Interview with Helmut Phillips

What we already knew is now official: “Dub Conference” by Helmut Philipps is the best book of the year! Thus chosen by the readers of RIDDIM in the Lerserpoll 2022 with a large gap to the following places. The first edition was completely sold out after only three months, the second edition of the new standard work on the subject "Dub“ but again everywhere in the trade and over the Helmut's website available. Christoph Kraus has a conversation with Helmut Philipps about the success story of his book (the first book about Dub in German and the third book about Dub at all) led.

How and when did the idea of ​​a book come about Dub to write? Short history of origin.
In 2007 I wrote the book "Reggae in Germany" with Olaf Karnik. After that it was clear: I want to write another book. And while I was looking for the right topic, friends pestered me: "Why don't you write a book about it Dub? you have yourself Dubs mixed. You know your way around audio engineering. You can ask the right questions.” With that, the decision was made.

How did you go?
The first thing I had was actually the title "Dub Conference". The title said it all. As far as possible, there should be dialogue, not interviews. Above all, I wanted to know “why”. From 2010 I had the first talks. First in Germany: Soljie Hamilton in Bielefeld, Pat Kelly on an off-day in Münster, Clive Chin in Berlin, in Cologne and at Reggae Geel in Belgium, King Shiloh in Wuppertal. After that, everywhere and at every opportunity that presented itself. At the Garance Festival in France, at the Summerjam, Reggae Jam, Reggae Summer, in Holland, London, I traveled to Jamaica twice for the book.

An old white man is writing a book about “black” music – in these times, are you considering preparing for the potential accusation of cultural appropriation?
Yes, the woke zeitgeist actually caught up with me. When I started writing, there weren't any gender asterisks. I can't help being old and white. So shouldn't I write a book like this? Then who writes it? The Jamaican ambassador in Berlin listened to a presentation of the book from me and was amazed that a German man was telling stories from her homeland that she had never heard of. In Jamaica nobody knows that 50 years ago the first DubLPs have been released.

How is the reception, the feedback on the book?
Overwhelming and sometimes touching. People send me photos of where the book is on their bedside table, on their mixer or on their record rack. Some “complain” that they now have to buy a lot of albums after reading them. Others write to me: "I'm reading it for the second time." A woman sent me a card: "If someone asks me what are you reading and I say, 'Helmut Philipps - Dub Conference', that sounds pretty intellectual." Someone else texts me: "I don't think you know what you're doing with your work and your knowledge Dubnerds do We can no longer empathize with a lot of information and experiences. It is important to be able to understand the beginnings here in Germany as well. Thank you for the opportunity provided by your brilliant book!” Something like that leaves me speechless. And when I then consider that the "Dub Conference" was voted best book of the year and the first edition was sold out after 10 weeks, I am very grateful and happy about the way the book was received.

What surprised you the most during your research, what impressed you the most?
I didn't realize how big of an influence jazz has had on the development of reggae, and therefore also of Dub. King Tubby, for example, had a room full of jazz records. The engineers working for him could record the records on cassette, which people like Pat Kelly did a lot. Coxson also had a huge jazz collection. His Skatalites were a jazz band. The early Studio Ones Dubplates are often jazz-influenced horn improvisations. In his private life Lee Perry preferred to listen to jazz and in 1975 he made an offbeat jazz LP with Vin Gordon's "Musical Bones". The list could be continued ad nauseam. The improvisational aspect of jazz is reflected in the Dubben. Just listen to the Tommy McCook or Bobby Ellis records that Tubby mixed: Tommy McCook's "Brass Rockers" (aka "Cookin'") or "Hot Lava", or "Bobby Ellis & The Professionals meet The Revolutionaries". That's where jazz meets Dub. Dub and jazz unite the free handling of music, Dub is improvisation at the mixer. That's why some of those I interviewed were so vehemently opposed to digital Dub pronounced. Because Dub needs a mixer and cannot be programmed. There are now small mixing consoles that can be used to operate computers. Something has changed there.

Did you have a favorite interview and if so why?
Definitely Style Scott. I sat with him under an old tree in Chinna Smith's yard in Kingston and he talked for hours. From his grandparents, from the place where he grew up, from Junkuno, his education, the clubs in Montego Bay. All I really wanted to know from him was how it was with the Roots Radics and Dub Syndicate. But he told me his whole life. He was a pleasant, friendly and, in a European way, polite conversationalist. A wanderer between the worlds, the two Dub-has shaped for decades and was totally aware of the difference between Jamaica and Europe. It was a blatant shock when I found out a few months after our meeting that he had been killed.

Is Dub spiritual music or studio assembly line work?
Dub was commissioned work on the assembly line. The Soundmen lined up at the studios on Fridays. Everyone wanted new ones Dubs for the weekend dances. They took matters into their own hands while in the studio Dub after the next was mixed. Five minutes a Dub. It didn't take longer than the song played by the the Dub should be drawn.
The spiritual note of DubIt is in the nature of the default. If the original, the vocal version, has spiritual depth, this carries over into the Dub and in the toastings about that Dub. But when Johnny Osbourne sings: "I don't want no ice cream love, it's too cold for me" and Scientist one of them Dub pulls, that's not very spiritual. But when Johnny Osbourne sings about "Truth & Rights" and then probably a scientist again Dub mixed, that's something completely different.

It can Dub give without reggae?
At least it keeps trying. But there are few convincing examples. King Jammy said to me, “The heartbeat of reggae is essential to Dub.” The “interdisciplinary” attempts at punk and Dub combine works most convincingly in music with reggae beats. Like Ruts DC, the Members or The Clash. The Fellow Travelers did well, too, because their country music has an underlying reggae flair. But jazz goes Dub, classic in Dub etc., I consider all of these to be errors drenched in echo.

Can you still remember your first listening experience - when and where and how Dub entered your life?
Lee Perry with "Super Ape". Gigantic, but not really, as people understood over time Dub. Nonetheless, a masterpiece. And Scientist with the Greensleeves records, which we now know he never made. He does the mixes, but the Greensleeves bosses came up with the albums.

The “scientist” theme and the way the engineers for the Dub-Mix have been paid as a job, but are neither seen nor mentioned as an artist and their work has been published in part without their knowledge, was rather unknown to me as a common practice and surprised me. Can you go into that a little bit here?
Dubs became part of the day-to-day business when mixing and didn't take up much time. When a song was finished, it quickly became another Dub replenished, included almost for free. The producer (Junjo, Bunny Lee, whoever) paid for the song and ended up getting the tape. Then there was him Dub on it that was used for the back of the single. That of the DubThe engineers didn't know that separate albums were made elsewhere - in England. Because the albums didn't even exist in Jamaica, only overseas.

What is your definition of Dub?
Dub is the special mix of an existing title for a special use, namely at Sound Systems. Dub without a preceding original is instrumental music. Which by the way is not a definition of me but of Style Scott. Interestingly, Coxson got the sense of Dub-Records seen in it for the deejays to practice.

Who is your favorite engineer?
Scientist because of the anarchy in his mixes and because of the best sound. Groucho Smykle because he Dub staged like Hollywood movies. His mixes are also based on vocal versions, but there's no room for toasting anymore. Both Scientist and Groucho are perfectly described by the title of the book that Michael Veal wrote about Dub wrote: "Soundscapes and Destroyed Songs". At Scientist I saw him livedubben kept calling out: "Someone must deejay!" But even in my house, no deejay à la David Lynch comes into the room via hologram and starts toasting when I Dub hear Dub has long since become an art form in its own right outside of Jamaica. But one that lives on memories. You know that there are still melodies, wind instruments, songs. But you only hear them in your mind.

You're on a reading tour, you're invited to radio shows, z. B. WDR 3, WDR Cosmo, DLF, Bayerische Rundfunk, ByteFM, various online stations. What questions have you not been asked that you are surprised you have not been asked?
At first I was a little surprised that there were never any confrontational discussions. But that's what the Dub conference at all. I wrote a history book, let other people tell the story and researched the facts. I find that the readers are interested in the very story. Where everything comes from and what it comes with Dub has (had) on it. Most of you have noticed by now that Dub and Steppaz are only seemingly soulmates. With many common formal ingredients, yes. But ultimately something completely different. Historically and musically, steppaz is alternative techno music. Dub but is the version of a pre-existing music. There is no way around this difference. Mad Professor told me: It's only then Dub if it is a version. And there we are with Style Scott again: if it's not a version, it's instrumental music.

Which aspects were particularly important to the audience and were discussed after the reading?
Most just listened and were happy with the information and stories I shared. I notice how strong the interest in the topic Dub is. Everyone knows the term, even outside of the reggae circle, but many don't know exactly what it's all about. That's why there is the mistake that with every echo you immediately think: Aaah ... Dub!

What's your top 3 classic Dubalbums?

  • Lee Perry's "Super Ape" - a supernatural high. No Dub, but it feels like it.
  • "Herb Dub Collie Dub“. Mixed by King Tubby, the companion piece to The Legendary Skatalites, the Skatalites' only roots record. A fairly rare record. Released in 1976 without a cover and can no longer be found, it was reprinted by Motion in 2001.
  • Everything from Scientist at Greensleeves. Scientist's mixes benefit from the fact that the originals were so dominating that decade: Wailings Souls, Johnny Osbourne, Michael Prophet, Barrington Levy, Hugh Mundell...

Helmut Phillips: Dub conference

To make one thing clear right at the beginning: This book is “Dub Conference – 50 years Dub from Jamaica' is not a doctoral thesis in the academic sense, nor has Helmut Philipps been awarded a doctorate for it. Although the meticulousness, scope and approach certainly suggest this.

On around 250 pages in 22 chapters (ignoring the index, references, glossary, etc.), the author pursues the question: what is Dub? This happens (hence the title “Dub Conference”) largely through conversations with many protagonists of the genre. Helmut Philipps conducted interviews whenever possible, at concerts and festivals throughout Europe, but also during several research trips to Jamaica. He has spoken to Style Scott, Sylvan Morris, Errol Brown, David Rodigan about his good friend King Tubby, Fatman, Pat Kelly, Bunny Lee, Barnabas, Linval Thompson, Clive Chin, Clive Hunt, Scientist and King Jammy, among others.

"Dub Conference” is the first book about Dub in German, and within a short time the first edition of 1.000 copies was sold out. It is more of a coincidence that the publication of the book (the history of which began ten years ago) coincides with the 50th anniversary year of this genre. The first five Dubalbums were made in 1973, they were: Lee Perry – Upsetter's 14th Dub Black Board Jungle, Prince Buster- The Message Dubwise, Herman Chin Loy – Aquarius Dub, Joe Gibbs— Serial Dub, Clive Chin – Java Java Java Java.

But even after 50 years and the worldwide reception and adaptation of Dub, is the question about the origins and conditions of formation of Dub a largely unwritten and often mythical story. "Dub Conference” is dedicated to the Jamaican Dub from its beginnings in the 70s to its end with the digital revolution in 1985. The adaptation of this genre in England and worldwide is only touched upon marginally and then mainly through the eyes of non-Jamaicans like Dennis Bovell or Mad Professor.

In addition to his journalistic work, Helmut Philipps benefited from the magazines RIDDIM, MINT and of course the Dubblog, especially the fact that as a professional sound engineer he has a different approach and technical understanding of the work of the Dub bring engineers. Because the emergence and development of Dubs always had a technical side. Helmut Philipps clears up the misconception that the film was recorded and produced in Jamaica under "Third World conditions". The studios on the island have always been able to keep up with international standards.

has its origins Dub Early 70's in Jamaica's sound system culture, as a custom special or version of a popular vocal original that gave the deejay a chance to 'toast' his chants over it. The demand for these "specials" fueled the evolution of the Dub. One of the core theses of the book is therefore “no original vocal version Dub". Dub is the work of Dub-Engineers in the studio with the mixer as an instrument for the sound system application. The format of the Dub-LP was more intended for export and hardly played a role in Jamaica. At some point, however, the producers realized that the youths in Babylon were willing to invest their pocket money in black gold. The triumph of Dub was unstoppable.

Helmut Philipps has succeeded in writing an exciting book that is entertaining and informative at the same time, with so many Dub Myths cleared up and a partly new understanding of this variety of Jamaican music is shown. For example, what makes Lee Scratch Perry so special and what did he do differently in the Black Ark than the others Dub engineers? And is that at all Dub, or is Perry more of a sound creator? How is the Scientist vs. Greensleeves case to be assessed? Can he Dub Understand the engineer himself as an artist in the legal sense, or is he more of an employed service provider for the producer? What role played Dub especially in LP format as an export hit and which ones in Jamaica? How many of the Dubs to the countless albums circulating under King Tubby('s), did the King mix it himself? is Dub a spiritual music or craftsmanship? What's the difference between Dub and instrumental, you can Dub than drum-and-bass music, and can Dub give without reggae?

To get an answer to these questions, read for yourself!