Lee “Scratch” Perry + Subatomic Sound System at Cervantes’ show preview 

click to enlarge Lee “Scratch” Perry + Subatomic Sound System, Saturday, Oct. 28, 9 p.m. Denver, cervantesmasterpiece.com.
  • Lee “Scratch” Perry + Subatomic Sound System, Saturday, Oct. 28, 9 p.m. Denver, cervantesmasterpiece.com.
Lee “Scratch” Perry is crazy like a fox. Much more so, actually, if you judge by a public persona that’s half Haile Selassie, half George Clinton, and a bonus half Sun Ra. But to whatever degree the idiosyncratic godfather of dub and reggae loves to play the fool, it takes a special kind of mad genius to revolutionize popular music with a Jamaican sound the world had never heard.

At the dawn of the ‘70s, Perry produced and co-wrote Bob Marley & the Wailers’ Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution albums. Working out of his fabled Black Ark Studios, which he allegedly burned to the ground in 1979 due to “unclean spirits,” Perry single-handedly pioneered the low-frequency, echo-laden wonderland that is dub music. (No, not dubstep, although the latter-day EDM movement does borrow from the influential Jamaican genre.)

In the intervening years, he has worked with artists like Yello and The Beastie Boys — that’s him on Hello Nasty ‘s “Dr. Lee, PhD” — while producing close to a thousand records, including nearly a hundred of his own.

I went to see Perry perform live nearly a decade ago, back when he was a mere 71 years old. Backed by the band Dub Is a Weapon, he strutted the stage in jewel-encrusted regalia, complete with a skull-topped scepter. What he lacked in vocal refinement — especially compared to the many legends he’s sponsored along the way — Perry makes up for in spirit and charisma.

For this tour, the living legend will be backed by a combination of Jamaican musicians from his Black Ark days plus the Brooklyn-based Subatomic Sound System, who worked with him on a remake of Perry’s classic Super Ape album. Released late last month, the collection includes guest vocals from Slits’ frontwoman Ari Up and an additional 20 minutes of “dubstramental” remixes. So expect lots of tracks from that, a few Bob Marley and Max Romeo signature songs and, well, God knows what else.


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