portrait Sean Lennon

interviewed by Matt Nye

Published in Issue No. 20 ~ January, 1999

Sean Lennon’s debut album Into the Sun was released in the spring of 1998 on Grand Royal. Lennon, who turned 23 October 9th, can be seen in concert as a supporting act for Lenny Kravitz. Matt Nye talked with Lennon following a recent performance in Nashville. The briefly sighted Yuka Honda is part of the critically respected duo Cibo Matto (along with Miho Hattori).

Matt Nye: How many interviews have you done today?

Sean Lennon: Just one other one. I don’t do as many interviews now as I used to. I’m not as motivated as I used to…I don’t feel interviews are going to help sell my record anymore. I feel like I’ve been way over-exposed in the press. I’d rather play shows and represent myself in person.

[Yuka Honda walks in]

MN: When is the next Cibo Matto album coming out?

Yuka Honda: April, maybe. [to Sean] I’m not staying.

SL: You don’t have to leave if you don’t want too. [Yuka Honda leaves].

MN: How was the show?

SL: The show was really great. The crowd got down in the end. Did you see the show?

MN: No, I was workin’.

SL: You know David Byrne, when he finds out people haven’t seen his show that night, he just walks out or hangs up the phone.

MN: I was earning rent. Are you gonna walk out? [Sean shakes his head ‘no.’] I saw your show in LA. Did you like that show?

SL: Yeah, that show was ok.

MN: On stage you seemed at home and mellow. Is that the way you take all your shows?

SL: No, sometimes it’s really high energy. Tonight it was crazy. We had a mad jam session with Ozomatli.

MN: Is this your first time in Nashville?

SL: No, actually I’ve been here before with the Matto Cibo [Cibo Matto].

MN: What’s your favorite city to play?

SL: That would be Tokyo or Osaka . . .and Seattle.

MN: What’s Tokyo like?

SL: Tokyo is really cool. It’s a really futuristic city because during the second World War, Tokyo was completely bombed. They rebuilt it as a modern city; everything is modern. All the doors are automatic and it’s like a super futuristic city where everything is computerized.

MN: What’s your girlfriend’s name?

SL: Yuka Honda. You thought it was Miho Hattori

MN: Do you mind if I ask if you’ve popped the question?

SL: No, I have not.

MN: Have you formulated the question?

SL: I try not to do anything by formula.

MN: As I’ve noticed from your album. I know you said that your album was influenced by your current relationship with Yuka Honda, what else influenced it?

SL: Just life. They’re real personal songs, about feelings.

MN: Is that the way you view your career in the music industry?

SL: No, I take it pretty seriously in all honesty. I’m trying hard.

MN: Do you think it’s something you want to do for the rest of your life?

SL: No. I’m definitely working very hard at it; it requires a lot of attention – more than going to college. It’s a very involved job, releasing a record and then promoting it and [doing] everything that being a musician/performer entails. Growing up I fantasized about being a rock musician and that somehow it would be really easy. I didn’t realize that it’s so much work.

MN: As for your record deal . . . how did it happen?

SL: Adam [Yotch] said, “Why don’t you release an EP or a 7″ just on vinyl and do an underground thing on Grand Royal.” That’s what I set out to do at first. [Then] what I wanted to do changed. A lot had changed with what I was doing musically [in] the year that passed between what Adam said and actually making the record. I was wanting to make a more pop album. Which is really what it was. A lot of people say it’s an experimental album, but to me it was really pop, and because it was a pop album I felt it was deserving of being distributed in stores. I don’t know why I felt this, but I felt that it would appeal to more people, but I guess I was kinda wrong.

MN: Do you like touring?

SL: Yeah, I enjoy being able to tour and play shows every night. Especially ’cause now I have people in the house that know my album and really like it. The work I’ve done, I’m really feeling the effects of it . . .

MN: When you’re writing songs, is the process emotion-based, word-based, picture-based…?

SL: It depends on what instrument I’m playing, or what mood I’m in. But I see that with everything, with talking and every moment of the day … it’s a combination of abstract images and associations and impressions.

[Bystander]: Like a weird Oliver Stone movie.

SL: Well, better than that…maybe a weird David Lynch movie, but with a positive tip instead of violent scary one.

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Matt Nye lives in Nashville, TN.