For nearly 50 years, Lee "Scratch" Perry has been making some of the most crucial music to come out of Jamaica (the world, for that matter), as well as producing reggae and punk's finest (Bob Marley, the Clash) with the same mysteriously experimental zeal that he brought to his own dub recordings.
At 75, the prolific Perry shows no signs of slowing, having just released his new CD, Rise Again, with eccentric bassist/producer Bill Laswell, legendary Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell, and vocalist Tunde Adebimpe from TV on the Radio.
Beyond the work, though, is the legend, with an aura of violence and weirdness that makes Perry as much a curiosity as a genius. Questions of whether he burned down his own Black Ark Studios after a rumored bout with drugs, Satan, or both, queries on whether he sold off Bob Marley's earliest recordings to a rival label, some strange personal habits recorded in the film - these are just a few of the bugged-out for-instances that make the scatological-speaking Perry a modern marvel of pop oddity as well as the dynamic subject of a great new documentary, The Upsetter: The Life & Music of Lee "Scratch" Perry.
Director/writers Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough (each responsible for films with hip-hop giants Lil Wayne and Damon Dash) had three weeks with the dub commander at his Swiss home and on tour throughout the United States. Perry spoke almost unendingly about his work and weird times while providing the filmmakers unprecedented access to his visual archives.
"He loves to play mad and has pushed the envelope of madness for brief periods in his life," says Higbee, who along with Lough will accompany their film screening at International House with a post-screening chat. "But if you keep listening to his words, he's speaking the truth about life in its rawest form."