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Interview with AM & Shawn Lee (english version)

AM and Shawn Lee
AM & Shawn Lee - The ‘Confessions' Interview
(Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau, for Paris DJs - summer 2011)

Vintage soundmaster Shawn Lee is back again and this time he's not alone. With brilliant guitarist and songwriter AM (bred in New Orleans but established in LA), they have just released Celestial Electric (ESL Music), one of the top pop albums of 2011. This funky, addictive and rather psychedelic record was born in Los Angeles where the two musicians have met eventually (Shawn Lee lives in London). Shawn Lee remembers: "During that L.A. trip, we listened to a lot of music together and bonded over our mutual love of vintage French and Italian library and film music and nuggest from the Finders Keepers record label. I suggested that we make an album together, and the rest is history". Celestial Electric was conceived as a transcontinental music files trade between AM in LA and Shawn Lee until each one was happy with the result. Both were kind enough to allow us a 'confessions interview' or a manner of 'questionnaire de Proust' just before they hit the road for their US Tour. Besides, they cooked an exclusive mix for us called AM & Shawn Lee's Paris DJs Betamix.

AM and Shawn Lee

' How did you meet?
AM : I emailed Shawn after hearing a track off his "Music and Rhythm" album on the radio here in LA.
Shawn Lee : AM hit me up on Myspace originally. We became cyber friends and later met in person in London when he was playing over here. We stayed in touch over the years and continued to get to know each other both musically and personally, hanging out in both London and LA together. Eventually he ‘set in' live with the Ping Pong Orchestra and me with his live band both in London and LA. The circle was the complete. The stage was now set for Celestial Electric!

Who did find the title 'Celestial Electric'?
AM : Shawn and I had been batting titles back and fourth for a while and just couldn't come up with something that resonated. As Andy Votel was finishing up our album art he said "guys, I need the title today!" We were like shit, ok. So I dug up a recent list I had come up with and emailed like 5 titles to Andy and Shawn. Andy said "Celestial Electric" is the one. So there it was. I had honestly forgotten about that title, but when Andy picked it out I was like "it's perfect". We were definitely aiming for something that played on 70's sci-fi and space themes…that whole space disco thing.
SL: AM did, right in the 11th hour!

What instruments do you play on Celestial Electric?
AM : Acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bass, ukulele, banjo, synthesizers… we actually listed out all playing credits on the album in detail…70's style. As a kid I remember looking at an old Rush LP and seeing "Geddy Lee – Taurus Pedals". I'm like "what the fuck is a TAURUS PEDAL! Some magical instrument from another land! I wanted to create that same feeling for anyone curious about what we used to get certain sounds.
SL : Drums, percussions, bass, guitar, keyboards, glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, etc.

Have you got an idea of how many files have you exchanged between LA and London for the record?
AM : No idea. The tracks aren't that dense though. I think we knew when to stop.
SL: Nope. Los count after 2 Heh Heh!!!!

List three main influences behind Celestial Electric.
AM : All the music I listen to, Shawn Lee's dope ass beats, cheap synths.
SL : Finders Keepers records label, my Tascam cassette 4 track machine & AM.

What will be the band on tour?
SL : I'll be playing mostly bass but swapping to guitar on a few songs & a smidge of percussions/drums and backing vocals. AM on guitar & lead vocals plus bass. We got Brett Bixby on drums & Pete McNeal. It's a fucking great 4 piece band!

@Shawn : what's your favourite AM album?
SL : "Future Sons & Daughters". There are some great songs on there.
@AM : what's your favourite Shawn Lee's album?
AM : It's hard to say. It's probably a tie between "Music and Rhythm" and "Voices and Choices".

@Shawn : name an AM quality you envy
SL : His great songwriting!
@AM : name a Shawn Lee quality you envy
AM : It's very rare that someone can capture a style of music so perfectly. Shawn has absolutely mastered re-creating old soundtrack, library, funk and soul records from the 60's and 70's. When I first heard his track on the radio I thought it was a lost gem from a soundtrack I hadn't heard yet. He understands the vocabulary both musically and as a producer. At the same time he brings something fresh and new to it. There's really no one I've played a Shawn Lee track to that doesn't' start bobbing their head. This becomes even more evident to me when I hear some other folks trying to re-create this genre and they just don't get it. Either the melody is no good or the tones are just way off. This is never the case with Shawn. And the bastard works at lightning speed! He's already loaded me up with 10 dope ass beats for the next AM & Shawn Lee album!

@Shawn : Three adjectives to define AM's musical style(s)
SL : taste, style and vibe
@AM : Three adjectives to define Shawn's musical style(s)
AM : Funky, greasy and tasteful.

List all the instruments you can play.
AM : Guitars (nylon, steel, electric), bass, synthesizers… and I can hack on the banjo, mandolin and ukulele.
SL : Drums, perc, guitars, bass, singing, keys, harmonica, melodica, vibes, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, various stringed instruments like banjo, mandolin, zithers, etc. Hell I'll give most things a go!

Is there a musical genre that you can't bear?
SL : Anything with heavily Auto-Tune vocals. Crapola!
AM : Modern day country music, I don't know what that stuff is.

@Shawn : name one important thing you've learned working with Jeff Buckley.
SL : Keep on moving to find your place and sound.
@AM : name one important thing you've learned touring with Caetano Veloso.
AM : Always be gracious.

AM and Shawn Lee

Your favourite NOLA band/musician
AM : The Meters
SL : Allen Toussaint & The Meters, Earl Palmer.

Your 3 favourite albums from the Finders Keepers label.
SL : Selda, Ersen, Sitting Target Soundtrack. Amazing Label, Andy Votel is an inspiration.
AM : Selda, Ersen, Jean-Claude Vannier - L'Enfant Assassin Des Mouches.

Your favourite records in French library and soundtrack.
SL : (Library) Nino Nardini & Roger Roger "Jungle Obsession" (OST) La Planète Sauvage by Alain Goraguer
AM : Spatial – Sauveur Mallia, Luke Vibert - Nuggets: Luke Vibert's Selection, AIR – Love 2

Your favourite records in Italian library and soundtrack.
SL : (Library) Stefano Torossi "Feelings". (OST) Vergogna Schifosi or The Sicilian Clan both by Ennio Morricone.
AM : Piero Umiliani – Il Corpo, Giani Safred – Futuribile: The Life To Come, Franco Micalizzi - Albert e L' Uomo Nero

Your favourite film director.
SL : Quentin Tarantino. A Modern Master…
AM : Stanley Kubrick.

The movies you'll bring with you on a desert island.
SL : Planet of the Apes, Pulp fiction, Rollerball, Usual Suspects, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Jackie Brown, This is Spinal Tap, escape from New York.
AM : Manhattan, Annie Hall, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Down By Law, The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, Night Of The Hunter, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Carnal Knowledge, The Last Detail, Superman (70's version), The Verdict, Electra Glide In Blue, High Plains Drifter, Play Misty For Me, Sunset Boulevard…as many as I could fit in the bag!

Favourite actor and actress.
AM : Very difficult to pick one, but… Jack Nicholson and Shelley Winters.
SL : Jeff Bridges, Kate Winslet is pretty darn good!

Favourite writer/poet.
SL : Pierre Boulle. He wrote both Planet of The Apes and Bridge over the River Kwai.
AM : Woody Allen.

Favourite classic novel.
SL : Dracula by Bram Stoker. OG King of the Vamps.
AM : Ask The Dust (John Fante).

Favourite classical composer.
SL : Ravel. Bolero is a frickin' masterpiece…
AM : Chopin, but again, very difficult to pick one. I like Ravel too.

Favourite photographer.
Ton photographe préféré?
SL : Whoever shot for Playboy Magazine in the 70s! David Bailey was Dope.

Favourite philosopher.
SL : Philosophy bores me to be honest. People quoting Plato who love the sound of their own voices. I'm too busy living life to talk about the theories of living life – you know what I mean?
AM : Schopenhauer.

Favourite dish.
SL : I prefer bowls. The food doesn't spill over the sides too much! Haha!!!
AM : Spaghetti Bolognese.

Favourite witty quote.
SL : "Ray Charles said it, I believe it – that settles it!"
AM : "If you can't do, teach. If you can't teach, teach gym." (Woody Allen)

Your favourite heroes in real life.
SL : mes enfants Mela et Seela. Ils sont géniaux.
AM : Really anyone who's overcome insurmountable odds. Life is hard enough when things are going well.

What job would you love to do in another life?
SL : Be a rich musician Hahaha!!!
AM : Maybe something in the skilled trades. The only thing I know how to make is completely intangible. I'd be nice to know how to build a house.

In which animal would you like to be reincarnated?
SL : Great White Shark. Apex Predator Man!
AM : An owl. Mysterious creature of the night!

A very important thing you have to do before you die.
SL : live!
AM : There was one thing I wanted to do before I died, and I've done it. I just can't talk about it here.

Write you epitaph.
SL : Here lies Shawn Lee – father, husband, funkateer… RIP
AM : I thought other people were supposed to write that? You don't want to know what I think of myself.

Download the AM & Shawn Lee - Paris DJs Betamix :

AM and Shawn Lee Paris DJs Betamix

Links :
AM and Shawn Lee : official | facebook | myspace
AM : official | discogs | facebook | myspace | soundcloud | youtube
Shawn Lee : official | discogs | facebook | myspace | parisdjs | twitter | youtube
ESL Music : official | facebook | myspace | soundcloud | parisdjs | twitter | youtube
Nicolas Ragonneau

Nicolas Ragonneau

Stay informed of all things Paris DJs and beyond thanks to our Twitter news

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