A conversation with Sean McCann


    We spoke with Sean McCann about bodies of water, creating an emotional environment for his listeners, making comfort music that tears at the seams, working in the blending of impressions and removing the properties of worry from his daily life.

    My creative intent is to place the listener in a different emotional environment, one that can change the way you think about simple little things in the same way a spray of perfume adjusts your senses.

    We asked Sean to describe these bodies of water using any method he’d prefer.

    Pacific Ocean

    With the first days of autumn upon us, kampachi, or amberjack, is appearing on our plates in Japan! The fish seems to have so many names in any language: amberjack, purplish amberjack, yellowtail, greater yellowtail and ruderfish in English, whereas in Japanese it is called kampachiakahana, kampa or shokko among others, not accounting for regional names! The skin has very little shrink when fried or poached. The flavor is a little oilier than that of the flesh, but not unpleasantly so. Cubes cut for stew can be left skin-on if you wish. Skinning fillets is quite easy, but for so large a fish it is best to split them along the centerline, even if your knife is long enough for the full width.

    Dead Sea

    The Dead Sea Spa Hotel is a treatment resort situated at 408 miles below sea level, the lowest spot on earth. The area is comprised of The Dead Sea Spa Hotel, the Bungalows, the Dead Sea Medical Center and the Natural Solarium. In addition to the dermatological and rheumatological treatments, the center also provides body massage, mud packs, ultrasound therapy, galvanic therapy, microwave therapy, cryotherapy and hydrotherapy. The Center has a fitness room, indoor pool and multipurpose pool for treatment of skin diseases and joint disorders. A natural solarium is located beside the clinic directly at the Dead Sea shore, separated for men amd women. The center is open seven days a week.

    Indian Ocean

    Now let’s talk sandbank dining at Baros Maldives, your chance to eat tandoori lobster and drink champagne on an actual sandbank in the actual Indian Ocean with someone you probably love. It’s now open for reservations.

    Mediterranean Sea

    Should you ever find yourself near the Mediterranean Sea — with an appetite for adventure and a curious palate — here are some tips for diving for sea urchins, and how to enjoy your freshly caught meal. With uni, there is no uniform. There are over 700 known species of sea urchin worldwide. The two most common types in the Mediterranean are Paracentrotus lividus and Arbacia lixula. Yeah, it’s all Greek to me too. While sea urchins are able to move slowly on hard surfaces, due to their rows of tiny tube feet, they attach themselves to rocks. When diving, stick to rocky coastal areas, as some can be found in less than 15 feet of water. Always bring a sharp knife to help you extract them from their resting place, but a pair of gloves and a gentle pull off the rock can usually get the job done. Apart from that, all you need is a mask, snorkel and flippers. A little secret to identifying sea urchins in the Mediterranean: The only ones that are edible will have a small piece of seaweed, a shell, or a rock attached to the top of them. They will also never be pitch black in color: look for slight shades of red, green or purple.

    Baltic Sea

    Inevitably the fish would ferment and whole villages would stink of it, but the inhabitants came to consider such fermented fish a delicacy. One type — surstromming, or sour Baltic herring —survives in Sweden. Surely this has to be one of the world’s strangest dishes and a potent expression of the saying that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Among those who like surstromming best, and its fans are many, there’s the belief that the contents of a can left for a year at a temperature of 68̊F actually improve; the can will have begun to swell, and at its puffiest must be opened gingerly, like a bottle of champagne.

    Arctic Ocean

    It’s hard to trace where the fish in that salmon roll came from, but chances are it was nowhere good — most farm-raised salmon are awash in antibiotics. An alternative is Arctic char (iwana), salmon’s northerly cousin. “It has a creamy mouthfeel and is very fatty, thick, and savory,” says Sydney Morrisson. Plus, most (though not all) Arctic char is farmed in ways that don’t release chemicals into the environment.Now you can order food online for takeout from Arctic Sushi in Anchorage, Alaska. View menu, photos, coupons, and more. It is fast, easy and free to use.

    Mariana Trench

    The research team captured on video what are thought to be Mariana snailfish together with tiny shrimp-like beach fleas, whose scientific name is gammarid amphipod. A mariana snailfish was approaching the amphipods that flocked around mackerel that had been put out as bait. Who is hungry?

    Mississippi River

    Asian carp and snakehead, other invasive fish, are moving up the Mississippi River, so people from Baltimore to Chicago are finding ways to cook them. Reviews are mixed, but they’ve done well in a blind taste test.

    Gulf of Mexico

    This place has the atmosphere of a small, family-run sushi place like you can find everywhere in Japan, but also offers the weird sushi plates that are expected in an American sushi bar. They also serve curry rice and other typical but lesser known Japanese specialties. My recommendation, thoug,h is to stick with sushi and sashimi: they are the best I have tried in Texas so far. And, equally important, they look good. Not a big variety of fish and tuna is usually not impressive. But quality is always good, and slices are cut perfectly. The GOM fish work to hard and eat to few calories. Be prepared to wait; everything is made to order, and the cook doesn’t seem to be in a rush to get rich anytime soon. If you get there right after a group of people ordering sushi, the wait will probably be unpleasant: make sure you get there early or late. But early or late, do not miss it!

    Sea of Japan

    While locally caught fish is often preferred, the Japanese have become anxious about the contamination of their food supply in the wake of the nuclear crisis in Fukushima. But Mr. Sasaki, the third generation in his family to run the 62-year-old sushi bar, said that fish caught in the Sea of Japan, on the opposite side of the country from Fukushima, was safe. We wanted to learn more, so Mr. Sasaki called Tetsuji Jin, who helps run the East Shakotan Fishing Cooperative. Mr. Jin, who had a fisherman’s ruddy complexion, welcomed us into his living room, where we talked over tea.


    Morgan Enos

    To start things off, please describe your very earliest childhood memory in as much detail as possible. Where were you, what was happening, and does this account have any significance for you now?

    Sean McCann

    My first memory is of skidding down a metal slide, holding the lipped rim at the bottom of the slide. There was sand embedded to the entire slide, but it pooled at the bottom where it flattened out. It was cold as it was metal. It was at a park called Stow Park in Goleta, California, where I was born. I would later go to a treasure hunt there in 6th grade for a girl’s birthday party and play capture the flag in the ferns and redwood trees with my summer camp. An older boy told me about a woman getting naked in Starship Troopers, the film, and I became aroused. I was 9 years old. Later in high school, a girl hung herself from a branch there near the soccer field. There are often vultures that seasonally live in the tops of the eucalyptus trees there.


    My first encounter with your music was listening to your album Fountains on tour with two friends, driving on the 5 from San Francisco to Los Angeles. That desolate stretch of highway already puts me in a highly emotional, suggestible mind-state, and it compounded the effect of the beautiful, meditative music. I guess my question is about your creative intent — what do you hope to convey to your listeners about yourself in your work?

    My creative intent is to place the listener in a different emotional environment, one that can alter the little perceptions and change the way you think about simple little things in the same way a spray of perfume adjusts your senses. Those moments are what I enjoy most about music.

    Situational music, for example. This morning, I got to my office and listened to Billie Holiday recordings with Lester Young from the late ’30s; this is my coffee-drinking music. I’ve been doing it for over a decade, and it is a thread that is pushed through the years, tying and reminding me of my place. I remember being in college in Santa Barbara, getting coffee from a loud old coin machine dripping into a paper cup with a poker card on the bottom of the paper cup. The college sat on bluffs right above the ocean. I used to park my car there and enjoy walking at any hour.

    With romantic music, like I try to make, I often think of a classic piece like The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryars or Dans le Sable by Loren Rush. Pieces like those are so immersive, spreads out like gas from ear to ear. I want to make comfort music that tears at the seams a bit. I also like music where you can enjoy it on a very superficial level yet can be swam in very deep if you want to investigate and pour more of yourself into it.

    I think of pieces like Robert Ashley’s rendering of In Sara, Mencken, Christ And Beethoven There Were Men And Women by John Barton. Wolgamot-Ashley wrote that the science behind Wolgamot’s text could be studied for years, as it is so complexly thatched and self referencial, but with Paul’s electronics and Ashley’s alluring voice, it is so superficially pleasing at first listen. This is perhaps what I find so interesting about sound poetry — the door is left open to bring your own meaning.


    Was there a flashpoint moment in your childhood where you understood that this was what you wanted to do, in this form of emotional, abstract music? Please describe this moment or series of moments.

    I used to record albums all the time since I was in the 7th grade. I used to make FruityLoops songs, perform Black Sabbath covers note for note on the piano roll, etc., then I slowly started making my own albums of shitty young singing and drums and guitar and too many FX pedals. I have maybe 15 albums of these, one copy each with handmade art, so it was something I always did.

    Once I found an online community of people who seemed to be interested, I felt validated and was thrilled to make more than one copy of an album and finally share my expression with others. I also believe making music was a great emotional outlet for me, otherwise I would have melted down.


    Please describe your method of composition in the most technically detailed way possible, regardless of if you’re discussing this with a layperson. Do you come from a more intuitive space or a schooled sense of music theory? Would you recommend this approach for other musicians in your field?

    I have been composing pieces for chamber ensembles/soloists more frequently lately. I have a piece, Violet Fat, which I wrote for solo vibraphone and their microphoned mouth. Two scores, one for the left hand and one for the right hand each, is very simple, and uses paint and traditional notation. I am currently writing the largest piece I have written for my upcoming performance in Stockholm at the Third Edition festival, which is for a 9-person ensemble. I tend to write a large number of phrases for each instrument and have them be revolved through and shot out with the flavor of the player, I like the idea of each piece being different with every performance; the mood would still be there — the wallpaper of the piece — but the furniture would be arranged differently. So I give optional notes or embellishments to each player. My sister is a great pianist and music theorist and my girlfriend is a great player and student of music, so I catch some sparks from them, but for the most part, I am self-taught in a basic sense of composition. I have a book, How to Read and Write Music.


    What do you think of the idea of compartmentalization – in thoughts, actions or relationships? In your daily mental processes, are you easily able to put all these in their proper boundaries, or do ideas tend to bleed into other ideas for you? Regardless of your answer, how does it affect what you create?

    My thoughts and feelings tend to drift and bleed on a good day. I think that’s what we should strive for, as appreciators of art and abstract art. I think a blending of impressions is the strongest way to feel art. The older I get, the more I want to live my life in art, and in taking the bricks of worry down slowly, I find pleasure from the notion of being honest and not compartmentalizing.

    For example, if I’m walking to a client in Los Angeles (I go to a lot of movie studios for my day job, so I’ll be walking in a lot of odd settings) thinking about a line in a poem I just read, and it really speaks to me — for example, one in my mind now is something about a white rose in a chimney. Those moments shouldn’t be brushed off, as those are sometimes the most peaceful and inspiring.

    I would dance with my fingers from foam platform to foam platform. They looked like clouds and I was very enamored by that. I still think of those peaceful afternoons in the water under the sun.


    As a child, did you ever imagine your own sanctuary, city or province that you could hide in from the world? Regardless of this, did you have anything you escaped to at a young age, or were you pretty well-adjusted in the world?

    I started playing the drums in third grade; that was my outlet for many years. My social circle was mostly composed of people I was in bands with. It was great for me at the time, as I was too recoiled to meet people in any authentic way aside from music. I was very shy and weird until I got a day job and had to rise to the occasion of being social and function normally. You are talking about imagining my own city: when I was young, I was floating in my family’s hot tub, and the jets would create many pods of bubbles on the surface of the water, and I would dance with my fingers from foam platform to foam platform. They looked like clouds and I was very enamored by that. I still think of those peaceful afternoons in the water under the sun.


    Can you tell me about all the ins, outs and intentions of your label, Recital Program? It seems like you offer a variety of functions – mastering, visual work – beyond what’s usually offered by a record label.

    Yes, I like to control everything as it is very fun for me. I never understood farming out all the aspects of a publishing company. Sure, there are differences that I am not taking into account, but I like the idea of a record label being a curated aesthetic in every form, visually, aurally, etc. God knows there are enough labels in the world, but I think of the label as an extension of my own art. It’s all globbed together.


    When I think of the daily coarseness and transgression in the American political system these days, I wonder how it chips away at the finer aspects of our culture, if authors and musicians and poets feel discouraged by the leader of the free world not even reading books. Am I painting with too broad of a brush? What are your thoughts on this?

    I feel inadequate to comment as I am not informed well enough, but I can say that people make art in all levels of duress. If anything, the stakes are being raised. People will carry on with their art and hopefully sharpen their brushes.

    Thank you.


    Conversation: 137
    Curated by: Morgan Enos
    Conducted by: Email
    Published: February 22, 2018
    Total questions: 10 + 8
    Word count: 2690
    Reading time: Ten minutes
    Imagery: 1


    Environment: Variable
    Composition: Foundation
    Discouragement: Null
    Adjustment: Spray
    Difference: Null


    About the subject

    Sean McCann is a Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist and composer. He runs the record label Recital where he publishes LPs, books and other eclectic forms of media.

    About the curator

    Morgan Enos is a songwriter and journalist originally from California. His curatorial work for North of the Internet aims to strike a deeper place in his conversation subjects — the dreamy subtext to the linear everyday. Morgan also frequently writes power pop records as Other Houses about joy, outer space, frustration, chess and spiritual light. He resides in New York, where he continues to creatively fire on all cylinders.

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