Lee “Scratch” Perry is one of the most innovative and influential producers of the past half century. After working as a salesperson and engineer for a series of soundsystems in Jamaica, he set up his first record label, The Upsetters, in 1972 and subsequently built the legendary Black Ark studios in the back garden of his home in Kingston, Jamaica. Here, using a series of bizarre techniques (burying microphones underneath palm trees, sampling crying babies and endlessly overdubbing tracks on rudimentary equipment) he produced some truly out-of-this-world recordings for artists including Bob Marley and the Wailers, The Heptones and Max Romeo, inventing the Reggae sub-genre of dub in the process. Perry has been known as something of an eccentric all his life (he burned down Black Ark in 1978 to banish evil spirits) and, now in his 70s, he has lost none of his strange, visionary conviction, religious fervor (he’s a devout, though somewhat agnostic Rastafari) or musical adventurousness. We caught up with him (interrupting a beard-trimming session) to find out more about his latest album, Revelation, from which we present new track “Psalm” today.
In the bible, Revelation is a vision of the apocalypse, which the Mayans predicted as coming in 2012. Do you believe in end of the world, the end of the universe?
The end of the third world, not the end of the universe, that’s right. After the end of the third world, the first world comes again. Then we will have not a second world and a third world, we will have one world. The Angels' world.
Is there a revelation you’d like to share with us?
The revelation I would like to share with people who love God and love justice is maybe that the third world is finished. The heads of government are finished, the council of churches is finished. There is no church but you. You, me, we are the churches. The kingdom of god is living in I and living in you.
Can we talk about your garden?
In Jamaica, the garden is where you communicate with God. God didn't make the church to communicate, he made you in the garden to communicate, through the trees, through the plants, through the flowers, through the roses, through the earthworms: earthworms are very important as well.
What do you think of the internet? Do you download music?
I often download music. People need special music from me. People have tracks that they stream off my own Myspace. But when I get requests for songs from somebody, I can make it possible.
What was the last record you bought?
I’m trying to remember. Something like Lady Gaga. I was listening to why people like her and I wanted to find out.
Did you like it?
The thing is that she does original…
Yeah, they’re pretty wonderful. Disco music is really important and I like the disco music that she does. I love reggae, but I love disco music and soul music and I like pop music. I want to start to make songs after Revelation is finished, I want to make disco music and pop music and soul music.
You’ve got a pretty amazing sense of style. When did you make your hat?
I have the same hat and every year I add something to it. It’s become my signature cap. My brain says it wants to see what goes on outside. So my brain demands that I make a mirror cap so I see what goes on outside.
What’s your attraction to mirrors and crystals?
The crystal is a thing that forms the colors violet, green, gold and red. That’s a rainbow, and the rainbow power is a mystic power. I believe in the mystical power of the rain. The rain and still water will give you that vision of maybe five or six different colors. You put some water on a mirror in a drinking glass, and put it on your table when the sun is coming up, and you can see the crystal rainbow coming out of the glass.
Is this why you dye your beard too? Why purple?
The purple is a color that brings heat, a special fiery power. It’s my favorite color, because I think I have a purple heart.