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About Shawn Lee
A composer of film, TV, and game music, indie soul songs, and funk-fueled electronica, producer/multi-instrumentalist Shawn Lee embarked on his eclectic career in music in the late '80s, completing his first solo LP in 1996, though it never received an official release. In the 2000s, he found homes for his solo material on labels such as Ubiquity and Wall of Sound, and formed Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra. He also released albums with Clutchy Hopkins, and began taking work composing scores, including for the video game Bully (2006). The Ping Pong Orchestra continued into the 2010s as Lee formed psychedelic soul group the Electric Peanut Butter Company with Adrian Quesada and the indie electronic duo AM & Shawn Lee. Meanwhile, highlights of his periodic score work included the documentaries Elevate (2011) and Let It Soul (2018).
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Lee relocated twice in pursuit of his music career, first to Los Angeles, California, where he polished his skills and worked with Jeff Buckley, and then, in 1995, to London, England. After his would-be debut album, Discomfort, was only released as a promo in France the following year, he eventually partnered with the Wall of Sound label to issue a series of singles and his official debut album, 2000's Monkey Boy, a set of off-kilter funk and soul. Ubiquity Records released a series of instrumental breakbeat collections by Lee called Ape Breaks beginning in 2002, with Ape Breaks, Vol. 5 arriving before the end of 2003. The label also put out Music and Rhythm, his first of many albums as Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra. The orchestra followed up with Moods and Grooves in 2005 and Strings and Things in 2006. Some of the music was created to be used in film and television soundtracks, including Desperate Housewives and Malcolm in the Middle. Also in 2006, the 2004 Japanese solo release Soul Visa was issued in the U.S. via BBE. A year later, Voices and Choices, which included a track from Ubiquity labelmate Nino Moschella, saw release and was followed by A Very Ping Pong Christmas: Funky Treats, the musician's take on seasonal favorites. The year 2008 brought the musically globetrotting Miles of Styles, along with Clutch of the Tiger, his collaboration with producer Clutchy Hopkins. A second Hopkins collaboration, Fascinating Fingers, arrived in 2009 shortly before Soul in the Hole. The latter was a collaboration between Lee and a number of vocalists, including Darondo, Nicole Willis, Paul Butler, Karime Kendra, and Orgone's Fanny Franklin.
Lee kicked off early 2011 with the album World of Funk with the Ping Pong Orchestra. As implied by its title, Lee (with his beats, multiple instruments, and samples) took on the music of the world, playing everything from sitar to ektar, balaphone, steel drum, and udu, just to name a few. In addition, he enlisted help from Brazilian vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Curumin, NOMO's Elliot Bergman, and British/Egyptian singer Natacha Atlas, among others. In 2011, Lee also collaborated with singer/songwriter AM for the album Celestial Electric.
Tabla Rock, his own exotic song-for-song remake of the Incredible Bongo Band's Bongo Rock album, arrived in early 2012 on Ubiquity. Reel to Reel by his Ping Pong Orchestra came out in mid-July of the same year, followed by Synthesizers in Space just a few weeks later. Not slowing down his prolific release schedule, in 2013 Lee once again paired with AM for the album La Musique Numerique, and his project with Adrian Quesada, the Electric Peanut Butter Company, issued Trans-Atlantic Psych Classics, Vol. 2. A year later, he contributed to the KPM library album project KPM: New York Trouble/Electric Progression. Golden Age Against the Machine, a tribute to rap music of the early '80s through the mid-'90s, followed in 2014. The remix album Skeewiff vs. Shawn Lee saw release in 2015, as did AM & Shawn Lee's third LP together, Outlines, and -- confusingly -- Vol. 1 of the Electric Peanut Butter Company series. The Ping Pong Orchestra returned with Techstar in 2017. Still working from time to time on music for TV, film shorts, and games, he wrote the score for the documentary feature Let It Soul, which premiered in 2018. ~ Marcy Donelson & Thom Jurek
- Wichita, KS
- Dec 28, 1963
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