Sight and sound: interview with Lee Bannon

by Irene Lo

Producer Lee Bannon is not a one-trick pony. This Sacramento native is packed with ideas, inspired not only by trends within the music scene but also by everyday life and films. For example, he recently named “two of the killer whales from Blackfish and Beck” as part of his wish-list of collaborations.

Lee Bannon is most well-known for being the beatmaker for Joey Bada$$ and the Brooklyn-based Pro Era crew. After hearing his original work and collaborations, the most recent example being his debut album Alternate/Endings it’s obvious that he embraces and blends genres. Playing with jungle and its breakbeat rhythms, Alternate/Endings reflects the re-emergence of the genre among electronic producers such as Machinedrum and Congo Natty. Bannon thinks the musical style “might have lost some steam over the past couple years,” but still has “solid releases coming out regularly.” Taking into consideration his own contribution to New Jungle, Bannon’s sense of musical history comes through well in the album. As a “student of music,” the respect he has for the past and the artists that came before him such as Goldie is apparent when he says, “I always have and always will be learning about music to become a more complete artist.”

The way Bannon pulls from his environment to create Alternate/Endings is also what’s fascinating about his work, where field recordings and films get added into the mix. Paul Thomas Anderson’s film There Will Be Blood and Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream are notable influences on the record. Films in general is something Bannon admits to being inspired by and possibly interested in writing music for.

The track “Value 10” features a field recording Bannon has of an attempted cocaine deal, and while he doesn’t get into the details about it, his field recordings are, for the most part, random. “Usually when I’m in a crazy situation or I know something funny is about to happen, I’ll start recording. I also like recording weather-related sounds, like rain, wind, stuff like that. I do the song first and add different layers to it afterwards. So the field recordings will usually come towards the end of the process.”

With new releases coming out this year on Ninja Tune, it’ll be exciting to see how Bannon will continue to develop the different sides of himself as a producer. Whether delving deeper into smooth and jazzy hip hop beats, or delivering a fresh new take on an electronic style, Bannon is constantly changing up his repertoire and is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Photos courtesy of the artist