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Interview: Lee Perry Speaks His Mind

Interview: Lee Perry Speaks His Mind

Interview: Lee Perry Speaks His Mind

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"Many men sell their soul to the God of money. Some even sell their souls to reggae"


Almost all that is good about the genre they call 'reggae' can be associated with the genius that is Grammy winner Lee 'Scratch' Perry. From his seismic influence on what many adjudge the best of Bob Marley and his Wailers, to the creative cultivation of the Congos, Max Romeo, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, the Heptones and subsequent collaborations with a host of luminaries, including the Beastie Boys, George Clinton, Keith Richards and the Orb, Perry's mark in music is indelible. For some, his eccentricity is as much his hallmark as is his history. And it's no surprise that Rolling Stone magazine should rank him in their '100 Greatest Artists of All Time'.

Lee Perry

Reputedly reformed, via an abstinence from alcohol, meat and marijuana, Perry's first stop on a recent visit to Ireland was the off-license! It was to be the first of many assumptions about the man to be stood on its head during the visit. But such unpredictability is what serves to make time in the company of the musical genius pure pleasure.

Prior to taking the stage, the living legend that is Perry was asked by the promoters how he would like to be introduced. With a withering stare he responded that 'he needed no introduction'. How right he is.

I read an interview recently where you ended up asking all the questions?

Yes, because some of them don't know what they should ask me. So I do it.

Greatest achievement in music?

Greatest achievement? It don't come yet.

My greatest achievement? It don't come yet

Greatest disappointment in music?

None. I don't want to say there's been any disappointment. I no want to deal with disappointment. I want to record the upful times and the prophecy. But though I didn't expect it, I'm the one many want to crucify. I am a victim, but even that is not a disappointment to me. Let there be no slaughtering of the innocent. Grab and love Mr. Perry's music because it deals with love.

Most enjoyable artist you've worked with?

All the artists that worked for me are good. None better than none. No one set them up but me. But I set them up, because that was the job for me – to set them up. After that I'm not interested, what's to be will be. God chooses the artists for me to work with, I don't choose for myself. I work with people until I can't take them anymore. The one that is legal to God and that is chosen by God is good by me. I know everyone expects me to say Bob Marley. But I'm not going to say that because many other artists would be vexed. I don't want any artist to think that I would choose another artist over them.

Greatest musical influence?

The most special to me is James Brown (the 'Godfather' of soul). No one on earth could do what James Brown could do. So far, also Otis Redding and Al Green are up there. I like Marvin Gaye, the Chi-Lites (a Chicago-based soul vocal quartet formed in the 1950s) and Gladys Knight and the Pips. But the most special to me is James Brown.

Mr. Perry's music deals with love... I make righteous music and holy music

Favourite reggae artist?

I don't want to say one 'cos it would vex another. Honestly I don't know how I got involved in the reggae or what was calling me. You should know I gave 'reggae' to Bob Marley as a present. But I'm a righteous man, a holy man and I make righteous music and holy music. People may call it reggae. But I gave it to the people as a blessing to enjoy themselves and to make them happy to eat as a soul food.

Recollections of your time with Bob, Peter and Bunny (i.e. the Wailers)?

Well I was asked to be a channel, to work with them. I didn't realise then that my job was to clear the way for them. I don't regret anything and I'm glad about nothing. What happened is what happened – God sent me here to do that. Bob Marley was so holy and so righteous, but he left without one man to follow him. Bob was Judas, the one who sold Christ. You're not going to like it but it's the truth. You don't have to believe it if you don't like. Him and Chris Blackwell (founder of Island Records) plant something and take away the reggae for the memory of Bob Marley, so that nobody else could have the reggae. They take it from and penalise others, like Max Romeo. He wanted Max dead. Bob never liked Maxie, because he was too much competition for him. Burning Spear was singing for him too, but Bob never did anything really for Spear. But it backfire on them. Yes, Bob was Judas, a fucking thief. He sold his soul to Chris Blackwell.

Bob Marley... left without one man to follow him. Bob was Judas, the one who sold Christ. You're not going to like it, but it's the truth... a fucking thief. He sold his soul to Chris Blackwell

Recollections of your time at the Black Ark Studio?

Well everything that was anything happened at the Black Ark, and nothing did leave the Black Ark! (Note: the studio was eventually burned down). Everything that happened in Jamaica then happened there. All the instruments that we used made the music sound so young and fresh. And the artists and instruments that we used were all given free. The Congos certainly came and gave them free. And they gained back everything over time. They don't owe anybody nothing.

Greatest influence on your life?

God – full stop! And if people go against God, they make a mistake!

Who is your God?

Water. And my eyes is the fire and my breath is a whirlwind. I respect my piss, because my piss is my water. I respect my shit, because it's from the food I eat and I don't eat dead food any more, I eat vegetable. So I respect myself as the Holy Trinity. I have done it all. I have given back to the earth all that it has given to me. I don't have to do anything any more.

Will you will live all your life in Switzerland?

No. There is no place like home. I come to Switzerland to do a job and I do it very good.

Any view on politicians?

Lee PerryPoliticians? I don't think I have any reason to fight against the politicians anymore. Tax is the biggest political problem. It is evil. I was fighting against politicians, but then when I looked upon it, I can see that the people who are suffering need someone to look after them. And who else could do it only those that have the money to do it - to help the sufferahs. They're needed to help and lead the people who don't know where they are going. But the politicians all have the same education, go to the same school, they talk the same talk, they say the same thing and they eat the same food. Some politicians are like Chris Blackwell. They eat dead meat and drink blood for power. They don't respect their body. If they respected their body they wouldn't eat anything dead. I used to eat dead meat too until I got baptised. Then I become a Christian and stopped eating anything that's dead. That's how dangerous I am. And I used to be smoking ganga with cigarette. The tobacco is a poison, a curse, but the ganga is a blessing. If you put the curse and the blessing together, you have them all in you and one do cancer and one do healing for the brain. So if you're going to mix cancer with the healer then you have no respect. They see what happen to Bob Marley, but still they don't stop! No, I don't smoke marijuana any more.

You were recently given Jamaica's Order of Distinction 'Commander Class'?

Well at last they are wise enough to get up and see the truth. God bless them, for ever! That's why I say they wake up, and I won't get up and fight against them - the Government and politicians - because they see the truth. And the people that see the truth, they are blessed.

Any interests outside music?

I educate myself about the trees, the plants, the earth and the world. Nobody knows what the trees know. And nobody knows what the earth knows. The teachers are not yet taught and don't know what to be teaching. And the preachers are not yet edified. They should not be preaching, because they know nothing about the earth, the world, the fire, the sun, the moon, the stars, the firmament and the sky. That's the reality. I'm not going to listen unless someone has something sensible to say – I'll not listen to a fool, I check them through my communication centre. I think clearly, I tell the truth and I can make myself a computer. That's reality.

Greatest achievement in life?

Saving my soul. Each one of us have one. What God gave me – my soul. God himself is a living soul. Many men sell their soul to the God of money. Some even sell their souls to reggae – to be the top reggae artist. But I believe that my greatest achievement is 'rain', 'lightening', 'thunder', 'hailstone', 'fire', 'snow', 'ice' and 'brimstone' – I'm a radar. I wrote about all of that. God is not reggae and reggae is not my God. He gave that to the people to enjoy themselves and have fun.

I've seen you reject advances from beautiful women. Is that hard?

No. I can tell you that with my knowledge now, it's no. There was a time when I was doing those things but I wasn't 100% pure from temptation then. The Lord cured me, so that I don't see how I should be tempted by girls who are only going to give me trouble. If you give in to the temptation of a girl and all that trouble then you are very weak. Too many in Jamaica, with bad minds and bad thoughts - are not intelligent enough to see that – too many greedy fools. It's not the way to happiness – sacrifice is needed to avoid suffering. My house needs me, and for me my house is heaven – no trouble required there. I'm responsible for my children, and I don't want them to suffer like me.

Sacrifice is needed to avoid suffering

Greatest disappointment or regret in life?

Disappointment - I never have one. And I regret nothing! It was to be so, or it was not to be so. With the Bob Marley movie what did I say to the people? It's stupid having Bunny Wailer introducing this movie. That is like a 'doom', because Bunny is a 'doom' – a 'doom' is not when you die suddenly, but when you die begging. Bunny has issues that are bigger than just 'problems'. He wants to be what he cannot be. He's very sour. It's bigger than an ego problem, there's something rotten and dead there. He wanted to be a prophet. And the people that follow somebody like that are surely doomed. Bunny Wailer is a bad minded and hateful 'doom'. The problem with him is that he wants to be Bob Marley. He hates me very much, because I helped Bob and did not help him – also I let the girls do the harmonies instead of him. If you listen to Coxsone Dodd's recordings of Bob and then listen to Bob's recordings with me, you will hear a different voice, you will know that something has changed. The energy that was in Bob was my energy. The energy Bob had did not belong to him, he mixed it up with coke and cigarettes. If you believe in transforming, you can have someone imitating you and using your spirit, as the spirit moves from body to body. That's what happened with Bob and me. Me have in mind to make him carry the cross. In this business many try to capture my spirit and eat my energy, that's why they take my picture, to lead me to depression and destruction. But I'm a good 'dread'.

Please don't be annoyed with this question. Have any advice for people suffering from mental illness?

I won't be annoyed, don't you worry. Advice? Stop smoking cigarettes, stop eating meat and stop drinking alcohol. I was drinking a lot when I was making music. I was smoking cigarettes too, but then I discovered that it was all false. Smoking is a curse making cancer, and meat is also a curse, because you should not kill the animal. The animal was there before the human being, then the human being come and start to kill the animal and eat them. This is harmful for the spirits and the souls. So when a man eat them, he get bad luck with cancer and tribulation, sufferation, destruction and death.

Remaining ambitions in life?

Live it. Just to live it good and plenty and to explain it to the children, because I have a child's mind. In the future I'll be making a movie but I don't think I'll be doing too much touring. If I'm going to do more touring then they'll have to pay me properly – with less touring but bigger concerts.

Are you happy?

Of course. I'm too happy. Happy to have got rid of stress. I see being happy as a victory. My children make me happy. I am happy to leave them after me and they will carry on my works and the memory of my works.

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