Lee 'Scratch' Perry Is 'Back on the Controls' in Roots Reggae Return

Legendary dub producer also awarded Jamaican arts medal

Lee 'Scratch' Perry performs in Wiltshire, England.
C Brandon/Redferns via Getty Images
November 13, 2013 3:50 PM ET

"If I pulled the plug, just like that, then snap!, the entire universe could disappear," famed reggae producer Lee "Scratch" Perry tells Rolling Stone. "But then it would be on my conscience. I was sent here to make people happy . . . but repentance is coming."

See Photos From Roger Steffens' 'Reggae Scrapbook'

"Repentance" refers to "Repent," one of the lead tracks from Perry's upcoming album, Lee "Scratch" Perry – Back on the Controls. The album is tentatively due out in April 2014 and was made in conjunction with U.K.-based reggae producer Daniel Boyle at Boyle's Rolling Lion Studio. 

"Lee has the ability to appear at the right time," Boyle says. "Maybe four or five years ago, I sent Lee an email saying, 'Do you fancy to meet?' I didn't hear anything. Three years later, I was thinking about him and I had made a rhythm that I thought was perfect for him. I woke up and there was an email from him saying, 'So, you want to meet?' Classic Lee – three years later."

Boyle picked up Perry in a cab and took him to his studio with the expectation that they would record just one track. At that first session, they cut "Repent." Two weeks later, Perry called Boyle back and asked to record more tracks. For the next two years, they recorded off and on when Perry was in the U.K.

Perry's latest releases have been largely based in electronic music, including collaborations with the Orb, Andrew W.K., and Dubblestandart. But Back on the Controls promises to revisit Perry's heavy Seventies roots-reggae work. Boyle collected much of the same equipment that Perry used in his famous Black Ark Studio and recorded live instruments, as opposed to electronic tracks, in order to give the album a raw, organic vibe.

Lyrically, the album addresses Perry's own take on Rastafarianism and spirituality. Song titles include the Rasta-themed "Po Satan" and "Do the Dubstep," on which Perry sings about dancing to Jamaican dub music. 

The new recording wraps up a banner year for Perry. Last month, the Institute of Jamaica awarded the producer the gold medal for "distinguished eminence" in the field of music. The organization awards medals annually to Jamaicans who have made important contributions to art, science and literature.  "Winning the Musgrave medal means that Jamaica is getting smart and getting wise," Perry says. "They weren't treating me right, but now they are treating me right, so I will bless them again."


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