I recently had the chance to talk to Lee Christian, an eclectic UK based musician with whom I share a lot of tastes and thoughts. He kindly accepted to answer to a few questions.
Feel free to enjoy his music as you read the interview.
Hi Lee, can you briefly introduce yourself?
No! hahaha! anyone who has met me will tell u I struggle to do anything briefly! I’m a music dude basically! I’ve had many roles in the industry but the reason I do it is to write, sing, play, produce and all that jazz! it only scratches the surface, but that’s as brief as I can make it really! 🙂
Ok, we’ll take our time try to figure out who you are. How and when did you come into the music industry?
I wanted to be a musician when I was a kid, but I was suffering from a cross between denial and being scared it was only for virtuosos like prince etc.
in my teens I discovered Nirvana and the youth club band scene – this taught me songs were chords and melodies and anyone could have a stab at it. I bought a 4track recorder and started recording bands locally for money plus formed my own band, made demos in studios and started gigging in the oxford area shopping them to labels. I guess that was the first wave of taking it seriously. then when that band ended I went to Manchester to learn about hip hop, electronica, drum and bass and such. while in college I put together demos for my next project but only when I went back to oxford did I form a new band (ironically, everyone had started incorporating those sounds by the time I got back so I went with the idea of a straight ahead live rock band (to tap into the youthful grunge energy that inspired me, to go against the grain and to avoid equipment breaking down or going out of time etc. – the last of which did not really happen in spite of this choice!) thus Smilex was born. I bought another 16/18 track digital work studio and started recording bands and making a local radio show plus writing for various mags. that is when things kicked off in earnest which was I guess around the millennium. been doing a million different jobs paid well, badly and unpaid ever since! 🙂
So at first you’re recording engineer. I know you sing; do you play instruments?
Well, no. At first I was a singer and demo maker but to pay for the gear I would record bands so each time I entered a scene or upgraded gear I made music more socially or, for want of a better word, professionally. I play guitar, bass, keys and percussion plus via machines can program drums or sample other instruments, but I don’t consider myself a musician because my knowledge of theory is very limited – I just grow in my own way at my own pace really, which is what u hear in my records.
I see, a self-made man. So what are you doing today? I think you’ve just released a new single?
well, I guess I am self-made since no-one in my family was previously in music or even did it for fun. however, what I made myself into is another discussion! 🙂
well, I recently released an album called ‘the joker, the unlucky 13 & the one that got away’ but I am only making it available for limited amounts of time. basically the album is free but I don’t want people to devalue the music (as much as that happens naturally these days with people being so spoilt for art and culture, they tend to take it for granted) so decided if I only released the record at certain times for limited times, I don’t have to feel like people don’t appreciate me giving years of my life away for free and it gives it a sense of importance, urgency or something that gives it some importance. or perhaps i am cutting off my virtual nose to spite my virtual face? 🙂
so it’s actually available now for a short time again and will be offline again soon. then it will be a case of making it available probably when the next video/single from it is released. also, the lead track & video ‘the joker’ is available free right now…
today I am actually working on my next collection of songs. it’s shaping up nicely so that’s really exciting! I’m working on visual stuff with Grace Williams who made my and promo vids from the 3 solo albums. also, if i may digress, the latest Smilex live film Out Of The Box which is great and out now! we had quite a few angles and a desk mix. of an hour gig from a headline set where we spent lots of time and money on set design and pyrotechnics, before grace worked her magic on it, so it really should knock people for six even if they have seen our live stuff online before! As for the new album and video project for my solo stuff, well i can’t reveal too much yet! 🙂
This sounds great. Tell us more about your album. Where does the title come from?
u mean ‘the joker, the unlucky 13 and the one that got away…’?
the title was kicking about for ages (about 13 years) and always meant for more or less that group of songs – it has a few meanings, some of which I don’t want to reveal because it is a very personal record. one was to give the imagery of a ‘dirty dozen’ or ‘wild bunch’ led by the joker (reprobates and villains) much like this suicide squad idea, which I had never heard of until recently. the lyrics are all very dark fractured characters, from the same host but seem like mugshots in a police book. I also liked the idea that it is a collection of songs that were made during a certain time but kind of got lost in time – one even getting separated from the album in the case of World In My Eyes, which I could not include as it was a Depeche Mode cover and not within my budget to buy the rights to! (If you want to hear the full album with it included, visit my mixcloud) anyone who knows me knows I have always been really into the joker character! Batman is my favourite film ever (the first Tim Burton one) and I named my band Smilex, after the chemical he uses to kill people with smiles on their faces!
my other album this year was called ‘intimate details of deals done with the devil’ so I am proving to be really bad at choosing short, unpretentious titles! which makes it pretty hard to sell to a A.D.D. modern social media hashtag audience easily. 🙂
I like long titles, it’s inspiring and quite personal (not to mention that my upcoming ep is called “the Ray”…). The way you release your music is unusual but many things have changed in the music distribution landscape. Are you happy with that?
I think the way I release music is all as a result of the industry changing. I started when the structures were the indie route or the lottery of the majors and not much else really. for a long while with Smilex and some other projects, things would be scheduled to try to maximise results. rock bands mainly sell from merch stalls at gigs and if the press, tour, video, record and such are all in synch, they can all feed each other. i guess people do it the same now, it’s just that it seems a lot of the time there is an ‘industry standard’ that tells one to do it a certain way only (ignoring that bands like the beatles, led zeppelin, new order and more got good results by not doing things normally in following the industry in release terms) to get the same result in many cases, except with more money spent on it. i now try a mix between some scheduled stuff and some surprise stuff and everything in between, just to see what gets folks interested. it’s hard getting and keeping people’s attention nowadays with little or no mainstream endorsement. so now if i desperately want to put out something in a hurry, I can do that and see the track get possibly a different reaction to the standard release schedules or if I have the chance I can do an organised campaign and see how it pans out. am I happy with it? not really… people don’t really value music anymore so it feels harder and harder to gain any traction in a sea of online music when the mainstream audience needs to feel a pre-existing attachment to songs. I also think that there are too many tasks to keep up with efficiently if u are doing all or lots of it yourself, with too few returns to do it effectively while learning it all by the seat of one’s pants. so you end up doing many different roles not usually done by you – not because you are a multi-skilled renaissance man but because you are poor! am I happy with it? no! do I have much choice? not really! hahaha! 🙂
What’s your favourite platform? You’re on Bandcamp, but I think you use SoundCloud too? Have you tried to be on iTunes or Spotify?
Hmmm, tricky one… I used to love SoundCloud til it started clamping down on covers and remixes etc. since being part-bought by a major. they say it’s to be fair, but I reckon that is just spin to give corporations more dosh! after all, only a small amount of artists have a good record/publishing deal and all music started from covers or adaptation/reappropriation of other people’s ideas anyway so there’s some hypocrisy. it’s also one of the main ways of drawing people to your site these days so it’s an instant disadvantage to infamous artists. no matter how good a song u write is, people have to hear it to recognise that fact before anything else can happen, sometimes that can be as little as leaving the player running after said famous cover.
I like Mixcloud, but it’s not very popular yet. I like Bandcamp in general, but they take a big chunk from tiny amounts of income for actually doing very little. I-tunes take a big chunk so I have only just recently starting putting my solo stuff on there as my fanbase grows, but Smilex and the prohibition smokers club were both available there for a while and not made anyone a millionaire! same with Spotify, the new trend for streaming is worrying – people expecting the world’s music collection for a tiny fee a month are too entitled and have no idea what it takes to make. that goes for everyone who expects new content for their entertainment every week but never pay for it. it’s not an environment that promotes further creativity, which always has costs involved. I guess I have to ‘represent’ so i am on it as i want folks to hear the music first and foremost, but streaming is shit for pay basically. it’s fractions of fractions. there really is not money in music the way it is being done now and the few decent folks who realise the value of buying something in a hard copy format are thinning to no-one. meanwhile, hilariously, we have a culture of people spending hundreds on headphones (sometime even the specs are shit like beats for example!) to listen to cruddy mp3’s – why not buy a crystal antique glass for your home brand lager?! 🙂
Ideally, I would do everything through my own website but getting the traffic there is a whole other paragraph. I use it all depending on their strengths and am always looking for other viable options for hosting music, video and such! I have to be really!
I hope it will make readers want to discover your work and listen to your music. Where can they find you?
Well, it would be nice if they checked it out at least – it is pretty diverse so not liking some of it is no guarantee of disliking other bits (though I daresay the opposite is true too – though I would hope an ethic ties it all together).
I guess the best place usually is www.leechristian.quickfixrecordings.com but it is down for now for a remodel before the next album (the site usually ties it all together between the solo stuff, various bands, the remixes, short films, production services and more that I offer!) So, in the meantime, my twitter @leechristian69 and my FB is www.facebook.com/LeeChristianMusic – I tend to keep things up to date and of course if anyone is mental enough to pay for music my Bandcamp is best bet (it has a few free songs on it too if u are willing to have a look around!). 🙂