Belfast born artist and musician Lee James exploded onto the local underground punk rap scene in 2003 and retired his alter-ego “Roysta” in 2013 after a decade long career of hedonistic musical debauchery.
Lee has gone through an inspiring spiritual transformation since the Roysta years (see his previous interview with BAM here) and has now returned with a brand new album that fuses devotional music, Kirtan and tribal with “a modern punk twist.”
“Devotional Songs To The Divine Mother” is composed of 6 tracks and is part of a 4 album release. An incredible culmination of exciting sounds and chants that both inspire and enrich the soul, the album is sure to surprise fans in the best kind of way.
Speaking exclusively to BAM Mag, Lee said: “I released it on the 1 August after months of sitting on it. In that day’s morning meditation I was told the time to release it is now.”
Abandoning music after 20 years of making it, Lee never thought he would return to the studio again.
“I just didn’t think it was my path in life any more. Been there, done that, move on type of thing.” he said. “I had now dedicated my life to art, meditation and finding my higher self. But the desire to make music kept cropping up during meditations. I went with the universal law of threes, in which if anything is brought to the forefront of your mind three times, you’ve got to pursue it, and music was there.”
After buying some new equipment, he once again set to work with whatever entered his consciousness at the time and out came “Devotional Songs To The Divine Mother”.
Lee said: “I worked from a base of Indian Kirtan music and Shamanic drumming where you give thanks to a higher power or invoke that higher power within yourself. Still with the punk rock ethic bubbling in my blood, I injected that into it.
“I also wanted to make music that people could meditate to, inserting mantras and positive affirmations into it. Imagine if Krishna went out in Belfast, got steaming, and someone brought him back to a studio and said ‘Work away, big lad’.”
This unique new music style sits in contrast to Lee’s former work. Yet he has managed to use his creative talents to give something back and pay tribute to the circumstances that led him to this path.
“Anything I have done in the past has been to fulfill my own musical cravings.” Lee said. “When I did “Roysta” I wanted to be the first Belfast rapper. Any punk projects I’ve done have been to push my own love of that genre to its limits and see what comes out of it. Any bands I’ve been in have been a way for me to connect with like-minded friends.
“With this I’m saying: “Thank you, universe, for giving me the creativity and motivation to do everything I have in this life. Here’s a few songs from me to you, hope you like them, thanks bb”. Sort of like compiling a mixtape of your favourite songs to God, that you have written especially for it.”
Listening to these new songs, Lee hopes people will realise that music doesn’t have to have a standard structure of intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, outro.
He said: “Via music you can ignite inside yourself a connection to the divine. I hope those that hear the songs see that the word GOD is not what Christianity has made us believe it is.
“It is the creative source of the universe which we all come from and will return to, and we can tap into it at any time we want. And when we tap into it it flows through us via music, art, writing or any creative expression. And anyone can get it, because we are all one and we are God.”
The creative process for the production of the new album was as much spiritual as it was technical. Lee explained: “When making (the songs) I start with a drum rhythm which I play by hand on a Korg Wavedrum and then loop. I then add more drums and percussion until I feel the base for the song is done.
“I then use a loop station to layer my voice. This is usually different vibrations of the OM mantra or by repeating vowels in varying order. All of these are repeated and looped while feeling them vibrate in my heart, throat or center of my head. I then play my electric sitar over what I’ve made, usually with no preconceived ideas of what to do, just whatever comes out. Then I’ll add some lyrics or mantras I’ve written if I feel they fit, if not I just keep it instrumental.”
This time around, notoriety or personal gain are the last thing on Lee’s mind. This new album is fundamentally a creative expression of gratitude that he hopes others will also appreciate in their own way.
“In the future I would just like to release music as it comes to me, as a way of saying thank you to the universe. Not for fame and fortune but as a conduit for universal love. I may do the odd gig here or there if enough people are interested, hopefully in strange surroundings like forests or churches. Not you’re usual gig settings.” he said.
These songs are a beautiful extension of Lee’s own spiritual practice. They come from a deep place of authenticity, love and compassion that is rare to find anywhere in the music industry.
He told BAM: “Make the most of you’re incarnation. Find out why you took this incarnation, what is your purpose here on earth? It’s usually to help other people find theirs, in a myriad of ways. Discover this through meditation, prayer and a re-connection to the earth and universe. Fuck religion and anything that separates you from your fellow brothers and sisters and your path to your higher self.
“Realise that God is not a bearded granddad in the sky judging you, and that sin is a human construct that serves no purpose on your path to self realisation. Satan is your earthly desires and if you cast these desires out you will find heaven within yourself.”
And “Devotional Songs To The Divine Mother” is the perfect place to start.
Lee said: “Don’t fear death, you’re only taking off one human suit and putting another on. You are an eternal vibration of constant creativity in a multi-verse of love. You are God witnessing itself in human form and you can do whatever you want in this life. LOVE.”
You can hear and buy the album at leejamesisdead.bandcamp.com.