For Sean Lennon, Music Is Not A Solo Act Like his father, John, Lennon prefers collaboration. That spirit comes through in his two new albums — one improvisational and the other a film soundtrack. Long resistant to the idea, Lennon is becoming more like his parents in another way: He's taken up a cause.
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For Sean Lennon, Music Is Not A Solo Act

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For Sean Lennon, Music Is Not A Solo Act

For Sean Lennon, Music Is Not A Solo Act

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And if you're just tuning in, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden. And it's time now for music.


LYDEN: You're listening to some new music from Sean Lennon. Yes, that Lennon, the son of John and Yoko. And as a composer, he's just as much his mother's son as his father's. As a matter of fact, he may lean more heavily toward the New York City avant garde scene his mother helped to popularize.

You can hear the result in two new albums he's just released. One, you're listening to right now, is an improvisational duo called "Mystical Weapons." And the other album is a score to an independent film called "Alter Egos."


LYDEN: I asked Sean Lennon to briefly sum up this strange little film he worked on.

SEAN LENNON: It's sort of a superhero comedy, and the director and writer is one of my best friends, this guy Jordan Galland.


LENNON: "Alter Egos" is his sort of parody of superhero films. It's not a true superhero film. There's not a lot of action. It's more like a romantic comedy that just happens to use superhero costumes as a metaphor for being misunderstood, you know? So the girls fall in love with the persona of the sort of the front that these guys put on.


LENNON: But inside, they feel like, you know, they're not loved for who they really are.

LYDEN: And the grim, sad struggle to deliver, huh?

LENNON: Indeed.


LYDEN: So this film score, you know, what really intrigued me about it was that it wasn't just one style of music, that it did demand the coherence, if you will, of going all over the map so that the film could have, you know, a propulsion and motion. And I'm just wondering if you and the director, Jordan Galland, collaborated about that before you sat down to write it.

LENNON: Well, what actually happened was I had been working on a bunch of cues while he was shooting that were in this direction that we wound up scratching. And it was more of a kitsch direction. We were sort of modeling the music - or I was - after films like "Barbarella" and "Danger: Diabolik," the sort of kitsch Italian superhero world.

And we thought that that would work because the movie was a sort of kitsch comedy about superheroes. But ultimately, when we laid in that music over the footage, it really didn't work because somehow it was just redundant because the scene was already kind of a joke and then the music was sort of indicating that it was a joke. So it just felt less funny.

So then we had to scratch, actually, about 15 cues that I'd done. And we were trying to edit for some kind of screening deadline, and so we only had three or four days to do the entire thing over again. So that was actually very daunting. But we realized at that point that we need the music to contrast for this film and be completely different in that it should be dramatic and kind of grandiose and melodramatic. And that sort of made the characters seem funnier. The more serious the music got, the funnier the character's performance seemed.


LYDEN: And you can get that film, by the way, "Alter Egos," on Netflix. So...

LENNON: Well, you can get the score at

LYDEN: All right. Good.

LENNON: And you can order it from me directly.

LYDEN: All right.

LENNON: I'll package it up myself and mail it off.

LYDEN: Ah. Listen, you'll be having everybody doing that. I'm speaking with musician Sean Lennon. He's got two - not one, but two new albums. One is a score to the film we've been talking about, "Alter Egos," and the other is an improvisational duo known as "Mystical Weapons."

So let's talk about "Mystical Weapons." Now, this project is with Greg Saunier of the band Deerhoof, totally improvisational. So what was the mission statement, if you will, before you started on this piece of work?

LENNON: Well, I'd always wanted to play with Greg. I was a huge fan of his band after Deerhoof opened for Yoko Ono Plastic Ono band show that I was music directing in Oakland. And, you know, we knew we were going to hang out then, so we wound up booking a small improv gig where we could open for some other band, just Greg and I jamming together. And that turned out to be one of those, sort of memorable moments where we just felt, wow, this is meant to happen. Let's do this again.


LYDEN: One I particularly like, "Colony Collapse Disorder."

LENNON: Mm-hmm.

LYDEN: And that feels to me like the beginning of some really epic rock song, actually.

LENNON: Well, it is an epic rock song, I think. That song - the fun thing about that is that the basic track, the concept for that song was how many instruments can I, you know, put within arm's reach to manage to play at the same time.

So I was sitting in front of the rows. My left foot - I had put a bass drum pedal on an actual bass guitar to hit the lowest thing with my foot. And then I had a guitar in my lap, obviously. There was a synthesizer to my right, and I also had another guitar laying on a bench and an open tuning that I would just hit with this violin bow in the distance.

When I wanted to play these big open chords that are like dat-dat-dat-dat-dat-dat-dat, it kind of rang through. It had trembles that are really good on this one.


LYDEN: You seem to be a really enthusiastic and meaningful collaborator with a lot of people. We've been speaking of, you know, different folks throughout this interview, and it seems to make you happy.

LENNON: Yeah. I - that's interesting. I mean, I've never really thought about it, but I do probably prefer collaborating to being alone in a sort of vacuum. I don't know why. It's - either it's an inherent part of his personality, but I think it's also maybe because I always knew that my dad was like that. I mean, I'd always heard about it, that, you know, he wanted to have writing partners, like, and that was one of the reasons that he tried to get my mom to write with him.

And she was more of an island and is more of - one of those kind of, you know, an artist as an island kind of people where she likes to do everything by herself. And I know that my dad always felt sort of like, maybe a little bit lonely in terms of the songwriting element. He was like, why don't you write with me more? And she's like, well, I don't do that.

LYDEN: In his early days, of course, he wrote with Paul McCartney. Right.

LENNON: Exactly. So I always grew up thinking, like, you know, maybe that's how you're supposed to do it, because I always knew that he wrote a lot of those songs, you know, with Paul. And so I was always looking for people to collaborate with.


LYDEN: Sean Lennon. He just released two new albums - one with his avant garde duo, "Mystical Weapons," and the other the score to the film "Alter Egos." To hear a few samples, please go to our website, Well, Sean, it's just been a real pleasure.

LENNON: It's been awesome to be here. I'm a huge fan of the show.



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