Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A likka look inside legendary Tubby's studio

Nice, Nice, Nice! Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!

If you're any sort of a fan of DUB, this clip should quicken your pulse and gladden your heart. Not only do you get to see the inside of King Tubby's studio but there's also Prince Jammy mixing on Tubby's legendary customized board, Scientist (observing and later filling the studio with ganga fumes) and Bunny Lee dancing ecstatically. Oh, what a joy!

I had no idea footage like this exists but apparently there is a documentary out there somewhere called Deep Roots from which this clip is excerpted. Must seek it out. There are many more clips from the documentary...where else?...but on YouTube...
Watch, listen and enjoy...this wonderful stuff.

You can hear the vocal of the track (Junior Reid's 'Jailhouse Rock') being dubbed in this following clip. Never heard this before but I have a dub of it somewhere ('Harder Dub' on the Shining Dub album). The dub actually comes in about 3.50 in this clip. Which is basically what you were seeing and hearing in the preceding clip. More or less...

...and from the same documentary check this clip of Delroy Wilson voicing 'In A Dancing Mood' - Sweet!
But check out the 'vocal booth'. Rudimentary. But the fact that some of the very best roots music was voiced at King Tubby's and of course the incomparable dubs mixed there by Tubby himself, Jammy, Scientist and a few others prove without a doubt that it is not the equipment and the studio that matters so much as how you use these tools. Of course, being an actual engineer Tubby ensured that whatever studio equipment he employed was customized, calibrated and utilized to the best possible effect. No doubt the musical talent, personalities, vibes and herb play their hugely significant parts...


Friday, June 20, 2008

Anatomy of a Melodica - and repair

I unzipped my Melodica case last weekend expecting to honk out a fast and dirty dub solo line only to find that almost all of the keys were sticking rendering the incredibly economically priced instrument ($30.00) all but unplayable. That was the end of that recording session. Instead it was time to get busy with a screwdriver and see what was causing the problem - and perhaps more importantly to give you the reader a look inside. A picture gallery of the Melodica in various stages of deconstruction and repair can be found here.
The Melodica is a fascinating instrument the history of which can be found here, so there is little need for me to go into any great detail. Suffice it to say that this 'toy' instrument in the right hands and with the right production can produce transcendent music (Augustus Pablo) or in the wrong hands if left untreated by a pleasant wash of reverb and a nice delay can require surgical removal!

It didn't take very long to find that an adhesive foam material used for damping the keys when depressed was the source of the problem. I had no hesitation in removing the foam and discarding it. But that left me with a pile of keys looking strangely like a disorderly heap of pulled teeth. The reed frame of the melodica resembled a huge harmonica and the brass mounting plate and reeds were and still are surprisingly tarnished.

I packed everything away for a couple of days and intermittently pondered what I would use to replace the foam. Quickly enough I decided upon felt, purchased some fabric glue and got to work. It was actually quite a simple and painless operation, the most difficult part being the feeling of trepidation that it might not re-assemble quite correctly or would not play properly. Both doubts were quickly put to rest and the melodica once again plays perfectly.

During this process I sent an e-mail to Hohner, not to make a claim of any sort, but to politely inform them of the problem with the instrument. I received a reply the next day which was heartening but I was not thrilled with the response:

Since it is a mouthblown instrument , it does depend what goes into melodica when played. Very sticky saliva etc. can affect playing. If you like, please return melodica to Hohner Inc. at address below for inspection/correction.
Two problems with this assessment: The damping foam beneath the keys would not be affected by whatever is coming out of the player's mouth as this part of the instrument is separate from the air passage that allows breath to be channeled to the reeds. It is not saliva that enters the instrument when blown (well, not through normal use) - it is breath vapour, condensation, water which should not be any stickier than what comes out of the tap. Anyway, in fairness they did offer to inspect and correct, but frankly I was not willing to wait around for them to do this - and I really wanted to have a go at fixing it myself.

I have given Hohner two further updates on my progress and hopefully my efforts will encourage them to try a better damping material in their manufacturing process.

Friday, June 13, 2008

General Pompidou: DJ with the Rock Stone voice

I thought Prince Far I was the DJ with the Rock Stone voice but Pompidou seems to claim (to have claimed?) differently. Toasting over the Cornerstone Church of Music cut of Jackie Mittoo's 'Darker Shade of Black' here is General Pompidou. Never heard of him before...

Incidentally, the same riddim featured Frankie Paul singing 'Old Nigger'. I think I'm allowed to used the word in this context. A superior track by any measure.

Here's Pompidou / Pampidoo inna di dance over the Sleng Ting riddim - at one point doing a mean interpretation of a hedge trimmer!

No hits for Frankie Paul's vocal on the 'Darker Shade of Black'...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wild Search for a Definition of Dub

This is something you could easily have done yourself, but why don't you just sit back and relax and I save you a few mouse clicks...

This doesn't help much at all
It says somewhere that the Beatles were knighted...benighted more like...

This is more like it

The often wacky and out-of-whack wikipedia.org meets our approval for the most part in their succinct definition:

Dub is a form of music which evolved out of reggae in the late 1960s. The dub sound consists predominantly of instrumental remixes of existing recordings and is achieved by significantly manipulating and reshaping the recordings, usually by removing the vocals from an existing music piece, emphasizing the drum and bass frequencies or 'riddim', adding extensive echo and reverb effects, and dubbing occasional snippets of lyrics from the original version.

The entry elaborates further, quite accurately, and then goes on to say:
'Dub' has become a term for almost any musical piece that "Utilizes the remixing of prerecorded sound as a mode of artistic expression." Taking the separate entities of a musical track and remixing them into a completely new selection has become a popular process, and can be found in a variety of genres ranging anywhere from hip-hop remixes and mash-ups to metal. Many listeners do not sense the Jamaican roots, and are unaware that this technique started with Jamaican rocksteady and reggae.
And in that paragraph lies the current dub dilemma as I perceive it. Is Dub just a studio technique or a musical genre (including the elements of particular rhythms and playing styles)? Answer me that? Let's see if this issue is addressed anywhere else...
I'll add to this if the mood takes me, but this is enough for now...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sons of Negus? (In the Event of a Power Cut) !

Not sure of the provenance of this video but it for me it amounts to a good reason to play more hand drums and get more of them, by hook or by crook and feel the good feeling of playing. Maybe I just need a night with the ACEtone ALLstars to give me the right kind of jollies!

Some may have difficulty interpreting what the man say - but for me the patter was very entertaining and lucid. No fools these. Note the bit where he decries all the electric instruments. Going too far perhaps, but a fair point when the power goes off. Hello! California fairly recently. Always have with you what will keep you musically alive in the event of a massive blackout. No TV. AGH! What will I do? It will be the choice of riddim and song that will define you in those testing times! I would suggest something by Delroy Wilson or Freddie McKay - or Prince Alla or...jus' some t'ing joyful where those gathered can easily harmonize or jus' sing along.

What Do I Not Understand About Videos of Records Playing on You Tube?

Can someone enlighten me about this phenomenon?
Every time I search for video of any reggae, Dub, rock steady and ska stuff I find heaps of videos of records turning on turntables with shite sound quality. Is this not absurd? I mean, the video quality comparatively is better than the audio quality. Is this not just a weird form of vanity being expressed by foolish people?

It really clutters the searches and crowds out the good video material. You know, cool stuff that people video taped from TV in the 70s, public domain stuff, amateur vids of significant people etc.

I suspect this is a circumvention of the ludicrous action taken by the search engines due to monumental force exerted on them by the mafRIAA and it's affiliates - so now that you can no longer search for audio using Google, Yahoo etc. (but there is always Baidu.com) you can search for the video with audio attached. And if you know what you are doing you can rip the audio. But isn't this just a huge wast of time, disk space, effort? Especially if the audio is rubbish?

I'd like to link some cool stuff here and not have to waste time on this.
Comments please.
Excuse what I think is justified indignation.
Is there a suppository for this repository of shite?

One of the Most Enjoyable Ads I've Ever Seen!

So this is really just a big ad for VP records reissue project (launched in 2007 apparently) - they're a bit late in the game, but they have the masters and the rights so all encouragement to them. I hope they're doing a good job of remastering...
Nice to see Big Youth giving the 'VIP Tour'.
My recollection is that Randy's is now Carl's if indeed it still exists. When I was there in 2000 the Studio was devoid of any recording equipment and the walls were lined with 45s gathering dust, awaiting foreign vinyl collectors seeking a rare gem. The shop was still in operation as Carl's and incidentally Carl still likes to wax somewhat ineloquently on his cameo in 'Rockers'. One of the great things about Jamaica is that everything is still 'now' in some ways that is strange to the rest of us struggling to move forward, to progress (and I do meant to include Jamaicans who have left Jamaica in that statement too!). I can relate to it in many ways but I get itchy feet if the water starts to feel stagnant...

Carlton Barrett's Nephew 'pon drum

He's got all the licks and chops but in fairness to him he'd be better with a bassman keeping time with him. Nice to hear all the old rolls and hits played with enthusiasm by the youth.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Horace Andy recording session

This is fairly recent I think - not the greatest song ever but very interesting to see the recording session in Kingston in progress.
Note the allstar line up of Sly and Robbie, Sticky, Skully, Dougie Bryan, Ansell Collins. Sweet! No mention of which studio though.
Bonus Kingston street scenes too!

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad RIAA / Media Defender?

Reading this will give you a good idea about whether or not you should be personally concerned about the actions and lawsuits of the mafRIAA or Media Defender.

A take-down program begins with the RIAA's list of about 700 current, popular titles of recordings owned by its member companies. The list is compiled - and continually updated - from Billboard and online music services' sales charts. The user-litigation program uses many more titles, but the RIAA won't disclose the number.

If you don't listen to the crap that the major record labels peddle then there is little to be worried about. Anyway other reports strongly suggest that they are just as likely to mistakenly target someone who has never even touched a computer. That is more of a concern.

Also note this article where the methods of the RIAA and Media Defender and their ilk are shown to be highly suspect and obviously ineffective:
Study Reveals Reckless Anti-Piracy Antics

...in May 2008, the team decided to repeat the tests, first to see if things had changed, and to discover if they could later implicate other IP’s, ’spoofing’ their presence. This time, there were almost 40% more DMCA notices, despite still not actually infringing copyright as claimed in the notices.

Tommy Mc Cook interview

This is very special:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Spanish - Reggae - Surf

the link is almost complete.
Bloody hell! check the finger blistering fretwork on this performance...
of course this chune is an oft adapted reggae staple. But of course you knew that, didn't you? If I could just find a Surf version I would be very happy...
It is pleasing to see that Wikipedia is ignorant of this composition. So what were the sisters at Alpha listening to and how did they get their hands on it? Don Drummond et al adapted melodies such as this and gave the world incredibly beautiful music - please comment...
Update: The Pyramids. Great surf band: Baja is their tune and no link can be found...too bad. I like it more...

Post Apocalyptic post modern 21st Century brain damage

oh dear, this is a headful. Fascinating but bewildering and this was probably 20 years ago. Everything has been done. Totalitarian DJ stylee here demonstrated by the plainly deranged Cutty Ranks. Now where is my coke...oh and if this was a political big up for Manley then it's no surprise the other guy (probably) won!

Holy mother of f#$k - it's Althea and Donna!

This is a real challenge in many ways! The backing chune is totally pimped up for pop TV and bears little resemblance to the excellent original Joe Gibbs/Professonals/ET production. Where is the bass? But at the same time, what a wonderful slice of a song in a certain time. They do a good job on the 'singing' and they have the khaki suit and t'ing. The hair, the glasses - spine tingling!
At the certain risk of sounding, nay being sexist, I'll take the one in the middle!

OK, that's it. I want one of these drums.

My bongos just aren't doing it for me. Here is the legendary Skully just doing what he has done on about a million reggae and Dub tracks. I want that drum (someone said it is a djembe-is it?), I want that amazing sense of rhythm! I want it all - but for now, let's watch a master at work - or should that be, at play as he effortlessly Rootifies the chune...

Michael Smith lip-syncing uncomfortably

This man had a big load of heavy patter on his mI cYaan bElieVe it album...listen

Mikey on the mic...not at the controls...

This is stuff I thought I would never see...but here it is...crucial:

Yellow like cheese!

This is surprisingly good! In the fine Jamaican tradition of monopolizing on unattractive looks and an underprivileged upbringing, Yellowman awes a captive Sunsplash crowd - well I think it is Sunsplash...good stuff

...and remember children, don't try this at home

and, did you know that Dub bass can extinguish naked flames?...now there's a name for a band!

Mighty Diamonds sweet roots riddim

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Is iTunes tariff putting the music buyer off?

Or even ripping them off?
ACEtone Studio is in the happy situation where every iTunes sale of an Eating Betty track (for example) yields ACEtone Studio 66c or thereabouts.
That goes to me. Nice. But don't get too excited. I don't sell very much!

But, major labels yield the same 66c (or thereabouts - don't know th e exact figure) and give the artist a pitiful microscopic royalty from that sale. Which they probably receive months after the actual download/sale.

So, good for me, but bad for the unfortunate music industry puppet performer.

In my case, I would be perfectly happy to sell downloads for way less. 50c or even 25c would be fine. Would Apple iTunes considere a tiered price scale?
They should give labels the choice of how much they want to sell the tracks for. Of course the major labels in their typical lack of wisdom would push for way higher prices. Personally I would rather see a greater number of track sales resulting in a greater return instead of the current rip-off price which I'm convinced is an impediment to the reluctant online buyer. They shouldn't really be charging more than $5.00 per album.

Friday, June 6, 2008

So that's What Baidu is all about!

there is more behind this than reported here I'm sure.

A huge number of the ACEtone downloads in particular of the the ACEtone ALLstars tracks is through Baidu and SoSo spiders.
The top hits in acetonestudio.com webstats are from these Chinese companies. I'm actually pretty happy with this because it means that lots of people in China are hearing the music I produce. Of course I would like to be paid for it, but...it is good advertising...

Now the article does say this:

Baidu provides links only to music files stored on third-party servers. No music is stored on computers owned or controlled by Baidu.

Well, what's the problem? It doesn't say that they are hacking into any servers. Sounds to me like they are not doing anything wrong. Sounds even more like the major labels are trying to quash independent artists and make only major label music available globally, and at a price. It is my choice if I want to give this music away for free and Baidu and SoSo should be able to make it accessible as long as they are not breaking any laws. Baidu is a search engine. It is possible to find free downloads, free LEGAL downloads using this search engine. Can the record companies not understand that some things in life are free? What a jaded, cynical, stupid subspecies they are!

Here also is the Slashdot angle on the subject
where some comments get it right, wrong or just ridiculously misinformed.

and for some clarification here is the Wikipedia.org entry on Baidu

Here's and amusing commentary on the use of bad words on TV. FUCK!

there is so much hypocrisy about this issue it is incredible, but this ARS (e!) Technica article has an amusing take on it.

Paul McGuinness is at it again

Yeah, way to go Paul you big #%^$ing @%$hole
No way is this man the least bit concerned about the artists. The sooner musicians break free of their corporate bosses the better.
This guy should just shut the hell up.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Augustus Pablo live

This is really pretty impressive stuff - I never thought I actually see THE melodica man tinkling the Hohner plastic mini keys in this way - just look at the ease of execution - who is in the backing band?
They're playing Java too fast but still - very cool to see this: