By Johnny Papan
By the time Sean Ono Lennon was born, his father, music icon and peace activist John Lennon, had already embarked on several artistic and philosophical evolutions.
Though Sean’s time with his dad was short, it was rich, and the majority of his young life, before John’s murder, was spent with his father at his side, the older Lennon having famously decided to be a “house husband.”
“There’s so many things I’ve always admired about my dad,” Lennon explains. “He never stayed the same; I think that’s really incredible. If you look at the difference between Abbey Road and Two Virgins, it’s such a stark transformation. He was always looking to revise and improve his worldview and his thinking. I think that is true creativity, and it’s true intelligence as well.”
Lennon was only five years old when his father was killed outside their home in New York City on December 8, 1980, leaving a void not only in his life, but the lives of millions of music fans and political renegades across the globe. Lennon continued being raised by his mother, conceptual artist and activist Yoko Ono. He learned the guitar by playing Beatles songs while Ono taught him how to record and produce music. Ono also influenced ed Lennon with her interpretation of art, which impacted him during his formative years.
“She has this philosophy about art and creativity that art takes place in your mind, and the medium in which you express the idea is unimportant,” Lennon says. “It’s secondary. She’s never really felt like there was a medium she couldn’t do. She made films, paintings, sculptures, rock and roll records. For her, it was all just another kind of paint.”
Now 43, Lennon has drawn influence from both his parents. His voice is a ghost-like match to his father’s, and he explores a modernized style of psychedelia in his songwriting. He currently is part of the Claypool-Lennon Delirium, an atmospheric rock group formed with Primus frontman Les Claypool. The duo dropped their second record, South Of Reality, earlier this year.
Many of Lennon’s songs on the album read like short stories. The first single, “Blood and Rockets,” tells of Jack Parsons, a rocket scientist and engineer who helped develop the liquid fuel technology that eventually led America to the moon. Parsons was also enamored with the occult and practiced witchcraft. He died in a science experiment explosion. “Amethyst Realm” was written after Lennon watched a TV report about a woman who claimed she was having sex with ghosts.
Much like his father, Lennon’s music is decorated with references to social discourse. He feels that social media has been monopolized, and free speech is being compromised to the algorithms of artificial intelligence. Our “connections” have led to real-world disconnect, resulting in the degradation of human empathy.
“A lot of my songs tend to be based on real life surrealism,” Lennon says. “The modern world is so bizarre, it almost feels unnecessary to make things up anymore.”
It’s clear where Lennon’s extended worldview and experiential artistic style come from.
“Some people feel like, in order to forge their identity, they need to reject their parents entirely,” he says. “Some people don’t feel that way at all. In my case, I was prone towards the latter because my dad died when I was young. Him disappearing from my life amplified my desire to be a part of music. It was a way of finding some kind of solace from the void that was left by him not being around. It was the only thing that made me feel like I was still connecting to him.”
Tuesday, June 25 w/ Jim James
The Commodore Ballroom
Tix: 49.50, ticketmaster.ca