Inside Sean Lennon’s Seussian Music Studio

On a recent Friday, forty-three-year-old musician Sean Lennon sat on a striped sofa in a downtown Manhattan studio in a building where he rehearses and where his parents, John Lennon and Yoko Ono , once lived and worked. . Lennon has a black beard, long hair, and glasses, and he wore a British military-style hat with a cock-like protrusion. “I think it’s some kind of dowsing device,” he said, looking pleased. “When I’m doing something delusional, I tend to wear a captain’s hat or a navy outfit.”

Over the past two decades, Lennon, a versatile performer and talented guitarist, has released two solo albums, composed films, started a record label, performed and appeared on albums by, among others, Marianne Faithfull and Lady Gaga. His prog-rock duo Claypool Lennon Delirium with distant Primus bassist Les Claypool is perhaps his most accomplished artistic endeavor to date. This month, the group releases “South of Reality”, their second album; both discs feature demanding, if not militaristic, deployments of fantasy, with a thrill of psychedelic Beatles. The new one begins with wind chimes – they recorded at the Rancho Relaxo studio in Claypool, Sonoma County – and continues with Lennon’s friendly guitar and a playful Claypool fable involving pollution. “I love the idea of ​​’Mercury making its way into the dishes of those who eat small fish,'” Lennon said, paraphrasing the lyrics. “That sounds Dr. Seussian.”

Lennon’s studio is also that of Dr. Seussian. A cluster of birch branches, remains of a video shoot of his girlfriend, Charlotte Kemp Muhl, stood at the top of a flight of stairs. Several whimsical guitars hung on a wall: a Wandré that evoked an absinthe spoon (“influenced by Dali”); an old Vox (“I put these bug and snail stickers everywhere”); a bright red Fender VI bass, which was a gift from Nels Cline, of Wilco. “My dad played a Fender VI on the ‘Let It Be’ record, bass stuff,” Lennon said. Inside a soundproof room with eggcrate walls and eggplant-colored carpeting, the wreckage of creative endeavors lay strewn about: drums, amps, pedals, a percussion gourd, a disco ball, a stuffed giraffe eight feet high. “I had a giraffe as a kid that my dad bought me from FAO Schwarz,” Lennon said. “That giraffe finally disintegrated. It reminded me of the one I had in my room. Later in February Claypool would arrive; they would be rehearsing there for a performance on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.’

Lennon met Claypool in 2015, when his band with Muhl opened for Primus. Jamming together, Lennon and Claypool discovered a natural chemistry. As a solo artist, Lennon wrote about his own life; working with Claypool provokes tales of crickets, genies, fantasies, and most importantly, outer space. “Monolith of Phobos,” from their debut album of the same name, was inspired by a fervent remark Buzz Aldrin made about C-SPAN in 2009, about a curious rock in the orbit of Mars. “When I saw Buzz, the hero he is to me, talking about possibly man-made structures on the Mars moon – ‘a potato-shaped moon called Phobos’ – I just assumed I I would wake up the next morning and it would be the front page of every newspaper,” Lennon said. It wasn’t. But Lennon then showed the clip to Claypool, who quickly wrote music and lyrics. : “The monolith of Phobos / he looks Buzz in the eye / On a tater-shaped moon falling from the sky.”

The song “Boriska” is about a Russian boy who “claimed to be a star child, an indigo child, who was the reincarnation of a Martian pilot,” Lennon said. The epic “Blood and Rockets” is about rocket scientist Jack Parsons, who, as Lennon put it, was a “Magister Templi in the cult of Aleister Crowley”. It’s a catchy, sunny song, whose mood, enhanced by Lennon’s eerily familiar lead vocals, can unexpectedly evoke sensory memories of tangerine trees and marmalade skies.

“It’s overwhelming, the cosmos,” Lennon said with a smile. “The potentially infinite universe. Especially as things get more complicated and weird on planet Earth. It reminded me of Yoko Ono’s album “Approximately Infinite Universe,” from 1973. “I think that’s his best track,” Lennon said. “And she designed a logo with it.” He pulled out an image of the logo, an elegant group of symbols. “It’s the sign for ‘approximate’ in science. It’s ‘infinity’. And, for her, ‘universe’ is yin-yang and feminine.” Lennon recently reissued several Ono records on his label, Chimera. “I was very proud to hand him a stack of Yoko vinyl records that I had remastered,” he said. “She’s not easily hit by stuff, and she had a little tear in her eye. So that made me feel like a good son. ♦