You’re from Sacramento. What’s it like there?
It’s super quiet. Not much to do. Sacramento, Lodi, Modesto, Stockton, are all just dry, desolate. You either skate or play video games, or join a band. Something like that. 
What was the scene like?
The Sacramento scene, at least when I was growing up, like 2007, was oriented towards hardcore. There were lots of different collectives and groups, that were always changing members. It was very small, everybody knew each other, everybody  would come out to support their friends and just hang out. That’s something I want to get back to. Wiki has that Sacramento style, how it was back then, being in an actual community. Not just a phantom figure on the internet that has no relationship with where they live.
How old were you when you got your first instrument?
I was 13 or 14. I remember begging for turntables and a drum machine at one point, and getting the electronic drum machine.
What were you listening to at that point? 
A lot of Warp stuff. I liked Madlib. I liked Cenobites, the dudes from Detroit. They’re named after the monsters from Hellraiser. They’re really good. Black Moon…
What inspired you to start making music?
I just always was interested in the production side of music… like the technical side of it. 
And you figured it out yourself?
A lot of this was like trial and error. There was no youtube tutorials. 
What programs were you using?
I remember when Fruity Loops came out, that was the thing. Then it was Project 5, Cakewalk and eventually Ableton came out. I had a friend from Chicago who moved that knew a lot more about that stuff- everybody around me just played the drums or the guitar.. He knew a lot more about DAWS -   Digital Audio Work Stations - stuff like that. After he came around I was able to get into that aspect of it. 
So you weren’t really learning from your peers?
Not really. When I actually moved to midtown Sacramento at the end of high school that’s when it started to get a little bit more vast and creative, and start learning more about drum and bass and all this other kind of stuff. I was hanging out with older people like Dan-O who does DJ Whores, or Zack Hill from Death Grips who kind of shared their knowledge of what they were into. 
What was the first music you put online?
First music I put online... I’m trying to think. I don’t even remember… What were people sharing stuff on? To be honest, there was a lot of blank CDs going around.
Why blank CDs?
Because everyone drives. California’s real spread out, so everyone’s driving, and you put in a CD. My friend JoJo, has a good bunch still,  blank, silver-on-both-sides, old beat CDs... They probably sound so bad, but like...Yeah, I don’t think we were even sharing music on any specific outlet just yet. I wasn’t even using iTunes. There was a lot of Winamp going down.
Was this around the time that you named yourself Lee Bannon?
It was. I was really young, like in the 10th grade. I made a bunch of silly beats under that name, and it caught the attention of The Jacka a rapper who passed away a couple of years ago. He’s affiliated with Mob Figaz, Matt Jury and all that stuff. It was a big deal when I did it, in that community, that part of the world. He shouted my name out a couple of times, and it was like, okay, “The Jacka just said my name.” I’ve got to stick with it now, you know? So I just stuck with it.
Where did the name come from?
My friend, Anthony had this Wu-Tang book, it was like a lexicon of all these different words that they used. And Lebanon was one of the words – it just means California, like super foreign from where they were in New York. It just evolved from there.
So at some point you started putting stuff online, right? 
Yeah. I was on this blog called 2Dopeboyz when they just came out- my friend Jake started it. It was a blog and you could upload beats, download an mp3. They were linked on sites like Pitchfork. No one was monetizing streams at that point.
And all this was oriented around beats?
Everyone was focused on beats. The older kids that I had known all loved DJ Shadow. There’d be little beat battles. Me and Slo Mo go in a beat battle when I was – I don’t even know what age, and neither of us were going by what we go by now. Do you remember the Root Down Soundclash?
No, what was it? 
Root Down Soundclash was this thing that eventually gave birth to like Flying Lotus, Low End Theory and all that stuff. It was this guy who would get upcoming producers and they would battle. So the earlier ones, it’s like some were kind of known at the time, one’s like that’s one from People Under the Stairs versus Black Eyed Peas, Will.i.am, before Will.i.am got big. Madlib versus Cut Chemist. It’s such a lost form now, beats for the crowd, that doesn’t exist as much now. 
So it wasn’t really about making stuff for rappers?
People were just finding them and rapping over them. That was 90 percent of what it was. Then it would be official. Like you look on Wikipedia, five years of my production credits are just people who just took the beat and rapped over it. I had no part in it, but it’s like official. It’s  out there. 
Was that how the Pro Era stuff happened? Unofficial at first?
Initially it was, yeah. They used a track and I actually started talking to Joey. We were both in high school and started working together. Then he got on World Star somehow and it just blew up. He got big super quick. That was when I started living off my music. 
Was that your first time on the east coast?
Yeah, they were like, “we’re going on tour, it’s happening.” He didn’t have a DJ so I was like, okay, I’m the DJ, I guess. Next I know we’re on a fucking gigantic tour bus with like 12 beds, with all our friends, and then it ends in New York and we’re on the Jimmy Fallon Show, we’re doing MTV interviews. It changed to a different scale really quick.
Had you ever DJed before? 
No! So what I did was – I just DJed, played beats off of Ableton. At the time this new controller came out, the APC40 that could just trigger loops of the beats and mix them together, and drop them out. While on tour, for like two years, basically, it evolved. I realized the 900 can just do the effects so I starts shedding gear and evolving, but in the best possible way, doing it live. But it definitely started off with just a little controller in Ableton. 
Yeah live DJ sets were pretty rare. They have a more human feel.
Yeah, even Odd Future, at that time, they were just plugging in an aux cord. 
So what happened after that tour? You kind of made a transition.
I was just done with hip-hop in general. I just was not fascinated with it anymore. I was disenchanted. I wanted to push the envelope, to do other shit. I wanted to broaden my horizons. I grew up watching like Behind the Music, and the story is so easy. It’s like if you do the same thing, you just get stagnant, and it fizzes out, and there’s no longevity. You become a huge rock star, boom and it’s over. But  then there’s the other side of that spectrum where you got somebody like Steve Reich or Brian Eno or John Cage who did things that were advancing the culture in a way that’s innovative. I figured, to have some type of longevity you got to be able to be progressive. It’s not like standing on trend or anything like that, being original, not worrying, and just putting it out that way.
Kinda getting back to DJ shadow. I remember that music being kinda unfavorable for a while because it was so cinematic. Some people thought it was gimmicky. 
I mean, take a album like American Zen- I’m a big film buff, you know, like a lot of people in world. I hate saying it, but I do. When I made American Zen, I made it based off kind of a screenplay I had in my head.
What was the story?
American Zen was basically based off this idea of a bunch of kids that come through these gentrified areas, that just cause chaos. It’s just a black on white movie where there’s lots of thrashing, chaos, crime which ends up driving down the value of those places, so they can return. It was a modern day Robin Hood. 
Can you talk about your album, Successor?
It started off in 2014. I was making just tracks, and at the time it was going to be called Ana. It was going to be all ambient, named after the ANA airline that you have to take to get from Japan. It’s a lot of sound design and venture. It’s just rich. It has life in it, a pulse, you know?
I loved how you performed it live at Issue Project room. 
The good thing about making a album this way was we played everything. I’m glad I made both of the albums this way, because now I can perform it, I can sit there and play the keys – there’s no save, there’s no dubbing or anything in Maximus P when you’re using the patches that I have. You have to record it from top to finish. There’s an expansion to that when there’s no computer at all, as well, that involves doing a send and return to effects, and things like that.
It was great that you had the smoke. You couldn’t take photos. You had to focus on the music. 
Yeah, we thought about that. I went a week earlier to the place, and they’re like, well, if we don’t have this specific light on photos are going to be close to impossible. I was like “everything you just said we shouldn’t, let’s do that. It makes people kind of like sit there and close their eyes.  You don’t see anything.
It was crazy seeing that you’re working with Reiuchi Sakamoto. How did that happen?
His son put him on to my music with Successor. We became friends, and a bond developed that led up to us working together in person. We collaborated for my third project. I told him I wanted to make something like Julius Eastman, Max Martin, and his 1996 album. It was cool to see the 4 hours it took to tune and build up the piano. It’s the first music I’ve made in a long time. I wrote all the piano pieces in midi and he took them and brought them to life. I remember his assistant saying to me, “this is the groundwork.” Once we started, it just moved. I remember that session we did four tracks. 
That sounds fast.
When I go into creating, time isn’t an issue. That’s the easy part. The hard part is getting the motivation to create. I wrote the tracks two nights before we recorded. I spend more time making the mood boards of what I want the sound to be. I had been doing that for months, looking at Liberace and all this other stuff, and build around that universe. Fiona Apple, Trippy Red, Brandy. A lot of it wouldn’t make sense to someone looking at it. Most of the time it’s something in particular, like one specific chord I like. 
The next thing you have coming out is the soundtrack for See Know Evil, the Davide Sorrenti documentary. 
I’ve always wanted to score. Seeing that film’s early cut, and his pictures I just wanted to be a part of it. I was trying to figure out how I become the backdrop for a kid thats at that special age of 17, skating, listening to hip hop, without making it a beat. I didn’t want it to stand out as the main centerpiece, but more environmental. 
So what are you doing if you’re not making music?
I’ve been just watching Swamp People and Forged in Fire and just cooking. Moments like that are so peaceful. 
Last question. I met you right before you made your name change. What happened there?
With the Lee Bannon stuff, I realized at a certain point, it just sounded like the internet. Like it just sounded like the evolution of the internet. I didn’t necessarily want it to sound like me. A lot of learning, especially in music, is imitation. I’m trying to make something as new as possible.
And Dedekind Cut opened up that space for you?
It’s definitely going to be around for a minute. I’m trying to make something as new as possible.