Getting to Know Superstar and Star
Superstar and Star has certainly captured our imagination here at WMF. Indeed, Superstar's unique take on music, fashion, and video work are so remarkable that more than a few people with whom we've spoken have expressed doubt that the person behind this body of work is even real, and is in fact a calculated, fictitious character. Nothing, it turns out, could be further from the truth.
Trinidad-born Neville Lawrence -- better known to many simply as Superstar -- is the real deal. After a stint in New York, and aided by his longtime collaborator Ann, the recording artist/performer/videographer has been creating and distributing his memorable brand of music and video work for years through DIY channels from his (perhaps unlikely) home base of Omaha, Nebraska. Since Superstar and Star's performance at Deno's Wonder Wheel in Coney Island (as part of a bill curated by none other than John Maus, which also featured Tommy Wright III, Geneva Jacuzzi, Gary War, and Maraschino), we've found ourselves returning time and time again to Superstar and Star's work. Increasingly curious about the background to it, we were delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Superstar about all this and more.
Bobby Weirdo: I’m hoping it’s true that you’ll be playing live in L.A. at Zebulon on August 26.
Neville Lawrence: Yes, that’s correct.
BW: Are you just coming out here for the one show, or will there be other shows as part of a tour?
NL: I don’t know yet; this is my first time in L.A. I’m hoping that Bennett [at KXLU] and other people can hook me up with a couple shows there so I will be able to pay my bills.
BW: You’re still based in Omaha, Nebraska, right?
NL: Yes, I’m still based in Omaha.
BW: Do you perform in Omaha?
NL: Once in a blue moon, if somebody gives me a performance. I’ve performed here at Sweatshop, and a couple shows downtown.
BW: Not long ago you played a Coney Island show, and shared the bill with John Maus, Geneva Jacuzzi, Tommy Wright III, Gary War, and Maraschino. How did that all come together, and was it a good experience?
NL: We all had a wonderful time there – it was beautiful. Everyone was kind and loving; we were all hugging and kissing each other. There was the beach, and the sun was shining --even the police officers had a wonderful time. John Maus and all!
BW: Did you know John Maus before the performance, or was that the first time you met him?
NL: That was the first time I met him. It was a Red Bull event, and John Maus was the one that asked everyone to play.
BW: You used to live in New York – what part did you live in?
NL: I lived on 104 Martin Street in Brooklyn. After that I moved to Brighton Beach.
BW: You’ve mentioned being around Snoop Dogg and Notorious B.I.G. a couple times, and I was wondering what that was about – did you play at the same event at one point? What was the connection?
NL: Here’s what happened: As I said, I lived on 104 Martin Street in Brooklyn. About three or four blocks down the street there was a club called The Ark. I performed there with Ann, and they had artists like Snoop Doggy Dogg and different artists that we didn’t comprehend. And then after that we performed in Manhattan with different artists like Biggie and different guys. I’ve always known them; they’ve always known who I am. All the time, they’d say, “Hey Super, what’s up?”
BW: You also recently played a show in Denver. How did that go?
NL: It was wonderful; it was beautiful. We even got some of it on video. Everything was really lovely.
BW: For people who are just getting into your music now, I wanted to break down the Superstar and Star name. You are “Superstar”, and Ann is “Star”, but even if you’re not performing with Ann at a show, you’re still billed as Superstar and Star. Is that accurate?
NL: Yes, that’s accurate.
BW: And are you still working on music with Ann these days, or was that only the earlier material?
NL: We’re still working together.
BW: I wanted to get into the process of how you write and record your music. First of all, what kind of keyboards, computers, software, and other tools do you use to make your music?
NL: I have two keyboards to compose. I also have [the music software] Magix Music Maker. I compose it in my head, and try to memorize everything. I do the best I can. I also use cassette recorders and CD recorders.
BW: Is there a particular name and model of the keyboards you use?
NL: It’s a Yamaha, but I can’t remember. We’re upstairs right now, and it’s downstairs.
BW: I have your Mastermind E.P. on vinyl as well as the “Keep on Rocking” 12”, and there’s also the Superstar and Star cassette, but the songs on those releases are older material, right?
BW: Are there new Superstar and Star recordings being made?
NL: Yes – I already made them, but the record company will do whatever it prefers. It’s their responsibility, so I’m waiting on their response with what they’re going to do with all the material I’ve given them.
BW: You have a strong connection to Estonia, right? You’ve done a documentary there and toured there, among other things. What do you think of it?
NL: Oh, it’s lovely. And we also went to Portugal and did some recording. We did the same songs, but they wanted to record everything again in a studio there.
BW: The documentary isn’t out yet, right?
NL: No, I think they’re shopping it around.
BW: Did you pay for the TV commercials you used to run in Omaha, or were they on public access for free? How did that work?
NL: I paid for them. I made them myself, and then I called the TV company, worked it out diligently so they could get it on the television and everything, and then advertised it – maybe five or ten dollars a pop to go for three or four months.
BW: Did you find that to be a strategy that worked for getting your music to people?
NL: Yes, it worked. It was wonderful and worked really well. I got a lot of exposure. I advertised in Manhattan and other places, and it helped a lot.
BW: Obviously the newer releases we’ve been talking about are not the releases you were sending out when you were making those ads. Were you mostly sending out CDs when you were sending out music several years ago?
NL: Yes, it was CDs.
BW: And you would send them out yourself?
NL: Yes – I made them myself from scratch. I recorded them myself – everything.
BW: Were you making copies on your computer?
NL: Yes, I would make the copies on my computer with software that I bought at Best Buy. I think they call it Nero.
BW: Do you make your outfits yourself, or do you buy them?
NL: I make them myself. Some I make from scratch, and some I just alter, like take off the sleeves or part of the pants or something.
BW: Do you wear those outfits every day, or just when you’re performing?
NL: I would like to wear them every day, but I only wear them when I’m performing. The costumes give me the power to proceed diligently.
BW: Your videos are great. Sometimes it’s just you -- and sometimes you and Ann -- out in nature, or at home. Do you set the camera up on a tripod to film yourself, or is someone filming you?
NL: I set up a camera on a tripod. I have five different cameras. I put them in different places and I do the performance and everything. Then I come home, put all of them together with the music, and make the video for the public enjoyment.
BW: Sometimes it reads “Camera 1” or “Camera 2” on the screen, and I was wondering if that was an idea you had ahead of time, or if it was just chance that it happened that way.
NL: I know -- I finished, and I said, “Oh my Lord, I forgot to switch it off!” But then I thought I’d just leave it like that.
BW: It’s cool that you did – I like it that way. As far as the music part goes, in the past you’ve said your music has a message of love, tolerance, and positivity. Is that what you see your music being about going forward, and have you seen that your music’s message is being received by people?
NL: Definitely. They know that I am here to entertain them. I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. They expect me to be the best, and I will be the best. I will do everything possible to make them happy.
BW: We’ve mentioned the upcoming show in L.A., the documentary, and new recordings. Is there anything else coming up for Superstar and Star in 2018 and 2019 that we should mention?
NL: Yes. With Superstar and Star I will continue to be diligent, powerful, and I will do everything according to what wisdom, knowledge, and understanding is about, and I will see you all soon. Big, big hugs and kisses for everyone.
Cover Photo: Bennett