Sean Ono Lennon on Reality, Magic & How Yoko Taught Him to Embrace the Weird


Sean Ono Lennon is wrapping up a press day at his Manhattan studio, as soon as his dad and mom’ downtown condo. He might famously evoke his father along with his bespectacled, bearded appears and depraved means with phrases — however to listen to him inform it, he was “birthed from the crucible of the Yoko Ono universe.”

This wasn’t by design; ever since John Lennon was tragically killed in 1980, his impression of the person has been essentially outlined by absence. Left to lift her son on the Dakota Apartments, Ono immersed him in artwork, music and theatre far off the mainstream path — Cage, Duchamp, Brecht.

Today (Feb. 22), Lennon is reflecting that training again on the world. He simply unveiled his most bold, eccentric album so far, South of Reality, his second with Primus’ Les Claypool because the Claypool Lennon Delirium.

The elder Lennon recorded mind-bending odysseys with the Beatles earlier than his partnership with Ono took him into the personal and conceptual. But this awakening for John is a resting state for Sean. With its jabberwocky sound and references to rocket science, amphibious life and ritual magic, South of Reality betrays his tutelage on the ft of Ono. And the Claypool Lennon Delirium could also be his most lovably left-field co-creation so far.

Today, we’re sharing a dialog with Sean Ono Lennon about South of Reality and being schooled in outré tradition by one in every of its most well-known practitioners.

What do you get out of constructing futuristic, outside-the-box music?

I’ve been doing that my entire life, as I see it. I come from a musical background that features my mom in addition to my father, so I’ve at all times had a pure affinity towards non-tonal devices, together with soundscapes and sound design.

Some of my mother’s songs had been simply crickets, field recordings or the sound of a heartbeat. For me, that was at all times pure. I used to be raised in an atmosphere during which music was inherently experimental.

It looks like you had been raised to grasp that the world is making music on a regular basis.

That’s so attention-grabbing you say that, as a result of my mother used to inform this story on a regular basis once I was younger. When she was finding out avant-garde composition in Japan, her music trainer would make her notate the sound of on a regular basis objects.

If one thing fell down the steps, she’d need to [makes percussive sounds] get the rhythm construction of it. If a bus squealed across the nook, she’d attempt to notate it. That was a superb train for her to transcend the confines of Western music.

You and Les appear to strategy your music much less like craftsmen than spelunkers, or explorers. Do you two map out your textures upfront, or do you wish to throw concepts on the wall and see what sticks?

A little bit of each, to be sincere. Les is any individual who likes to work with a whole lot of improvisation and spontaneity, however he likes to have that inside a framework. He needs to do homework in order that we’re not counting on the success of our inspiration.

So, we at all times come ready. He says, “Shiner, why don’t you include 5 or 6 concepts, and I’ll include 5 or 6 concepts?” We need to flesh out six songs individually a minimum of, so we’ve got one thing to deliver to the desk.

If we had been simply improvising, it could be a jazz album. But if we had been simply making ready and structuring, it wouldn’t be us both. It could be boring as hell. So, I believe we love to do each. We like freedom and spontaneity inside constraints and construction. The construction has to do with doing homework and having methodology.

South of Reality is filled with references to fishes, crickets, fleas and a creature often known as the Toadyman. Does one thing draw you to the subterranean world?

Totally, man. People have phobias of animals, however I really like the animals that most individuals hate. I really like rats, and I really like mice, and I really like spiders. I even like cockroaches.

I don’t have something in opposition to most animals. It could seem that I’ve a morbid attraction towards the less-loved critters of the planet, however I similar to animals typically. I’m a dork in that means. It’s exhausting for me to carry something in opposition to an animal.

One of my extra mystical views is likely to be that consciousness is extra of a spectrum. It’s not binary. It doesn’t get switched on at people, or chimps, or no matter. It have to be fluid. The diploma to which animals are self-aware is relative. It’s not that they aren’t and we’re. I believe that’s too easy.

We’re outnumbered by the microorganisms within the crust by far. They name it the Weight. The biggest mass of dwelling cells is within the crust. Time is slower down there, too, as a result of it’s nearer to the middle of the Earth. There’s time dilation. So the microorganisms which are nearer to the core could be youthful, or much less time would have handed for them.

Even your head is older than your ft, if you happen to’ve been standing on the planet your entire life. Gravity bends spacetime.

The observe “Blood and Rockets” was impressed by Jack Parsons, the well-known rocket engineer who joined a ritual cult. Why did he spark your creativeness?

I learn his autobiography referred to as Sex and Rockets, pondering that it’d be a film or a musical or one thing. It by no means panned out, so I used to be like, “Well, I’ll simply write the music.” But it’s a type of tales that’s stranger than fiction.

No one has the creativeness to consider the way it even ends. I imply, he belonged to a magical cult, together with intercourse magic. He wound up blowing himself up in a chemical experiment. There’s all types of nefarious relationships he had along with his mom that had been found by the police.

That story was simply epic, and it was a kernel of an thought I delivered to the Delirium writing periods as a result of I wished to flesh it out as a music.

He labored in a rational subject and indulged in extrascientific beliefs with equal zeal. Are some elements of actuality solely explainable by way of a mystical lens?

Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently superior know-how is indistinguishable from magic.” If one thing is actual, then it’s not magic by definition. Let’s say magic was actual and I might shoot fireballs out of my hand. If that’s actually occurring, then it’s not occurring. Then it’s some bodily phenomenon that’s indistinguishable from magic.

So, are there issues which are indistinguishable from magic in our understanding of science and nature? Yes. Spooky action at a distance. Quantum entanglement. We don’t actually perceive these issues.

“Cricket Chronicles Revisited” takes purpose at Big Pharma, and “Easily Charmed by Fools” explores lies and manipulation. You’ve mentioned that your father prevented processed meals and flicked off tv adverts as a result of “every thing in there was a lie.” Were you skilled early on to be skeptical of the fashionable age?

I bear in mind him saying, “Everything ever stated in a industrial is inherently a lie. That’s why it’s a industrial. A industrial is a bunch of lies about one thing, so that you’re not allowed to observe it, as a result of it’s all lies. It’ll affect you negatively.”

I by no means thought how it could come into play when it comes to my proclivity towards sure material. But I’m certain you’re proper. You’d be a superb therapist. I’m certain that the origin of my disdain for Big Pharma and Monsanto is in my dad instructing me early on that promoting is a assemble fabricated from lies.

Your mother’s affect has solely grown, from particularly going out as Sean Ono Lennon in 2019 to veering into uncharted musical territory with the Delirium. How does she educate you to embrace the bizarre?

My dad is my biggest affect, and his absence was so imposing that it pushed me towards a preoccupation with understanding his work and his life. Whereas it’s the alternative with my mom. I grew up bodily in the identical home with my mom. The first album I made along with her was once I was 17, referred to as Rising.

Her affect on me is the alternative. It’s palpable. It’s bodily. I grew up with this particular person. So, my whole worldview, not simply in artwork and music, however in every thing else, is definitely filtered by way of the lens of her persona and her opinions. Arguably, although my dad’s my greatest affect, she’s a extra palpable affect on me.

When I used to be younger, I’d attempt to get my mother to hearken to Human League or Depeche Mode. She’d be like, “Turn that off! Listen to Schoenberg! Here’s a John Cage efficiency!” Then, once I was sufficiently old to have attention-grabbing conversations along with her, the very first thing she laid on me was the artwork that influenced her, like Bertolt Brecht, Marcel Duchamp and all types of stuff that is likely to be off the overwhelmed path for sure individuals.

Everything I do comes from rising up with my mother in that home. For instance, I’m a type of individuals who believes that I don’t have to decide on genres, or media. I can do sculpture or drawing or music or portray or directing. Not as a result of I believe I’m proficient at them, however as a result of I don’t see them as separate issues. The medium is secondary.

People assume that as a result of I’ve apparent influences from my dad, that’s all there’s. But the reality is that the artist who’s me was birthed from the crucible of the Yoko Ono universe.