Friday 29 July 2016


Sean Lennon has a history of diving headfirst into creative projects. Despite being the son of a Beatle, the late John Lennon, and activist/artist Yoko Ono, the 40-year-old musician has continuously carved a path his own, starting in the '90s with New York-based Japanese duo Cibo Matto and then as a solo artist, ping-ponging between artistic pursuits.

Sean's latest has the artist combining forces with Primus frontman Les Claypool as the psychedelic duo The Claypool Lennon Delirium. While in Las Vegas for the 10th anniversary of The Beatles Love, Sean called the Weekly to discuss his inspiration for the band's debut LP, Monolith of Phobos, Michael Jackson's pet chimpanzee and his art's inextricable ties to his father.

How did this band become a reality? 
It happened remarkably quickly, actually. We were on tour last year, my other band The Goastt [The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger] was opening for Primus. The tour was winding down and I did a couple jams with Les [Claypool] onstage and off. … We’d been talking about music a lot, jamming and trading albums and stuff. We’d been getting along well that way. He invited me out, and two weeks later we [had] already written and recorded 10 songs … We mastered the whole thing in November and then started booking a tour.

Why was astronaut Buzz Aldrin such an inspiration for Monolith of Phobos? 
We’d been talking about things, song topic ideas, and we’d been trading wacky newspaper articles. For example, there was a couple in Korea who had been so obsessed with online gaming, they let their baby starve. … Things that are so bizarre and post-apocalyptic feeling. We’d been trading these news stories and just wondering if we should write songs inspired by different things. The Buzz thing resonated with us because it was so interesting to see, arguably, the most famous American astronaut, talk about a potentially artificial structure on a moon in our solar system. [It] just seemed really bizarre, and it really stimulated the imagination. I think when we saw that it was so remarkable that we figured we could base an entire album off of it.

Was it difficult figuring out how to take the album from the studio to the stage? 
Not especially. One of many things that is clever about Les is, he really likes to think about how you’re gonna play it live while you’re recording and writing, which I really never do. I always treat the studio as a playground where we can experiment endlessly and worry about the show when we came to it. Les was already thinking, “I don’t know how were gonna play that live,” and I remember being kind of surprised by that. … It really paid off. We really tried to keep it to a simple palette. The whole record is only four instruments.

Lyrically, there’s some really strange stuff on the album. What was the writing process like? 
It was musically very collaborative and lyrically less so. I think it’s hard to write lyrics with somebody, because it takes a lot of determination to just sit and make sure both people are contributing. Musically, it’s a lot easier to trade off ideas.

“Bubbles Burst” is about Michael Jackson’s pet chimpanzee, which you met growing up. You’ve gotten a bit of backlash for the video, which you released in June. What inspired it? 
I just thought it was a really cool topic. In terms of the theme of the album, it had to do with interesting or sort of surreal, bizarre stories. “Cricket and the Genie” is about a young boy who rubs a magic pharmacy bottle and a genie comes out … and then things go badly after that. We were always writing things slightly based on reality, but a dream version.
I had met Bubbles when I was a kid, and I had spent a lot of time hanging out with Michael and I was in the Moonwalker film that he did. I had been around that scene a lot and I just thought it was an interesting subject matter … meeting this chimpanzee who had been kept as a pet in a fabulous wonderland that was owned and run by a Peter Pan-music-hero-character and personality like Michael. I just thought it was a really interesting topic. In terms of the video execution, there wasn’t a lot of planning. Les is really good friends with Noel Fielding, [and] he’s one of my heroes. There wasn’t a lot of thought other [than], “Oh my God, it would be amazing if he could do a video for us."

You’ve said that respect for your parents is at the heart of everything you do. How is this album a nod to them? 
I say that because everything I am is sort of a creation of theirs. I play music and I make art … it’s all because of my parents. The reason I play music is because I basically hero-worship my dad and The Beatles and all that stuff. My whole life is a tribute to my dad, because I play music because of him. I play music only to feel closer to him and know him better, because I grew up without him. Music is indelibly associated with him. Every time I play music, every time I play piano, I am thinking of him.

THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM with JJUUJJUU. July 31, 7 p.m., $29.50-$45.

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