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 is a prolific producer, contributing to or producing nearly 200 albums. 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-1980’s 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 1989 for the album Mystic Warrior.
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.