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Interview: Perfect (2014)

Interview: Perfect (2014)

Interview: Perfect (2014)

By on - Photos by Taylor Sperring - Comment

"It’s a global struggle but we in the third world experience it three times harder"

Sampler

Prolific culture chanter Perfect usually puts out an album every 12 months. In 2014 it looks like he is going to release two.

If you’ve read the interviews on United Reggae you’ll know Perfect is a big believer in the “concept album”. Usually this involves working with one producer. Yet for his eighth long player Better Off Dread the concept is different. Instead of one rhythm builder he has sought the services of many. Released by Hawaii’s Jah Youth Productions it features tracks by Miami’s Drew Keys, Philadelphia’s Rumble Rock Recordz, Sweden’s Jonahgold, Switzerland’s Weedy G Sound Force, and Austria’s House of Riddim to name a few…

Is this principle or is this expediency? Angus Taylor wanted to find out. He dialled Perfect while he was in Miami after some shows in Mexico before the start of his European tour. They discussed, among other things, the thinking behind the project and also his upcoming ninth album with France’s Irie Ites due later in the year.

Perfect

Previously you have used one producer per project. Past examples include Irie Vibrations for Born Dead with Life (2008), SherKhan for French Connection (2009), Lustre Kings for Back for the First Time (2011), Dynasty Records for Journey of a Thousand Miles (2012) and House of Riddim for Over the Top (2013). Your new album Better Off Dread seems to have a whole world of producers.

Well it’s not a whole world really! Those producers were handpicked by me. Producers I have made big tunes with over the years. I decided I wanted to give this album a bit more variation in terms of production. I selected producers who would add some colour to the project. That was precise planning. After Journey of a Thousand Miles we finally went Over the Top. So for this album I wanted a different flavour overall.

I wanted to give this album a bit more variation in terms of production

Why the change?

After working with one producer on one project it’s like you’re in this little zone as an artist. And then you’ll have to break out of this zone and come with something totally different. Although artists might want to give it a blind eye, it’s a fact that after doing a project with 20 songs with one producer will tend to get monotonous after a while. The same producer with the same musicians and all the ideas and ingredients they will be working with until the cake is baked so to speak. So you have to stick to a certain format. So it does sometimes get a little tiring to the ear if you’re not a very deep or authentic fan of reggae music. Last time ingredients were from Jamaican culture and an Austrian background. So this time for Better Off Dread for the making of the cake we used a lot of different ingredients from different cultures.

Back when we did our first interview you described your first album Giddimani as a compilation whereas Born Dead with Life was a concept album. What makes Better Off Dread different from a compilation album?

Everything that is developed and produced I am very much a part of it. I also give the producers guidelines and instructions on what I am feeling and what type of track I want to do next. It’s all about putting out what I’m thinking to the producers. Because these songs aren’t songs that were done before – these are all fresh songs that were done for the album. The only new producer I took on board was Drew Keys, the producer for New World music. I love working with and admire new talent. I met him last year in Miami and when I went to his studio he really did impress me with his work. In fact he has the most songs on the album as a single producer and he is the one that’s new to the game. It’s always good to have new ideas and learn how to recreate yourself while still being you.

It’s good to have new ideas and learn how to recreate yourself while still being you

Let’s talk about the concept of the song Better Off Dread. When you see people who are not Rasta – what do you think it is they are lacking?

It’s the livity of Rastfari. Dread is more than just hair. Dread is the livity. Dread is the consequences we have faced over the years as a people. Because you have people who still live the dread life but do not carry the locks. When I look at people it’s not really being judgmental – it’s more about wanting them to live that livity because if you check, in fact it is better off. The habits, the eating, the mediating, it’s a better off lifestyle. And also education. It is so wrong in Babylon and people are being mis-educated every day.

What things are people in mainstream society mis-educated about?

PerfectThe first thing in those societies people are mis-educated about is we as third world citizens. They don’t understand our lifestyle. They don’t understand how we survive. They don’t understand how we live when the housing or bathroom facilities aren’t up to standard. The upper class always view the lower class in a certain way just because they don’t understand what’s really happening. The better offs don’t understand the pain and the dreadness of the poor and have-nots. For the majority of them it’s not something they can understand. They don’t understand how someone would live off five or ten US dollars per week. That’s not possible to them.

But at the same time privileged people are drawn to reggae music as a music of rebellion. It is a means to rebel against societal and parental values – even if they may return to those values at a later stage.

We have met people like that. Nothing is wrong with that because there’s a rebel in me and there’s a rebel in you. It’s how it comes out and what brings it out. People rebel for various reasons – even in first world countries you find people that gravitate to our messages, our policies and our music. A lot of them probably haven’t experienced what it is to live in a third world country but they have experienced different forms of humiliation and disrespect and bias in politics too. It’s a global struggle but we in the third world areas experience it three times harder. We cry longer. (laughs) You know what I’m saying Angus?

Haile Selassie I said material wealth and spiritual wealth go hand in hand. Bob Marley had a BMW

At the same time you are based in the USA – which is one of the better off countries in the world. Will that change your perspective? Will you always carry that feeling?

Always, Angus. The feeling of the people will always be on my shoulder. We have lived it and we are still living it – which is why you see I come and say “It’s better off dread”. We were born in a system that doesn’t give an F about I and I.

Another of the songs on the album is Black Man Wagon – where you sing about being a Rastaman driving in a BMW 7 Series. Your dress sense has always been part of your philosophy but here you are talking about driving a very nice car. How does this balance of the spiritual and the material fit into your philosophy?

First and foremost, I and I as a king of the earth – we deserve to have the finest and the best of everything. That is number one. Number two, Haile Selassie I said material wealth and spiritual wealth go hand in hand. Bob Marley as an icon and the king of reggae music had a BMW in his time and the initial BMW is also Bob Marley and the Wailers. Back then that was a trend that Bob Marley set that a lot of Rastaman who could afford one, bought BMWs whether they were artists or not. Remember Rasta is coming from no shirt, locks let out, tear off jeans, barefoot in the road. So what if a Rastaman can wear shoes, wear pants and sit in a nice car? Coming from the handcart, Rastaman used to ride upon a donkey. I don’t own a BMW personally but Germans make nice cars. This song is just topping off the whole Rasta vibe. Rasta is coming from far so if Rasta can look good Rasta can look good and if Rasta can buy a BMW or a Benz let it be done. In the song I involve him taking care of his family so it’s not like I’m talking about party and hype. It’s an easy listening song and it’s also a reality. We’re not going to worship a car or praise a car but we have it to do what we want to do or go wherever we want to go. It’s modern times right now so we can’t be walking from St Ann to Kingston.

It’s interesting you say that – as many of 1950s songs by US artists like Chucky Berry celebrated the automobile because in an overtly racist society freedom of movement was important.

Yeah man. In those days when a black man bought a Cadillac or a Malibu it was like, yeah, you know what I’m saying? So we’ve come a very long way so why not? It’s livity same way. It’s just that we don’t put those things over people and praise those things because that’s material. Material comes and goes. The spiritual is much more important than the material but His Majesty said we must have them both. You need them in these times King.

The spiritual is much more important than the material but His Majesty said we must have them both

It’s funny that we are talking about Bob Marley because you jump on a heavy rock rhythm on the song Like Marley. That’s going to surprise a lot of people.

I am an artist who will experiment with different genres but we keep the message true same way. I think people are probably going to be like “Wow!” at the first instant but it’s a track they are going to appreciate it, vibe to it and accept it. I think it’s a lovely track and it’s one of my favourites on the album.

The other interesting thing about that track is that you chat on the mic in a very modern dancehall pattern – it sounds a bit like Vybz Kartel.

(pauses) I would say it uses some of the same style as Kartel but also what tons of other artists before Kartel have used before. Stichie and Papa San used a lot of that flow also. But if you want to use Kartel as a pinpoint I’m ok with that! (laughs)

Perfect

What do you think about Vybz Kartel going to prison for life?

(pauses) It’s a sad situation Angus. A sad situation for both families. Two families have lost two loved ones. It’s really sad that someone with so much talent would let it slip away like that. I just hope that this is a lesson for the whole dancehall and reggae community. Not just for dancehall artists – this is a message and a lesson to every one of us who plays a part in this music that we call reggae. Fans, disc jocks, everyone. I think his image and his lyrical content had a lot to do with the system being so harsh against him. I don’t think they would have dealt with a gospel singer or a culture reggae singer that way. You have to be very careful of the words that come from your mouth because those same words can come back to haunt you or defile you.

Kartel's image and his lyrical content had a lot to do with the system being so harsh against him

One other topic I deliberately didn’t ask you about at the time it was more current was Snoop Lion. At the time when you released your song Laugh I felt to bring it up would be to give a very successful PR campaign even more publicity. Now that the dust has settled on his reggae career and Snoop has moved on and changed his name again, how do you feel about it?

It just goes to show that you are what you are and you can’t fake it. You can’t fake Rastafari. Whether you have locks or no locks you can’t fake it. Your livity. Your words. Your everyday actions. That people will make you know if yes you are Rasta or no you aren’t Rasta. You know within yourself too. So even if you are lying to yourself the people will let you know. If you are true the people will have no problem about it. But if you actions, your words and your doings are against the teachings and the livity of Rastafari then the people are going to demonstrate and shout out.

You can’t fake Rastafari. If you are lying to yourself the people will let you know

I want to ask you about something more positive. You have a track on the new album called Awake using a rhythm by Sly & Robbie. You told me in our 2012 interview that if you’ve always wanted to work with them. How did that happen and how does it feel?

This was a highlight in my career. This song was organised by a friend and producer I know named Shane Green. We’ve done some songs together at another studio but over the past two years he has been the chief engineer for Sly & Robbie at their studio on Red Hills Road. He got in touch with me in December and sent me the track when he was doing a compilation for it. After voicing the track there was something about it that meant I could not leave it off the album – whether or not he was putting out that compilation. It was just the intro and the whole cosmic feeling that it was Sly & Robbie with Dalton Browne on guitar and people well known on every instrument [Robbie Lyn is on keyboards]. I’m honoured to be part of a project working with Sly & Robbie. In fact the producer said that Sly said this track was his favourite from the selection. It’s very good to know they loved the track so much when I wanted to work with them for such a long time. It’s a wonderful irie feeling man.

I’m honoured to be part of a project working with Sly & Robbie

So have you got enough of a link with them to suggest an album?

Yeah I have more of a link with them. Since voicing this Awake track I’ve voiced two other songs. So who knows? It is very possible. I think I suggested to the chief engineer that we talk about it in the future.

Another positive for you is that since our last interview in 2012 the world is moving closer to legalisation of marijuana. Both Colorado and Uruguay have done it and there is even talk about it in the Caribbean.

This is one of the reasons why the album is called Better Off Dread. Over the last four or five years people are getting tired of those high drugs – people dying, people passing out. Promoters in clubs having problems with the police with cocaine and pills and morphine and stuff like that. It’s like been there, done that. People are heading forward to that marijuana culture again King. It’s like back to one again. That 70s vibe is going to happen again. It’s like too much unhealthy food. People have had enough of it. Even people who don’t know about Rastafari livity – they just want to stop eating meat, they just want to stop drinking hard liquor and start drinking coconut juice and blended fruits. A lot of people in the world are like, been there, done that. People passed all the marijuana and natural cooking because they were rushing to experiment – but that is what people are looking for.

Finally, you hinted to me last year that your next album was going to be for Irie Ites in France. When is that album coming?

The album is finished. I just came off a video shoot for the first single which they will release in May or June. The album is going to be out in September. It has been done since last year but I put the album on hold because that was a full Irie Ites production and I wanted a flavoured album in between so I came up with Better Off Dread.

The Irie Ites album is going to be out in September

Irie Ites are famous licking back classic rhythms. Will this be more of a foundation album?

That album is going to be tough. A lot of foundation rhythms are on it. The first single is going to be a remake of a Sharon Jones classic. And they have other classics because Jericho, one of the producers from Irie Ites got some Channel 1 Riddims in multi-tracks when he went to Jamaica in 2009. Tough album.

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