Outerviews: Tom Terrell
Seconds (Fall 1997)
Our text today is from the Book of Lee, Black Ark,
chapters '65 through '97. People, this is a story of triumph and despair,
of Wailers and Upsetters, of humor and bitterness and of bass and dub.
Before you leave here this mo'nin', you will also marvel at the human
mind - its invention, its delusion, and yes, its resilience. This is
a journey down a road in the spirit world, the land of look behind. This
is the story of the man who changed the future of music many times over
- this is the story of Lee "Scratch" Perry.
Scratch: Hello, man!
Terrell: How you doing?
Scratch: I am the president of the international universal worldwide.
Rock music, pop music, jazz music, classical music, dub music - and I'm
the creator. Are you taping?
Terrell: I'm definitely taping.
Scratch: Right. I'm the creator of dub music. My message to all the singers
is to change their style and run for cover because dub rappers and dub
rock is taking over. The now generation is in the dub zone, from the
children's zone - and children are the future. Dreadlocks better change
their style and get in fashion, because reggae is out of style and dub
is not. Reggae's out of style - it's too boring. Chris Blackwell brought
all the boring reggae back. Chris Blackwell has to change his name. Can't
be Blackwell. His name should be "Whitewell". I am black. I take the
black back and take it to the dub market, the black dub market. I take
my black well from Chris Blackwell and give him back his white hell.
We're still doing business, but he's no longer in the black well. He's
only in the white hell.
Terrell: Can I ask you some questions?
Scratch: Of course! You can ask me any question. I'm open.
Terrell: Why did you build Black
Scratch: The Black Ark is the brain. I created it in
Jamaica. Then I discovered Jamaica has too much politicians, too much
dreads, and too much thieves. Too much beggars. Too much rude boy would
dress up at night and drag you out of bed. Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer
would send some for me to take me out of bed. Ask me, "Wake up boy!
What's your name?" I was wearing a cap like what I'm wearing now.
They robbed the cap because light was on it blinking. Something happened
to them that they dropped the cap and run over the fringe of it. I don't
know what happened. Me burn down the Ark because me discover the Ark
was a way of talking to God and me take dread inside and innoculate it
with corruption. The dreads corrupted the brain and were destroying the
firmament and the sky and I didn't know. Thirty eight years ago I know
that I was a talented creative genius. I was raised in time with swine.
You cannot cast pearls before swine. They don't know what it's worth.
Terrell: How did you get the musicians to play the sounds
that you heard?
Scratch: The sound that I heard coming out of my brain
- my brain is a bass. My brain is 1936, the 28th day of March under a
quake. My brain is like an earthquake that was born on the 28th of March
1936. So what I hear comes to my ears because I'm from another race and
I hear about invisible spirit. I believe in the phantom because the phantom
exists. And you know about one man's country - well, I'm talking about
the African jungle.
Terrell: You created dub music. How did that happen?
Scratch: The jungle have the power. The jungle create
the drum, the sound. The jungle send the drum. The drum is the phantom.
The drummer was a person before he was a drum. He was Marcus Garvey.
Then the brain that I had before he was flesh and blood, he's imperial
Selassie, the computer in my head. Then I was taken up by a UFO that
placed a computer inside my head. The American government didn't want
the people to know that UFOs exist, but UFOs exist.
Terrell: How did you translate that sound through the
machines to make dub music?
Scratch: Because the sounds come through my ears from
the extraterrestrial and the cherub beams and the angels that fly and
protect the Ark Of The Covenant. We were fighting against the last raiders
of the lost Ark. It was an armageddon, so the angels were teleporting
to me what was going to happen so I put them on dub. Even though I don't
have the tapes - they were stolen by Pauline and my son to sell them
to Chris Blackwell. So Chris Blackwell think him have the Ark. Him have
all the old dubs, I have nothing from those creations, all those creations
Terrell: They can steal your tapes, but they can't steal
Scratch: No, I don't have anything to lose. I never
lose yet. I can't lose anything. I have nothing to lose - you know why?
Scratch: There is no one on this planet that have anything.
The Earth is the love. And the Earth is the mother and the nature that
grow the plants, the trees, and the flowers. And there's no man that
comes here with any bank account and house. Show me a man come driving
here in a car. They're just interested in getting rich and and all the
money is their idea. They make a mistake. All the tapes on record, they're
making mistakes. Their mistake is my Irish Sweepstakes!
Terrell: Let's talk about some of your classic productions.
People who recorded with you never made good records after they stopped
recording with you. How come?
Scratch: Alright, I was sent here to create that style.
Instead of we have one thing going all the while, people used to be bored
when they hear the same thing all the while. They always want to hear
something different, to have something with a new vibration. So I create
those things because heaven sent me to create a proper vibration as my
legacy. People hear it and know that's really a legacy - though they
steal the master tapes. But that doesn't stop me, because I'm creating
something that when you hear it you're going to say "well, I can't
believe you were creating music all your life and you're still creating
music right now". I'm creating for your baby that's coming now.
Terrell: Talk about Bob Marley. When you recorded The
Wailers, they didn't sound the same after they left you.
Scratch: There was no use teaching them anymore.
Terrell: The original Wailers band, that was your band.
Scratch: Of course! Everything was mine and they come
a run and take over and tell you what goes on. From Coxsone, I write "People
Funny Boy". You just look at the people funny and see what goes
on. It's all on the "People Funny Boy" record. They take over
the band. They take over everything. They take over the tape, they send
gunman to take the master tape. They send it to Chris Blackwell because
I was keeping all those tapes, knowing that one day the motherfucker's
gonna come because I've got it. My dirty gal, them call her Pauline,
have a son from me. She keep the tape and sell them to her cocaine friends.
When me start to look for the tapes, there were no tapes. The studio
have to burn down because everything's gone.
Terrell: In 1979, you burned down the Black Ark and
went to England. What was that experience like?
Scratch: Well, I was in Jamaica when the suffering start
to hit me because they take away everything. They put bad luck 'pon me
car. The woman I was living with was loaded up with bad luck because
she used to load my car with dreads and then my good luck has been taken
away by dreads, and dread bad luck load up me car and load up me yard.
Then me have to leave and go to London. It was kind of rough, but we
made some tours in London and create new sounds. Then I come to Switzerland
and we create a new spiritual life.
Terrell: So leaving was good for you?
Scratch: It was good for me. The changes were good for me.
Terrell: During the 1980s you worked with white reggae
bands and Adrian Sherwood. Could you talk about your work with Adrian?
Scratch: The problem he has, Adrian has, he had more
than a problem because he don't know that I am the master. And no one
can tell me what to do and he always want to tell me what to do. He wanted
to come to Jamaica and produce some Jamaicans. That was his vision because
he know what would happen. It would become very big. I felt it in Jamaica.
Jah didn't want me to go back there and do it again and because of that,
Adrian didn't want me to stop it. He make tricks to get me back in Jamaica
then me cut him up. Definitely.
Terrell: What about Mad Professor?
Scratch: Well, somebody have to be there to help me. He won't be my right
hand but for the time being, he'll be able to do what he must do. He's
much better than Adrian.
Terrell: You did a single called "Judgement Ina Babylon" where you called
Chris Blackwell a vampire. What's the real story behind that?
Scratch: Because if he wasn't a vampire, he would never buy my master
tape from Pauline. He must try to buy them from me. Even though they're
going to put them out, I make a big deal with them instead of a little
cheap deal because Island no have enough money to give me. Him always
buy old house and old relics because him a vampire. That's the way he
lives. A vampire must live off of blood, and somebody must provide the
blood for him. Old house and old tape.
Terrell: I interviewed Chris Blackwell and he said you were a very brilliant
Scratch: Him say that I'm the most brilliant producer. This is true because
him know the truth. He know I'm the most brilliant producer - why didn't
he give me any royalty on "Punky Reggae Party" and most of the early
Bob Marley them put out? Him know that I'm the most brilliant producer,
Mr. Blackwell know that and him know that most of the songs that was
written and named by Bob Marley was Mr. Perry and he didn't say anything.
Then he's a fucking vampire and him know it.
Terrell: In my interview, Blackwell said that you were pretending to
be crazy but then you burnt your own studio down, so you really must
Scratch: Of course.
Why shouldn't I? That's where they were getting energy from. That's where
the energy went after Bob Marley died. That's why me burn it down, because
him leave me and stop his spiritual works with God and work with the
devil, Edward Seaga and Chris Blackwell. The floorplan was the Ark of
the Covenant, and I burnt it down. Then the fucker died.
Terrell: Tell me about this new three CD anthology, Arkology. Did you
have anything to do with it?
Scratch: Nothing at all. I was not there. I did not choose a track. The
paper was sent to me that had the selection, that Island Records have
these tapes and they want to offer me money for promotion and I have
to sign this document before I can get the money. But when me investigate
the tapes, they didn't come from me, they come from Pauline and other
people. They found what they needed and wanted me to sign it, and then
I said "Mr. Blackheart, me give it up. Here's my blood, Mr. Vampire."
Terrell: Do you attach any spiritual vibe to ganja?
Scratch: The spiritual vibe is the water because I was baptized
and I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in Jesus Christ every person. But
ask me why.
Scratch: Because I am Jesus Christ.
Terrell: Why do you say that? Because every man is God?
Scratch: I am sure that I am Jesus Christ and I am the living
god and my fans are my body, my spiritual body. My fans hear my vibe. They
feel my feelings. They hear my music and they want to go to bed and have sex.
Because when you go to bed and have sex and it is nice, when you are coming
your wife says "Jesus Christ, the sex is nice!" When it's not nice,
she will find another man to say "Jesus Christ" with.