Two Reggae Pioneers Meet Up Backstage And Reshma B Is There
Dressed in red from head to toe, the Jamaican dub pioneer, producer and provocateur Lee “Scratch” Perry—aka The Upsetter aka Super Ape aka Pipecock Jaxson—took the stage at Le Poisson Rouge on the final night of Red Bull Music Academy’s recent NYC conference. He was backed by the Subatomic Sound System featuring bassy from Dubblestandart, Larry McDonald on pecussion, Addis Pablo, son of Augustus Pablo, on melodica, the Dub Select Horns and Adrian Sherwood of On-U Sound providing the live dub mix. It was one of Scratch’s best live shows in recent memory, his abstract lyrics delivered with maximum focus and a cleverness that belies his reputation as a madman. At age 77, Scratch has inspired countless legends, not least of which is producing many of the songs that shaped Bob Marley and The Wailers’ soul rebel sound. Both Scratch and the Wailers got their start at Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One, and both eventually left to work at Randy’s Studio 17 where Vincent “Randy” Chin and his son Clive—not to mention his wife Miss Pat—produced countless classics in their 17 North Parade recording facility. Scratch would go on to establish, and later burn down, his own Black Ark studio. But when Clive Chin dropped by to check Scratch at his recent NYC show, Reshma B was there to reason with two founding fathers of reggae music. Never one to hold his tongue, Scratch lets loose on certain reggae superstars and those he regards as “Vampires” in the reggae business. Warning: Not for the faint of heart. Video After The Jump…
ReggaeGirlAboutTown chats with Scratch and Clive Chin, part 1 of 2…
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For all those who didn’t quite get it, we’ve included a full transcript…
LEE “SCRATCH” PERRY & CLIVE CHIN
INTERVIEWED BY RESHMA B
May 30, 2012
Reshma B: We were talking about working at Clive Chin’s studio and as he’s here today… Clive, can I just get you to come over cause we were just talking about the studio and wondering if Scratch had any memories of working at the studio?
Scratch: His studio? Well, there lots of memory about Randy’s studio [points to Clive] and he represent the father now.
So that was the studio where I’d help most of the peoplet them who didn’t have any money, give them credit. And sell the record for them and pay them what they’re supposed to pay them and draw out what they want for studio time and stuff like that. So that was a very good help for the people of Jamaica. It was there for the poor people who couldn’t find the money to compute with Coxsone and Duke Reid and Federal and those idiots. We call them idiots because the music that them bring was ska, or rock steady. It wasn’t anything of spiritual vibration. It was just something for dancehall. But we bring music to save peoples’ soul. To heal their heart and heal your thoughts when you don’t know… [Scratch lifts up his foot, points to bottom his shoe] You know your soul is under here. Your soul is underneath your feet. “
So that there was really their studio me bring Bob Marley to. And those days when we bring them to studio the amount of money that them owe you, they can’t start pay so they never pay back yet. So Bunny Wailer saying me rip them off is true. Me rip them off through we rip out them heart, right? I rip out them f…king brain. Rip out them f… king brain and kill them brain baby and kill their lungs. I really rip them off fe true.
Always a trust we have to trust studio time from them, you know, to make those guys—without any money. And then those song hit in England and some of them, they think the ska finish, the rock steady finish, an my thing ah go. So me have some people: The Clash, this, that, who want to deal with me. So when them find me say fi dem music finish. The vampires come and want to take over my music.
Then we make a music for him specially: Having a party, “Punky Reggae Party.” My part was make a mistake when me say The Wailers will be there. Because The Wailers was not there. It was a lie so I pay for the lie that I take. Said The Wailer will be there. So it would have to be true, but they wasn’t there. I should be saying The Upsetter would be there. So I leave out The Upsetter and put in The Wailers and I pay for it.”
Bob Marley & The Wailers “Punky Reggae Party” (prod. by Lee “Scratch” Perry)
I’ve spoken to Clive a few times about Scratch Perry of course working at Randy’s. And one of the things he did say was once the studio was upgraded with equipment, you actually got upset and you just didn’t use the studio again.
When we go to Randy’s to make music, we listen to Coxsone music with the rough line they call it distortion. And the other level above distortion is called retard and retardation. They was all distorted with 3 sound systems and when you hear it, when they put in a good stereo, oh god! And if you have any keys you have to make them radio plugs and something like that. But Randy we had the best studio, best equipment and everything.
So after they upgraded you didn’t like the sound anymore?
Well…. they had like a politician affair. A politician would want to fight against them. Because if you have the best studio one wouldn’t want to accept it. And Miss Chin no want to be a part of their man-upulation of government like JLP and PNP and they all come here, among him family. Otherwise maybe they shoot some politicians and then shoot them too.
Clive, what are your earlier memories of Scratch now that you see him in front of you now what does it feel like after so many years?
Clive Chin: It feels beautiful. I mean, we’re all the same here. We’ve been there. As a young man, whole heap of good vibes going on. This man every time him go to the studio him get what him want. And if him don’t get what him want he don’t leave.
Lee “Scratch” Perry: I love black people very much. But the main problem black people have, I is not their father that they can copy. So I stick with the amount of things that I stick with and keeping the white people listen to my music and hear it’s the original. So they come to find me. So if you ever ask me the truth now, out of who me love more better or who support me… Who support. And if it wasn’t for the white people I would reach nowhere.
When I spoke to Bunny Wailer last time I was in Jamaica, he said working with the Chins was like working with family cause they ate together they smoked together. He said the Chins, although they were Chinese, were like African Chinese.
Well if the Chinese weren’t in the business it wouldn’t reach any further. It was in the blood of those guys who were all living in a Trenchtown government house, who used to come to your studio and want to beg your money. And you lend them so much money that when it done, you have to take them to the studio to work back the money. And if the song hit them hate you.
Clive: And them get funny. [Laughs]
So the bag what the n–ggas set together is copy, but he’s not original. Not all of them, a few of them original. But if you’re making money they find out who you use to play for you and them bribe the person who will play and work for you otherwise threaten them and you have to come play for them. So as far as I’m concerned, him never even start. I know God not stupid enough to bless Bunny Wailer. Me sure of that. If God bless Bunny Wailer then we wouldn’t have no God.
God don’t bless vampires and liars. God no bless ego. Ego? God will bless you in the dark but him have to send someone with the light, to show you the way. And if you obey the one with the light you will reach somewhere. But if you fight against the one with the light him turn off the light and leave you in the darkness. And hand you over to the devil where you belong, no problem. Thieves, liars, competition, complainer, copies, Dunce!
Was it difficult working with Bunny?
Please don’t mention that name to me again. Never.
OK—it’s been great talking to you. Thank you so much. Thanks for shedding the light.
[Stay tuned for Part 2…]