'I cannot sell my soul because my soul is my God': A conversation with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry

click to enlarge 'I cannot sell my soul because my soul is my God': A conversation with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
Lee 'Scratch' Perry. Courtesy photo.

Music legend and dub innovator Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry will be here in Detroit so soon we can almost feel it! If you want to know more of what he shared with us in the interview (or as he calls it, outerview) for our recent feature on him and his performance with Subatomic Sound System at El Club tonight, Monday May 15, dig into as much of the full transcript as we could gather below.

Enjoy a couple short audio clips too, as he (seemingly out of nowhere) broke into song twice.

Bear in mind that a conversation with Lee Perry is like speaking to a living and breathing poem. As you read this, know that we have chosen to spell the words as we imagined them when we heard them, such as rain vs. reign. The words spill out of Perry’s mouth, and it is up to us to approach them with a certain openness. You cannot really be sure what, exactly, is meant much of the time, but we have tried to represent the spirit of the conversation as well as possible.

Ellipses denote shorter segments in the conversation where it was simply too difficult to make out the words, while instances of [unintelligible] refer to longer segments that were equally difficult to make out.

Metro Times: How are you today?
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry: Fantastic! Are you ready?

MT: Yes. Do you have any questions for me?
Perry: What about the fans? I’m coming to have a good show, I’m coming to see my fans, I want to see people there, I don’t want to see empty. Everywhere I go, I have a full show, full house, sold out.

MT: We’re very excited.
Perry: There will be no problem, no worries, we’ll have a good time. We’ll be wishing the people good luck … We’re coming to bring peace to people, peace in America … so I’ve come to have a peaceful party and I hope they are happy … A party that is part reggae, and part dub. We will mix multitudes, we will mix reggae, dub, hip-hop, and soul. I am coming to make the old man get up, get the humans up to dance … I am coming to let the people know that Jamaica reign and God reign.

You can put that in the interview, that Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is anti-meat, anti-beef, anti-dead chicken, anti-cigarettes, anti-tobacco. I am a permanent ganja man, ganja aingel.

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MT: What does God mean to you?
Perry: My soul. My soul. My father is Le Peul, the King Fish, the biggest fish … turned into a human being but it’s not too nice to be a human being but what else can we do? I cannot sell my soul because my soul is my God.

MT: What is the truth to you?
Perry: The truth mean everything. The truth is the sun, the moon, and the stars, the clouds, the rain, the rainbow, and the weather. The truth mean to me God’s overcoat [laughter] … The truth mean to me, my overcoat. So when I’m going … I put on the truth, I put on my overcoat … Then I put on my raincoat. The truth is my raincoat. God reign, good reign over bad, God reign over demon, God reign over devil, so God put on his raincoat and sat in the rain. So I’m coming to America in my raincoat, don’t you worry. [Laughter]

MT: How do you feel about the fact that people are still so excited about music that you made 40, 50 years ago?
Perry: That music, I didn’t make it. God, my raincoat, make it. God will make the music … I am the image of God [laughter]. I believe God is my raincoat, Rainford Hugh Perry. [Unintelligible until he brings up angels.] Not angels, aingels, because there is no end to aingels, but there is an end to angels.

MT: And what’s the difference?
Perry: I change words, and I change spelling. End mean the end, but God don’t have no end. The rain don’t have no end. Rain is my God. Rain is my real God … God change into flood sometimes. God, the rain, change into flood sometimes.

MT: Can you tell me a little bit about the Black Ark?
Perry: Well there’s a judgment to man … flooding the Earth, a judgment coming for everything they do. Who eat too much meat will be judged, who eat too much beef will be judged, who eat too much dead chicken will be judged. Man become what they eat, so be careful what you eat. Man and human and woman become what they eat. What you eat is what you will be turned into. If you eat pig, on the Judgment Day you will be a pig. Pig will be in your flesh. You will change from a human being into a pig … Vegetables will make you fresh and make you human again. Vegetables will keep you young forever. Whenever you eat dead meat you will be old. You will start to change and look old … If you eat dead things you are dead too if you become what you eat. You understand me?

MT: I completely understand, I don’t eat meat myself, I have not eaten meat since I was 12.
Perry: Wonderful. You are on the right track, you are on the holy track ... If you smoke too much cigarettes you will be crazy and end up having cancer. Cigarettes are a curse. Dead meat is a curse. Cancer is a curse … You can put that in the interview, that Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is anti-meat, anti-beef, anti-dead chicken, anti-cigarettes, anti-tobacco. I am a permanent ganja man, ganja aingel.

MT: Ganja aingel, spelled a little different.
Perry: To the people who say angel, but I don’t have no end … I see no end because I have no end and the rain have no end, for Rainford Hugh Perry. Rain cannot die. [Something about vampire blood.]

MT: Since you brought up vampire blood, tell me a little bit about vampires and the song “Black Ark Vampires.”
Perry: I went away from the Black Ark for a while because there were too many vampires trying to suck me dry. I don’t want them to suck me dry, I don’t let them suck them dry … So the Black Ark Vampires are not winning, they are losing. [Laughter] The vampires lose.

[Unintelligible, then brings the conversation back to ganja.]

Ganja is the tree of life, and I call cigarettes the tree of death. They give cancer and cancer is unholy. Cancer is a curse … Ganja gives man wisdom, overstanding, extension… God believe in the Earth. God tell you plant seed in the Earth and the Earth grows the plant. Then the Earth is a magician.

[Unintelligible, then brings the conversation back to what one should eat.]

I am life forever. I never eat what give life … Green is life.

MT: Green is life and ganja is green.
Perry: Ganja is green. Ganja is Emperor Green Life. [Laughter] … Ganja is life forever. But cigarettes is a curse. Cigarettes kill my best artist Bob Marley, then finish him up with cocaine … Imagine, my creation, they killed my creation with cocaine.


Tell the people I believe in telepathic. I telepathic, I tell the magic, I tell the science, I tell the voodoo.


Magic is magic is music, and music loves pum pum.


Illuminati cannot be captured and cannot be killed.


Music is the power, music is happiness. Music makes you dance. Music makes you sexy. Music makes you want to have sex. Music makes you want to dance forever. Music makes you happy forever. Happiness is a doctor, happiness is a cure. Sadness is stress. Goodness is righteousness, holiness …

[Unintelligible, then he breaks into song, then unintelligible again.]

I am not a robber, I am not a grabber ... I do not come to rob, I do not come to grab, I do not come to stab, I do not come to be ill. Ill is sickness … like the Illuminati. They put the curse on themselves by using the word ill. Ill means sickness … Ill people, ill brain. Ill manner, ill nerves, ill politicians. I don’t want to talk about them. They are ill. I want to talk about light, immortality, holiness, righteousness, Godliness, and the truth where things are coming from. Music is coming from the pit.


The power of the rain, the power of the rainbow, the power of the cloud, the power of the sky… the Illuminati appear, but we don’t want to talk about them. We want to talk about peace. Peace, perfect peace, green peace, green sun, golden moon, white sky, air and the rain … the rain is crystal, crystal water, crystal ball. The rain is my crystal, and I believe in my crystal. I believe in Christos … what I cannot believe in is the Illuminati, I am not stupid to sell my soul to people who are ill … I do not want to catch nervousness, I do not want to catch illness. I will not shake an Illuminati hand, because I do not want to catch an illness. Illness is pain.

[Unintelligible, then Perry breaks into song again, then he explains that he needs to go and says goodbye.]

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