LEE BANNON IN NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 2014. STYLING: STELLA GREENSPAN. SWEATSHIRT: (COURTESY OF MELET MERCHANTILE): CHAMPION. JEANS: J BRAND. SHOES: VANS. GROOMING PRODUCTS: DIOR, INCLUDING DIOR HOMME DERMO SYSTEM SKINCARE RANGE. GROOMING: JOHN McKAY FOR DIORSKIN/DEFACTO INC.
It’s surprising to learn that a music producer as adept at genre-jumping as Lee Bannon didn’t excel in band class as a kid growing up in Sacramento, California. “I was playing one snare drum, and it was the most boring class I’d ever been in,” he recalls. “How many ways can you play one snare drum?” By the time Bannon was 13, however, he had discovered the drum machine and quickly developed into a precocious beatmaker.
In November, Bannon released Main/Flex, an EP that continues his exploration of ’90s-era drum ‘n’ bass that began on 2013’s Alternate Endings LP. Both releases are a big step away from the boom-bap-style tracks (also influenced by a ’90s genre) that first gained him notice as a producer in Joey Bada$’s Pro Era hip-hop collective. These experimental reaches, says the 27-year-old Bannon, are all part of his musical evolution. “It’s kind of like Brian Eno: He was in a band called Roxy Music and did something pop-y before doing ambient drone and post-rock,” Bannon explains while eating burnt toast in the kitchen of his Williamsburg apartment, where he has lived for the last two years. “Joey was my Roxy Music. That opened a lot of doors for people to pay attention. I had to do something pop before I could do my artsier stuff.”
Bannon’s next release, Ana, due out this spring via Ninja Tune, will be a step in yet another direction. “It’s pretty much blues or post-rock, like Talk Talk,” he says. “A lot of my newer stuff doesn’t even have a syncopated rhythm or a melody.” It’s a project he’s been working on seriously for six months and will feature him playing the guitar. “I think I lost a lot of social skills from being so reclusive and working on this project,” he jokes. “It’s hard to have regular conversations now because my head is just in such a different space.”
Reflecting his eclectic approach to making music, his references in conversation ricochet from the punk act Trash Talk (they’ve toured together) to the industrial duo Coil to Marilyn Manson (his favorite Manson album is Antichrist Superstar) to the Beach Boys, and on. “I look at it like art; I’m not looking at it like I’m a musician,” he says. “Music is just a medium; you can make macaroni-noodle art if you want.”
LEE BANNON’S NATIONAL TOUR WITH TRASH TALK AND RATKING BEGINS FEBRUARY 13 IN SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA.