I just love reading Scratch interviews.
This one has Scratch on Rastafari, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, cigarettes and rum.
An interview with Lee "Scratch" Perry by Douglas Heselgrave
Victoria, BC, Canada June 20, 1999
The following interview took place after Lee "Scratch" Perry's first ever concert appearance in Victoria, Canada. I'd been trying to arrange the interview for over a month before the show, and all of Perry's people said that he didn't usually like to give interviews, and that I should have all of my questions ready and expect no more than five minutes of his time. When we first got together Scratch seemed cagey and looked like he wished he was somewhere else, but over the course of an hour, he opened up and gave very entertaining, playful and insightful responses to each of my questions. I left him with increased respect for his musical vision and creative process. He really is the musical madman. The SuperApe is in great shape.
Doug: Why do they call you "Scratch"?
LSP: That means this is the earth, so that when you scratch the earth, you're going to plant a seed, so when you plant a seed, the seed will grow, but if you don't scratch the earth, the seed won't grow, when you scratch the earth and the seed grow, that's your tree. You plant a tree, and you make a blessing and the earth return to you your blessing.
D: You've planted lots of seeds
LSP: The more seeds you plant, the more blessings you get. To not plant, it's not an insult. It's your aura. The more you give, the more you get. You give to the earth your seeds. If the earth doesn't grow your seeds, it means you're not good lucky.
D: Have you had good luck?
LSP: All the seeds around my house. I plant them. And all the trees around my house make the music you are hearing. I don't make it. The trees make it.
D: What do the trees say to you?
LSP: The trees say to me to go to United States of America and let them know that I am the reggae, but because of the behaviour of the artists and the promoters and of the reggae, I want to change to reggae to rock and pop and Jazz and Classic, disco and techno and roots and all of the music because I am all of the music.
D: What kept you from touring in North America for so long?
LSP: Well, the polar bear want me here, and the polar bear telepathic I because I believe in telepathic. SOS, ESP, because the polar bear said you need some warmth and a change of weather. Some of my fans are crying out for a change of weather. I don't know if I can do anything, but I'm here to change the weather.
D: You sang on the new Beastie Boys CD, so a lot of younger people are hearing your music. Your crowd was full of young people tonight. Why do you think they're so receptive?
LSP: Because the younger people have to listen to Scratch, so that Scratch can show them where to scratch. If we don't scratch, nothing can happen. You don't scratch, you won't plant anything and nothing will grow.
D: Had everything stopped growing at Black Ark Studios? Is that why you burned it down?
LSP: I did make a dread studio, and said I'd make a righteous studio and a Godly studio, and it was even too dread for me. Too much dread was there. I had to burn it down to get rid of that dread vibration. It was too dread. I should have put it off. Soul and a half dread. I forget that I was a soul man. It was a dreadful equation. Too dreadful for me.
D: So you went to Switzerland -
LSP: To hide in the mountains. And to rinse the dread off of my head. I had to isolate myself in the ice and build myself an igloo.
D: You said the God/Goddess, Shiva, followed you into the mountains.
LSP: Shiva of course. But she couldn't be here. Shiva have invisible wings, where she could fly amongst the people, sniffing too much car gas poison, then she wouldn't have the power to fly anymore. I am sorry about that.
D: When did you first become aware of Shiva?
LSP: When Hari Krishna first call me to India. Hare Krishna want to show to the world that Shiva is the creator, and she is the wheel of the princess and the daughter of Neptune which you have as Ariel. That is the same Shiva. So Hare Krishna wanted to transform Shiva here in a reincarnation to make the world know that "once a man, twice a child. "
D: Does Shiva ever deal with Rastafari?
LSP: She don't know about Rastafari, but she know about me. What there is to find out, she will find out because Shiva is the creator. I was well exercised and all my exercise went into Shiva. My exercises are perfect, and they will teach Shiva about Rastafari. She is too young to know about Rastafari now. I want her to know about what I have created. Then she will know about Rastafari. Then she will know that she is Saint Selassie. If I tell Shiva now she is Saint Selassie, she won't understand.
D: You sing in a song, "I am a Madman." What is madness?
LSP: Godliness is madness. When you see God and he tells you who him is, you can't do more than get mad. When it makes sense, you get sad. The people who looking for God, God is as a simple man, and God is full of love. God not come to kill anybody. God lets the fools kill themselves. Because of jealousy. Jealousy is what bring them to the grave. Because you're jealous, you'll send out evil thoughts and they will come back to you and kill you. God don't kill anybody; people kill themselves. And God is very simple, and very messy. Extremely messy. If God want to show the truth, the teacher couldn't show it because the teacher is piss and shit and poop. When you poop, the teacher hold up his nose and throws you out of the class because you poop, but you have freed yourself and freed the wind and heard the wind. What should you do with it? It comes in fresh and went out stale with a bad smell , and people are disgusted, but when it went in, it didn't smell . But it keep you alive for a while, and God want a change , so he's going to make you move a bit and give you another change. Fresh air. And you're hungry and you eat the fresh food, and it's so lovely, and after the change it smell so stink . But, it's the same God.
D: So, if you had five minutes with the Pope, what would you say to him?
LSP: Tell the Pope that he only deserve constipation and stoppage of water. He don't deserve anything more. That is the only blessing I could give to the Pope. Also to the Bishop. Make him want to piss and can't piss. Let them twist up.
D: What about President Clinton? You've made rhymes about him. He's a musician. Would you produce a CD for him if he asked you?
LSP: It would be a pleasant surprise. Let President Clinton show a new world that the politician world can't work and the music world can work. He should return to his music world. If he want to rule the politician world, him a have to know the music world because the people worship music. Music is the only comfort, and music is only what can keep you happy and keep you alive. For, when all the politicians shall disappear from under the sky , music alone shall live and teach the children how to live. Or, to dance or how to chant or how to sing and be happy, and don't to fret about vanity because vanity is nothing.
D: Who have you most enjoyed working with and playing with in your musical career?
LSP: Well, I've been working with a lot of musicians and so far these musicians that are with me now are the best musicians I have so far, and I want to fire them. But, because I want to fire them, they get extremely better , so that means they are the best till now (laughter) Better than the Wailers and better than everything I ever work with .
D: Aston "Familyman" Barrett, of the Wailers said that he thought you were rebuilding the Black Ark studios.
LSP: Well, he won't be playing in it. That's for sure. He is the butcher that Bob Marley sent to butcher me. He couldn't butcher me good. He didn't know that I am the killer. I don't butcher. I kill for real.
D: You didn't kill Bob Marley?
LSP: The cancer did it, not me.
D: You worked on "Rastaman Vibration," but your name doesn't appear anywhere in the credits.
LSP: I know why. I am a baldhead. They think I am not a Rasta.
D: You're the Crazy Baldhead?
LSP: I am the Rastafari. That's why Shiva will know. Shiva will see them wearing their big long locks and think they are Rastafari, but then she is going to wake up and know that I am the only Rastafari. The baldhead, Lee "Scratch" Perry who built up Rastafari from the foundation to the pinnacle. There is no other Rastafari but me.
Scratch takes off his baseball hat
If you think I'm not Rastafari and don't praise Haile Selassie and Marcus Garvey. None of them had any locks. We don't need locks. We are from the imperial throne, and we wear the imperial crown and sit on the imperial throne. We are not commoners. We are the Imperial. We don't need locks. Imperial locks shall not wither. Are not rotten. The imperial family locks shall not rotten. We are baldheaded from when we baby. We born baldheaded...
D: And, you'll go baldheaded -
LSP: We're not going to die because I'm positively sure that music cannot die. The music is eternal in my thoughts. The music heal brain and heal heart and make you happy. If the music die, everybody going to die. What going to keep you happy? The government with taxes? VATS, the lawyers, and the heavy expense? One thousand, or five hundred per hour in court. And when you leave court and have to pay the liar that vast amount, what you going to turn to if you don't have any music? Headache and stress and problem that you can't solve. NO! Music. Music is the voice of the people and music is the shepherd of the people. And music lead the people, and music bring the people here. People get miserable and lost in the wilderness and music come back to save them, because if they deal up music, music won't let them die in the wilderness. Those who think they are God, and are dishonest, will die. God cannot be dishonest.
D: You're not going to die?
LSP: I am not a dishonest man. I do thirty-five years of record in Kingston, Jamaica. I don't have any of the master tapes, and I'm not collecting any of the royalties of them that's selling.
D: Who's getting the money, then?
LSP: The tapes is between one black Jamaican man, a black vampire named Pauline and some Vampire children has me as well.
D: Can your music kill the Vampires?
LSP: It don't kill the vampires who deserve to die. I don't know why they die.
D: So, how do you kill them?
LSP: The music WILL kill the Vampires. Slowly, with needs and wants and sufferation. Send them to the gutter. Can't find no bread, no broth, no butter. No food. No good mood. Caulk out their brain and give them unbearable pain. Pain that cannot be cured, and let that be seen it's because you robbed Mr. Perry. Many are going to suffer.
D: Are things changing?
LSP: Of course. (lights his spliff) Vampire can't find no resting place. They are complaining to Satan , the trolls and the demons who are worshipping Satan. They are saying to Satan, 'We are very cold', but Satan said to them, 'there is nothing I, Satan, can do.' Until they can see the angel who programmed the meter to be so for the next two thousand years.
D: You still love to perform?
LSP: I am sure I have to perform. I present God. If I am not to perform, I am representing the devil for sure. I am presenting the words God says, so I'm happy doing it. It keeps me alive to teach the people what I know. Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsels of the unGodly and does not stand in the ways of the sinners who don't know what is sin. I sit in the seat where someone who is soulful sits. I sit with the living God who I am meditating with day and night. Then, you must be blessed by the true and living God. I always hear the true and living God. I hear the voice of the true and living God all the time. And, I will not ask to the true and living God, 'let me see your face'
D: The voice of God comes through your mouth....
LSP: Yes, it's God, himself, speaking. If I was impertinent and said, 'God, I want to see your face' he would stop speak to me. I wouldn't hear anymore. I am satisfied with the voice that I am hearing. The voice that I'm hearing is 100% pure. The voice is the voice of God and the voice of the prophesy. The voice of the beginning that made man in Him own image. And it was too dark and God said 'Let there be light' and there is light until now.
D: Do you believe that the Armageddon is coming?
LSP: The Armagideon already come.
D: And we lived through it?
LSP: They wrote down the alphabet wrong. They was only guessing and testing. It was 2000 years now fifteen years ago.
D: So, we're into the millennium now.
LSP: Definitely. We are in it. That's why the Black Ark studio burned down. Because we find a mess there. It was so pure to me. It was either me give it up, burn it down or keep it and keep destruction forever. And, I don't deserve destruction. And for I to cleanse, so I cleanse with fire. And, I won't build it in the back anymore, but it will be in my house this time. The house will be my studio this time. In the front . Super changing. The best changing. But, if I didn't burn down the studio, I would be in the back forever. I would never come in the front. Because I make the studio in the back . Then, the studio manifest in the back, in the back all the while, created in the back, and if I was wise enough to know that it must come to the front . So, yes, I burn it down or I would be in the back forever. From the front, you will be hearing from the Black Star Liner. There was a ship that was built on the dry land, and the people didn't believe that a ship could build on the dry land. They believed the ship could only be on the sea or on the river. So, I am the first scientist to build a ship on the dry land 'cause it's the Ark of the Covenant. Is the right name, but I wanted to save the black people so much. I think they love me 100% so much, that I changed the ship from Noah's Ark to Black Ark to give the berths to the blacks until I discovered what goes on. I keep that a secret.
D: You've been to Ethiopia?
LSP: Not yet. (pause to light spliff) I will when ten thousand ten thousand Ethiopians die from starvation. Then, I will return. Sit on my father's throne and say 'Behold. It is done.' I correct my mistake and change it from the Black Ark back to Noah's to God Ark. The Ark of the Covenant. Behold it is done. After I discover how much my black friends loved me that's when I burned down the Ark. Then, I discovered who loved me.
D: Who loved you?
LSP: You, too, the pink one. (laughs)
D: You look gold tonight.
(Scratch's face is spray painted Hindu style with gold henna)
LSP: (laughs) How much a the black people you see tonight?
D: There aren't many black people in Victoria.
LSP: It's everywhere like that....
D: In Canada, there wasn't any black slavery, like there was in the States, so all of the black people have immigrated since they could move out of US.
LSP: Yeah. So. (long draw) Yeah, well all the Chinese and Japanese here, they love me. Because in the Black Ark, I used TEAC. Now, I use toys, toys like you have for your home. I wasn't using no big experiment equipment either. I use little thing like that (points to some toy musical instruments tied around loops on his waist).
D: You were playing those little horns tonight, and they sounded great -
LSP: Yeah! Why should I hire someone, when I can do the trumpet myself? (laughs)
I am the real Gabriel! The real one. I always wanted to have Michael Jackson on my right hand, but I am the real one in the mirror. As he sings in the song, 'Man in the mirror, change your ways' and so I changed my ways, and although I don't believe I am the man in the mirror, I sent him a message and him didn't come, so I would give him to Satan for changing his skin from black to pink. When him born black! If Michael Jackson was black, he would be on my right hand still. Now, he is behind me. His fault, not mine. I give him a choice. I say, 'You want to know Jesus Christ,' I write it in a magazine, this is the number, call me here and I will show you Jesus Christ who you are imitating . I don't get a reply until now. So, I tear off my right hand and give him to Satan. So, I put Selassie on my right hand instead of Michael Jackson. How's that? Much better?
D: So, when did you first know you were Gabriel?
LSP: I didn't know when my mother called me Lee Perry. I didn't know until I was fifty odd. Neither did I know my mother called me Lee Burn Perry. This is the burn (lights spliff) Lee Burn Perry. Where did my mother get such name? Because she is Lillian. She is next to God. (Takes off his hat and points to the pyramid on top of it)
She called me Perry. The P is for pyramid, so tell the President if he wants me, I control the pyramid. Look on the one dollar and we know what I mean. I am very clean!
D: Yeah. You were telling the audience just to drink water, and not to touch alcohol.
LSP: I commanding them. Why? Because they are my fans and I don't want them to die. I want them to live forever like me.
D: Does it distract you playing in a club where everyone is drinking?
LSP: When I used to drink Rum, I get addicted to it, and I discover how evil it is. That's the way that the devil comes into human beings. Through the acid. So, after I put it away, and I repent, and promise not to touch it , stop eating meat, I call it dead flesh. What you give to your body is what you get, so if you love your structure which is your only temple, then you won't put dead flesh into it, and neither will you drink the devil's soup. Neither wear the devil's boots, or dress in the devil's shoes, or put on the devil's suit. You will put on God's suit and drink God's soup which is water. God's soup is water . Clear water of life. You speak God's words, you cannot drink alcohol anymore. Liked white Rum. Guiness Stout was my favourite. Put it away. I was drinking the dragon morning, noon, and night. Then, the dragon want to take a part of my body because I was drinking his stout. Drink beer and smoke cigarettes. And know that you're smoking death. Japanese government ban ganja, black hash and Kali, and legalize cigarette which is death. Legalize cancer. What kind of government is that? Ruling the people with death. Is that reasonable. Suppose the people wake up and find the government is killing them with cigarettes. What they do? The government calling in heavy tax. It's murder. Cigarettes is death. Bob Marley show it to you.
D: He smoked cigarettes?
LSP: He was smoking too much of it, but they never show you. If Bob Marley did create reggae, reggae would save him. Reggae would not let him die. Music wouldn't let anybody die. Anybody who create music. The real music. Me say me create you. The music not going to watch you die. Because if you die, the music going to die.
D: What about Peter Tosh? Did the music let him die?
LSP: His fault. Him say him don't believe in Jesus Christ. But when the first gun shot got him, him say 'Jesus Christ' He could not stand it. Him said Jesus Christ was a white man because that is what them teach him. But him know Jesus Christ is I man. So, him don't believe in Jesus Christ, but the first gun shot reach him, when him taking coke and his coke friend shot him. The first words then when the gun shot hit him was 'Jesus Christ' As Jesus said, if them not believe in I before them die, them believe in I when them die.
D: Jamaica has a reputation as a violent place.
LSP: When will Jamaica stop violence? I can say this because I'm not afraid of what the Jamaican people can do. If a Jamaican sees you have a good shirt, and it is the same shirt he wants, he is not going to buy it, he's going to come up to you and take it. And, if you have one hit song , all the Jamaican producers are going to have a version of that hit song. And, if you have a nice car, all the Jamaican producers are going to want that same car. If you speak a word, all the Jamaicans are going to speak that same word you speak. They don't want no other words. So, how could Jamaica control violence? They say it's full of criminals, more than anywhere else. We have criminals everywhere in Europe and in America.
D: Of course.
LSP: In my country they're more dangerous. They all want to wear the same shirt and the same boot. Or sing the same song and same rhythm all over. I love them still.
D: Do you spend much time there these days?
LSP: Me? Haaa. The only reason I'm going back to Jamaica is because of the music. I don't think no Jamaican gonna play in the studio me building now. I don't really think so. My home is in Switzerland with me family and my children, but if I build a studio in Switzerland, vampires are going to follow me. And then they're going to put vampire vibrations on my children. Because it's catchy.
D: Why are vampires so catchy?
LSP: Because of disease. They breed it, have it inside. They breathe grudge out their nostrils and the children breathe it in. And, they can touch your children, too, and defile them with evil touch. The grudgeful touch. And, you have a good kid and all of a sudden, they become grudgeful. Want everything.
D: Is there anywhere you can go to get away from that?
LSP: Build a house like mine and put fence all around it, and iron bar and glass that you can see if it's a person you want to talk to. And, you can say, 'tell him I'm not here.'
D: You want to live like that?
LSP: Why not? It's better than wearing nose masks around the place. You look strange wearing nose masks because you don't want to pick up grudgeful aura. You know aura?
D: Yeah. You're sure the aura can't get underneath the big glass doors?
LSP: (Big laugh) Yeah. They have them in different names, but the Americans know it as Bacteria. They say the ones come in front, Front-teria, too. It's Bacteria, Front-teria and Side-teria.
D: Picked up from the Cafeteria?
LSP: Ha Ha Ha Ha. Yeah. Bacteria, Front-teria and Side-teria. It is everywhere. So, you don't have to wear nose masks. Just put up a mirror. See who you really want to talk to.
D: There you go. Thanks it's been a real pleasure.
LSP: And, I enjoy it as well. Love to the people outside there.
Interview Copyright 1999 Douglas Heselgrave, Victoria, BC