Person of Interest is a column series about people who are currently of interest to Mel Writes. Person does not have to be "famous," just interesting.
Cameron Lee, the California-born musician and tee shirt company owner is currently hanging out in Tokyo, Japan. At first his music sounds like stuff heard at a cash-only dive bar and the graphics on his tee shirts are borderline offensive. Fifteen minutes into your internet creeping session, and devout stalkers will know that Cameron Lee "marches to the beat of his own drum," his slogan for life. During our highly suggestive interview, we learn that his hair is like 3 feet long, that it may be a political statement or perhaps an overexposed stage accessory, as well as the real meaning behind his most controversial tee shirt, Literally Hitler. Keep scrolling to learn more about person of interest, Cameron Lee.
Mel Writes: Your tees are cool! Are they really made in America?
Cameron Lee: Yes the tees are mostly made in the US. About 5% are still imports, but I'm trying to reach 100% US made. My company is based in California, but I'm living in Asia for a few years. Now I'm in Tokyo. It's soooo awesome!
Mel Writes: That's cool. Sorry to notice, but your hair is soooo long! How long have you been growing your hair?
Cameron Lee: I've been growing my hair for almost 10 years now! Wow time flies.
(About 15 hours passed in our conversation because of the time difference between New York and Tokyo.)
Mel Writes: Hi Cameron, In continuation to last night's conversation...What made you want to make these types of printed shirts?
Cameron Lee: The whole world seems to have slipped into a fog and I want to help break us out of it. Many people are afraid to voice their thoughts, and discussing sensitive topics has become almost impossible in western civilization. My goal is to make shirts that start discussions, so we can try to start understanding each other again.
Mel Writes: Do you design them yourself?
Cameron Lee: I do most of the designs myself. For the Trump designs I used a lot of artwork that was already floating around the internet. There are a few incredible artists I've worked with in the past that I'll be commissioning soon.
Mel Writes: WTF is "Literally Hitler"?
Cameron Lee: Haha this is my favorite design! It's based on an internet adage called Godwin's Law. Basically it says if an online discussion goes on long enough, someone will eventually call the other person Hitler.
Mel Writes: Interesting!
Cameron Lee: With all the political conversations going on lately the amount of people calling each other "literally Hitler" has skyrocketed. I thought it would be funny to just wear a shirt that says "ok, I get it, you think I'm a Nazi. With that out of the way, can we have a normal conversation now?"
Mel Writes: Right! Because there are so many frickin' morons and bullies on the 'net who are literally hitlers.
Cameron Lee: What cracks me up though is how many people think it's a pro-Hitler shirt. It's absolutely not! I get a lot of hate for this one, but I don't mind.
Mel Writes: Side note: I have a black friend named Adolf
Cameron Lee: I can't even imagine what that kid's childhood was like.
Mel Writes: How many tee shirts do you personally own?
Cameron Lee: I have a lot in a storage unit in Los Angeles. Probably hundreds. These days I either wear dress shirts or wifebeaters, so I don't really have any graphic tees in my closet. I should fix that.
Mel Writes: I think the appropriate word for that article of clothing is tank top in 2016.
Cameron Lee: Haha that’s fine. You can call it whatever you want.
Mel Writes: Ahem, So you say you're in Asia... What's that like?
Cameron Lee: I'm living in Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo is like Disneyland for adults with ADHD. Constant stimulation of all senses. It's heaven for me.
Mel Writes: Can you describe your living situation?
Cameron Lee: I live in a little apartment with my wifey. I'm pretty near the center of the city so I can get to all the fun parts of town quickly. I'm actually writing this from a small café in Harajuku. My life is pretty much paradise. I spend all day making designs, listening to music and browsing the internet. Then at night I have band practice.
Mel Writes: Lucky fucking you! How would you describe your music?
Cameron Lee: We’re blending Japanese and American rock styles. At the end of the day it’s all about freedom. It’s about ignoring the people who try to tell you how to live, how to talk, how to dress and how to think. That’s what I want to express in everything I create, and especially through music.
Mel Writes: Who’s In your band?
Cameron Lee: This is the crazy part. My band is made up of three other guys that don’t speak English. All straight up Japanese dudes. It’s really fun working on something so complex when all of us only have access to a few common words. It completely changes the artistic process.
Mel Writes: I’m actually low key obsessed with rock music. Do you create your band tees?
Cameron Lee: Haha yep, band t-shirt designs are definitely my job. There’s a lot of great music coming out of all genres right now. We just have to open ourselves up and learn how to appreciate it.
Mel Writes: Do you speak the language?
Cameron Lee: A little bit, yeah. I know the basics and I get by in the city on my own. If I have a hard time with a word then Google Translate is a lifesaver. The first couple months were hard though! Every little thing was a challenge! Just going out to buy milk was a headache.
Mel Writes: So wait have you done any shows in Tokyo?
Cameron Lee: Yeah we’ve already played a few times in Tokyo. Now it’s just a matter of playing more and more! The live system out here is similar to the Sunset Strip in the 80’s and 90’s, but we’re making it work for us. I’m hoping to play in a few other Asian countries next year.
Mel Writes: Congrats! That sounds interesting! So what's for dinner tonight?
Cameron Lee: Kushiyaki!!! Kushiyaki is basically skewered meat cooked over charcoal. My favorite place to go is Shonben Yokocho in Shinjuku. The name means Piss Alley in English. I swear it's a scene right out of the original Blade Runner.
Mel Writes: That sounds like an illegal website. Piss Alley?! Low-key, do the Japanese like Americans?
Cameron Lee: Absolutely! Japan is notorious for being an extremely closed culture, and that is true to some extent even today. But as far as the people I meet on the streets, everyone has been super kind. We can talk for hours. They invite me into their homes to meet their families. I feel welcomed everywhere I go and I’m grateful for that.
Mel Writes: What's popular right now in that part of Asia?
Cameron Lee: I have no idea. It's been a year but it's all still a giant blur to me. But when something does get popular it gets huge. Trends here explode and die so fast it's insanity. I love it!
Mel Writes: Ummm, let's see...Do you know of any celebrity gossip or gossip in general?
Cameron Lee: Absolutely not. I'm too busy living my own life to concern myself with how other people are living.
Mel Writes: That's interesting! That sounds like a message in your music… Who created those videos btw?
Cameron Lee: So far it’s me making all the videos. I hope I can eventually get some help with the video work, but until then I’m having fun being a one-man creative team.
Mel Writes: How old are you if you don't mind me asking?
Cameron Lee: I don't mind at all! I'm 36 years old.
Mel Writes: Married/ Single/ Children?
Cameron Lee: I'm married to the sweetest woman on the planet. No kids (yet).
Mel Writes: Going back to your hair, do you know how long it is in inches?
Cameron Lee: Dude you made me go pull out a tape measure. It's 32 inches long. I just started braiding big chunks of it and that makes it way cooler in the hot Japanese summers.
Mel Writes: Does it get in the way of things?
Cameron Lee: Not at all. I mean, I'm sure it would get in the way of getting a corporate job, but that's about it. Some people claim that our hair is an extension of our nervous system and we become less sensitive and intuitive when we cut it. That sounds like a bunch of bull honkey to me, but I like to believe it anyway.
Mel Writes: Do you use your hair length as a political statement? It’s definitely a stage accessory with all your performance videos ...
Cameron Lee: Not on purpose, no. I’ve always liked long hair, and it fits my personality. If people want to take it as a statement, that’s cool. I would hope that statement is something like “be yourself and live your life however you want.”
Mel Writes: Where do you plan on moving to next?
Cameron Lee: I want to see a lot more of Asia before I go back to the west. I'd love to spend more time in Thailand and Korea. Russia is definitely on my list. But I think I'm going to have to head back to Los Angeles for at least a couple weeks soon. I seriously need a proper taco.
Mel Writes: I had the best carnita this morning with coffee!
Cameron Lee: So jealous. Just make sure you enjoy it. Savor every bite! You don’t know what you got til it’s gone!