and
producing lots of dub versions of their hits.

Especially the minimal but tight sound of the ROOTS RADICS presented a very
interesting foundation for many SCIENTIST records, giving him enough room to
experiment with the dramaturgy of the mix that is allover great. Echos tear up
space and a driving bass is tearing up head and heart alike with an extremely well-
produced sound that uses all the dynamic up a record can bear.

While his releases are overall good listening material they don't reach the deepness
and power of King Tubby's, Lee Perry's or even the outstanding WACKIES records of
that time. But I like the stuff a lot nevertheless.

First of all you should check out the whole SCIENTIST series, also because of their
ENCOUNTERS PACMAN'. There are also loads of other of his records around, but these
are all highly recommended!


If you are interested in Dub, you should also read about (and listen to something
from) KEITH HUDSON (his stuff is currently re-released by Berlin-based Hardwax-
sublabel BASIC REPLAY, 100% unique, great!) or the PRINCE JAMMY-releases of
the 70ies period (like 'KAMIKAZE DUB' on Trojan).

The history of Dub is much longer and more complex than the things I tried to relate
here, but for compactness I keep it like that. Follow the links on the REGGAE HISTORY
page to read a lot more on the subject!