Much ink has been spilled over the length of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s incredible, 50 plus-year music career, and that shouldn’t be terribly surprising as Perry has held a towering influence on both modern and contemporary Jamaican music as a producer, record label exec and as an artist, who has been instrumental in the development of reggae. As a highly sought after producer, Perry has produced hits for The Wailers, Junior Byles, Max Romeo, The Heptones, Gregory Isaacs, Junior Murvin, The Clash, Bob Marley and countless others for his innovative, studio techniques and production values. Most notably, Perry is best known as being one of the forefathers of the dub sound, which he further progressed through his own wildly creative musical work. Also to be fair, Perry has a long-held reputation for being one of modern music’s most eccentric personalities, legendarily known for bizarre behavior, stream-of-consciosuness interviews and costumes made of found objects such as feathers, toys, playing cards and coins. Although he may look ridiculous as he prat falls, jokes and puns his way to your heart, he’s actually the ultimate cosmic clown, slyly revealing the secrets of the universe. Carefully listening to Mr. Perry’s work will take you on a higher plane of existence.
And although he turned 79 in March, Perry has managed to be as vital, challenging, forward-thinking and as innovative as ever, collaborating with the likes of The Beastie Boys, The Orb (their The Orbserver in the star house is arguably one of the most unique and compelling albums and collaborations of the past 5 or 6 years) and most recently with Felix da Housecat, the renowned Chicago-based electronic music producer and DJ, who has produced and created work in a wild variety of electronic music genres including acid house, techno warrior, nu-skool-electro disco and a number of others. Now, if you know anything about music this sort of collaboration shouldn’t seem wrong – since dub is arguably the first electronic music, and because dub has had such a big influence on all electronic music.
“The Natural,” the latest single from Felix da Housecat’s soon-to-be released full-length Narrative of Thee Blast Illusion pairs the legend’s distinctive, stream-of-consciousness vocal style with a dub riddim that possess a cosmic glow that gives the song a futuristic and psychedelic feel – but just underneath the surface is an improvised breeziness that stems from the single’s recording process. As Felix describes it, his tour manager/co-producer Devon James Stewart is the son of a member of The Skatalites, and as a result, Stewart was able to get Perry’s number. Perry wasn’t familiar with his work, so Felix had to send him some material.
After figuring out the necessary logistics of the recording session, Felix describes the recording as being a profoundly psychedelic experience. He managed to get a number of players from The Black Ark Studio, which gave the sessions a sense of walking back in time to the 1970s. “You can’t have a normal conversation with him,” Felix explained. “It’s like he has natural DMT. It’s not an act!” He goes to describe that things just kind of clicked and you can feel it through the song.