Lucas Lee Discusses His Topical New Album, Working with Marco Minnemann

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Lucas Lee stopped by for a Something Else! Sitdown with Preston Frazier to discuss his new album Acceptance of Gravitational Collapsing Manifestations, working with the do-anything drummer Marco Minnemann and other key elements of the project.

Learn more about Lucas Lee’s catalog, or write to him, through his website at LucasLeeMusic.com. He is also on Twitter: @LucasLeeMusic. The physical album is available via CDBaby, as well as online retailers. Lee hasn’t yet decided on placing Acceptance of Gravitational Collapsing Manifestations on streaming services.

PRESTON FRAZIER: The just-released Acceptance of Gravitational Collapsing Manifestations seems to be very topical. How did the concept evolve for the album?
LUCAS LEE: The concept was really an accumulation of my emotional frustrations in the last year or two, over what seemed to be an uprise in the number of social issues around the world. There were a series of reported police-related racial violence that resulted in deaths and the murderous officers were walking away freely, without ever being charged a crime. There were politicians at all levels throughout the entire political spectrum that would get away for corruption and obstructions of justice. Various so-called “technology” companies were moving towards business models that were entirely based on mining and sharing private user’s data without consent – while there were, perhaps purposefully, no laws or regulations that would keep them under control. Families were being broken apart with controversial immigration policies, and freedom of press was constantly being threatened by ones in power. Booksellers in a particular country in the Far East selling titles that were critical of the government were disappearing via abduction. Instead of heading towards progress, many were eager to see its destruction. There were ones that would fight, and there were also ones that choose to settle or embrace. That’s really what the record’s concept is about.

PRESTON FRAZIER: The production is pristine, and the songwriting is very focused. Instrumentally, as with your previous albums, the playing is also stunning. This project seems to have a lot more violin playing than your previous release, Business Brunch Specials: Uranium Omelet. Was expanding the sonic scope on this album a conscious choice?
LUCAS LEE: Thanks for the compliments. That’s, indeed, very kind of you to say, as I worked quite hard on it. Regarding the violins, I actually had played some too previously on the Normalcy Bias record, which featured Pat Mastelotto on drums, but those were mainly to add ensemble background textures in the production. For this new record, it was my first time playing a solo violin as the feature. I had been noticing violin performances in some older classic prog albums and thought that it might be an interesting thing to try. It’s generally atypical for that to be featured on an opening track of a rock record, which was another reason I wanted to do it. The violin was my third instrument growing up, and became my main instrument at one point, but it took a little while for me to get back into somewhat of a playing-shape after being out of practice for so many years. I also multi-tracked violin parts to emulate ensemble textures in other songs on this record, and that was mostly because there were elements in the sound that couldn’t really be reproduced in software virtual instruments.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Drummer Marco Minnemann of the Aristocrats takes a turn at the drum stool for this release. How did he become involved?
LUCAS LEE: I initially got in touch with Bryan Beller, bass player of the Aristocrats around April or May 2017, when I completed my demos and felt that it was time to look for a drummer. I figured that he and Marco would be off the Joe Satriani and the Aristocrats tours. Bryan kind of knew me as one of many random passionate fans over the years. I nervously asked Bryan if there was a way for me to get in touch with Marco. Bryan was kind enough to give me his contact info, and that was how things got started.

Marco’s based here in Southern California, and he recorded his drum parts all himself from his home studio. The guide tracks I sent him had most of the other non-drum instruments’ parts already in place, so he was able to play off them. Even though I had some idea of what I was going for in my demo drum parts and communicated that to him, I mostly just asked him to play whatever he felt was right. Marco’s probably got a couple hundred of records under his belt at this point, on his own and from his work with other artists. It would only be foolish of me to dictate and overly focus on minute details from him.

All the things we have heard about Marco in various interviews in the past are true. He’s extremely quick in internalizing what to play, recording, arranging and editing his parts. He was packed with positive energy, and a huge joy to work with. On a record where the songs were mostly dark, the experience of putting it all together was actually really fun and exciting. The passion and sincerity in his playing was evident. Marco recorded his drum tracks incredibly well, too. What I did from a producer-mixer’s perspective was just enhancing what he had already recorded and making things sound even bigger and more powerful than they already were. This was all done using just standard studio processes: checking phase, applying compression and applying equalization.

PRESTON FRAZIER: Tell us about the process of writing the album. How long did the songs take?
LUCAS LEE: There were guitar parts that were written with a keyboard, and keyboard/piano parts were mostly written directly from the piano, but I would say perhaps 90 to 95 percent of the entire album was formally transcribed in staff notation as demos in the computer. The philosophy was more towards getting the songs to where I wanted them to be and figuring out the details of the playing later. I was putting a little more emphasis on the songwriting aspect on this record, and there was a little bit more focus on the details of harmonization, arrangement and melody writing that in my previous projects. There were certainly experimental sections, but I wrote the songs in a way that were still accessible to the listener.

As for how long the songs took to write, it depends. For something such as “Preach to Deaf Ears Part 1,” which was the shorter solo Baroque organ piece, it took an evening to write and another evening to record. That was because there were certain compositional rules in that style that just needed to be applied, and it was more about following those rules after having a melody set up. For “Part 2,” it probably took all my weekends over course of a month or so to write the complete demo. That particular track was ambitious and dense, where I was going for a little more experimental in some of the harmonization. There were a lot of notes and plenty of time signature changes in that piece, so naturally it took a little longer to write and make quality-control adjustments. The writing for all the songs took about a combined six to seven months, and the album took maybe a year or so to make.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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