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|Lee "Scratch" Perry|
Lee Perry performing in Munich, 2016
|Birth name||Rainford Hugh Perry|
|Also known as||Pipecock Jackson
|Born||(1936-03-20) 20 March 1936 (age 81)
|Genres||Dub reggae, ska, rocksteady, jungle, electronic|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, producer, inventor|
|Labels||Upsetter, Black Art, Trojan, Goldenlane Records, a subsidiary of Cleopatra Records|
|Associated acts||The Upsetters, Beastie Boys|
Lee "Scratch" Perry OD (born Rainford Hugh Perry; 20 March 1936) is a Jamaican music producer and inventor noted for his innovative studio techniques and production style. Perry was a pioneer in the 1970s development of dub music with his early adoption of remixing and studio effects to create new instrumental or vocal versions of existing reggae tracks. He has worked with and produced for a wide variety of artists, including Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Murvin, the Congos, Max Romeo, Adrian Sherwood, the Beastie Boys, Ari Up, and many others.
Perry was born in Kendal in the parish of Hanover, the third child of Ina Davis and Henry Perry. His mother had strong African traditions originating from her Yoruba ancestry that she passed on to her son. He later moved to Kingston where he apprenticed at Studio One.
Perry's musical career began in the late 1950s as a record seller for Clement Coxsone Dodd's sound system. As his sometimes turbulent relationship with Dodd developed, he found himself performing a variety of important tasks at Dodd's Studio One hit factory, going on to record nearly thirty songs for the label. Disagreements between the pair due to personality and financial conflicts led him to leave the studio and seek new musical outlets. He soon found a new home at Joe Gibbs's Amalgamated Records.
Working with Gibbs, Perry continued his recording career but, once again, financial problems caused conflict. Perry broke ranks with Gibbs and formed his own label, Upsetter Records, in 1968. His first major single "People Funny Boy", which was an insult directed at Gibbs, sold well with 60,000 copies sold in Jamaica alone. It is notable for its innovative use of a sample (a crying baby) as well as a fast, chugging beat that would soon become identifiable as "reggae" (the new kind of sound which was given the name "Steppers"). Similarly his acrimonious 1967 single as Lee "King" Perry, "Run for Cover", was likewise aimed at Sir Coxsone. From 1968 until 1972 he worked with his studio band The Upsetters. During the 1970s Perry released numerous recordings on a variety of record labels that he controlled, and many of his songs were popular in both Jamaica and the United Kingdom. He soon became known for his innovative production techniques as well as his eccentric character. In 1970 Perry produced and released The Wailers track "Mr Brown" (1970) with its unusual use of studio effects and eerie opening highlighting his unique approach to production.
In 1973, Perry built a studio in his back yard, the Black Ark, to have more control over his productions and continued to produce notable musicians such as Bob Marley & the Wailers, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, the Heptones, the Congos and Max Romeo. He also started the Black Art label, on which many of the productions from the studio appeared. With his own studio at his disposal, Perry's productions became more lavish, as the energetic producer was able to spend as much time as he wanted on the music he produced. Virtually everything Perry recorded in The Black Ark was done using basic recording equipment; through sonic sleight-of-hand, Perry made it sound unique. Paul Douglas mentions:
Scratch had a particular sound and everybody was fascinated by his sound. He had this way of putting things together; it was just his sound and it influenced a lot of people. I’ve even gone to the Black Ark with Eric Gale for that Negril (album) album; I remember myself and Val Douglas, we laid some tracks there, Eric Gale overdubbed stuff on there, but I honestly don’t remember what happened to it.
Perry remained behind the mixing desk for many years, producing songs and albums that stand out as a high point in reggae history.
By 1978, stress and unwanted outside influences began to take their toll: both Perry and The Black Ark quickly fell into a state of disrepair. Eventually, the studio burned to the ground. Perry has constantly insisted that he burned the Black Ark himself in a fit of rage.
After the demise of the Black Ark in the early 1980s, Perry spent time in England and the United States, performing live and making erratic records with a variety of collaborators. His career took a new path in 1985 when he met Mark Downie (Marcus Downbeat) with whom he worked on the 1986 album "Battle of Armagideon" for Trojan. It was not until the late 1980s, when he began working with British producers Adrian Sherwood and Neil Fraser (who is better known as Mad Professor), that Perry's career began to get back on solid ground again. Perry also has attributed the recent resurgence of his creative muse to his deciding to quit drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis. In his earlier days, the act of producing for Perry was a frenzied and ritualistic one where he stated that "he blew smoke into the microphone so that the weed would get into the song." Perry stated in an interview that he wanted to see if "it was the smoke making the music or Lee Perry making the music. I found out it was me and that I don't need to smoke."
In 2003, Perry won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album with the album Jamaican E.T.. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Perry #100 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. More recently, he teamed up with a group of Swiss musicians and performed under the name Lee Perry and the White Belly Rats, and toured the United States in 2006 and 2007 using the New York City-based group Dub Is A Weapon as his backing band. Currently there are two films made about his life and work: Lee Scratch Perry's Vision of Paradise by Volker Schaner and The Upsetter by film-makers Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough.
After meeting Andrew W.K. at SXSW in 2006, Perry invited him to co-produce his album Repentance. The album, released on 19 August 2008, on Narnack Records, featured several guest artists including Moby, Ari Up, producer Don Fleming, drummer Brian Chippendale and bassist Josh Werner.
In 2007, Perry's song "Enter the Dragon" was sampled on the track "Carrots" by Panda Bear of Animal Collective. As well, Perry was selected by Animal Collective in 2011 to perform at All Tomorrow's Parties, which the band curated in May 2011. That same year, he recorded Rise Again with bassist and producer Bill Laswell; the album featured contributions from Tunde Adebimpe, Sly Dunbar and Bernie Worrell, and was released on Laswell's M.O.D. Technologies label.
In 2008, Perry reunited with Adrian Sherwood on The Mighty Upsetter. Between 2007 and 2010, Perry recorded three albums with British producer, Steve Marshall. The albums featured performances by Keith Richards, and George Clinton. Two of these albums, End Of An American Dream (2008) and Revelation (2010), received Grammy nominations in the category Best Reggae Album.
In 2009, Perry collaborated with Dubblestandart, on their Return from Planet Dub double album, revisiting some of his material from the 1970s and 1980s, as well as collaborating on new material with Dubblestandart, some of which also included Ari Up of the Slits. In 2008 leading up to this release, Perry's first foray into the dubstep genre was released on 12" vinyl, a collaboration with Dubblestandart and New York City's Subatomic Sound System called "Iron Devil". That record was followed by several more reggae-oriented dubstep collaborations with Dubblestandart and Subatomic Sound System on digital and vinyl, first Blackboard Jungle Vols. 1 & 2 (2009) featuring dancehall vocalist Jahdan Blakkamoore, then Chrome Optimism (2010) which also featured American filmmaker David Lynch. Following that, in 2010, Scratch and Ari Up of The Slits collaborated on a limited edition Subatomic Sound System 7" called "Hello, Hell Is Very Low", a rootical dubstep release that would turn out to be one of Ari Up's last recordings and the final release during her lifetime.
In 2010, Perry had his first ever solo art exhibition at Dem Passwords art gallery in Los Angeles, California. The show, titled "Secret Education," featured works on canvas, paper, and a video installation.
In 2011, The Upsetter, a documentary film about Perry narrated by Benicio Del Toro, was released worldwide in theaters after its premiere at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival. The film was directed and produced by the American film makers Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough and opened in Los Angeles in March 2011. It continued to screen worldwide into 2012, with the DVD, ITUNES and Video On Demand release soon following.
In 2012, Perry teamed with The Orb to produce The Orbserver in the Star House, which was recorded in Berlin over a period of several months. The album earned critical acclaim, and featured the single "Golden Clouds", named after the historic property located near Perry’s hometown in Jamaica. The recording sessions were filmed by Volker Schaner and were part of the documentary Lee Scratch Perry's Vision of Paradise. In August 2012 it was announced that Perry would receive Jamaica's sixth highest honour, the Order of Distinction, Commander class.
In 2013, Perry performed at the first Dub Champions Festival in Vienna, a sold out performance, backed by Dubblestandart with Adrian Sherwood handling the dub mix. Perry also performed at the first two Dub Champions Festivals in New York City in 2011 and 2012, backed by Subatomic Sound System. Perry performed at the 2013 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California.
Lee "Scratch" Perry is featured as the DJ on the dub and reggae radio station The Blue Ark in Grand Theft Auto V. The station includes a number of dubs by Perry and the Upsetters including "Disco Devil" and "Grumblin' Dub".
In 2015, the documentary Lee Scratch Perry's Vision of Paradise had a worldwide release in the cinema as well as on DVD and VOD after premiering at the East End Film Festival in London. The movie gives an insight into the spiritual world of Lee Perry, after director Volker Schaner spent more than 15 years filming with the Upsetter, witnessing the building of the Secret Laboratory in Switzerland from the beginning until its destruction by fire in 2015. The movie contains animated scenes painted by Maria Sargarodschi and animated by Norman Petkau and achieved wide critical acclaim (New York Times, Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Guardian, etc). Produced by Volker Schaner and Daniela Schmid, it shows appearances of Mad Professor, Adrian Sherwood, Irmin Schmid, Martin “Youth” Glover, The Orb, Thomas Lautenbacher of “The White Belly Rats”, David Katz, Nick Manasseh and Dennis Bowell who witness the immense importance of the man. Shot in Switzerland, Jamaica, London, and Berlin, the movie also shows scenes from Aksum and Lalibela, Ethiopia to provide necessary background information. Over the years, Schaner collected over 100 hours of unique scenes and the both still continue the work, planning to release a sequel. More info about the movie - and the movie itself - can be found at www.visionofparadise.de
Perry currently resides in Switzerland, with his wife Mireille and two children. In 2015 his new studio there, the Secret Laboratory, was damaged by a fire that also destroyed his stage costumes and unreleased recordings.
In 2015 Perry worked together with Belgium-based band Pura Vida & released The Super Ape Strikes Again, which was mixed at The Last Ark Studio in Belgium using a combination of vintage gear and modern recording techniques.
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- The Upsetter (1969)
- The Upsetters - Return of Django (1969)
- The Upsetters - Clint Eastwood (1970)
- The Upsetters - Many Moods of the Upsetters (1970)
- The Upsetters - Scratch the Upsetter Again (1970)
- The Upsetters - Eastwood Rides Again (1970)
- The Upsetters - The Good, the Bad and the Upsetters (1971)
- Lee Perry - Africa's Blood (1972)
- Scratch the Upsetter - Cloak and Dagger (1973)
- The Upsetters - Rhythm Shower (1973)
- The Upsetters - 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle (1973)
- The Upsetters - Double Seven (1974)
- King Tubby Meets the Upsetter - At the Grass Roots of Dub (1974)
- The Upsetters - Musical Bones (1975)
- The Upsetters - Return of Wax (1975)
- The Mighty Upsetter - Kung Fu Meets the Dragon (1975)
- Lee Perry & The Upsetters - Revolution Dub (1975)
- The Upsetters - Super Ape (1976)
- Lee Perry - Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread (1978)
- The Upsetters - Return of the Super Ape (1978)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - The Return of Pipecock Jackxon (1980)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Majestics - Mystic Miracle Star (1982)
- Lee Scratch Perry - History Mystery Prophesy (1984)
- Mr. Lee 'Scratch' Perry and The Upsetters - Battle Of Armagideon (Millionaire Liquidator) (1986)
- Lee 'Scratch' Perry + Dub Syndicate - Time Boom X De Devil Dead (1987)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Satan Kicked the Bucket (1988)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry with Mad Professor - Mystic Warrior (1989)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry with Mad Professor - Mystic Warrior Dub (1989)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Message From Yard (1990)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - From The Secret Laboratory (1990)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry Meets Bullwackie - Satan's Dub (1990)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Spiritual Healing (1990)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Lord God Muzik (1991)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - The Upsetter and The Beat (1992)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry & Mad Professor - Black Ark Experryments (1995)
- Lee Perry - Experryments at the Grass Roots of Dub (1995)
- Lee Perry featuring Mad Professor/Douggie Digital/Juggler - Super Ape Inna Jungle (1996)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Who Put The Voodoo Pon Reggae (1996)
- Mad Professor & Lee Perry - Dub Take the Voodoo Out of Reggae (1996)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Technomajikal (1997)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Dub Fire (1998)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Fire in Dub (1998)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - On the Wire (2000)
- Mad Professor/Lee Perry - Techno Party (2000)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry & Niney the Observer - Station Underground Report (2001)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Jamaican E.T. (2002)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Alien Starman (2003)
- Lee Scratch Perry and the Whitebellyrats - Panic in Babylon (2004)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - End of an American Dream (2007)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - The Mighty Upsetter (2008)
- Lee "$cratch" Perry - Repentance (2008)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Scratch Came Scratch Saw Scratch Conquered (2008)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry and Adrian Sherwood - Dub Setter (2009)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - The Unfinished Master Piece (2010)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Revelation (2010)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry/Bill Laswell - Rise Again (2011)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Master Piece (2012)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry & ERM - Humanicity (2012)
- The Orb feat. Lee "Scratch" Perry - The Orbserver in the Star House (2012)
- The Orb feat. Lee "Scratch" Perry - More Tales from the Orbservatory (2013)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry - Back On the Controls (2014)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry & Pura Vida - "The Super Ape Strikes Again" (2015)
- Lee "Scratch" Perry & Subatomic Sound System - "Super Ape Returns To Conquer" (2017)
- DIP Presents the Upsetter (1975)
- Scratch on the Wire (1979)
- The Upsetter Collection (1981)
- Megaton Dub (1983)
- Arkology (1997)
- Ape-ology (2007)
- Note: Lee Perry has had numerous compilations come out under his name, with many being illegitimate. This list tries to round up a few more "essential" compilations.
- Co-wrote "Police and Thieves" with Junior Murvin. It was later covered by The Clash on their 1977 debut album, some versions of which include their Perry-produced single "Complete Control".
- "The Only Alternative" on the compilation Roots Of Innovation - 15 And X Years On-U Sound (1994) by Dub Syndicate on On-U Sound label.
- "Dr. Lee, PhD" on the album Hello Nasty (1998) by Beastie Boys
- Appears on two tracks on the album Whaa! (2005) by Zuco 103
- Starred in a series of Guinness advertisements (2008)
- Appears on two tracks on the album "Nairobi meets Mad Professor: Wu Wei" (2009) by Argentinian dub band Nairobi
- Appears on the single Golden Clouds (2012) by The Orb
- Lee Perry: Return Of The Super Ape (BA BA ZEE) - Rick Elgood and Don Letts (UK)
- Lee Scratch Perry's Vision of Paradise (2015) - director Volker Schaner, producer Daniela Schmid, Official Website: www.visionofparadise.de
- Scratch in Deutschland (1992) (10mins)
- Ich sende aus dem All (1995) (30mins) 16mm, director Peter Braatz
- The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee 'Scratch' Perry (90mins) (2011) directed by Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough narrated by Academy Award Winner Benicio Del Toro Official website
- Tracks: Lee Perry (2005) (ARTE) (France)
- Jesus Perry Live - Dir. InYourFaceTV (2013) on YouTube
- Golden Clouds - Dir. Volker Schaner (2012) on YouTube
- Lee Scratch Perry: The Unlimited Destruction, 2002, US
- Lee Scratch Perry: In Concert - The Ultimate Alien, 2003, US
- Lee Scratch Perry With Mad Professor, 2004, US
- Roots Rock Reggae - Inside the Jamaican Music Scene, 1977. Directed by Jeremy Marre.
- Carrying The Swing;; - Dir. Howard Johnson (1998)
- Reggae: The Story Of Jamaican Music (Part.2 - Rebel Music) 2002. Mike Connolly
- Rock & Roll - Punk (10 part series) (PBS) (US) (1995)(Episode 9 only) aka Dancing in the Street: A Rock and Roll History (Episode 8 only) (UK)
- Tribute To Sister D - The Forum, London 1995 (One Drop - Crazy Baldheads - Roastfish and Cornbread)
- Portraits Of Jamaican Music - Dir.Pierre Marc Simonin (2003) Video Clip
- Jools in Jamaica - Dir.Geoff Wonfor, Presenter Jools Holland
- John Dougan "Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Discography" "AllMusic.com" Retrieved Oct. 27, 2017
- Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 738–741. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
- "The Upsetter: the Life and Music of Lee Scratch Perry". Theupsettermovie.com. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- Katz, David (2009-11-17). People Funny Boy - The Genius Of Lee 'Scratch' Perry. Omnibus Press. pp. 1–5. ISBN 9780857120342.
- Harty, Hilary. "Lee "Scratch" Perry, Reggae Pioneer, Set to Burn the Mother Down". San Antonio Current. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
- Katz, David (2009-11-17). People Funny Boy - The Genius Of Lee 'Scratch' Perry. Omnibus Press. pp. 175, 181–2. ISBN 9780857120342.
- Katz, David (2009-11-17). People Funny Boy - The Genius Of Lee 'Scratch' Perry. Omnibus Press. p. 83. ISBN 9780857120342.
- Horovitz, Adam (April 21, 2005). "Lee "Scratch" Perry". ProQuest. New York: Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
- Heselgrave, Douglas (December 2006). "Lee Scratch Perry: From the Black Ark to the Skull Cave, the Madman Becomes a Psychiatrist". Music Box Magazine. Retrieved 2006-12-28.
- "Beastie Boys' Hot Sauce History: Lee Perry Rides The Subway - Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV.com. 2011-05-03. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- "The Immortals: The First Fifty". Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone.
- "ATP curated by Animal Collective - All Tomorrow's Parties". Atpfestival.com. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- "Lee "Scratch" Perry: Rise Again". PopMatters. 1 June 2011.
- "Dubblestandart featuring Lee Scratch Perry* & Prince Far-I* - Iron Devil (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
- "Dubblestandart Meets David Lynch & Lee Scratch Perry* - Chrome Optimism (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
- Ziegler, Chris (2010-11-12). "Lee "Scratch" Perry's First-Ever Art Show Opens Tomorrow - Interview with Curator Sebastian Demian - Los Angeles - Music - West Coast Sound". Blogs.laweekly.com. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- "Benicio Del Toro Narrates Doc on Reggae Legend Lee 'Scratch' Perry (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 2011-02-24. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- "'The Upsetter: The Life & Music of Lee "Scratch" Perry' Released On New Self-Distribution Platform | Shadow and Act". Blogs.indiewire.com. 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- Nate Jackson (2011-03-24). "Lee 'Scratch' Perry's life on film in 'The Upsetter' - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- "Doc Channel Blog, Docs on DVD: "The Upsetter"; "Shut Up Little Man!"; "Sarah Palin: You Betcha!"; "Revenge of the Electric Car"; "Queen of the Sun"; "Limelight"; "Hell and Back Again"; "From the Sky Down"". Blog.documentarychannel.com. 2012-01-24. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- "New On DVD/Blu-ray/VOD This Week - "13," "The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee Scratch Perry," "A Good Man" | Shadow and Act". Blogs.indiewire.com. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- "The Orb & Lee 'Scratch' Perry: 'Golden Clouds' Video on JamBase". Jambase.com. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- "The Orb's New Album 'The Observer In The Star House' Ft. Lee Scratch Perry Out 8/28 @ Top40-Charts.com - Songs & Videos from 49 Top 20 & Top 40 Music Charts from 30 Countries". Top40-charts.com. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- "The Orb Featuring Lee Scratch Perry Debut 'Hold Me Upsetter' As A Free Download". Contactmusic.com. 2012-09-03. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- Bonitto, Brian (2012) "Tosh gets OM", Jamaica Observer, 7 August 2012, retrieved 7 August 2012
- "Rockstar reveals definitive GTA 5 radio station song list: From Rick James to FIDLAR". Metro. DMG Media. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
- "'Scratch' and 'Chinna' to get Musgrave Medals", Jamaica Observer, 4 October 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013
- Gentile, John (2013) "Lee 'Scratch' Perry Is 'Back on the Controls' in Roots Reggae Return", Rolling Stone, 13 November 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013
- Jackson, Kevin (2014) "Six vie for Reggae Grammy album", Jamaica Observer, 5 December 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2014
- "Listen: Lee "Scratch" Perry Remixes Forest Swords' "Thor's Stone" | News". Pitchfork. 2013-11-27. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
- "Legendary producer Lee 'Scratch' Perry's studio destroyed", Jamaica Observer, 7 December 2015. Retrieved 11 December 2015
- Grizzle, Shereita (2015) "Unreleased Lee 'Scratch' Perry recordings destroyed in fire", Jamaica Gleaner, 11 December 2015. Retrieved 11 December 2015
- Katz, David (2006) People Funny Boy, Omnibus Press, ISBN 978-1846094439, p. 247, 453
- Roots of Innovation: 15 and X Years On-U Sound, On-U Sound, 1996
- Beres, Derek (2005) "Zuco 103 - Whaa!", Paste, 23 November 2005. Retrieved 18 September 2015
- Hasson, Thomas (2012) "INTERVIEW: Lee Scratch Perry & Orb LP", The Quietus, 4 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2015
- "Lee Perry en Groove: el loco inmortal", Rolling Stone, 27 May 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2015
- Katz, David (2012) "The Orb featuring Lee 'Scratch' Perry The Orbserver in the Star House Review", BBC. Retrieved 18 September 2015
- Collingwood, Jeremy (2010) Lee 'Scratch' Perry: Kiss Me Neck - The Scratch Story in Words, Pictures and Records, Cherry Red Books, ISBN 978-1-901447-96-5
- Katz, David (2000). People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee Scratch Perry. Payback Press, UK. ISBN 0-86241-854-2.
- David Katz and Jeremy Collingwood, Give Me Power: A Complete Discography, Trax On Wax
- Gary Simons, Super Scratch: The Almost Complete Lee Perry Discography, 1999, Secret History Books
- Caesar, Pogus (2010). Muzik Kinda Sweet. Punch, OOM Gallery Archive, UK. ISBN 978-0-9566741-0-4.
- Media related to Lee Perry at Wikimedia Commons
|Catch a Fire|
The Black Ark was the recording studio of reggae and dub producer Lee "Scratch" Perry, built in 1973 and located behind his family's home in the Washington Gardens neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica. Although the studio itself was somewhat rudimentary in its set-up and particularly basic with regard to some of the dated equipment employed by Perry, it was nonetheless the breeding ground for some of Jamaica's most innovative sounds and recording techniques in the latter half of the 1970s.
From a technological standpoint, the Black Ark was at the low end in comparison to the international music recording standards of its day. The studio's legendary reputation stems from the innovative production techniques employed by Perry to create sounds that baffled his contemporaries, and which have continued to be a source of amazement to later generations of music producers. An example of Perry's inventive style was his ability to overdub layers of sound effects and instrumentation on each recording track of a basic 4-track machine, with such precise timing and in such a way that the resulting sound would destroy the competition from Jamaica's other top producers using the latest 16-track mixing consoles. Perry once buried microphones at the base of a palm tree and thumped it rhythmically to produce a mystifying bass drum effect[note 1] and his drum booth at the Black Ark was for a time surrounded with chicken wire to further his distinctive sound. Many of his songs are layered with a variety of subtle effects created from broken glass, ghastly sighs and screeches, crying babies, falling rain and cow noises. While it was thought to believe that Perry recorded the "mooing" noises from actual cows, it was actually the baritone voice of Watty Burnett through a tin foil laced cardboard tube that produced the cow-like noises. These and other notable recording techniques helped define the Black Ark sound, as well as Lee Perry's creative legacy.
Perry was known for his eccentric and superstitious behavior during production sessions. He would often "bless" his recording equipment with mystical invocations, blow ganja smoke onto his tapes while recording, bury unprotected tapes in the soil outside of his studio, and surround himself with burning candles and incense, whose wax and dust remnants were allowed to infest his electronic recording equipment. He would also spray tapes with a variety of fluids, including urine, blood and whisky, ostensibly to enhance their spiritual properties. Later commentators have drawn a direct relationship between the decay of Perry's facility and the unique sounds he was able to create from his studio equipment.
Perry has described his relationship to the studio thus:
I see the studio must be like a living thing, a life itself. The machine must be live and intelligent. Then I put my mind into the machine and the machine perform reality. Invisible thought waves - you put them into the machine by sending them through the controls and the knobs or you jack it into the jack panel. The jack panel is the brain itself, so you got to patch up the brain and make the brain a living man, that the brain can take what you sending into it and live.
Artists who were produced and/or recorded at the Black Ark include Bob Marley and The Wailers, Junior Byles, The Congos, Junior Murvin, Max Romeo, Mighty Diamonds, The Heptones, Augustus Pablo and Jah Lion. Paul Douglas mentions, “Scratch had a particular sound and everybody was fascinated by his sound. He had this way of putting things together; it was just his sound and it influenced a lot of people. I’ve even gone to the Black Ark with Eric Gale for that Negril album; I remember myself and Val Douglas, we laid some tracks there, Eric Gale overdubbed stuff on there, but I honestly don’t remember what happened to it.” Lee Perry and his studio were also formative in creating the highly innovative reggae subgenre called dub, in which the producer/engineer becomes the focus of the music, manipulating a pre-recorded track and creating something entirely new using the mixing console as nothing less than an instrument. Perry worked with The Clash and Paul McCartney and his band Wings had recorded there between 1972 and 1979.
In 1979, following years of increasingly bizarre and erratic behavior, Lee "Scratch" Perry, armed with a magic marker, covered every available surface of the Black Ark with impenetrable writings before allegedly burning it to the ground. This event, with the loss of the studio's unique sound and a hiatus in Perry's extraordinary creative skills, effectively ended an era during which much of Jamaica's most innovative sounds had captured the world of music. However, it has been related by several Perry family members that the studio in fact caught fire in 1983 after an ill-fated attempt to rebuild it, the result of an electrical accident. More often than not, Perry has claimed that he personally destroyed the Black Ark due to "unclean spirits" - an allusion to some of the undesirable people who were constantly at the Black Ark in later years. There are also stories that Perry was being blackmailed by gangsters who wanted a cut of the record profits. Perry himself stated in an interview with clashmusic.com regarding the fire, "Too much stress in Jamaica, all the time. Everybody want money, everybody want paid. Everyone got problem and want me to solve their problem. Nobody gave me anything, people just took everything. Everybody take this, and take that. So the atmosphere in the Black Ark studio was changing; it wasn’t like it used to be. Then I decided to make a sacrifice as the energy wasn’t good anymore." Shortly thereafter, he moved to London and then Switzerland.
- Perry referred to this particular invention as a way to record what he called "the living African heartbeat." Veal, p. 160.
- Howard, David (2004). Kingston: A Cultural and Literary History. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle. p. 186. ISBN 978-1-902669-37-3.
- Shepherd, John; David Horn; Dave Laing; Paul Oliver; Peter Wicke (2003). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: Volume 1: Media, industry and society. London: Continuum. pp. 648–649. ISBN 978-0-8264-6321-0.
- Katz, David (2006). People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee "Scratch" Perry. London: Omnibus. pp. 175–176. ISBN 978-1-84609-443-9.
- Kenner, Rob (February 2002). "Boom Shots". Vibe. 10 (2): 122. ISSN 1070-4701.
- Veal, Michael E. (2007). Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press. pp. 160–162. ISBN 978-0-8195-6572-3.
- Katz, p. 332.
- Veal, p. 74.
- Phelps, Shirelle (1999). Contemporary Black Biography. Profiles from the international Black community. Detroit, MI.: Gale. ISBN 978-0-7876-1275-7.
- Katz, pp. 283-284.
- Ascott, Roy, ed. (2000). Art, Technology, Consciousness: Mind @ Large. Bristol, UK: Intellect. p. 120. ISBN 978-1-84150-041-6.
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- Katz, David. "The Return of Django." People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee 'Scratch' Perry. London: Omnibus, 2006. 83. Print. https://books.google.com/books?id=liOx8tyfJwAC&pg=PA83&lpg=PA83&dq=lee+scratch+perry+on+the+instrumental+front&source=bl&ots=6LEp8tNynv&sig=5NG3m1X__YgvXn9Pq1wAtIuVvlU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjouKeo6PfOAhVLQiYKHWBXBjIQ6AEILDAD#v=snippet&q=gale&f=false
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- I Kong I Kong is not the man of many records. Also...