Music » The Hum

Scientist v. Evil Vampires

Jamaican dub master at Mazzotti's, plus trumpets and break-dancers



The minimalist, bass-heavy, effects-laden variation on reggae known as dub has some serious aficionados (this writer among them), but not a lot of people listen to it. The exception may be the music of Jamaican dub master Overton Brown, better known as Scientist, or The Scientist. Millions have been listening to his album, Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires, but, for a time, he did not even know about it.

As he explained in a call to his home studio in Southern California, "I was standing in a supermarket one day, and a boy recognized me. He says, 'Mommy, Mommy, that's The Scientist. We have his music on our videogame.' I was wondering what the hell he was talking 'bout. He says, 'Yes, your music is on Grand Theft Auto.' I didn't know what it was."

To be specific, about half of Scientist's Curse of the Vampires album, recorded in the early '80s, was used as content for a radio station called K-JAH in Grand Theft Auto III, a controversial shoot-em-up videogame for Playstation 2 (and other systems) created by Rockstar Games.

The game has sold in the millions internationally, but as Scientist put it, "I wasn't getting any money." Not until he hired some lawyers to sue Greensleeves Records, the British label that licensed his music without telling him or giving him a piece of the action.

He admits that he has better name recognition because of GTA, but he has mixed feelings about it. "I'm hoping kids don't think I'm a gangbanger or that I endorse shooting police officers. I never played the game, but everyone tells me about it. I don't understand why they have someone who steals a car and shoots up the place, then he's listening to reggae and Rastafari on the radio."

Scientist got his start as an engineer (his father was a radio/TV repairman) and as a teen, after training with King Tubby (one the inventors of dub), he took the genre into new realms. He still does engineering work — when we spoke, he was in the middle of designing a circuit board for an amplifier — and when he's not in court (GTA suits are pending all over the world) he goes on the occasional reggae tour to work as dubwise soundman extraordinaire.

That's what's bringing him to Arcata Thursday, May 1, a show at Mazzotti's: Wild Wild West Reggae Dub 420 Spring Tour '08 includes UK reggae stars Michael Prophet (who sings on the Curserecord) and Sammy Dread, Jamaican vocalist Johnny Clarke and Hawaiian Lyon (from Hawaii, of course), all backed by The Raggasouljahs, with Lesterfari of Boom Shaka on guitar, the great Santa Davison drums and a full horn section, all engineered live by Scientist.

Speaking of dub, Heavyweight Dub Champion is back in town for a two-night run Friday and Saturday at the Red Fox. The trio is on what they call a"Deep Deep Dub" instrumental tour, which means no chanters or rappers, just tripped-out dub.

About thatCowboy Junkiesshow at Van Duzer on May Day (Thursday the First): If you're familiar with the Timmins family band from Canada, it's probably because of The Trinity Session, an album of slo-mo covers and originals from 1988 that was pretty much the only time C.J. broke into the U.S. market. To celebrate the album's 20th anniversary, the band returned to the Trinity Church with a few friends (Ryan Adams, Vic Chesnutt and Natalie Merchant) to "re-interpret" that record as Trinity Revisited. So if you request some of the old songs, chances are they'll remember them. Monahans, a moody rock duo from Austin/S.F., opens.

The poster for the Thrones/SubArachnoid Space show Thursday at the Alibi looks like something from the psychedelic '60s, and it makes sense. Portland's neo-psyche instrumentalists SubArachnoid Space pull the tradition into the here and now with long, loose spirals of darkness. Likewise Thrones, which is basically bassist Joe Preston, formerly of The Melvins.

Also on Thursday, Long Beach jamband Delta Nove returns to Humboldt Brews for some "world funk."

Friday at the Pearl Lounge, it's another episode of Miles Ahead with keyboardist Mike Kapitan and friends (Brad Werrenhandling Miles' trumpet parts) in "a tribute to the music of Miles Davis starting from the Kind Of Blue era to the rockin' psychedelic explorations of the Bitches Brew and Live/Evil period." Very cool stuff.

Meanwhile at Fulkerson Hall, the Humboldt Symphony presents its spring concert including contemporary composer Robert Bradshaw's "Trumpet Concerto" with Gil Cline on trumpet. The rest of the program veers widely, from baroque by Telemann to Gershwin and Stravinsky.

For a different (let's say smoother) style of trumpet, you have Chris Botti playing Friday at the Arkley Center. The jazzy Portland-born Grammy winner's latest is titled Italia, so expect some of that flavor.

Next door at Auntie Mo's, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are throwing a benefit for HIV Kids and the AIDS taskforce:Mo's Betta Disco Drag Dance Partyhas what you'd expect, folks in drag dancing to disco, but also drag racing on Big Wheels (really?) and a bike raffle.

Songstress Joanne Rand is back at the Jambalaya Friday with her band The Rhythm of the Open Hearts and a special guest: former Jam owner Joyce Hough. ("I'm Joanne's back-up singer," says Joyce.)

Over at Mosgo's, Amy Obenski, from Santa Cruz, offers what she describes as "jazzy folk-rock with ethereal vocals."

The Miracle Showtakes its Dead tribute to the Wave Friday. No cover, but bring a coupla quarters and maybe a miracle will happen.

Break-dancing fool Reckless Rex of Humboldt Rockers (a break-dance troupe) celebrates the 4th anniversary of the Rockers with Battle Time 2, a hip hop show/break-dance contest on Friday from afternoon until midnight at the Bayside Grange, with grand prizes (as in $1,000) and big name judges: BBoy Machine and BBoy Bebe(who also lead workshops this Saturday at Redwood Raks). They have Itchie Fingazon the tables and some fine MCs including Z-Man(from S.F.), Eureka's Nac One, Dirty Rats outta Fortuna and J the Sarge.

J the Sarge is about to drop a disc with Myka 9, a team-up they call Magic Heart Genies. Both of them are on the bill for Homegrown Hip Hop Vol. 5 on Saturday at the Mateel. Souls of Mischief from the Oakland-based Hieroglyphics collective headline the show, which also features Brooklyn's Whosane and Humboldt homies Subliminal Sabotage, with DJ Just One and DJ Elements on the wheels of steel.

Same time, different city, Tech Williams's Do Som Bout It crew turns the Eureka Vet's Hall into party central with hip hop action upstairs and down, including DJ Assassin among others.

The Blue Ox Mill has it's annual May Day Living History and Artisan Fairall day Saturday with the usual crafty demos and tons of music: bluegrass by The Compost Mountain Boys (also playing Saturday for HSU's Compost Festival), cowboy tunes by The Tumbleweeds, old timey by Striped Pig String Band and the Empty Bottle Boys, jugband tunes by Likely Story and Celtic by Hearthfire and Moonstone.

Got kids? Think about taking them to hearRed Grammeron Saturday afternoon at the Arkley Center. Red is a Grammy-winning kids' entertainer, a former folky (he was once a Limeliter) who started writing songs for his own kids, then kept with it. Are your kids fourth or fifth graders? They get in free. Why? "Parents don't take kids to things when they're that age," says Holly, a mom who's been bringing Red to the area for a few years, basically so her son (a fifth grader) can hear him sing. "Red's music relates to kids that age. He's all about tolerance and cultural diversity, but he can't do that music if he has to just keep the babies in their chairs." Expect appearances by some local kids (and adults) and don't worry about being hit over the head with a message. Red makes it all fun.

The first everBike to the Beach Folk Festivaltakes place Saturday afternoon at Rogers Market in McKinleyville, just off the Hammond Trail. Organizer (and musician) Bob Smith invites you to "celebrate our trail systems and our bike friendly roadways and recreation areas," and listen to tunes by Moonsong Band, Kindred Spirits, The Highclass Hobo Society and Backwoods Capo.

The Broken Heartsare breaking up. "It's very sad," says Julia Cupp,the band's lead singer. "I'm leaving for Portland at the end of summer,Zak [McLongstreet,guitarist/accordionist] is going traveling at the beginning of summer. We're going on tour at the end of May with The Ian Fays,starting in S.F. and ending in Vegas, but we're just doing one more local show." That's Saturday (Arts Alive! night) at the Pearl Lounge. Thelittlestillnotbigenoughopens.

Something exotic? San Francisco's Gamelan Sekar Jaya plays traditional and not-so traditional Balinese gamelan music Saturday at HSU's Fulkerson Recital Hall. (Costumed dancers too.)

Or how aboutRaquay and The Cavemen, progressive Middle Eastern bellydance-style band from Brooklyn, led by red hot dumbek player Raquy Danziger, playing Tuesday, May 6, at Six Rivers,a show presented by. (I'm guessing there'll be costumed dancers at this one too.)

Also on Tuesday, Andrew McKnight, a "songpoet" from Virginia's Shenandoah Valley sings heartfelt, topical songpoems from his latest, Something Worth Standing For, at the Westhaven Center for the Arts.

Cool/esoteric show of the week: a four-way bill Tuesday at the Pearl featuring two Arcata alt. bands, Brother Mitya(aka John Thomas) The Beat Nun(Maddy Shernock and friends),plus two touring duos, I Heart Lungand ellul.I Heart Lung is guitarist Chris Schlarband drummer Tom Steckproducing music they refer to as "refined chaos," leaning toward drone with jazzy guitar, subtle percussion, "improvisation and predestination," as they put it. IHL is about to release a drone opera, Interoceans, on Asthmatic Kitty Records, with guest spots by Nels Cline and pedal steel wiz Dave Easley among others, but this tour is just the two of them. That and labelmates ellul, with two Joels: Joel St. Julienand Joel Brown Tarmanboth playing guitar (Brown Tarman also plays keys). They both sing (in harmony sometimes) and manipulate all sounds via electronics devices as they "attempt to traffic meaning into a needle-eye spiral using the ever-evolving relationship between acoustic and electronic modalities with the human voice." A worthy goal. Incidentally, Brother Mitya The Beat Nunan all-ages show at Mosgo's Saturday, which is a good thing for those too young to hang out in bars.


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