Sean Ono Lennon On Remixing Father's Music: It Was Therapy

This image released by Yoko Ono Lennon and UMe shows a display of the deluxe edition of

This image released by Yoko Ono Lennon and UMe shows a display of the deluxe edition of "Gimme Some Truth" by John Lennon. The album will be released Friday, on what would have been John Lennons 80th birthday, (Yoko Ono Lennon and UMe via AP)

Sean Ono Lennons first experience reworking his fathers catalog was terrifying and intimidating, but he had two main goals in mind to keep him on track: Preserve his fathers message in the songs and help the late icons music reach a younger audience.

NEW YORK: Sean Ono Lennons first experience re-working his fathers catalog was terrifying and intimidating, but he had two main goals in mind to keep him on track: Preserve his fathers message in the songs and help the late icons music reach a younger audience.

On Friday, which would have been John Lennons 80th birthday, GIMME SOME TRUTH. THE ULTIMATE MIXES will be released and includes 36 tracks hand-picked by Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon, who serve as executive producer and producer on the project. The duo worked closely with engineer and mixer Paul Hicks to maintain the essence of the songs, which were completely remixed.

Ono Lennon, 44, came out stronger at the end of the at-times heavy process.

I knew that it was going to be kind of introspective for me, obviously. I was scared going into it to be honest. I had a fear of messing everything up or not being helpful or it being too emotionally difficult to just listen to my dads voice over and over again, Ono Lennon said. Especially Double Fantasy, it triggers a whole period of my childhood that was tough because thats when he died. I had a lot of resistance working on that record actually.

Ultimately it was very healing. It was like therapy. It was very therapeutic in the end. Im very glad that I got to do it. I would not have revisited those songs on Double Fantasy without having this project. It turned out to be kind of a cathartic thing.

GIMME SOME TRUTH. THE ULTIMATE MIXES includes Lennons post-Beatles songs, from Imagine to Woman to Whatever Gets You Thru the Night, and it will be released digitally, on CD and on vinyl.

For me, the real motivation is this music cant be forgotten. Especially Gimme Some Truth, for example, which is the track we chose to lead with. Ive never felt like my dads music was more needed in terms of message than literally this week, like right now, Ono Lennon said of the protest song.

I think a lot of people who are cynical assume that, Oh everyone knows those songs. No, they dont. There are a lot of kids who dont know the difference between Ringo and Paul. Theres a lot of kids who dont know the difference between Mick Jagger and my dad.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Ono Lennon talked about the relevance of Gimme Some Truth, working on his dads music and finding his voice in the process.


AP: What was it like to work on this project?

Ono Lennon: It was really deep and heavy and beautiful. Id never listened to the original, multi-track tapes before. Just getting to hear my dads voice or even mute the vocals, just hearing what the instruments are doing was amazing for me. It was really fun. It was a little daunting, I guess. Im still nervous because when youre messing with music thats so loved and so classic and immortal, theres kind of a pressure there.


AP: Its almost scary how Gimme Some Truth resonates today. Is that why the collection is named Gimme Some Truth?

Ono Lennon: There was no choice for us in this moment. I think Gimme Some Truth means something now. We wanted to lead with that. I think its a message everyone can connect with. Every good person from whatever town youre in. If youre a good person, what you want now more than anything is a little reality. It just seems like were living in an alternate dimension of bulls—. I think everyone feels that way. I think its a very important message.


AP: What was it like working with your mother on this project?

Ono Lennon: I was in the studio when I was young, so I learned things like how compression works, how delay works, how reverb works, how to EQ vocals all from her. I actually know very much what her philosophy is. Her main priority with all mixing is to make sure that the voice is clear.

She said my dad famously didnt love his vocals. He would turn it down a lot. When she was producing Imagine, the album, he would go to the bathroom and she would turn it back up and he would come back and turn it down. … She really believes that baring the vocal is the worst thing you can do. She really wants people to hear the lyrics and she thinks that the music has to serve the vocal.

When it comes to mixing my dads stuff, thats her priority. I think shes right.


AP: This is your first time working on your dads music what made you want to take this on?

Ono Lennon: Im just trying to help. Thats all it is. My moms the boss and if I can help in any way, Im here.


AP: All moms are the boss.

Ono Lennon: She may trust me a little more now having made several albums together and weve toured the world together. I was her music director for years. I think it may have taken some time, but I think she feels comfortable with me in that way now.


AP: Your dad wrote Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) about you what was it like re-working that song?

Ono Lennon: Honestly, it was my least favorite experience. Its just kind of awkward. That song makes me feel like Im infantilized or something. People always play that song and look at me with a smile like, Isnt that sweet? Im like, Oh God, Im an old man. Im not some smiling baby in a baby food commercial. To be honest, that song is touching to me, but as a musician and a songwriter and a producer, its sort of my least favorite song musically, because its so saccharine. Its great. I love it. Maybe its impossible for me to be objective about it.

Beautiful Boy is a very sort of family-friendly sound. Its not my aesthetic. Having said that, it was a privilege to help work on a mix of a song that was about me and is very touching. And yes, I was very touched by hearing my dad say my name. Hes like goodnight Sean at the end. That always reminded me of him putting me to bed. He had a sort of ritual, the way he put me to bed. He would flick the lights sort of in rhythm with his voice, so it felt like his voice was controlling the lights. Then theyd go out. I have memories, so it was nice.


AP: Has working on your dads songs inspired your own music?

Ono Lennon: Its interesting because, first of all, the easiest songs to cover for me are my dads, vocally especially. Whenever I try to sing one of his songs, I feel like I can sing them great. I do share a lot of the same chords. My voice isnt as tough as his, but its easier to sing his songs than anyone elses. It does teach me something about how to sing great.

I think Ive had a lifelong struggle with finding my own voice. Ive had a lifelong struggle with finding my own voice because every time I would try to sing great, I would sound more and more like my dad. Actually, I hate my first few records because I was always trying to not sing like my dad, and it actually took a lot of effort. I wound up singing in this very kind of whispery, whiny way that I dont like. That was actually kind of unnatural to me.

Listening to this record … all of his records, the compilation we put together, has helped me realize that I just need to stop trying to avoid singing in a way that I just sound better. I think its going to help me with the vocals for the album that Im working on now. To just not hold back. To just sort of sing. I have this fear that when I push my voice, I sound too much like him, but whats the point of singing if Im not going to sound good?

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