Aaron't you a rocker?
Former metal queen talks about making the transition to jazz
By FISH GRIWKOWSKY
EDMONTON SUN FREELANCE
The "Metal Queen who became the Jazz Queen" angle has been done to death, but it's hard to not pry a little into Lee Aaron's past, especially given how incredibly hot for her I was at 15, thanks to a certain fur-and-leather bikini album cover. Still, we're both a little more grown up now, and it was a pleasure to catch up with Aaron about her life and upcoming Jazz City show, tonight at the Coast Edmonton Plaza.
FISH: There's an almost obsessively complete collection of fan photos of you at leeaaron.net. Is it cool to know people are so captivated with your history?
LEE: Truthfully ... at times I wish a little less so. I started very young and spent my formative years basically growing up in the public eye. Your career blunders as well as achievements are under a microscope. Much of the '80s pop-culture was "timely" as opposed to "timeless." And, lucky me, I get to be the poster girl, thanks to the advent of the Internet ... good thing I have a sense of humour.
FISH: Are you the same person you were 20 years ago, fundamentally?
LEE: That's a tough one ... if you'd asked me that five years ago, I may have answered yes, but I think today I would say no. My world view has shifted in the last few years to being less self-oriented and more others-oriented. Solidifying my spiritual beliefs has made a huge difference. I no longer feel like I'm meandering through life without a purpose. I still have my wry sense of humour, I'm still a dog lover, and I still enjoy recording and touring, but my motivations are different.
FISH: What specifically happened after the 2 preciious project that led you to record a jazz album? It was a very smart move.
LEE: Why thanks ... although it certainly wasn't a calculated "career move," at the time 2 preciious garnered critical raves, but was an absolute commercial failure. We had signed with a brand new distributor - that went under almost immediately - and management (of 12 years) jumped ship when the going got tough. I was ready to quit music because I felt that I was finally doing my best artistic work, yet everyone involved wanted me to continue being the old Lee Aaron because it was much safer (financially). I felt utterly trapped. At that point, I took a year off to re-assess. I came to the conclusion that if I was going to continue making music it had to make my soul happy, or it just wasn't worth it. I'd always loved jazz and blues and that led to me doing a minimalist thing with just piano and voice in the Vancouver area, where I live. I had no expectations. None. The fact that people liked it was just an added bonus.
FISH: Were you secretly catching jazz concerts in the metal years?
LEE: No. I was perpetually touring. I was, however, secretly listening to my Nina Simone and Anita O'Day records.
FISH: Jazz is a genre in which sensuality is more attractive than blatant sexuality. Was that a refreshing off-ramp to take, or is jazz dirtier than I think?
LEE: Jazz can be edgy, too. But you are correct - it's not blatant. It's about innuendo, metaphors and subtlety. I find that far sexier. For instance, the tune Doodlin' from Slick Chick is an old Sarah Vaughan cover. Pretty sassy for her to be singing that tune in the '50s, I think.
FISH: Word is there's going to be another album this year. Is that right, and what kind of album might that be?
LEE: My new disc is almost complete. It would have been a rush job, however, to get it out before the festivals this year. I wasn't all that concerned because the shelf life of a jazz-blues recording is longer that that of bands du jour. It leans more in a jazz-pop direction. I wrote more originals and just tried to let the process flow rather than editing myself. There's a Nina Simone cover and Michael Kaeshammer played some brilliant piano. He's so talented.
FISH: What kind of people show up at your shows? Do you spot former headbangers who have gone through a similar evolution to yours?
LEE: I meet many former fans at shows. Most of them have grown up too, and want alternatives to listen to, so it's cool when they re-discover the Lee Aaron of their past and it's in line with what they are listening to today. Some of them will bring photos snapped with me backstage at one of my shows in the '80s. They look like completely different people now. It makes me feel better about my own bad hairdo at the time.
FISH: Do you know what ever happened to Lita Ford?
LEE: I have never, never met Lita Ford. People assume that there is this fraternity of rock chicks and that we must know each other. That's not the case. We are associated only by virtue of our musical genre and era.
FISH: You still look pretty rockin' in modern photographs; do you do jazzed-up versions of any of your old songs?
LEE: No. I performed unplugged versions of a couple of my rock ballads on the last tour, but people seemed to like the new tunes much more.
FISH: Are your European shows different than your Canadian concerts?
LEE: I talk less to the audience because I can't speak fluent German.
© Edmonton Sun 2003