Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Sep 25th 2008 5:00PM by Benjy Eisen
Now living in Switzerland, Perry recently constructed a home studio for the first time since he infamously burned down his "Black Ark" studio in Jamaica (a scandal he discusses in this interview), in which he recorded many of Bob Marley's early cuts. Having invented the technique known as "scratching," and having all but invented dub music, Perry continues to seek out new ventures to add to his impressively large canon. For his latest release, 'Repentance,' Perry made an unlikely bedfellow in bizarro-metaler Andrew W.K., who co-produced it, delivering a disc that, yet again, pushes his own boundaries. When Spinner tracked him down at his home in Switzerland, we had to persuade him to come to the phone at first. Finding him in a melancholic mood because of some canceled gigs, we promised we wouldn't discuss the tour. Instead, we got the original Mad Professor to open up about past demons and set the record straight - sort of - as well as delving into the new album.
You've been called many things but one word that gets repeated often is "innovator." Since music is always evolving, new innovations continue to occur. Following your innovations with dub and reggae, have there been any more recent developments - innovations - in music that currently excite you?
My music heals. And my music also kills. So my music is a double-sided sword. One side for healing, and when you reject to be healed, the other side is for killing. So my music is good and my music is bad. And my music is the innovator, your innovator, and there is nothing that my music cannot do. My music make rain come. My music make thunder, or my music make lightning flash. My music give life or my music take life. So there is nothing that my music cannot do.
So let's talk about your music on 'Repentance.'
Yeah. My music is my god. Right?
Right. Music is my god, too.
Wonderful. Glad you know that music is god. In music, all things are possible. And to my music, there is nothing impossible. And there is nothing my music cannot do, if you only believe.
Why did you call the album 'Repentance'?
Why called 'Repentance'? It mean, like, it wasn't something for poor people to repent. Poor people don't have much to repent for. We're talking about the government ... there are a lot of people that are causing the problem and putting the sufferers under pressure. The government, the churches, and the state are putting poor people under pressure ... they have them be brutalized by police and soldiers. So these are the people I am telling to repent - the soldiers and the police, and the governments and the pope and the archbishop and the president and people like this.
You've recorded or produced or mixed or performed on so many albums. But there are also many albums out there that somewhat falsely have your name on it. How can people tell if what they're buying is legit?
Some people are catching on because my people still want to have my music. Some people put out some album and say Lee Scratch Perry mixed it, and Lee Scratch Perry produced it, and they mislead you. And this is all talk. This album is not my real album. But you must lend your ear until you know which is mine, and you know what my work is; you can recognize my work and what is not my work.
You've called [legendary producer and founder of Island Records] Chris Blackwell a 'vampire.' But you've worked with him since. In fact, he's released some of your albums.
Well, we can talk about that, but I mean those days are over; because he did not like one of my special albums, the album 'Roast Fish, Collie Weed, and Corn Bread,' and I didn't like the idea that he didn't like the album ... this song, I tell him after the show, I do with 'Collie Weed and Corn Bread' and we were crazy about it, about that music and that beat. And he did not like it anytime, so I would get wrecked and say he is this and he is that, but sometimes I think even if he was a vampire he still play a good part for Jamaican music, so I don't want to have any funny to say about him anymore. Those days are over.
There are a lot of different stories about why your studio in Jamaica, Black Ark, burned down. I've heard "faulty wiring," but I've also heard that it was your act of rebellion against the record industry. So let me ask you: Why did you burn down your studio?
Well, the reason for burning down the studio is this: It's because I didn't want to help everybody and I couldn't help everybody, and some of the people that come to me for help, when you heal, you're a healer, and when you heal a person, the person that you heal, you pick up their disease. And you have to know how to get rid of the disease that you pick up from somebody that you heal. And the disease is coming to boredom and the disease is coming to endure poverty. So the healing a nation, when you finish a healing, then you will be poverty. And you have to know how to break the spell. And so after I heal those dread, those dread leave me in poverty, and me in the Black Ark studio. So in the case that you want to get rid of the poverty that the dread are leaving me, the only thing left to do was to burn it down. Otherwise I would die in poverty. Because I would keep up the dreads' poverty, and make the dreads rich so the dreads then leave me their bad looks. So I have to burn down the studio to get rid of the dreads' bad looks.
You invented the technique called 'scratching.' Now that scratching has caught on in many different types of music and in so many unexpected places, what's your opinion on some of the ways you've heard it being used?
My music is about magic and the magic has a logic. And there I am trying to do my best, trying to be a healer to heal some people with broken heart, and heal some people with broken mind, and trying to open the eyes of some people, spiritually, who cannot see and then I can explain some things to them by the music. So my music is like a teaching, a school, and so I will call it my church, my school, my education, and my manageable life on this planet. So my music being a good part in creation is for young children who want knowledge, who went to school....so that they could get an education...if they want to get an education from there, they can listen to my music.
How do you personally define dub music?
Dub music is like a child in the brain, and then after the child is born, the child pick a time to walk and a time to talk. So to make a real child, you've got to make a brain child out of your heart. So out of your heart come boom-boom-boom boom-boom. Tick-tick-tick tick-tick. So you take that to your drummer and you tell your drummer to play that. Boom-boom-boom boom-boom. Then that is the heart of the child. Then the child need a brain, and you have to have a bass man to play the bass and the bass is the child's brain. So that's the dub, the start of the child. You make the child's heart first, then you make the child's brain next. So that is dub. Then after you make the child's brain, then the child's heart, the child needs two hands, so you give the child a guitar in one and then a piano or in the other, so ting-ting-ting ting-ting. What next? So, you know the child [still] needs something, it is the music, so you bring in the vision and you say you're going to dub on [the child]. You're going to dub on hand, you're going to dub on piano, you're going to dub on heart, you're going to dub on harmony.