Reggae legend Lee 'Scratch' Perry lets his music do the talking. And thank Jah for that. Patois and a habit of speaking in riddles meant that transcribing this interview was like decoding encrypted message from Martians. But after much rewinding and re-rewinding, it became clear that this seventy-year-old is funnier and talks more sense than most pensioners we know (we know loads).
VICE: Hi, how are you?
Lee Perry: I'm great.
How's life right now?
Life is really lovely. It's a happy time again. Old time pass by and new time come by, so happy new year.
What did you have for breakfast today?
I didn't have any breakfast today. I only had a cup of hot chocolate. That's all I had today.
What clothes are you wearing right now?
I'm wearing black shoes, black boots, black pants, black shirt.
What is the most important item in your wardrobe?
I don't think any of them are important, they are just garments and just clothes. And clothes and garments are just vanity so I don't think they are important to me. I didn't come here with any clothes on, I come here very naked. So nothing in the wardrobe could be important to me. If I don't have to walk in clothes then it would be a lot better to walk naked to expose my big long cock-y.
What was your favourite decade for fashion?
I like all things very much; I like all fashion. I like all pants and all shirts, all jeans and everything like this. I love everything that is old. I like new stuff but like the word said (and the words are the leader of the creation): "There is nothing new under the sun." So if you want to follow the words to be in the future and to love the future then you must know that the future is very old. The future is not young. So if we love all fashion things, we be loving all future. But if we only love new fashion things we won't be loving all future.
Give me some tips on fashion. What should people wear?
The things that people wish to wear, I would tell them let them wear it. And the things that people wish to bare, I would say let them bare it. And the things that people wish to tear, I would say let them tear it. And the things that people wish to eat, I would say let them eat it.
How did you dress when you were a child?
Well I liked to wear khaki, jeans, velvet, cotton and silk.
Nice selection. How about dungarees? Did you ever wear those?
No I have never seen those before.
What are your thoughts on the war in Iraq?
The war in Iraq was ordained to be and Iraq was supposed to be Babylon, but Mr Bush don't want Iraq to have the power to know that Iraq is Babylon. Nothing go wrong, it ordained to be so. Otherwise Saddam Hussein will end up being the destruction and Bush would prefer to be the destruction. Babylon was in Iraq, now Babylon in America.
What do you think of George Bush?
He's played his part, he's not a fake. He is the real devil. He said to Saddam Hussein that two devils can't reign. So Saddam Hussein had to go. The world is ruled by good and evil. The evil people have to be wiped out by evil. The good people will survive when the evil of one wipe the evil of one.
Do you like rap music?
Rap music is a legend. Black people love rap music and there is a vibration in everybody whatever they choose. If people choose rap music they know why they choose rap music and I will not tell them not to love rap music and not to choose rap music. Love who they love and love the life they live, love the person who they are and love the things the love. Rock music, it is good for the people who love rock music. Pop music is good for the people who love pop music, reggae music is good for the people who love reggae music, and dub music is good for the people who love dub music. Love the life you live, live the life you love.
Have you got a girlfriend right now?
I have a wife. I'm married now going on 19 years, so I don't need a girlfriend any more. I have the respect of a married man.
What do you think of gay people?
Gay people have the right to live their life, and I wouldn't say that they shouldn't live the life they should live because they were once woman. After they reincarnate they come back as man. They achieve two different power – they achieve the power of man and the woman. We all are male and female but some of us don't know how to handle it. We are all male and we are all female in one body; two power in one body. But if the woman in the gay want to live a woman life, let the woman in the gay live a woman life. And if the man in the gay wish to life a man life, let the man in the gay live a man life. I have nothing to say against them.
Do you smoke a lot of weed?
I stopped smoking a couple of years now. I look at it one way: It got to be my lungs or the pollution. It got to be my lungs or the corruption. And it got to be my lungs or the poison. I choose my lungs and get rid of the poison. I get rid of the nicotine, ricotine, hicotine. It was very easy to choose life over death. I had to choose life over cancer. Bob Marley did have cancer – he could not choose, so he had to die with cancer. I don't like that. So I said I'm going to get rid of the cancer and find the answer and ban smoking. Without health, you are dead, but with health you are alive. So I respect my health.
Do you drink a lot of alcohol?
I've banned that also. I respect my brain; I was damaging my brain. I don't think I'm going to get more marrow, so I give up the alcohol. I kick the bottle nineteen years ago.
*Lee Perry's new album The Upsetter Selection is out now on Trojan Records.