And so, in unremarkable corner of the Amsterdam airport our session of brotherly illumination carried on and our numbers did swell so that feelings warmed, bonds were formed and tears shed. And… we’re back. [If you missed the first part of the interview, here it is. -ED]
How did you “meet” music? We you good friends with her right off the bat? She was your muse immediately? Did you pay her, or the other way around?
AM: I actually don’t think I’m a natural when it comes to playing music. Playing guitar and singing have always been difficult and have never felt natural. I had to work at it, but I was also never the type to “practice” as it were. One thing I did do was continue to play. I took lessons growing up. I wasn’t a great student, but I kept playing. Started playing in bands, put myself out there. I think the only thing that comes easy for me is melody and songwriting. That’s never been hard.
Shawn Lee: Well I was blessed with the gift of natural musicality. This has always been a part of me. However, I have dedicated my life to listening, playing, recording, studying and performing music. I’ve learned a lot so far, but feel like there’s an incredible amount still to learn. This keeps me hungry. Music’s an obsession for me.
Not that you’ve ever been asked this before: How does your personal inter-relationship figure into your work? What percentage of your tracks can the listener take as active dialogues between the two of you?
AM: Well musically this whole record is a “dialogue” between Shawn and I. Much of the record was inspired by Shawn’s beats. He would send me these totally vibey drum beats. Not just cheap, cheesey loops, but thought out beats with structure…and they sounded dope…all done on a four track with one mic. I wrote over those beats never changing a thing. I let the beat dictate where the song went. I would lay down a bunch of instruments and the vocals and send them back to him. He would then add some more instrumentation and mix the tune. With a few songs he would send me an instrumental track which I would just add vocals to and maybe a little guitar and synth, but mostly these tunes started with the beat. We were working off each other…much like a band, although we were thousands of miles apart.
If you could set up a colony on any planet in the solar system such that human survival was guaranteed, where, and what would its nature be?
AM:I already think Earth is that place. There is no other known planet we can live on, yet we treat it like shit and take it’s offerings for granted. We really don’t need to be colonizing another planet till we learn how to live on this one. We’re just now getting back to gardening as a popular thing to do for crying out loud. I mean how stupid and lazy do you have to be to not throw some seeds in the ground. It’s practically free food and healthier than anything you can buy. I think a return to nature is necessary… if we haven’t already drained most of the resources.
Travel probably takes more of your time than it does the average person. Do you have any tales of extreme excitement or extreme boredom that the average person might enjoy reading?
SL: One time on a flight from Bangkok to London I decided to take some Zanax. This is a bit out of character for me, as I don’t do drugs. I spent the first few hours sweating like a bastard and highly emotional! I couldn’t stop crying I was so terrified
Events you’ve been privy to which have frightened you. Go.
SL: Milli Vanilli winning aq Grammy for Best New Artist.
AM: When I first moved to Los Angeles I lived in this typical hot box with vertical blinds. One day I came home from a night out and saw this greasy dude jump out of the bushes. I said “man you scared me” and he was like “sorry.” I started up towards my apartment and he was kind of following me. I turned around again about ready to climb the stairs to my place and he apologized again reaching out his hand. I shook it and it was all greasy. I said “what the fuck man!” He replied “I was just playing with myself back there.” I didn’t know whether I should punch him in the face or run up and scald my hand with hot water. I chose the latter. The story now is hilarious cuz it’s so wrong. There are so many loons in Los Angeles. It’s tragic really because most of them are mentally ill and roaming the streets. I grew up in and around New Orleans…and I saw some fucked up shit there, but Los Angeles is downright diabolical.
How will you feel six months after your heart stops beating?
SL: Really fucking dead man! As Kenny Loggins once said: ‘This is it!’
AM: I don’t know…and I don’ think anyone else really knows either and anyone who claims they do I think is dangerous. We’ve invented a lot of things to make us feel comfortable about how mysterious things are after death, but in the end I don’t think anyone’s any closer to figuring that out.
What’s the secret to your success?
SL: I’m not telling you that! It’s a frickin’ secret. No. Honestly, it’s simple really. Be true to yourself, do what you believe in and never give up. Oh yeah, buy my new album.
How does a track having vocals influence your composition process?
SL: Actually my first four solo albums were all songs with me singing on them. Having said that, I have always written and recorded instrumental music too. I find doing instrumentals very freeing. There are much less restrictions—it’s a very flexible form. I do feel that it also makes my arranging much sharper and ultimately that makes the backing tracks better when there is a vocal song on top. AM was so great on this album. He always blew me away with what he did. I feel like this album is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Next level shit!
What was your favorite toy as a child and when/why did you stop playing with it?
AM: I think it was a Transformer toy. There was this older girl in grade school that had a crush on me. I didn’t know how to react to it at first since girls just really weren’t on the radar yet. One day I was up in my room and my mom called up and told me that “the girl” was here! I panicked and looked around at all my toys. I quickly hid them all and I don’t think I ever brought them back out again. I kind of quickly figured out it was time to stop screwing around with cheap plastic sci-fi toys and start taking this girl thing a little more serious.