A short chat with Lavern Lee
"I thought he was going to be the first episode with the amount of love you guys heap on him". Of course, in this modern age, that comment is read in a sneering tone. But he/she was right on the money. We have buckets of love for Guerre, and have been (kinda) obsessed with everything he'd done (musically) since the very beginning.
There's an undoubtable sincerity to Lavern Lee's music. Guerre relies heavily on this level of personal investment and without it, the music would sound hollow and void of the required passion. But it's a similar level of intimacy that exists in Lee's other work — his minimal techno moniker, Cassius Select, and his R'n'B boy group, Black Vanilla. Here's a guy that cares, stands behind everything he produces with a sense of personal ownership.
Keen to find out a bit more about where and how he separates the different personalities of his different projects, I recently sat down with Lee inside a Facebook Chat window (snug as) for a quick chat.
Ok, so from the beginning. How did the whole Cassius Select project come about?
I guess it stemmed mostly from playing live regularly. There was a pull to become more engaging in a club and the only way to do that I guess is to lean towards more rhythm based music, not that I wasn't making rhythmic music before but with Cassius that's the only driving force. To derive emotional energy out of sub frequencies and drums. And also the people I was surrounding myself withWe were all getting heavier, not sonically but maybe ideologically.
There's definitely a barebones, primitive nature to it. Almost tribal...
Yeah, and not in a historical sense, but maybe in a physiological sense.
I've noticed elements of Cassius Select creeping into your work under the Guerre title as well. Most notably, the intro for the new track Deatheat. Are you focused on keeping that distinction between the two projects?
Yeah, I'm trying to be more conscious of it. At first the distinction was that Cassius didn't have any of my own vocals. But it does seem like the Cassius project is spilling into Guerre but there are still definitely more less rhythm-based vibes that I want to explore with Guerre. Maybe they're parallel on their pursuits.
But you don't see one entity engulfing the other; or the two projects merging in the future?
Hmm, at the moment I don't feel they should. But you never know with these things. But I mean I guess it already is, in that it is me behind it, just flexing different muscles.
Fair enough. I like the distinction, similar to how guitar blokes often have a few different bands, which all have obvious crossover points.
Amidst all this, where does Black Vanilla fit in? From an external perspective, it's always felt temporary. By that I mean, it was a release. A bit of fun, or a light-hearted step away from the pressures of the associated acts — Guerre, Collarbones etc. But it's gained momentum, at least the live performance side of it...
Yeah, that's definitely how it started and for me personally there's still an element of that. The difference in writing with other people is what attracts me to the whole thing. There's a level of compromise or giving up that I really like. The empathy that has to happen in order for things to work.
A whole ago we all felt that there was a really problematic thing doing Black Vanilla because of it's obvious and sometimes brash appropriation of black and gay dance cultures.
Yes. A potential problematic and unindented repercussion. I think in a live setting there's always been an obvious sincerity. But there's a risk this could be lost in outside of the live performance and viewed simply as some form of ironic homage.
Exactly. We are definitely a live act before anything else. The recorded aspect is something to appease the audience. We kinda all agreed to the fact that maybe we had more in common with certain DIY and hardcore or punk aesthetics.
Are there any other collaborative projects currently in the works? The upcoming release with Sherm is a normal split LP right, not a collaborative effort?
Yeah, just a split. Oscar and I made a little tune a whole back which were gonna release. So that'll be fun.
With Friday's show — Siberian Nights at Vivid — give us an idea what the Cassius Select show is like. Peddles and mood boards and clapping sticks?
I'd like it to feel liberating and not alienating at least in terms of people dancing. It's just me on my machine and some vocal loopy noises interluding throughout. The rhythms are unorthodox but I trust people to feel it and understand.
And you're dancing?
Yeah, kinda. The dancing is a big part of it. We've got some special dancers who will be dancing during a segment of the show.
Ah, right. "Sydney". First three rows empty etc...
Yeah, you need to 'show' people how to move. So, it'll be instructional, led by Marcus Whale.
Editors note: probably something like this:
Final thing, I think a while ago you asked me about a JJJJ hat I had and I gave some lazy half-response. Sorry. It was just a bit embarrassing to be wearing a hat of a blog. So, yeah, it's just a blog — http://jjjjound.com
Haha. Yes, amazing.
You can catch Lee in both Cassius Select and Black Vanilla formats this Friday at Siberian Nights, as part of Vivid Live. Also performing will be Midnight Juggernauts, Andy Stott, Forces, DCM and Four Door. Tickets are $35.