Lee “Scratch” Perry‘s “secret laboratory” studio in Switzerland burned down Thursday, destroying the dub legend’s collection of studio equipment, art, stage costumes and music. “Something very very sad happened. I forgot to [put] out a candle and my whole secret laboratory burned out,” Perry wrote on Facebook, “My whole life collections, arts, my magic hats, my magic boots, all my crazy show outfits and costumes: king, pope, general, magician… All my electronics and studio equipment and my magic mic, books, musik, CDs… Everything gone.”
On Facebook, Perry also posted photos of himself standing in the burnt-out ruins of the studio, which lent its name to Perry’s 1990 LP From the Secret Laboratory. Perry also noted in his letter, “I am so sad and my wife is so mad.” As a result of the fire, Perry is asking fans to provide specially made costumes for his upcoming trek; fans who contribute an outfit will be placed on the guest list and given backstage access when the Upsetter’s trek comes to their town.
In an interview with the CBC, Perry’s wife Mirielle Perry offered more details about the fire, admitting that she usually hides the candles from her husband. “I have to hide everything. Everything that burns, I have to hide. He loves candles. But I know he’s careless, and he thinks nothing can happen to him,” Mirielle Perry said. “He even stands in a bucket of water, and holds some electronic stuff, and does his installations and says nothing can happen. And if something drops in the water… he does not believe me that it can be dangerous.”
She added that the dub legend lost “all his machines, his computers, all the keys, the USB sticks with all the music,” and that he did not keep a backup copy of all his music. “He stores everything on the USB now. All destroyed,” she said. “And you know, if I ask him to get a copy, to store something, to make sure nothing happens, he don’t want to give me! He doesn’t like to give away his energy, he says. That’s how he thinks.”
“Scratch” Perry then briefly talked to the CBC about the incident. “Something has to happen to make the world go around, and that’s what happened,” he said. “Maybe I have to make a change in my life, and put away the candle-burning for a while and clean up my brain… Maybe I was tired and wound up sleeping, something like that… and didn’t know the candle was burning.”
This isn’t the first time one of Perry’s artistic havens has burned down. In 1979, the producer’s legendary Black Ark in Kingston, Jamaica – a backyard recording studio that was home to sessions by Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Murvin, Max Romeo, Paul McCartney and Wings and many more – was set ablaze by Perry, closing out a vital chapter in the history of dub music. The burning of the Black Ark also culminated in the Jamaican’s permanent relocation to Europe.