Lee 'Scratch' Perry ADD

Interview with Puraman

11/30/2015 by Gardy Stein

Interview with Puraman

Our world is a mysterious one. Full of surprises, chance encounters and possible destinies, every day is a new, exciting challenge to be met. The high art of life lies in recognizing and grasping at an opportunity as soon as it presents itself to us. Fortunately, that's something Puraman did, first when meeting and working with The Congos, and then, a few years later, when he got to know his idol Lee Scratch Perry. Immediately the two artists clicked, starting a fruitful collaboration (including a couple of stage shows) and a deep personal friendship. Countless hours spent in Puraman's Belgian Lost Ark Studio later, the first result of this karmatic reunion is presented with the album The Super Ape Strikes Again. Reggaeville reached out to Bregt "Puraman" DeBoever, the man behind it all, to learn more about his work with the pioneer of Dub as well as the natural mystic of sights and sounds…

Blessed Earthstrong to you! It was your birthday on the 27th of November, right?
Yes! I'm 33 now.

Is it a coincidence that the release date of the album is on your Birthday?
Of course not. Also, the vinyls are arriving on December 31st, that's my brother's birthday. You see, my brother and me are behind the Lost Ark Music.

So your brother is into Reggae and Dub music as well? Did he pull you in or did you infect him?
Well, I pulled him in (laughs). He is actually a bus driver. I've had my band for almost ten years, and now the label... My brother is doing the paperwork, the business part, and helps me out a lot!

When did you start the label Lost Ark Music and what made you give it that name?
We started almost 5 years ago. Our first release was an album with The Congos called We Nah Give Up in 2011. As for the name, well… My music is very influenced by Lee Perry, The Congos and so on. When I got to know more about Lee Perry, I learned that he had a small studio, not like the other big ones. I figured that maybe I could build my own studio, and so I started to collect some vintage gear, second hand. I really like the seventies sound and I wanted to recreate that sound but add some new flavours, mix it up with the new sounds. I called the studio the Lost Ark Studio, because of Perry's Black Ark which was lost, but also because of the Ark of the Covenant which rests in Ethiopia. I wanted to build a spiritual music healing studio, like the master Lee did.

Nice. When was the first time you actually met Lee Perry?
Well, first I met The Congos in Belgium in 2009. Ashanti Roy invited me to Jamaica, and I spent two weeks in Kingston - that was also the start of our album with The Congos. In Jamaica, I also met another hero of mine, Leroy Wallace. When I reached back from Jamaica, one month later there was Lee Perry's 75th Birthday party, together with The Congos, Max Romeo and Horsemouth Wallace. They brought me backstage, and I just got to shake Lee's hands and thanked him for his healing music (smiles). That evening, The Congos, Horsemouth and Max Romeo all came to my studio for a late night recording session. The vibes were amazing! I had only lived there for a week, so it was a very special house warming party.

And since that time you stayed in contact? When did the plan to do an album together come up?
First, I met him a couple of times, and then Ashanti Roy told me "You should paint Scratch", because I also paint... When Lee came to Belgium, I went with a small painting of him. I got a chance to give it to him, and I wrote all my details on the back and also what he meant to me. As time went by, he asked somebody to paint a vision he had, the Paradise Island vision. I called in and from that time we had more contact. I worked for about two weeks on the painting, and we were calling back and forth, sending pictures. I got instructions like a balloon that flies to another world and things like that... About the same time we recorded the first single, Heavens Gate, which was a riddim I created for him especially. After that, we did a first show together and kept going, recording tune by tune. I asked Lee if it was ok if we called this album The Super Ape Strikes Again, and he was into it!
We made tunes about it, began to work on the artwork… it was like a natural mystic flow. We have a connection, I think it comes from the stars (laughs). We did the last recording session after a show in Bredene in my studio, and we recorded till 5am in the morning. The vibes were amazing, Master Lee felt at home (smiles).

Yes, I've seen the photos on your page - it looks like you are really close!
Yeah, it's a lot of fun. For me it is beyond my dreams! I am only 33 and I got to produce this album with my greatest hero in Reggae and Dub music. I am truly thankful and humbled by all these magic experiences.

Divine timing!
Yes, it's true, that's the perfect description. It's like it was planned years ago...

How long did you work on the album, start to finish?
We worked for about two years on it. I made like 20 riddims for him in my studio. Sometimes he recorded in Switzerland, some were recorded that night I mentioned, and now we are still recording together.

Ooooh, so there is going to be a next release?
Yeah, the works are busy. You know, this really feels good. We do some magic live shows and then we record. During the last show, we played a tune live on stage that we had recorded in the afternoon - I taught the band the tune backstage, just before the performance.

So, how is working with Lee? I mean, he is known for his erratic behaviour, journalists complain that he doesn't make sense in interviews, some people even call him crazy... do you agree?
Well, you have to watch our last teaser [WATCH BELOW]. At the end you will find a perfect answer! (laughs)
To work with him is really fantastic, he is so creative and full of ideas. Like, when we recorded the vocals for Feeling So Good, he wanted me to play another bass-line while he was singing. Then he used anything he could find to make sounds. And all the time he was writing on the paintings. So, it was music and art taken together, and that's my world too, so we can communicate that way, more than with words. We communicate through art, music and soul!

What would you say is the central message of the album?
We wanted to make a follower of the Super Ape. I wanted a positive message of universal love, ancient mysteries, spiritual healing… I was talking to Scratch about it, and he also thinks it's really important! On the one hand, you have the word, then you have the sound, and we tried to make it powerful. It's a message of universal love and overstanding. But of course, there is also Scratch free-wheeling, singing, talking, toasting and hitting things (laughs) I think he found his ark. And then there is also me singing along, and my wife doing the backing vocals in the Bamb Bamb.

Ah, that's my favourite, it's so very joyful. Why is it called Jesus Christ?
We created it in the car driving from a show, just fooling around. It was recorded in the Lost Ark late night session. Scratch really really liked the riddim! He worked like three hours on it, recording many vocal tracks, percussions, hitting the doors... It was a joy creating. I could make a lot of version of it! He ended the recording by saying to me "We have to call it Jesus Christ!" So I respected his wishes. Most of the other names I chose, just trying to get a grip. He gave me a lot of freedom, likewise I gave him a lot of freedom, too. He can write and paint on anything. Last time he was here, he climbed on my mixing desks to put stickers on a painting (laughs).

Have you met his wife too? What inspired you to do the To Lee & Mirri Dub?
That's another favourite of mine.
When we call, I always talk to Mireille, and we get along well! Sometimes we call for like two hours. I really like working together with Lee and Mirri, so I made this melodica track and livicated it to them. They are angels, in my point of view.
Last time scratch wanted to record my children, and my son was dancing with Lee, like never before! Lee was amazed. He is like a child too, sometimes.

I think everybody should try to be more like a child!
Yeah, in this cruel world and crazy times... That's why I think Rasta is so important, and Reggae and Dub music. Rasta is telling the truth to the people! I am working on a tune, "Too long they have been laughing about the Rastaman". In these times we see how serious the message is!

So, you have the label, you're working as producer, you run a Soundsystem and you have a band as well... Do you have any time left at all?
We don't have too many shows at the moment...but when we have shows, the vibes are nice! But yeah, I am working every day. I live with my family, that makes it easier, but there never is holiday for me (laughs). On the other hand I live my life, my passion, and I am fulfilling these visions - that gives me so much energy! But still, it's a lot of work to produce an album. Recording, doing the artwork, mixing, promoting, mastering, sending the albums… we all do it ourselves, you know. The artists we work with like this Rasta approach!

Yes, respect! About your artwork... when did you start painting? I saw on your page that almost all your productions have covers hand-painted by you.
I started painting before doing music. I was in art school many years, until I went to become a painter in Ghent at the high school, and there they told me I couldn't paint. They said I was too sensitive, they wanted rational art. But I couldn't leave it, because this is my meditation. When I don't have inspiration for music, I paint and vice versa. I think that's why Scratch and me get on so well - we like to leave the rationale behind and use our senses to create. Lee says about us working together "It's not normal, but it's a reality." (smiles)

On your Lost Ark Music homepage you say that a part of the fees goes to Jamaica, to do Jah Works... Is there a project you support?
Well, what we do is we try to pay our artists in Jamaica properly when they work for us. At the moment we don't have big money or anything, so most of the times we just try and keep our head above the water to survive ourselves. But as our contacts with the Jamaican people evolve, so will the projects, I think. I wanted to go to Jamaica every year, but every time we had some money, we prefer doing recordings and sending the money straight to the artists. Like with Shanti Roy, we did ten shows and two albums, and now Shanti has a big community he takes care of, so that way the money goes straight to the Ghetto.

What is your connection with Jah9?
Oh, that's another story! Where to start? Well, I saw Jah9 the first time on internet about 2 or 3 years ago, she was performing New Name at the Bob Marley Museum. I saw it on YouTube and I was struck by her voice, her message and also that her band played live Dub - in Jamaica!!! I really liked her, so I reached out to her. We got in contact and I sent her a riddim I created for her which was called On Jah Road riddim. I waited and months went by. Then there was a message from her, something like "The music is good, it doesn't need a vocal!". That was a happy day, and a month or so later she recorded Revolution Lullaby on that riddim. We worked a whole year on the mix. Then last year, she had some shows in Belgium, and she called me two days before the shows. She wanted me to play in the band, so I drove immediately to Brussels and went to the rehearsal. After the show I took care of her and Sheldon at my home - we became family. Now we also plan to make an album together. Jah works in mysterious ways, sista!

By the way, I want to big up Reggaeville for all the support and promotion, it means a lot to us. No joke thing! All the artists I work with like it and talk bout it.
Thank you so much, Puraman. It was a joy talking to you. I hope we meet soon "in real".

We will meet sista, I know this!