One of the music producers credited with influencing the art significantly in the 20th century is Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Having started his apprenticeship with Jamaica’s Studio One and Coxsone Dodd in the late 60s, he later moved to Amalgamated Records, Joe Gibbs Studio around 1970. Any student of Dub, Dance and of late Dub Step will inform you that Perry’s use of the effects unit of the time, the echo chamber, and basic two and four track mixer/tape recorders were stretched to the limit to produce some of the most innovative sounds of the time. This included sampling which we take very much for granted today. His development of reggae music through remixes, dubs and overdubs was done out of necessity. And, necessity is the mother of invention.
Having access to a couple pieces of basic equipment: a mic, echo unit, a mixer and recorder; and no means of updating at a time when reggae and other recorded music tastes were developing at a rate of knots, Perry was inclined to experiment in order to keep up with the pace set by other hungry musicians and producers looking to break into the market.
I recalled the story of Perry when I consider the access to the equipment many of us have at our disposal today. Yet, we neither learn to master them nor maximise on their potential before we move on to the next and latest bit of gear.
I wonder what he would have produced with a 16 track digital desk hooked up by lightpipe or firewire to Pro Tools or Cubase on a Mac Pro with in excess of 150 virtual tracks and unlimited effects? Having access to both inboard and outboard gear and various microphone options would have created what new sound? Let’s say he had an HDV camcorder or two or even a DSLR, what movies would be in the offing? Given that he was into production, then editing may have been his thing, what masterpieces would he have created with FCP 5/6/7 or Premiere? Such resources are available in many homes now.
With regard to film and video. The new range of Sony F cameras look great. So do the more affordable Canon C series. Panasonic’s about to deliver another bargain buster upgrade to the AF101. The recession may have many wondering how to afford these updates. Can the serious hobbyists keep up with the small production units? Is DSLR still relevant? Should I cash in on my old tape based camcorder?
What would Scratch do?
Well by example he has shown that the best equipment is what you have right now at your disposal. Before you make that next purchase or upgrade have you made the best possible production with the resources you already have? For a benchmark just do a web search and put in best production with camera x or camera y or lens x or y or mixer x or y. You’ll be surprised at the awards, commendations and commercial success many have had with the same equipment you have within your grasp right now. Challenge yourself, be creative with what you have and you’ll be the richer for it in more ways than one.