PETER TOSH INTERVIEW By Doug Wendt
8/17/83 Nob Hill, San Francisco
Check Doug's site out at MidnightDread.com
DW- I've been doing Midnight Dread on commercial radio for several years.
PT- That is very good, because it is very difficult to find people who
really contribute so much energy towards helping to make reggae
acceptable in this stiffneck society & I really appreciate what
you've been doing very much.
DW- To have a format that includes reggae is not gonna put you in the biggest shape commercially.
PT- Serious thing.
DW- You've been involved with several labels in America; Columbia,
Rolling Stone, EMI & I must tell you in ten years of playing
strictly reggae music on commercial radio I have never received one
promotional copy of any of your records. That means they're not taking
care of business, they're not dealing with even commercial radio.
PT- & when you tell me that it is very good to hear that from you
cause I have to keep these things under file because when I am going to
report to the president of the company & let them know that if my
album don't sell millions because I know it has the potential to sell
millions & there is too much hypocrisy going on in this society
& too much white promotion of white music & demotion of black
music & then too much ripping off of black music by white musician
to make their career elevate to levels & then at the same time
belittling the integrity of black music; I can't take them shit there no
more, & I will not have the integrity of my music being belittled
willfully by beauracrats who sit down & plan & arrange these
things to see to it that people like all me don't hold a million dollar
but at the same time they will give you a couple play that when the
people out there hear about you they think of you as a millionaire not
knowing that you don't have nowhere near a millionaire, seen, but they
want to promote you as a millionaire out there & they know that they
are demoting you behind there, seens & set you up that you will
never be a millionaire. Is not to say that I want to be a millionaire
because I was born a millionaire, my potential make me more than
zillions of years, seen, so I don't count millions of papers because
paper will come & paper will go but my ability & my integrity is
here forever, seen. So I am more than a zillionaire. But at the same
time what is due to Caesar give it unto Caesar. Is long Bumba Clot time
they've been robbin Peter to pay Paul & I've been seeing too much of
that & at the same time want me to keep on working, working,
working, bumba-blood clot working for all the days of my fuckin' life
& when you done working you end up paying your fuckin' old age
pension to the doctor. I am not into that bumba clot cause I am not here
to subordinate, neither am I here to live up to no man's expectation, I
know the potential of my music & my music must be played &
respected the way any other white bullshit is respected where I don't
hear it is culturally or morally uplifting to the people. And if the
society is not dealing with moral upliftment just let me know & just
let me back out because I will go to Africa, & to the Far Easts and
to Japan & China where people are more culturally & morally
awakened, seen, & people who are much more uplifted to life &
the dignity & integrity of what life is. I can't take this
deplorability that people adore & enjoy themselves in. People
bathing in shit here & take it for enjoyment. I can't take that. You
see lie is the moat & hypocrisy the order of the day. When I play
for the people, everytime I play for my audience they are hypnotized,
seen. These guys know the potential of the music. They don't want to
break reggae music because reggae music is the King's music & reggae
music is Rasta music & Rastaman opposes the whole shitstem within
the society. So they don't want to know that they can break the
rastaman, they will break rasta lookin people, seen?
DW- Eddy Grant.
PT- All those kind of looking people. They put on lickle dreadlocks
& them break them because them know that they have had them in their
hands seen, & they can spin them around & tell them what to do.
Them can't tell me what to do because I don't get my inspiration from
the drug store, seen. I get my inspiration from Jah & it must be
materialized, seen. & they are not going to keep me here & use
& abuse & try to defile my qualities. & then they try to
eliminate & then they make movie of me, & bloodclot write books
of me. No, that won't work. I will be here to benefit all that is mine
& all Paul who has been getting Peter's pay better prepare to pay
back bloodclot Peter because my judgement won't be like any little joke
business my brother. When me pray it is a dangerous thing. (strums
guitar). You see because I believe in prayer. And if a guy out there
think him wicked & him gun is in God, seen, & other weapons of
destruction is in God, it won't help him because what is due unto Ceaser
I giveth unto Ceaser. (strums guitar)
DW- You may not be aware
of, but here in Northern California there are 30 strictly reggae shows
weekly. I've been listening to most of those shows because I deal in
promotion for several reggae shows so I'm monitoring them to see what
they're playing. & they are not playing MAMA AFRICA (Tosh's new lp
at the time that had been out for 3 months) because they don't have the
PT- (long pregnant pause) Can you imagine a bumba clot thing like that?
DW- They don't deal on this 'low level' way of promotion. They deal in
the block buster, take out ads in Playboy, spend 20,000 dollars there,
$50,000 -that's what they did with Bob Marley, who was never really
promoted in this country except once with RASTAMAN VIBRATION. (which
went Top Ten in Billboard)
PT- Yeah, I know the shitstem, I am
tired of that. And as I have already said this is the last year of me
being treated that way, seen. & is only a pity that the few fans
that I have out there won't be seeing me here in the Western Hemisphere
no bumba clot more because I am tired of being abused, seen.
DW- Well you should consider working for one of the independent labels
because they are plugged in. They know all the personalities in this
country that love reggae & they want to work with them.
Well that is what I have to find myself in that right connection
because I see where these companies, these big white companies, they are
too hooked on rock and roll & get down shake your bullshit where
three years ago I see where Columbia & all the record companies was
talking about what they lost, their income loss in the record business.
Millions of bloodclot dollar & that wasn't on reggae.
DW- No man they stagnated the whole music scene here for ten years.
PT- Yes I know.
DW- They don't let reggae come through.
PT- Going around in one fuckin' circle & coming back around in the same fuckin' circle everytime.
DW- Yeah mon, hot music used to change all the time, every 3-4 years
people would try to ace somebody else out to get the new sound first.
Those days are over. It's like regurgitate the same old dying music.
PT- The same old DEAD music, not dying. (kisses back of teeth loudly)
Man I'm tired of that shit. Is only that I can tell them. & one
thing I can tell EMI & any company who gonna deal my music, respect
my music & respect reggae music because, remember, don't care how
much they try to abuse reggae musics is the only music that will live
& leave all of these dead music because they are trying to put life
into the dead. That can't work because everytime they try to generate
life & drugs into the dead, it die again, more rapidly, seen. &
that's what's taking place because the songs that they promote, if them
don't spend millions of dollar to keep them on the air, they'd die at
DW- Well a lot of the record business is hooked up into the cocaine scene.
PT- I know.
DW- A lot of their money goes for that.
PT- I know that & my potential & my integrity don't go for that
because I don't even know cocaine & them not going to like me
because me don't take drugs & I don't want to know drugs, what drugs
do, because I see what it does. I see how much great potential artists
it turn into zombies & how much it kill seen, & in two years you
lose your progressiveness & your creativity, seen, & you have
to live on what people write. Me no into that. Me live in the garden of
inspiration & I have to utilize that. (guitar strumming)
DW- I use a phrase on my show, I got from Mikey Dread, 'reggae the sound
of the century' & I think that it's not only the sound of the
century but it's sort of what pop music was born to grow towards, that
kind of positiveness.
PT- Yes, serious thing, but then don't
care how much them try to exploit the music & victimize the music,
reggae music is going to reach where it's supposed to reach. Them can't
stop reggae music. Them been trying to stop it for a long time. Not only
trying to stop it but trying to erase it from the minds of the people.
But it is impossible to erase, it is a germ. & it is contagious
& anytime you catch that germ, it cannot get out of you, I don't
care how much you try. (strums guitar)
DW- I understand that you were planning to tour Israel at the end of October ('83) What happened with that tour?
PT- Not me was planning to tour, they were trying to get me to go to
Israel to tour or to do a couple shows there but then again my integrity
will not take me there, cause what I stand for is equal rights &
justice in the highest degree. There are many places I have been that I
should not have been but then again that's how the shitstem go. Jah say
you have to get your bread out of desolate places so Israel has close
ties with South Africa & Israel in this dispensation of time, is the
continuation of apartheid & the racial injustice seen. They are the
administrators, maybe the key administrators of racial injustice in
South Africa to my people & I could not support that. There are many
countries that really do support that still. But then again you still
hear there & many places that really support it.
that ironic that the people that would suffer so much racial genocide 30
years ago would now be involved in the same kind?
but you see there is nothing happening on earth today that is a
coincidence, everything was designed thousands of years ago, is only a
pity that it is so ugly. & it's only a pity that your eyes have to
see it & your ears have to hear about it. But then again it was
something that was designed, seen. Everyman is getting paid according to
his work, seen. What's going on in South Africa is very ugly, very,
very, very ugly. Everyday you hear them talk about the Jewish holocaust
& how much million blood clot Jews Hitler killed but you never hear
them talk about how much bumba clot million people the South African
regime kill daily, seen. & not only them, them don't talk about the
bloodclot invasion of the Italian into Ethiopia in the 1930s during the
government of Emperor Haile Selassie I & how much bloodclot million
people them kill. Them don't talk about that no time. Them tell you
about the Jewish bloodclot holocaust. Every bumbaclot you hear about the
Jewish fuckin' holocaust so what ago happen to we? Seen? & the
shitstem I can't take it no more. That's why there will be so much
disaster & destruction. Because when man think he has accomplished
his judgement, him just don't reach nowhere yet. Because there is so
much judgement for him to achieve, seen. You have things like
earthquakes seen. You have disasters like floods, tidal waves, seen. You
have disasters like herpes, aids, these kind of dangerous, destructive
diseases comin' up plague & many more, seen. Pollution, heat wave,
rising up to approximately 140 degrees if you don't mind, seen. &
when winter come it very cold, it kill you same way. It get so very cold
that it is unbearable, it is inhuman, seen. And these destruction &
disaster is terrible & they are inevitable, they happen daily &
all because man fail to realize the truth, accept the truth & give
justice to man. (guitar strums)
DW- What do you think happened to Selassie & his family?
PT- Nothin' ado Emperor Haile Selassie I Man, Igziabeher, Amassagana,
nothin' can do him. He's the Allmighty. What you hear is what you hear.
DW- But somebody came into his country & took over & cut off
the heads of his family members & destroyed his regime.
Well them cut off the heads of some of them & them kills plenty
& them kill many people too. But then again that is what the people
asked for, seen. The people was tired of the monarchy of his Imperial
Majesty & wanted to be or was influenced by Westerns what they call
civilization, or western way of life, seen. & many of them wanted
that so Jah gave them what they wanted & now that they are suffering
the consequences of influences then they are beginning to call back His
Imperial Majesty & remembering the good old days when those things
never use to happen. Seen, administers of propoganda spread many
dangerous public mischief on Emperor Haile Selassie, seen, & we know
them all but they cannot hide because they cannot tell themselves no
lie, neither can they invent destructive weapons to destroy those who
speak the truth because we attack them from the heart. (strums guitar)
this time (laughs) seen. So when a guy thinks a well him safe, it's
right into your heart (strums).
DW- Why did it take so long for Mother Africa to be released?
PT- Well not a matter of a long time, it's just a matter of, because it
took me about 8 weeks to manifest the whole album, seen. But the time
between, as I was talkin' about the shitstem, the treatment of the
shitstem, & when you know that you are being treated & the music
is being treated & being handled this kind of way- the way you are
showing me because you are showing me the most positive nature- is the
first I ever sit down with a DJ from a radio station who really sit down
& tell me the truth of what's taking place. I really know what's
taking place because I know it is the general white supremacy shitstem
where promote everything that is white & demote everything that is
black, seen. & then if the black has anything good in him try your
best to extract it & give it to the white & make it look like
it's the white who invent it. And I see too much of that shit &
that's what they're trying to do with reggae music. Is a good thing
reggae is a spiritual music as they would have taken it away long time.
DW- Well something I always say about reggae is there will be no Elvis for reggae.
PT- No. No. No. A rass clat. Na no Rolling Stones, a blood clot.
DW- Too strong for that.
PT- It would have fe kill them. Heh heh. What you talking bout, let me
tell you something man. The spirituality of reggae music, the
architecture was designed around the heartbeat & I say it will
attack the heart. If you try to pretend reggae music it kill you man.
(strums guitar) Aheh, you have to live reggae music.
DW- At the Youth Conciousness Festival, you, Bunny & Jimmy Cliff sang Marley songs together. What was that like?
PT- Very good. Very uplifting. & the vibration of the previous way
how we used to sing together on stage as The Wailers. & then knowing
that he left, gone to another planet, & we are still here doing the
work, doing what is to be done. Singing those songs remind of those bad
old days. I don't call them good old days because there is nothing good
in them. Seen. It's just that really it's a form of education. We learn
another way of life. Seen, but there was nothing good. All
exploitation, victimizations humiliation & aggravation, police
brutality, & live like a fugitive all the way of life & you are
still top singer on the island. Huh hum. But that was a very great
DW- You seem to come up with new lyrics for No Woman, No Cry (at the Youth Consciousness concert).
PT- Yeah, mon. Well that's how music goes, because lyrics is unending.
When you hear a song it has been edited everytime especially my songs,
because all of my songs cannot be put on an album or on one record
because my songs are very long - 8, 9 verses, seen. & when you're
finished with the song you end up with 3 or 4.
DW- What do you remember of workin' with Lee Perry? Those 2-3 great albums.
PT- Well I remember that we were working magic in those times cause
when we did Soul Rebel we took three hours to record Soul Rebel. Three
hours, I mean live recording going straight to the book. & in three
hours the album was done, ready for the world the next week. & that
was magic, no man in the world ever do that yet, seen. No group in the
world ever do that, I mean perfect recording one cut (take) everytime,
harmony perfect. Yeah mon & it's three hours album done seen. Soul
Rebel. It was a very good album then again it was the same exploitive
system where it's hand to mouth business & the promoter drive big
car & live in the biggest house & the singer don't even have a
bicycle. Everytime. & live in a rent house & his rent is so
depraved & cheap he live amongst the underprivileged everytime,
seen. I have seen a lot of that. It's a great experience. It make me
DW- Why do you think Lee Perry is somewhat gone now?
PT- Well, as we all know it is only good things last forever. Anything
bad never last too long. It may look long but then again, they will
dissolve from the face of the earth, that even their names will be
forgotten. It only comes up coincidentally sometimes, seen because what
they were doing was nothing good. If you see many of the songs that The
Wailers write, me, Bob & Bunny right. You see it in the name of Lee
Perry. Many songs. And not only to him but to many of the pirates,
pioneer pirates in the business. You see Jamaica is a land that was
discovered by pirates & the laws was layed down by pirates. &
for over 300-400 years the laws never change, seen. Is the same
discriminatory shitstem. & when you do anything that opposes the law
you are outlawed, by an outlaw system, seen. But then again we are
scientists, we know how to live in the valley of the shadows of death.
& to cope with the devils in hell.
DW- Were you, Bob, & Bunny ever interested in or make practice of what is called original science?
PT- No I don't know of anyman else. I know of myself. I give account
for me. That is the only man I can give account for because I know not
what takes place behind closed doors. Only Jah know what goes on in
DW- So were you interested or practice what is called original science?
PT- I was born a scientist, seen? I just find myself doing the most
scientifical- doing the impossible two things at a time, trying and
always like a challenge. Like for example the science of riding a
unicycle. Riding one wheel, getting your balance on one wheel, 360
degrees & open. Spin it around. At their control. That is a science.
& that is the science I was born with as no man teach me how to do
it, put which foot first or how to go up. I didn't know the first
procedure. That is science. Is like when a scientist who go academically
to school & learn science in school. He was taught science. But you
have scientists who as inborn concept have sciencology, yeah mon.
DW- How'd you get your first unicycle?
PT- In Colorado. I was in New York the first time I saw a person riding
a unicycle. I see it pon television, I've never been to the circus,
just pon television. And the first time I see one for real I see a youth
about 15 riding one. & man it was very scientific. Just the way how
it looks to we, just the way you spell unicycle. I said now I have to
get myself one. This looks very good. & it was very challenging.
DW- There seem to be only a couple of reggae
performers that really speak brutal truth on stage, I would say you
& Mutabaruka are about the only two.
PT- Serious business.
DW- I know you've suffered a lot in Jamaica from the various public
statements that you've made there. Is that pressure still pretty strong
PT- Well the shitstem continue as I said. The laws
was laid down by pirates & Jamaica was designed to be the breaking
point, headquarters of breaking point where when the slaves were taken
from Africa, what they call the outspoken ones, the bad ones; & when
they call you bad it's just because you're defending your rights. They
say you are bad so you're branded outlaw, bad, dangerous & so that
makes the people in fear of you because you are dangerous. & you're
branded dangerous by the society. & that is me & many others.
Well Jamaica was the headquarters of the breaking point & they broke
most of them there & took them to America & all part of the
West Indies. & the shitstem continue to exist there the same way
where silence is the game, seen & everlasting peace is their motto.
(plays guitar and plays song)
DW- What song that?
PT- Any song.
Mutabaruka says in his song White Man Country "Tosh says he's gonna
smoke chalice but me say he should burn down the palace". What do you
say to that?
PT- (strums guitar) Well is just decoration of
destruction. Uhm. Smokin' my chalice in Buckin'ham Palace cause even if I
had the opportunity to smoke my chalice inna buckingham palace,
spiritually nothing would be wrong. But is just the way how the society
incriminate you & design their way of incrimination so that when you
do certain things that is right, you're incriminated & you have
incriminated yourself & you have violated the law. But because I
have already come to the conclusion of what is right from what is wrong,
it's no matter to me where I do what is right as long as it is right.
And it's no matter to me who is offended by what I do right as long as
it is right. Cause I love the things that are right. Yeah mon everytime.
DW- So you would prefer to smoke the chalice in the palace as opposed to burning it down?
PT- Well. I wouldn't burn down the palace cause that is not my duty,
seen. I have bigger works to do. I leave that to the people if they want
to do that. I'll pass through & smoke my chalice if the time really
accomplishes itself & then if not maybe I'll pass by. True which is
very good too. Cause things & times are changing. Once upon a time
herbs was dangerous drugs. Today it is legalized in Spain. (strums
DW- Did you have anything to do with that?
PT- Always. Everywhere herb is legalized I have something to do with it.
DW- Who wrote Get Up Stand Up? I've seen it credited to you, Bob, you & Bob?
PT- Yes well I am the architect of the song & me & Bob put the
lyrics together, seen. I arranged the music & you know half the
lyrics, & that song, is in England we did that.
DW- It was
ten years ago ('73) you, Bob, & Joe Higgs played out here down on
Broadway. I was there & it changed my life.
PT- It was ten years ago that we did Get Up Stand Up, too.
DW- Joe Higgs did a solo show here a couple of years ago & as he
introduced Stepping Razor he said 'No man over 6 foot tall could have
written this song. (Tosh is over 6 feet, Joe is under). He was referring
to you taking credit for writing the song.
PT- I never take
credit for it, but then again you see, as I told my, when Joe lawyer
wrote me & told me about that, I told him that listen man. Joe said
that no man over 6 foot tall coulda written this song. But no man under
six foot short coulda administer that song cause until that song was
done by me, Joe would not be tough enough to identify himself with that
DW- I have a name for attempts at crossing-over reggae
music, that's been a big thing that American record labels have tried to
force upon all reggae artists, to cross the music over, to join forces
with the dead music, rock & roll.
PT- Them bullshit. Madness.
DW- Instead of crossover I call it cross-out.
PT- It's cross-on. That too.
DW- Considering that, why do you allow so much lead guitar in your live
shows? & you stand there, & fold your arms, & even you look
offended sometimes when the lead guitar is happening.
then again that not be only me, but then it's music you know, musical
thing that you cannot hear it unless one expresses it. Seen. And music
is in them. It's in the lead guitarist. He's playing what he feels
because there are many times that the musicians or even me would tell
him that you're playing solo too long, seen. Because we talk to him many
times up to about yesterday,(laughs), seen. So when you talking that
long. (strums guitar) But is music still & you know we talk to him
softly because soft word turned away rot. & grievious words stirreth
anger. Because music is a very high emotion & to express that you
cannot be offended.
DW- When it's done in Johnny B. Goode it's
one of my favorite uses. But when it's done in every song it does tend
to become more like a noise, somebody screaming in pain. Why don't you
release all your great Jamaican 45s on an album? A US album with an
independent label & you'll probably sell more copies than any of
this big business?
PT- Yes, a serious thing. I'm thinking about
that on my own label Intel Diplo because I am busy getting together
some songs that was not released in America, seen. & not only not
released in America, I have songs that was released in Jamaica but that
was not exposed.
DW- "Vampire" "Mark Of The Beast"
Yes. Only release & sell a few thousand. Some sell a few hundred
& the exploitation started, seen. & because of financial
disposition you have to just back out of the race because guys with more
money, seen, get you out. But then again the race is not for the swift
neither is the battle for the strong. It's who can endure & live out
this. (strums guitar)
DW- Well thanks for taking the time. I know time short today.
PT- Yes very good time, very important time too. Cause of all the
interviews them fe a good time this is one of the most uplifting, you no
seen, & informative cause is like many of the journalists don't
want to speak of what is happening in the business & I can't take
that. Because I love to hear the truth. Because I love to speak the
truth. Seen. & when you tell me these things it only make me know
what steps to take, seen. & make me know that don't waste much of my
time, seen, trying to put water on a duck's back to settle, seen. &
I thank you very much for your information & that will give me
strength to talk to the president of this company (strums) or to the
president of any music company that would venture this music business
with me because I am not going to waste time with no one.
What would you like to say to the people of San Francisco & this
area, that do love your music & appreciate it so much?
Well what I would love to say to keep on to those who really love the
music, not only my music but reggae music. & there are many people
who sing reggae music but don't live reggae music. But then the message
in the music is vital when everytime it is vital. & I can say to
them is keep on listening to reggae music because it's the only
spiritually uplifting music that you can ever hear in this time, in this
dispensation of the times in this twentieth century or twenty-first
century because as long as the centuries will be, reggae will be around.
Keep on listening to reggae music.