At the UK premiere of Lee Scratch Perry’s Vision of Paradise at the East End Film Festival, a few audience members questioned the documentary’s lack of historical material. Where was the original music? Where was Perry’s context in the history of reggae?
These questions, while opening debate, certainly missed the mark in trying to understand Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s vision in the present day.
You must think like a child to make it work
When interviewed by Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy for the premiere, Perry asked, “Do you know that I’m crazy?”
If you watched this and thought yes, your view is rational. If you are looking for historical context, your fault is the same.
In order to experience the inner-view of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – a feat successfully captured by the film’s director Volker Schaner and producer Daniela Schmid – you should lose this logical perspective.
Schaner began documenting Perry in 1999 – spending 15 years to complete the film. He emphasises how, right from the beginning, he avoided a journalistic approach.
“I don’t need this independent point of view,” he says. “People say you need to keep a distance [when making a documentary]. I don’t like that at all. It is methodical and superficial ... You can’t capture the essence or the soul of things when you approach something with a method.”
As well as an intimate account of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the film is also what Schaner and Schmid call a “fairytale documentary” – that incorporates animated scenes of Perry fighting Satan and evil spirits. This parallel narrative, combining reality with fantasy, aims to represent the two worlds that Perry inhabits.
“The film is about good over evil with art and music,” explains Schmid. “And how a revolution starts with this little man who is trying by example – and funniness and happiness – to change the world and rid it of evil.
Everything we do, we copy God
“Re-instalment of paradise. You hear it in the movie. This is basically the vision of paradise, that’s why we chose the name. This is the core of his oeuvre – to have paradise, here and now. Not after you die.”
To understand this vision in more detail, we caught up with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.
In a documentary called Unlimited Destruction [released in 2002] I noticed how you had this fiery temperament. In Vision of Paradise you seem very happy. Someone in the film described it perfectly as being an infantile wisdom.
Yeah that's it. You must think like a child to make it work. You have to think very childish then the other people who try to trick you know they can't trick you. It makes you feel happy inside to know that. They think they can trick me, thinks they can fool me but you know yourself that you cannot be tricked by stupid people.
Sinful people who remain will remain sinful. You must have a god. Everybody has a god; you say one God.
To see things like a child – as they are. It seems like you do that.
I know I'm not a child but I'm copying God. I believe I'm presenting God in words; and I believe all in all person in God miracles.
Everything we do, we copy God.
Not a child but a child of God?
You were born on 20 March, the last day of Pisces. Can you speak about the fish?
Well, I and I saying it is the beginning and it is the end; in whatever God creates there is no end. There's no end to God’s world and some people form under the world of god – third world.
It's unbelievable to the world of man to believe they was fish
The end of the third world is just around the corner.
The age of the fish will end soon?
Maybe you have to get some telepathic blessing. That you could go exactly to that number. I was just talking and saying to you about only one God then you come back to the word fish.
God he makes us from a fish. It's unbelievable to the world of man to believe they was fish, just like that.
Jesus was the fisher of men.
Haha. You're right. What else can I say?
What will happen at the end of the age of the fish, good or bad?
Well, the fish refuses tomorrow. Fish refuse to evolve to human being. So, fish in human being rule human being where they want to. In water. That mean fish is water. Then fish are trying to show you that the water make the beginning of his genesis.
Fish's revelation me want and do, everyone trying not to fish, fish will not die. Anyone try and fish, fish will surely die.
You've always been a Christian?
I have of course. They are planning to work with the Christian people something near. The Christian people too strong for them, so they are trying to work on the Christians and tell Christian people that there is no God. That they are their own God that is perfect.
Me no believe in Obeah, me believe in God words
That is not not wrong and can't be right. One must reek upon that because God must live with him. Well my God lives in me now, then my God make me a fish first before he make me a human being. Fish.
Makes me into two fishes.
One go that way, one go the other way.
In the film you are with the Nyabinghi [the oldest of the Mansions of Rastafari], can you speak about your connections with them?
Well, when I was looking to make changes the spirit send me there. They didn't work on the ugly, some do Obeah and some do that. Then me said me no believe in Obeah, me believe in God words.
So God word lead me and we call for a teeny repentance. Me call repentance with the Nyabinghi. We go for 40 days and 40 nights keep and don't eat any food or anything – any meat or any fish. It's corruption.
So that order lead me into this repentance, so that what let me actually to be so long and be so strong. Because me believe in representing in repentance.
Me repent too. Because I know that people eating meat. Know that they should not eat and be drinking alcohol, the red wine, red red wine, Red Stripe beer and Heineken beer, all the ugly thing. Eating the rotten meat, rotten pork.
God want me to repent and the people who are with me. He have to repent then you have to repent. You understand it. They keep on until they need a vice.
This is an inner-view of Lee Scratch Perry Upsetter; out of you
Stop. Halt. Move no more. Speak no more. Hear no more. See no more. Feel no more. Taste no more and smell no more.
Were your parents Christian?
My mother [Ina Davis] is some of Ettu [a Jamaican ethnic group of Yoruban (West African) ancestry]. Father [Henry Perry] was a trickster. My mother was a Christian right.
So, you asked and I and I answer. You making an interview? You can make it lots of answers.
You can call it this is an inner-view. This is an inner-view of Lee Scratch Perry Upsetter. Out of you.
Out of you not me.
I hope you can enjoy. You can injoy and outjoy, upjoy it and downjoy it.
How long have you been fighting Babylon?
From when I was about 26. I go to Kingston when I was 25. Coxsone Dodd [Perry’s boss at the time (early 1960s) and founder of the Studio One label] was working me back until it happened that he didn't work me back anymore. I'm glad and thanks to him that he severed his ties with me.
Because I believe in God, he couldn't hold me back. I say give thanks Mr Coxsone Dodd.
I say again, give thanks to Mr Clement Sir Coxsone Dodd who tried to hold me down and trying to penalise me. But true to the power of the most high God, the Imperial Majestic Majesty, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Tribe of Judah and the Elect of God, he could not hold me down and he could not lay my crown, and he could not sit on my throne, and he could not take my home.
You can't hold down the fish.
No you can't hurt the fish. It was the reason why Jesus gift a fish, to feed a nation.
As a Christian, how do you feel about Isis and the war in the Middle East?
Well them only use the word because, against somebody supporting the devil; you use God words to wage a war. America is hell, so you have to use tricks.
That is hell and they have people that study science. And they say, ok Isis is a powerful word we have a big war. The big word, the next one to Pisces.
Isis has wings, blue wings, and Pisces flies on the wings of Isis. Them check it out and they see how great the word Isis is. I know that Isis is an angel with blue wings. So they hired another Isis who is willing to commit crime and adultery, hijacking and taking back things that have been taken – with the power of Isis.
Me then gonna pray to Isis and say, dear Isis forgive us for using your name for criminalising and adultery. Then Isis know and she forgive them.
You ever know anyone who killed a fly? They killed an angel of God
Scientist discover the power of Isis and say, you got the way they can conquer Satan so you use the power of Isis. Maybe they might pray to God for forgiveness for using the special angel name.
Do you think it’s a holy war?
Yeah. But I think somebody is being smart and they know exactly what they're doing. When they know what they're doing they can be smart and read my interview and when the fish win, look I know what I'm doing. When I use the name of the fish that's what Pisces say.
I was speaking earlier about wisdom. Where did you discover the knowledge?
Because me believe in God, I put all my trust in God. God can come to you in the form of a modest fly, or any form of a butterfly. God can come to you in any form of a caterpillar, and God can come to you in the form of an ant.
You ever know anyone who killed a fly? They killed an angel of God. If you ever kill the roaches. Then you are killing God's drummer.
You don't believe in God when you see a roach and kill. You need to think telepathic and say, the only one who could send this roach to me is God the master of drum. The master of drum'n'bass. God the master of dub. The only master of dub sent a drummer roach to me.
Maybe he want a special drum beat, then I have to change the drum beat. When you change the drum beat, you change the drum beat from ska. After me change the drum beat, me drop. And me change the drum beat and change the rocksteady beat. Then change everything to the return of Jesus Christ. The son will change the beat and call it reggae.
Then me go to Kingston to do it at 25, 26. Revolution and change everything to the Ark of the Covenant, Noah Ark. Black Ark [Perry’s recording studio].
Then me change everything till me believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was the most perfect man that ever walked the planet earth. The most perfect man that ever speak.
What about the harp? Your friend in the film spoke about King David as the founder of the music industry.
Well that is perfectly said. It could not be better said. When a giant comes, King David can't fall. He’ll fling a rock stone. There's no devil that King David can't fall with his electric wire, electric sling and a hard rock. Rock of my soul, hard rock of my soul, my father God as he come.
He lives in a rock, sea water rock, river water rock, earth stone rock, rock stone rock, living rock.
The world is coming to the end and I'm not scared
Says Lee Scratch Perry, inner-view to the world out there outer-view. And them who have no view, hear this and know that many are called but only few are chosen. And the few that are chosen are the few that shall be alive in the future morning, with silver, gold, emeralds, diamonds and pearls, riches and wealth, and fortune and fame.
Spiritual richness, spiritual fortune, spiritual power and spiritual shower. Spiritual sunshine until the end.
And King Solomon [son of David]? You’ve mentioned giving the gift of music to Bob Marley. This reminds me of the Judgement of Solomon – in that the music was your baby.
The music, the music. For real. Yes, it’s perfect. It could not be more perfect. What we call fulfilment, reality, is the judge. And she said the baby to be cut in two. That is not a woman, that is a witch and a bitch. The one who no want the baby to be cut in two is an angel.
So nobody can speak it by the word and judge them by the word. You say judge me, but anyone who wants to judge me can judge me because I have nothing to hide.
In the film they visit Ethiopia. Have you ever been?
Not yet in this life. Actually I am here but I'm still in Ethiopia. I was teleported from Ethiopia to Jamaica with the judgement to make sure that the judgement were like God wanted.
So, Ethiopia is with me here. Ethiopia is with me everywhere. It is on my boots, it is on my coat and my suit.
Ethiopia, I stand, and all the other ground is sinking sand. In Africa I stand, and all the other ground is sinking sand.
Michael the black archangel is standing on Mr Obama's head
The world is coming to the end and I'm not scared. The world is coming to an end and I have no fear. The world is coming to an end and I'll never join the house of Pharaoh.
I am fearless. No fear. Fearless, no loss, no dread. Fearless, few years have I got with my holy skull.
When will the world end?
Me don't know. It might be tonight or tomorrow night or the other night. We could wake and see flames burning everywhere.
At night we could hear, I am the lion and I come to move Prince William, and I come to move the Queen of England, and I come to move Mr Obama.
I know Mr Obama is the devil.
Some people thought he was going to be an angel.
Well Michael [an archangel who defeats Satan during the War in Heaven] is standing on Mr Obama's head. Michael the black archangel is standing on Mr Obama's head with a sword in his right hand. To remove his head, not for long here.
It was good speaking to you Lee.
It was really good talking to you as well; a good programme from the fish.
I'm a Sagittarius.
Then your star sign is perfect. That could not be better. You fire a good arrow?
It misses sometimes.
This is Pisces and Sagittarius. This is Pisces, fish, and Sagittarius, the heart that fire fast. Heart of fire horse.
Fire force. Fish is water. Fish water force and fire horse force. So we will win the jackpot, win the lotto and win the bingo. Hear when I come and say in the outer-view and the universe.