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INTERVIEW: Lee Scratch Perry & Orb LP
Thomas Hasson , September 4th, 2012 04:50

Tom Hasson talks to reggae genius. Complains afterwards that it was like "herding marmalade"...

"I expect from what I give to get. What I give I'm going to get. Compulsory."

Lee 'Scratch' Perry is telling me what he looks for in a collaborator. As one of Jamaica's most prolific sons, Perry has worked with some of the most well known artists to emerge from the Caribbean island and beyond. As an engineer he teamed up with Clement 'Sir Coxsone' Dodd and Joe Gibbs; as a producer he was hired by Bob Marley and The Wailers, Junior Murvin, The Congos and the The Clash (to name a few); and simply as Lee 'Scratch' Perry he's worked with Dub Syndicate, Mad Professor, the Beastie Boys and even starred in a series of Guinness ads.

He sets out his rules for those he's willing to work with thus: "Those that don't eat meat. Those that don't eat chicken. Those that don't eat anything that is dead. Those who don't smoke cigarettes. Those that don't take coke, or make home made joke. Or take coke. Don't take cocaine."

As this conversation continues it becomes increasingly difficult to decide which of these rules are made up on the spot and which he genuinely lives by. Though I'm pretty sure he doesn't mind people making up their own jokes in his presence, he is clear on one thing; if he wants to collaborate with someone, it will happen.

"Because if I want it to happen, it must happen. If I want it to be done, it must be done. And what is to be will be. And what cannot be cannot be," Perry explains. "Everything that must happen will happen. So I made it happen."

The 'it' in question is his new album, a collaboration with The Orb, The Observer In The Star House. Released in September, the record is full of down-tempo dub from The Orb over which Perry delivers his trademark stream of consciousness vocals. It's almost entirely original material too, with a cover of Junior Murvin's Perry-produced 'Police & Thieves' and a reworking of The Orb's 'Little Fluffy Clouds' (titled 'Golden Clouds' on this record) being the only exceptions.

When asked specifically about the recording process of the record, Perry offers only that "you see something in the sky, you see something on the Earth and then feel the vibrations. Then cool."

When asked how his experience of making records has changed over the years, from facing technological restrictions in the 70s that working around helped shape a genre to today when an entire album can be made on an iPad, Perry answers: "I wish to be like God and I wish to be perfect. I wish to be holy and I wish to be righteous. And I wish to be clean."

With getting a straight answer proving to be difficult, I ask him if there's anything else he'd like to add before our conversation ends. "I wish to let the world know who I am," he says.

And who are you?

"I am not a snake. I have no respect for snake. I have no respect for sin. I have no respect for ache. I have no respect for sin. I have no respect for mad people. I have no respect for people who worship sin. And I have no respect for ache. No respect for pain. No respect for train. No respect for airplane."

After a short bit of impromptu singing to me, our conversation is over. It went exactly as expected.

The Observer In The Star House is released on Cooking Vinyl this week