If there’s a king of the Tupelo underground scene, Daniel Lee may be it.
Lee plays his own brand of rockabilly with his band, Dr. Daniel & the Rockabilly Vampires, and his films have been shown at film festivals. Still, Lee has managed to relatively stay in the shadows, quietly creating his art out of his pop culture-filled home in Blue Springs. That’s why he started Tupelo Underground with the help of Ken Calloway, leader of Tupelo industrial band Cockfight Club.
Tupelo Underground is a film and arts celebration that will focus on North Mississippi artists.
“Basically I felt like there was a need for it,” Lee said. “Nobody else was doing it, so I did it.”
Lee wants to shine a spotlight on those who aren’t usually given a shot at area festivals.
“There are a lot of people that make art, but they never make the GumTree Festival or Museum. They make art, and nobody sees it,” he said.
Those artists will be celebrated alongside feature films, shorts and music videos. Lee will screen his short, “The Collectors,” and Cockfight Club’s video for “H.P. Lovecraft” will get a showing, too.
“Visioneers,” starring “The Hangover” and “G-Force” star Zach Galifianakis, will be shown.
The only thing missing is music.
“People have asked me if my band or Ken’s band will play, but there’s no time,” Lee said.
Portrait of the artist
Lee, 31, has always loved music, movies and pop culture.
“It all started at a drive-in in 1980,” he said. “My earliest memory is at age 3, seeing ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’”
His family’s love for music is what led him to playing rockabilly.
“I was complaining about being bored one day, and my mom sticks my grandfather’s guitar in my hands,” Lee said. He learned from his grandfather’s Johnny Cash records, and his musical journey continued from there.
Music led him to filmmaking; the first thing he filmed was a music video.
His shorts are, as one friend described them, Edgar Allen Poe set to celluloid.
His feature film, “Ocho: Arachnid from Hell,” is B-movie spoof. When he premiered it at the Malco in Tupelo in 2007, he drew a theater full of fans. He’s currently filming the sequel to “Ocho,” called “It Came From Beyond Beyond.” He’s considering creating a comic book to continue the “Ocho” story, and he’s set to film a short written by his wife, April.
Creating art and seeing its payoff are what drive Lee.
“I think of myself as a human being first, an artist second. It’s just what I do. Music and film, that’s my art,” Lee said. “I’m basically driven to create. I can’t not do it. Even if nobody saw it, I’d still be driven.”
Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal