High Times interview 1983
For fans of Peter Tosh, 1983 was the final year they would have a chance to catch the stepping razor live in concert. Riding high after releasing Mama Africa his most successful album to date, Tosh was burning through live performance after live performance and easily earning acclaim as the can’t miss tour of the summer. He even added the iconic M-16 guitar rifle and licked shots in performances from California to Germany. But after years of continual touring and fighting with his record label Tosh was burnt out and retreated back to Jamaica for a prolonged spiritual and mental retreat. A year later he would be deep in the heart of Africa seeking spiritual advice from Zulu shamans. Before his self-imposed exile the always controversial Tosh spoke with Bagga Brown from the popular stoner magazine High Times…
HIGH TIMES: Peter, you are considered to be a controversial person.
TOSH: So was Jesus! I man get a job fe do and I have to do it with the method I know, the tools at my disposal. Dem say I aggressive, but Jesus did gentle and dem get rid of him so who am I that they should not try to crucify.
HIGH TIMES: It is common talk that you are banned from appearing again in certain countries?
TOSH: Well, I no know if it official, but in Bermuda, through I say certain things pon a TV interview, dem show certain displeasure and the interviewer has not been seen on TV since. I hear sey in Trinidad them would prefer if I don't try to return there. Dat just remind me 'bout the United Nations assembly. I man was supposed to give a speech on apartheid, an now the "right time" to speak no come yet, till me hear say it "cancel indefinitely" an the coordinator who arrange fe me speak lose him job with U.N.
HIGH TIMES: You were a member of the original Wailers which consisted of Bob Marley, Bunny [Livingstone] Wailer and you, Peter [Mcln]Tosh. How do you feel about being considered as Bob's replacement?
TOSH: I man no deh ya fe replace nobody. Bob do his work and leave, I have my work to do. The three hands that symbolize "Tuff Gong" on the label each symbolize one of us, the original Wailers. We did pledge as a group to continue the work of Rastafari, whatever happen. So I just continue the work, I not replacing no other worker. Bob use his style to give his message, I have to continue with mine. I no want to fit in any slot. My job is to be the "constructive awakener" of the black masses of the world so them know themself and others know what black people suppose to be, and where. I deh pon earth to preach, I am a walking speech.
HIGH TIMES: In spite of the great strides that reggae has made internationally in the last couple of years, the big breakthrough into the U.S. market has not yet fully materialized. Why is this so?
TOSH: The system [shit-stem] is the real barrier. The one-drop syncopative heartbeat sound has the potential to break through anywhere. The music is already good, but the system is geared to hold reggae music in check. You see, reggae is spiritually revolutionary, and the message is divine. The message content opens the eyes of the people to the evils of the system, and so it cannot be encouraged by the system, as inside the music are the seeds of destruction of the said system [shit-sem]. But the music like a germ is contagious, so it must germinate and all they [the guardians of the system] can do is delay the process... it must happen! The system must explode from conflict, modify to accommodate pressure or transform to a brand-new day.
HIGH TIMES: What do you think of white people that play reggae?
TOSH: They are trying to paint a picture from a picture, so it must look phony. Their experience and inspiration is secondhand; a mango tree cannot bear an apple. However, if it help get the music accepted in certain circles and pave the way for the real thing, then is just "Jah works" that.
HIGH TIMES: What do you think of white people that follow the music and declare themselves Rastafarians?
TOSH: Jah said, "I came unto my own, and they received me not, so whoever will, may come." I find that the people love and respect me and my music, and it is not for me to say who is a true Rasta, for you have whole heap a black man who a "ras... cal." All my fans, black and white, are "souls" I am trying to win for Jah. On the last tour a white man (a fan) came to one of my shows, but he had no body from his navel down-a half man. But he was dancing on his hands and shouting on top of his voice; such faith I have seldom seen. Who am I that I pass judgment on such a person?
HIGH TIMES: It is known that you have had frequent run-ins with the police which probably prompted your album cover for Wanted, Dread and alive. Do you care to comment?
TOSH: Well, is one thing police teach me: In life sometimes you have to "play dead" to stay alive. One time at a police station in Kingston, I was being battered by feet and batons, and when I kept fighting back, they said, "It look like Rasta really can't dead," and started to increase the blows. Wen dem bus me head and I lay down and play dead-is that save me life.
HIGH TIMES: You just concluded a tour. Please tell me about it!
TOSH: Well, this was an extensive "Kill-Dead" tour. However, it is not in search of no superstar status, is really to spread the message. I gave a total of a hundred and four shows in fifty-four cities in America and twenty-six cities in Europe, over five months. Although I tired, I have a job to do and I never did tour for over a year. I am a vehicle for the word of Jah, a spanner from him toolbox, so I must pass on the message.
HIGH TIMES: You are rumored to be, in spite of your militancy, quite a "ladies man." Is this true?
TOSH: They, women, have an important part to play in the lives of men, but beware, because the devil sometimes comes to test a man in the form of a woman. So love and respect your woman-but be alert at all times.
HIGH TIMES: Peter, what is your greatest fear?
TOSH: My fear for Jah Almighty! He is so powerful that to love him you must fear him... I man love him!
HIGH TIMES: Is that, therefore, also your greatest love?
TOSH: It is... for Jah.
HIGH TIMES: Peter, what is your greatest desire?
TOSH: To serve Jah through passing on his message and to see the brighter day when "Right Is Right" and "Wrong Is Wrong," and every man gets pay according to his work -no more, no less. So keep on working as long as you work for the right, because payday is not far away!!