Music | Interview – Lee 'Scratch' Perry
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is a man shrouded in mystery. At the age of 77, his life is full of bizarre stories and experiences. The conversation is like no other. He speaks in obtuse and obscure ways, his words are filled with metaphor and often guided by nothing other than rhyme.
When did you start making your own music?
Well, when I was 25.
What was your life like before that point?
My life before was a ceremony and dance. I used to go to dance after dance after dance. I loved to dance.
In the past you have worked with Bob Marley, what is your memory of him?
He did reach me somewhere. We was a kid together some time in a different life. I got thinking he was my brother, until I give him my heart and he didn’t love it enough. No dis- ease, no virus could eat his flesh, but because he was a hypocrite he was my brother in lieu, for real.
What about when you recorded The Clash, what is your memory of with them?
Well, the problem is that everything I do with white people is white. And at the time I’d only worked with black musicians before. They asked to see what I could do. The artist is where the energy comes from. Like with Bob [Marley], his energy was coming from a black place. These are the best black musicians I have ever had (pointing to his band) they are perfect. Amazing, they are magicians. They play magic. White magic, not black magic – no evilness.
So, you live in Switzerland now, what made you leave Jamaica? And why Switzerland?
Cos all the people in Jamaica are not original, everything was copied. I like mountains. I love mountains. I’m addicted to rock and they have lovely rock all in Switzerland, even better than mountains in Jamaica. So, I make communications with stone, cos I believe in rock stone is in all persons. I believe rock stone is the ultimate power. The ultimate. The sum of all desire.
Today on stage you were wearing a t-shirt with Jesus on, would you call yourself Christian or spiritualist?
I am a Christian. If it wasn’t for my sister I wouldn’t know what alcohol tastes like and if it weren’t for my sister I would never have had cigarette smoke. I blame my sister for letting me drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes and God knows I should not do that.
So, you don’t drink or smoke at all now?
I smoked ganja. It’s good for you but I man- aged to get addicted so I have been keeping at what I’m doing. I wish I am not going to smoke again. I am one hundred percent sure I won’t and why I am sure? Because my lungs love me and I cannot let my lungs down.
I noticed that you wear lots of mirrors and reflective things. The first thing I saw when you walked out on stage was the reflective ‘God’ on your hat. Why is this?
Everything I do is perfect. I copy God. Cos everything god do is perfect. Everything God do is righteous, everything God do is perfect, everything god do is for a reason.
People that hate god only hate the punishment that god gives them. But I am allergic to sin. It (the mirrors) imitates something within me. The body is only spirit and soul. My spirit and soul puts on clothes and walk out there. It is the body that will soon die, and melt away.
Do you still make and choose your own clothes?
Of course, everything I do is perfect. I am wearing God’s cap and God is perfect. I copy God alone, I can’t copy human beings. I’m addicted to the sunshine. I’m addicted to in the moon- light. I’m addicted to the starlight. I’m addicted to the people who see me as a genie. I’m trying to be a human being but it’s not possible…
What would you say you were then?
A genie. I am a genie. Ok. Good. Enjoy life. And as long you live remember that this is prison [pinching his skin]. We are all in this prison paying taxes until the day we die.
Photos: Leo Garbutt