Bass, Producer, Engineer, Recording Artist, Singer/Songwriter
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Mackncheeze: Tell me about yourself.
Sean: My parents were in the Foreign Service. I was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There is an economic and racial disparity there. The good thing about Malaysia is that it is culturally pluralist. It has a high number of Indian Hindus, a high number of ethnic Malays, a lot of which are Muslim, and a proportion of Chinese people. The Chinese people are the minority but they are the wealthy people; they own everything. They are by and large Buddhist with some Christians.
It’s a really interesting place. As far as that part of the world is concerned all these different cultures are able to get along remarkably well. It could serve as a template for a lot of places.
After that we lived in Guangzhou, which is in southern China. I had a Chinese nanny who was part of the intelligence service of the Communist Party. My parents were aware that I had a spy nanny. The apartment was bugged. My parents tell interesting stories of me telling them stories of her taking me to the home office because she still had to do the job of a nanny. My parents learned that all the other nannies called her the Major. Apparently she was a ranking official in the intelligence service.
After China, my sister was born in Colorado. She is 3 and 1/2 years younger than me. We did not live in Colorado for long. We then moved to France.
We moved back to the U.S. and I had absolutely no common ground or frame of reference with people my age. I felt completely alienated. It really led to a pretty easy transition into this disenfranchised rock and roll, early 90s Grunge thing that was going on. It was a long time living in the States before I started to feel like I had enough stuff behind me to have common ground.
When I got into Middle School I remember there being a preliminary sort of hype for the upcoming music program. It was a way to get kids thinking about what it is they wanted to play.
I really wanted to play saxophone. When I was living in Paris I had this poster of a neon saxophone in my room. I never wanted to be a bass player or guitarist or anything like that. They wanted me to play clarinet first because that’s what they tell kids who want to play saxophone. I said nope, it’s sax or nothing.
They gave me a saxophone. For a long time I thought I was going to be a successful Jazz player. I figured, “That’s how my life is going to go from this point on.”
My parents split up; my dad kept his job and his next posting was in Tokyo. My sister and I would spend six weeks at a time with him. She had befriended this Australian cover band and they were doing pretty well. Their bass player, Kerry Dunne, had an extra bass that somebody had found in a dumpster. He had decent instruments and he had no use for it. One day he asked, “Would you like this bass?” I asked, “What’s a bass?” I have a picture of the moment he gave it to me. It’s the coolest thing ever.
This was a monumental thing that happened in my life.
I went home after that trip to Japan, which was in July, and by December I remember thinking that this is going to be the course of my life. I was 13.
Mackncheeze: What did you experience as you were traveling around the world?
I have studied five languages: English, Portuguese, Indonesian and Malay, for the most part the same language, French and German.
I went to International Schools, stuff like that.
It was a cool way to grow up.
I remember being very bitter about it by the time we left France. I remember coming to the States and being happy to forget French, happy to forget the previous life. Most of my friends were kids of military families. Being a kid in a Foreign Service family is not that common.
I missed out a lot. I did not have a common cultural base with people that were my age. I remember when I moved back here everybody knew this dog by the name of Spuds Mackenzie. I was like, “What the hell is that.” I never learned how to play baseball. I didn’t learn sports.
I still don’t realize how unusual it is until someone gets me talking about it. I know that it’s different when I hear the words come out of my mouth. I value it a lot.
Most of the time it was very uncomfortable and I was not happy about it. That’s probably why after I started playing music I used to spend seven hours a day playing. I was going to school and I was too young to work so all I did outside of that was play music.
After 25 years I recently reconnected with Kerry Dunne. Because of social media I was able to find him. I hadn’t had any contact with him since the last time I was in Japan. We have become really good friends.
End of Part One
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