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For Sean Lennon, Music Is Not A Solo Act

Sean Lennon in the studio, during production of the <em>Alter Egos</em> soundtrack.
Jordan Galland
Courtesy of the artist
Sean Lennon in the studio, during production of the Alter Egos soundtrack.

Sean Lennon, son of John and Yoko, is drawn to musical collaboration and repelled by hydraulic fracturing.

The 37-year-old just released two albums: the improvisational project Mystical Weapons and the score to the independent film Alter Egos.

Writing For Film

Lennon only appears in Alter Egos for a few seconds; the majority of his efforts went into writing the music, which he had to do twice. He describes the film as a "kitsch comedy about superheroes," and his first attempt at the music took a similar vibe.

"But ultimately, when we laid in that music over the footage, it really didn't work ... 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," he tells Jackie Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

It was getting down to the wire, and Lennon had to basically improvise new music based on the footage. This time, he took a new approach.

"The more serious the music got, the funnier the character's performance seemed," he says.

Getting Together

His other album, Mystical Weapons, was also done communally. A single improvisational jam session with Greg Saunier of the band Deerhoof turned into a larger project.

Lennon says jazz has been a big influence for him, and it comes through in Mystical Weapons.

"There's a textural connection in terms of just wild, free, funk jazz," he says.

Lennon acknowledges there is another trend in his art: working with others.

"I do probably prefer collaborating to being alone in a sort of vacuum," he says.

It might be inherently part of his personality, but Lennon says he was always aware his father wanted to write with others, too. His mother, on the other hand, prefers to work alone.

"I know that my dad always felt maybe a little bit lonely, in terms of the songwriting element," Lennon says. He grew up thinking collaboration was the way to go.

'Active Activism'

In a more recent overlap with his parents, Lennon is becoming more of an activist.

"I'd always sort of avoided active activism because ... it's a difficult thing to do and not come across like someone who's speaking about something they don't really have any business speaking about," he says.

Then an oil company came to the town in upstate New York where his parents have property.

"It was one of those situations where people come to your own land and your own house, your family's house," he says. "It sort of motivates you to try to do something to protect your own land."

Lennon has been gathering signatures and support in hopes of influencing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has until Feb. 27 to decide whether the state can use the drilling process known as "fracking."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR Staff