“I always get told that I sound like Radiohead”

You look around but you do not pay any specific attention, if you look too quickly you might miss it… You might miss him. You take one glance and just as you would any other human, you make your judgement. But how true can they be? He has long, dark brown, straight locks that frame his face and a beard that is equally as impressive as his long hair. His appearance at first glance would put him into a more grunge category of fashion. When you see him, he is either alone or he is accompanied by his girlfriend. Not many people take note, he looks like the average student so why would they? Loose fitting clothing, he blends in like the best form of camouflage, he does not draw any attention to himself. But just like anyone else, you cannot tell the character of a person at first glance. Once you have him seated, it is as if you are transported into a new world. Soft spoken and melodic, it is as if you are listening to one of your favourite new audio books.

Lee McAllister Rooney is someone who is incredibly fascinating. He is a superfan of Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, a band of which he is also a superfan of. He says that from a young age, he grew up listening to the music that his mother played around the house and he absolutely adored it. The music that he had a particular affinity for is none other than Radiohead. He began learning guitar from the age of ten and the genre of music that he found himself drawn to was rock, pop-rock and alternative music.

Studying Psychology and Philosophy at Rhodes University, one may wonder, why not pursue studies in music? He is passionate about it is he not? He produces music does he not? Well Lee has a very simple explanation for this. In high school, he studied music. He said that the limitations placed on him through structured learning almost killed his passion. He was forced to study a genre of music that he does not particularly love and was not allowed to deviate from the course outline. Countless hours of teasing, his love for music being called into question as what he wanted to do was at his very fingertips but the education system did not let his creative license prevail. “Sometimes, pursuing what you love has the opposite impact on you than what you expected from the onset. You spend countless hours learning which is incredibly helpful, don’t get me wrong, but having to meticulously follow a set of rules when your creative licence is begging for an escape is almost defeating. I have learnt that I am better off chasing music in a setting that I can control. I do it in my own time, I figure out what works best for me and yes, I do incorporate that which I have learnt through my schooling. It just works out better that way, I am happy with the content I produce, it has become a passion again”, says Lee.

He lives with his girlfriend in Aries Nest in Grahamstown, yet, he has his own room in residence (res). This is not unheard of nor uncommon with Rhodes University students, opting to live the digs life as opposed to a res one either with friends or a significant other. But his residence room is not going to waste. Digs is the term that students use for off campus accommodation. Why is that you may ask? Well Lee has turned this small space built for students to live out their year, into a recording studio. It is somewhat soundproofed and all of his equipment lays in this room. His residence room is literally where all the magic happens for him. Take that as you will. His desk, made for university work is completely covered in equipment, propped up with books. There are speakers, recording equipment and computers littering his table. On either side of his desk, there are microphones that record his vocals and his acoustics and he has two guitars that are situated at the foot of his bed. This is where Lee finds himself spending most of his time. He says he does not socialise much outside of his girlfriend and when he is not doing school work, you will more than likely find him musing, find him creating.

Lee McAllister Rooney, the superfan that demonstrates the highest level of activity for this project.

Image Source: Taylia Meese

When you walk past him his eyes are glossed over, he is lost in thought, deeply lost. People give him gazes but dare not disturb him. Whether or not this is because they are worried about the outcome or they respect his process does not really matter, they just do not disturb. He is constantly thinking about new avenues to explore with his music and is creating new projects for himself daily. His girlfriend says it’s inspiring to watch, that it is inspiring to see someone so dedicated to their passion, dedicated to what they love.

Growing up in Cape Town, Lee often found that he did not fit in with what he deems ‘the standard crowd’. He felt that their attitudes were supercilious and condescending very often. These same attitudes translated within his high school. He does not speak badly of where he comes from he just stipulates that often times he would stray from the societal norm and that would ostracise him slightly. He says although the judgement is a lot less at Rhodes University, he still tends to stick to himself because that is where he is most comfortable.

“Thom Yorke once said in an interview, when asked about whether or not he takes drugs, that he simply just does not have enough time. Music for him is his business so he treats all events like business meetings. He acts very professional and that is something that really inspires me,” says Lee. Lee treats his music as a job, trying to produce content in the most professional way. That is why he has invested in all of his recording equipment, he wants it to be the most legitimate product he can create. He wants it to get the attention and recognition it deserves. Though he does not need recognition for his music as he creates it for himself.

Lee McAllister Rooney, the superfan that demonstrates the highest level of activity for this project.

Image Source: Taylia Meese

He publishes his music under his pseudonym Dartura on soundcloud.com and that is the sole platform that he distributes his work. He has 160 followers. This may not seem like a lot, but it is something that makes him tremendously happy. He hopes that the people that listen to his music take something from it, their own meanings. Ultimately it hopes that it brings them some sense of enjoyment. Although he produces his music for his own pleasure, he would love to make a career out of his passion. He would love to inspire people the way he was, even if at a much lesser percentage. He loves music and he would love people to share this journey with him.

Much like his low profile that he adopts in person, he barely has any social media presence. I came across him by chance. One of my friends had tagged me in a photography post that he happened to see, and Alim Toliss messaged me after that. Alim is another pseudonym he holds. Alim asked me if I could also do videography because he would like to work on videos to accompany his music. We sat down and spoke about his interests and because I was unfamiliar with Thom Yorke, I did extensive research and together we came up with a concept. We shot the video for Manifesto, and it went down a lot more smoothly than anticipated.

Trying to stick with a more indie vibe, which is not dissimilar from that of Radiohead, we tried incorporating darker colours, nature and dancing. It is not the typical music video, but that is just how he wanted it. He wanted it to be art. “Radiohead produces music videos vivid with imagery, wild in imagination and hugely open to interpretation. That is my vision, that is what I would like to produce”, says Lee. This is what we both believed we produced and hopefully it is the first of many. Check it out below.

Lee McAllister Rooney, the superfan that demonstrates the highest level of activity for this project.

Image Source: Taylia Meese

Activities:

 

Lee is the face of activities because he took the action of his celebrity or band and he developed them into his very own actions. He is behind the entire process of his music production. He writes the lyrics, records his own voice, records his instrumentals and edits it all together. This is so that he can create something that he is entirely pleased with, something that he can be absolutely proud of. Although Lee is a full-time student at Rhodes University, this is his full-time job as well. As Thom Yorke likened his music to his business, Lee treats it the same. When his music gets likened to Radiohead, a small smile forms on his face, but a short, quick, cheeky rebuttal always follows. He says, “Hopefully it is a little different though.” He follows this with a wink and a thank you.

Aesthetics:

 

I cannot count the number of times that I have been with Lee that he has been likened to Radiohead, especially if someone talks to him for more than a minute. People that are familiar with the band readily associate him with a band member. Which one? Well we are not entirely sure, but we definitely know who Lee hopes it is: Thom Yorke. Although Lee loves these comparisons he also holds firmly onto his individuality and says that whilst their are similarities there are also huge differences. There is no denying where he draws his inspiration from though!

Attitudes:

 

Much like his activities, Lee draws very strongly from the attitude of Thom Yorke. If you listen to an interview with Thom Yorke and then you listen to my interview below with Lee you will definitely see that they have similar world views. They do not stick to the norms that society perpetuates and they hold value to things that many others would deem unimportant, like the art of everyday life. They both adopt philosophy into their everyday lives as well as psychology, you can gather this simply with what they say. The fact that they both treat music as a business transaction as well as a form of pleasure speaks volumes. Lee is a mini Thom Yorke with his own individual and incredible mind.

The music video for Manifesto by Dartura, Lee McAllister Rooney’s musical pseudonym. 

Interview with Lee McAllister Rooney, featured on RMRs Radio Show with host Taylia Meese. The show talks about celebrity gossip and has fun discussions and trivia with superfans.