Lee “Scratch” Perry
I’m making a new site at the moment. It’s a grotesque vanity project, gathering together columns for The Herald with various bits and bobs I’ve written over the years. For some reason, though, one piece from 2000 flat refuses to enter the database, throwing up all kinds of mysterious errors.
I’m not surprised: it’s a profile of Mr. Rainford Hugh Perry, AKA Lee “Scratch” Perry, AKA Pipecock Jackson, AKA The Upsetter.
Since I’ve given up trying to bypass the Black Ark obeah, here’s a few quotes plucked from the interview:
Perry on Reggae:
When you see a rainbow in the sky I tell you that is truly the sign of the Ark of the Covenant. I bring the Ark out of Egypt, down to 5 Cardiff Crescent, Washington Gardens. No-one in Kingston, Jamaica, noticed it was out of Egypt, so I give them reggae music, the treasure of King Tut. The dreadlocks around me, them poor people, so them make poor reggae. When I was a dread, I was an actor, a dead-dread. Now I am alive as a doctor, and I represent God, and God is not a Rasta. If I returned to reggae, I would be totally stupid, it would be goin’ against the signs—all the tapes I had were taken by some thieves. All Bob Marley, all Upsetter. I cannot return to that Ark and that reggae.
Perry on Duke Reid, and becoming The Upsetter:
I go to Kingston to do it with Duke Reid and all of them, but I have a song and a style they did not like. And then Coxsone Dodd have a good spirit and him want a good friend around, so him havin’ me around for a good friend in the business. But soon I could take no more of him either, and decided to make People Funny Boy, because people funny, you know? It was then I expose myself as The Upsetter. The Upsetter was my first name after I got called ‘Scratch’ at dances for my style. It means to upset all thief, all liar, all pimp, all user and all abuser and let them feel shame. The Upsetter represents the word Excalibur - blazin’ fire!
Perry on the purity of machines:
I returned to music through machines. The difference is that the machines are clean, and the machines are not corrupted. What I create here cannot hurt people, but you can bring an impure musician to play in your studio and create your own doom. My brain represent the bass, an’ if an evil man is playing on my brain, it’ll cause me trouble as he’s trying to chip away at my brain. And if an evil drummer is playing my beat with an evil thought, I think he can hurt my brain by playing a dreadful drum. But the machine cannot play a dreadful drum, and the machine cannot play a dreadful bass.
Perry on his intended audience:
The music I am playing now is strictly for the children. It is a magical technological cartoon pop music to cheer them up, to heal their brain from boring reggae. God give me a chance to recreate the children brain. The children must not be bored, or they will become criminals.
Perry on the IMF:
I am the head of the IMF now also. I am the future children’s billionaire. Look at my name, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. The L is for the English pound, the S is for the dollars, the P is for the permit out of Egypt. I am the International Monetary Fund master. I have known this a long time now.
Perry on Rastafarianism:
The colours of rain don’t belong to the Rasta, they belong to the rain. Put some water in a glass right now!1 Hold it up against the wall: it form and show you a rainbow. You will see no dread in there. Hold it up against the wall! You see red, gold and green? You sure as hell don’t see a Rasta in there, surely not!
Perry on his divine origins:
My music represent God. And there is only one house on this earth that represent God, and that is my house. The house of Neptune, the true an’ living god. Merlin, the magic master, he give me the music sword named Excalibur. I am an extra-terrestrial, not from another planet but from heaven. My real name is Rainford Hugh Perry. And in the beginning there was the word ‘rain’. The word ‘rain’ take unto himself flesh and blood and become a living soul. I am a living soul. My name is R-A-I-N-ford. Do you understand?
I’m pretty sure that I still have the MiniDisc on which this interview was recorded—it also includes Perry singing Sun Is Shining (a song he wrote for Bob Marley, or claims to have done)—and if I can find it, I’ll post MP3s of the quotes above.
Also, it should be noted that Perry is nowhere near as crazy as he sounds—when not ‘on’, he’s basically the same as your Grandad. Only really, really stoned and wearing a hat covered in mirrors.
At this point, Perry refused to speak until I went to kitchen, filled a glass of water, held it up to the light, and verified that it didn’t contain a Rasta.↩