Multi-media and Interview
by Stephen A. Cooper
Rarely has a music fan like myself been blessed with the genuine friendship and kindness – and unparalleled access – to an artist of the stature of legendary sound engineer Hopeton Brown, better known as “Scientist.” Watching Scientist at work recording, mixing, dubbing – whether in the studio, during a sound check, or at a live show – is completely mesmerizing, educational, and even at times, inspirational; Scientist’s professionalism, incredible focus, attention to detail, efficiency, and commitment to producing the very best sounding music, no matter the situation, is unmatched.
For this segment of our interview, Scientist and I got together on July 31 at a Thai restaurant in Los Angeles – the same place we first met at the end of last year. Although we could have easily talked for hours, it ended up being closer to forty-five minutes because Scientist was pressed for time; he had to go run the sound check for his and Hempress Sativa’s phenomenal show at the Dub Club later that evening.
What follows is a transcription of “Round 3” of my multi-part interview of Scientist. It has been modified only slightly for clarity and space considerations.
Q: Greetings Scientist, great to see you again!
Scientist: Great to see you too, Stephen.
Q: Scientist, at the end of last year, the first time we ever met, you called legendary singer, producer, sound engineer, and your close friend, Pat Kelly, on the phone in Jamaica. We were talking and all of a sudden you picked up the phone – as we were talking about King Tubby and the relationships between the sound engineers that worked for Tubby – and you called Pat. You handed me the phone briefly, and I was so nervous and also excited to be speaking with Pat Kelly! [But] he was so cool and down to earth [when we talked on the phone.] Sadly, of course, I’m reminding you of this because Pat died about two weeks ago following complications from kidney disease. So I wanted to start [our] discussion today by offering my condolences; I know Pat was a good friend of yours, that you knew [each other] for a [very] long time. Do you remember how you first met Pat Kelly?
Scientist: Yes, the first place I met Pat Kelly was [at] King Tubby’s studio. He used to do a lot of mixing with Bunny Lee. I had the keys to the studio, so I used to stay until the time that Pat and Bunny Lee [left].
Q: Roughly how old were you when you met Pat?
Scientist: About seventeen.
Q: Did you become friends right away, or did it take some time for the friendship to develop?
Scientist: I would say I became friends with him right away.
Q: Was there something [where] you could tell you guys were of the same mind and were going to be friends? Was there something between you, or just the understanding of the music? Or what was it?
Scientist: Well, let me say it this way, most people they feel threatened of their job. Pat – I didn’t get that energy from him. Because Pat would mix the “A” sides for Bunny Lee, and then Pat would allow me to mix the dub sides. And you know, it went on for weeks and months and he never [felt] threatened. If I tried to [do] the same thing with somebody else, they want to do it all because they [would] feel threatened.
Q: Was Pat [working] with Tubby before you?
Q: For how much longer was Pat [working] with Tubby before you [started working there]?
Scientist: At least a couple of years. [But] [h]e wasn’t “working there” at the time; [he] used to come there to do work for Bunny Lee.
Q: Oh I see. Okay.
Scientist: And then I would record Pat Kelly and some of the Bunny Lee [tracks].
Q: What albums or songs, if any, did you and Pat collaborate on together if you know?
Scientist: The list is long. The artists [included] Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, Johnny Clarke, and [many other] artists.
Q: So you guys would be in the studio engineering together on those artists’ records, mixing together?
Scientist: Yes. At Tubby’s. And then when Pat Kelly would come with Bunny Lee to Channel One studio, I would do the recording and Pat used to be there as a singer. Being around Pat Kelly, I never felt negative energy from him. Everybody else, they [felt] that their job was threatened [by my presence in the studio]. Not with [Pat].
Q: When it comes to music, what do you think Pat Kelly will be most remembered for?
Scientist: Well he [had] a unique voice. The man did him thing. And one of the unfair thing[s] that I spoke to [Pat Kelly’s] wife, Jackie, about yesterday [is], you have all these producers who are sitting around like vultures. When I look on[, for example,] Ebay, all of sudden a Pat Kelly record is [selling for] over one hundred dollars; it’s [exploitation].
Q: Do you think there’ll be a way for Pat Kelly’s wife, if everyone is going to be making money off of Pat’s [incredible] legacy, for his wife to make some money, too?
Scientist: Well what I told her to do is, get each and every copy [of the music comprising Pat’s discography], put them out, and re-release them. And when the [record companies and other entities] come to you and say they have a contract, you remind them that you can’t have a contract with a dead person. When the person dies, the contract also dies. And then if they try to bother her about money, it’s the wife legally who has power of attorney; they have to satisfy all the back-royalties.
Q: Scientist, you’ve started to [speak about] this [already but], putting music aside, what kind of man was Pat Kelly?
Scientist: A good person. Decent person. No bad-minded business [about him]. Not jealous. Humble. Quiet. [Could] be very deadly if he [wanted to be]. Because a lot of people don’t know that he was a martial arts expert.
Q: I didn’t know that, wow. He did karate and stuff?
Scientist: Yeah. Black belt.
Q: Wow. Cool.
Scientist: But I’ve seen people get up into his face, and he just laughed it off –
Q: [He was a] cool cucumber?
Scientist: Very cool.
Q: Before switching topics, is there anything else you wanted to say about Pat Kelly – as a man, or about his music career?
Scientist: Um, what I see happening with all these wicked people, it’s like they get extended life. And a person like Pat Kelly who [was] just so humble. So mild, so well composed
Q: [Dies] too young?
Scientist: Yeah and leaves all these fuc*ing a**holes around.
Q: Makes you wonder why?
Scientist: Well, hear the conclusion. I hope that there is something better than this messed up planet we live on named earth.
Q: On a happier note, what brings us together today, to move on from the somberness of Pat’s passing, is the promise of a very joyful evening: You’re perform[ing] tonight at the Dub Club in L.A. with Hempress Sativa. Before getting into some of the details concerning tonight’s show, and your work with Hempress Sativa on her debut album, and [then] on her dub album, how did the connection between you[rself] and Hempress happen – how did you first link up?
Scientist: Her husband and I became good friends.
Q: This is Chris “Conquering Lion”?