LEE "SCRATCH" PERRY

The Upsetter, Lee "Scratch" Perry made outstanding music in his Black Ark studio during the 1970s. Listen to the timeless multilayered production on albums like "War ina Babylon" by Max Romeo & The Upsetters, "Heart of the Congos" by The Congos, "Beat down Babylon" by Junior Byles.

Last but not least there is some of Perrys own albums. Start with; "Super Ape" and "Blackboard Jungle Dub" and the two excellent compilations: "Arkology" with his best productions released through Chris Blackwell´s label Island Records, and finally, a very good introduction to Perrys world of dub: "Lee Perry - Upsetter in Dub" on Heartbeat CD HB 77, released 1997. Be sure to check record label and #, on the last one, because there are lot´s of albums with similar names, which is not as good. This is one of the best Perry dub compilations currently available.

For more information read the interview from 1982 with Lee Perry.
Today Mr Perry walks around with cd´s hanging from his head and seems to be only a shade of the genius he once were. He made an album 1997 in Switzerland, "Technomajikal" in collaboration with Dieter Meyer of Yello fame, which is a disappointment. Listen before you buy, which goes for most of his 80s productions as well. If you are a newbie in dub, look for recordings made during the 70s in the Black Ark Studio. They are usually a sure shot.

I received a email from a friend who tells me that Lee Perry did a gig outside Lyon in France in 1997. Perry was on stage with soup ladles hanging from his belt. He walked around in the audience and collected joints in his hat. After a while a young beautiful blonde wiped his forehead and the Legend continued the show. I think this story gives an additional angle to the sad story of the musical genius and his borderline personality.




AN INTERVIEW WITH LEE PERRY
Lee "Scratch" Perry started out in the '60s as an arranger and engineer for Coxsone's Studio One and quickly became the premier avant-reggae producer in the world. His hard bumpity groove and use of African rhythms drew the absolute best from the best musicians of the classic mid- '70s, from the Wailers to the Heptones to Max Romeo. In addition to providing Jamaicans with interplanetary dance music, the Upsetter also invented some of the more arcane dubbing techniques, spewing out a music so retarded and off that listening to it exposed one to brain damage and mental turmoil. Perry's dub was the light at the end of the tunnel, always there but never quite within human reach. In time, Perry was widely regarded as the reigning Grand Master of reggae production.

After a series of reversals in the late '70s (including a sanitorium stay and the closing of his legendary Black Ark studio in Kingston's Washington Gardens), Perry went to Amsterdam to live and record. But this potentially fruitful alliance was musically and financially disappointing for Perry, and he returned to Jamaica to take up various projects. A correspondent found him recording an album for Joe Gibbs in late 1981: "At the studio Lee had any number of small children who fiddled with instruments, the board, and headphones with alarming proficiency while the session went on. Occasionally Lee would space out and his wife would take over, doing much of the actual work. While singing, Scratch had laid out before him and around him the following items: Sagittarius horoscope, a small gold-painted statue of a lion, a set of hand exercise grips, a book on Buddhist yoga, a note pad full of lyrics, several Lee Perry records with weird phrases scrawled on the covers, a hammer, a pink plastic airplane, a grater, a book on space oddities and a couple of other objects that were beyond identification. He had a gym bag in the corner full of other personal talismans which I did not date investigate. He wore a blue denim suit with the top open, a number of copper chains and ornaments, a blue guitar cord around his neck, and no shoes. During the session he stood on books and occasionally anointed his feet with some clear, sweet-smelling liquid from a small rum bottle. The session included several Bob Marley tunes, to which Lee improvised new lyrics. The phrase "Coconut Excalibur" was repeated frequently. Despite his eccentricity, Perry was very coherent in giving instructions to the musicians, and very demanding. He knew exactly what he wanted. His singing wounded like a Jamaican Curtis Mayfield on acid reading transcripts from Bellvue Hospital..."

In 1981, Scratch toured U.S. cities, fronting a white reggae band from New York called the Terrorists. Several people who caught the shows said they were the worst in reggae history. But no matter. We caught up with Scratch the day after his Boston show in the suburban home of the promoter. At six o'clock that morning the promoter had gotten a call from the local police, as panicked neighbors had reported a black man jogging through their exclusive neighborhood with a machete. It was Scratch. With us and his beautiful blond girlfriend as his rapt audience, Scratch began by interviewing us.

LEE PERRY: This is an outerview from the Upsetter himself, he that speaketh and he that praiseth and he that doeth all things. Seein' this book in front of me, Reggae Bloodlines, which is the blood, means virgin blood, and the sign mean virgin sign and de time mean culture, time dispensation; well, now I feel this the time that the artist start to interview de books writers. For years the books writers been interviewin' the singers, now de singers start interviewin' de writers. What are you doing Mr. Simon? It's a pleasure meeting you in Boston. And good evening, sire. Your name?

Q: I'm Mr. Davis

Pleasure meeting you. And I wish you success on dis new book, but hope you make it fair this time, a straight line, no despair, fair within love compassion understandin' love knowledge overstandin', no more war in your mind. I now destroy the mentality of war, atomic energy from your mind, I give you de blessing of love and order if you obey me in eight nine O zed. That's the power of their computer controlling. Thankyou sah.

Q: Are you a member of the Masonic Temple, Mr. Upsetter?

De Misanic Temple - I art de temple, I art de future, I art de mirror, I art de music and de music art I, and I live in the music and de music live in I de Father - this is deharp, Sam Sharpe.

Q: What did you say last night on the radio, when the deejay asked you if you ever worked with Bob Marley?

I've never worked with anyone. Any time I see myself working with one, then I'll know I like myself to sleep to death, make you see, I'm not fit to live anymore. I wish de day never come when I work with anyone.

Q: And you mentioned you had a teacher - pupil relationship with him, is that true?

Well, if you think I'm not de teacher, test me.

Q: No, I do think you're the teacher, but I was just wondering if you had any comment to make about it?

About what? His vision of slipping out?

Q: About you teaching Bob Marley.

I'm not here to teach Bob Marley. I'm here to teach the universe.

Q: How did you get the name Upsetter?

Because I am the Upsetter. That's answer for itself. I am the Upsetter. One take onto himself what he think he is, and I think I know I art the Upsetter, so I am the Upsetter.

Q: So would you call this tour your doing now the Return of the Upsetter?

This don't mean the return of the Upsetter, this mean the tour, the mental power to destroy the mind of the undermind. The overmind is here to destroy the undermind. The overmind control by water, which is here to water de garden and de flowers, to let the trees grow, and let de children sing and let de birds fly and let the air be free from pollutions.

Q: You mentioned something about Dr. Syntax?

That's my idea. My idea is to criticize all tax collectors and my idea is to execute all thief, all liars and vampires, mentally, not in a physical form, I can do it physically by my exercise, cramp and paralyze, coz I know it is the Master Dance, I art a ballet sounds. Music! Water in here you got to splash if you're drinking rum, lotta people don't love rum, but I love rum very much cos rum is the spirit that was here before the hold - (sings) "Glory be unto the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning now and ever shall be world without end" but you see de rum? Rum is de power and the tom-tom and the tom-tom is the power of the one hundred drums that control the neighborhood at de root. If de baby born and had no navel string then he shall surely die but if he has a navel string then he gonna live. Rum is my navel string, that's where de spirit dwell and I like to have the spirit in me.

Q: How did you first become involved with doing production work in Kingston?

To discuss my original force of like is totally impossible for me to tell you how I got involved. I'm not a man who has kept memory of anything I've done. I'm a miracle man, things happen which I don't plan, I've never planned anything. Like I say, I never try, I never plan. And if there is a day that come that I have to try, I will ax the Almighty to let me die. A hate trying.

Q: You just like doing?

Instant. Whatsoever I do, I want it to be a instant action object, instant reaction subject. Instant input, instant output. If it's not the way it gonna work, well kiss my rass; if it even God, God would have to kiss my rass because we never work to a God that I don't get paid instantly. I believe in getting pay instantly.

Q: What albums are you producing now?

Albums!! Zillion and million and trillion and billion records. I art de camera, I art de future. I art de worlds without end, I don't think to talk, man, do y'understand? So if I want albums, I hatch them because I art Scratch the beginning.

Q: Did you start from scratch?

All de time. If you don't start from scratch, then your in trouble, you don't start nowhere.

Q: Can you explain the unique sound you get on all the records you produce?

Would you give away your secret? If you give away your secret, you may be a very stupid man. I will keep mine. Because I want to live.

Q: Why are most of your recordings in mono?

Well mono mean one heart, one thought, one love, one destiny, one aim, one alternative. So I defend only the one; anytime is a split personality I know then can be problem and danger and I don't support it. I support all-in-one, one communication, one Itation, one Iration, one faith, one human destiny. Anytime you come out with that, then I don't think you're parallel. You're confused, you're a mascot! And I don't defend mascot.

Q: Which musicians are you particularly fond of?

At this moment? Well, most of the good thing always pass away, cos sometime I say to myself, "How come de good t'ing die?" Thinkin' of all this, I wish the spirit of Otis Redding could come back alive, a vibration that can never die. I wish the spirit of Fats Domino would come back alive. I wish the spirit of King Cole would come back alive. I wish the spirit of King Solomon Burke, I wish those spirit could come back alive. I not in for the madness, because I can't take it. I don't defend fuckeries. Dig!

Q: Fats is still alive-

I know, and he's in another form, but those are the vibration that I want to come back alive, not to come back but to come forward for the use of mankind because without those spiritual guidance, then Man dead.

Q: So Scratch, you don't feel like shooting the barber and buring the razor anymore?

I think the barber should live, because there's lots of dreadlocks who want to trim. They need a new vibration. Let the barber live.

Q: And dig up the razor?

Of course, the razor gotta come back alive. Heh-heh! Nothing wrong with the barber trimming a man because I think I might takin a trim in a short while to change my vibration. Too much dread things not too good. I love good things. I want to see things happening good for me, not more dread foolishness and fuckeries. Clean hair I think is the honor, because man should respect his hair very much, keep it clean, brush it minutely.

Q: Did you at one point wear dreads?

I was getting involved with it. If I wasn't careful, I'd have got captured by the devil, but I was careful that I didn't get caught by the Devil. I was the only one that escape the trap. It's war!


Interview extracted from Reggae International,
Stephen Davis and Peter Simon. Rogner & Bernhard GMBH & Co - 1982
ISBN:0-394-71313-3


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