The following text is uploaded courtesy of Dan Cody and links to a great new interview with Lee Perry on the site nomajesty.com: well worth a visit!
With an influential career spanning six decades, Lee Scratch Perry has had more of an impact on Jamaican music than most. Producing music with some of Reggae’s biggest names including Max Romeo and the one and only Bob Marley, before going on to create Dub for the world, Scratch has truly left his mark on music history.
Scratch’s own career in music as a performer has taken him all over the world, from Jamaica, to London and even Switzerland, and he has made some unforgettably unique music in each. Records like Super Ape by Lee Scratch Perry & The Upsetters remain some of the greatest the genre has to offer.
Scratch spoke to Dan Cody from Negril, Jamaica, where the singer has been spending time with his family, performing in local concerts, taking part in community projects and working with local unknown singers. In the interview they talked about Perry’s recent series of paintings he has created with British artist Peter Harris, how they reflect on the politics of the world, and how he feels a second Reggae ‘revolution’ is on its way.
To coincide with Lee Stratch Perry’s 80th birthday this new film is a celebration of his massive and eccentric contribution to reggae. It can be seen via UK film screenings around the country in February and March, and subsequently through DVD and Video On Demand (iTunes, Amazon Prime, Netflix). Mr Perry will also perform live at some UK dates in March.
If you are reading this you will already be familiar with Lee Perry’s unique musical career, starting with his work for Clement Coxsone Dodd’s label in the late 1950s, a further apprenticeship at Joe Gibbs’s Amalgamated Records, before setting up his own label (and eponymous house band) the Upsetter in 1968. He built the legendary Black Ark Studio in 1973 where he produced records for no less that Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, The Heptones, The Congos and Max Romeo. Along the way he pretty much created what we came to know as dub and at the time of writing he’s still going strong.
Vision of Paradise is directed by Volker Schaner who followed Perry around Jamaica, Ethiopia, Switzerland and London to the point where he could gain an insider’s perespective on Perry’s idiosyncratic world. The film includes footage of Perry himself and of a stellar cast of dub/reggae musicians together with original animated scenes by the artist Maria Sargarodschi, drawn from different elements of Perry’s psychic world. There is also a look inside Lee Perry’s remarkable ‘laboratory’ in Switzerland, now destroyed by fire, but recorded here forever. The DVD version includes a host of extras, including a book and some deleted scenes. In whatever format, this release takes us inside a completely unique world.
This new multi-artist compilation features the seemingly immortal Lee Scratch Perry with an excellent collection of rare tracks, mostly unreleased until now. Billed here as ‘Lee Perry as the Upsetter’, Perry’s typical production sound is evident throughout these sixteen tracks, issued in single CD or double vinyl format. It all begins with George Faith’s classic ‘Don’t Be Afraid’, followed through with some little-heard sounds including Joy White’s original vocal on ‘Lay Besides You’. Other rarely played tracks include the dub plate mix of ‘Sun is Shining’ by the Upsetters, who also offer us a previously unreleased mix of ‘Police and Dub’. Augustus Pablo and the Upsetters provide a fine version of ‘Keep on Moving’. This all links back of course to the Marley tradition and to mainstream roots reggae. Everyone who values that reggae tradition, and who hasn’t yet had enough of Mr Perry, will find something worthwhile here.
Lee Perry as the Upsetter: Mr Perry I Presume; release October 2015 on Pressure Sounds, CD/vinyl
Following the musical trajectory of Lee Scratch Perry is in one sense easy, taking us on a journey from groundbreaking early work in the Black Ark studio, the virtual invention of dub as it came to be understood, and of course making the decisive contribution to the emergence of Bob Marley and the growth of reggae as an international (and commercial) phenomenon. On the other hand it is not at all easy to follow the unexpected twists and turns of a musical output which has sometimes been difficult to fathom. ‘Revelation’ for instance (2010) definitely had its moments (such as ‘Holy Angels’) but it remains, well, pretty odd. These two new releases in 2014 – ‘Back on the Controls’ and ‘Vibes’ – reflect this continuing difference between predictability and innovation in Lee Perry’s music. Both are well worth hearing but are quite dissimilar. ‘Back on the Controls’ seeks to recreate the sound of Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio, the place where some of his key contributions to reggae were formed. The Black Ark studio burnt down in the 1980s, but with the help of Kickstarter funding and an array of vintage analogue tape delay machines, mixers and phasing equipment, it is effectively given a new incarnation as the Rolling Lion studio in London. Along with UK producer Daniel Boyle, vocals and production contributions of Lee Perry find a new but strangely familiar place here. In a double-CD format, each track is immediately followed by its dub in the old style and it’s a convincing evocation of the classic Perry sound. The rhythm tracks are relatively similar throughout but from time to time Lee Perry’s pleasing idiosyncrasies find a way through to liven things up, particularly on the strong dubplate versions that close the second CD.
It is quaintly reassuring to find that ‘Vibes’ is still a word in common usage. With the collaboration of his ‘associate and protégé’ Iguana, this release finds Lee Perry at the less retro/more electronic end of things, drawing from different sub-genres of reggae and beyond to generate something new and, moreover, interesting. It’s effective as a short collection of new and in some ways intriguing tracks, featuring Lee Perry on loosely-defined vocals as well as production. Not too simple to sum up overall, the EP includes ‘Get Down’, with a soul/funk/rock sort of guitar setting the overall pace, an electro backing and Lee Perry declaiming over the top. ‘Rocks Rock Reggae’ has a firmer reggae rhythm, a ‘new-dub’ sound and a sweeping cinematic quality in the background. With ‘Midnight Train’ it’s back to a soul influence, while ‘Run Rebels Run’ has a full and complex mix, synth sounds bubbling away, a busy production and an anthemic feel overall – a strong track. ‘Flash’ concludes with a regular reggae rhythm along with some more contemporary dubstep beeps here and there. Taken as a whole this is a forward-looking set of tracks that don’t rely on the received sound of dub and reggae as-was – and worthy of attention for that reason if no other.
Lee Perry: Back on the Controls (double CD) released May 2014 Lee Perry and Iguana: Vibes (EP) released September 2014
The unique Lee Perry is due for a live session at Fibbers, York, on Saturday 27th October 2012. Who knows what that’ll be like but it should be worth investigating. Probably a good idea to check details and date before then. Meantime here is a reminder of Lee Perry in action in 1982.