LargeUp Premiere: Listen to Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s New Version of “Super Ape”

September 11, 2017

Lee “Scratch” Perry’s influence on modern music is immeasurable. He redefined the role of the producer in the 1960s and 1970s, bringing innovative studio techniques to the forefront on dub albums like Blackboard Jungle, while helping put reggae and even punk on the map through his work with Bob Marley, King Tubby and The Clash. Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, Major Lazer and the Beastie Boys are among those who’ve sought Scratch’s unique touch in the studio.

Super Ape is, arguably, Lee “Scratch” Perry’s dub masterpiece, released at the height of his Black Ark period, in 1976. Best known for its sonic inventiveness, the album (which was credited to his Upsetters band) also birthed Perry’s Super Ape alter ego, a metaphor for the power of nature which he has employed on various projects ever since.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma’s path of destruction across the Caribbean, Perry re-emerges today with a new version of “Super Ape,” on which he elaborates on the cryptic message of his 1976 original: I am the hurricane, I am the hurricane man, I am the thunderstorm, I am the thunderstorm man! I am the earthquake, I am the earthquake man! In a time of unprecedented environmental crisis, the song serves as a reminder of the fragility of humanity in the face of nature and how little we understand the mystery and magic of the elements.

This new version of  “Super Ape” comes from Super Ape Returns to Conquer, a complete, track-by-track re-envisioning of Super Ape made with his touring band of seven years, Subatomic Sound System. After decades, Perry has re-imagined the album for 2017 with a new cast of musicians and artists, literally remixing his remixes into Super Ape Returns to Conquer. The album is his first with Subatomic, an innovative hybrid of NYC-based electronic musicians and original Jamaican band members, including percussionist Larry McDonald (who played on the original Super Ape sessions) and Brooklyn dancehall don Screechy Dan.

It is a crazy thing to do to completely remake a classic,” says Emch of Subatomic Sound System. “No one has ever dared to do something like that. It prompts the question: What is the motivation if it was already classic? Really, it was to adapt a slow hypnotic album to a hype live show while still maintaining the vibes that make the music special. Like an alternate version.”

Along with the additional lyrics, the new version of “Super Ape” (which was sampled in 2008 by 9th Wonder, for Murs’ “Are You Ready”) differs from the original in several ways, including the addition of East African-inspired horns that would be at home on a record by Ethiopian jazz great Mulatu Astatke. Screechy Dan, known for ‘90s bashment staples like “Pose Off,” delivers the song’s refrain, as originally sung by the Heptones: This is the Ape Man/Trodding through creation/Are you ready, are you ready to step with I-man?

A year after touring the U.S. with a giant inflatable ape for Super Ape’s 40th anniversary, Perry and Subatomic will take Super Ape Returns to Conquer on the road beginning Oct. 24th at the Middle East in Boston. On Oct. 25th, they will appear at Francois K’s Deep Space party at Brooklyn’s Output, home to one of New York City’s and the USA’s best sound systems. As it was Francois K, along with Larry Levan, who adapted Perry’s post-production techniques to the dancefloor, giving birth to the remix and dance music as we know it, the pairing of the two promises to be historic.  

Hear the world premiere of the new “Super Ape” here, pre-order Super Ape Returns to Conquer here, and catch Perry and Subatomic on tour at the dates below.

Oct 24 Boston @ The Middle East

Oct 25 Brooklyn @ Output with Francois K

Oct 26 Pauline NY @ Darryl’s House Club

Oct 27 Chicago @ Beat Kitchen

Oct 28 Denver @ Cervantes’ Other Side

Oct 29 Dallas @ Deep Ellum Art Co

Oct 31 Austin @ Flamingo Cantina

Nov 1 Los Angeles @ Echoplex for Dub Club party


Lee Scratch Perry by Volker Schaner