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Actor Cillian Murphy is a scene stealer and some of his best known roles are villains, such as the scarecrow in “Batman Begins.” However, his Guest DJ set is filled with moments of pure joy. From the “instant hit of summer” provided by Stevie Wonder to the first track he ever learned to play on guitar, he digs into his childhood for some favorites. He is also inspired equally by the imagination of Frank Zappa and the collaborative philosophy of Broken Social Scene. Cillian stars in the upcoming Chris Nolan film “Inception” alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, which opens July 16.
For More: http://inceptionmovie.warnerbros.com
1.) Happiness is a Warm Gun - Beatles
2.) And it Stoned Me - Van Morrison
3.) Peaches en Regalia - Frank Zappa
4.) Sugar - Stevie Wonder
5.) All to All - Broken Social Scene
Dan Wilcox: This is Dan Wilcox from KCRW and I’m happy to be sitting here with actor Cillian Murphy. Whether portraying a hero in “28 Days Later” or the villainous scarecrow in “Batman Begins,” his performances are always standouts. He co-stars in Christopher Nolan’s latest film “Inception.” But today we are here to talk about his first love, which is music. We’ll be playing excerpts of songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Hey Cillian.
Cillian Murphy: Hey
DW: Lets dive into the first one. What's the first one you got for us?
CM: Yeah so it kind of starts and ends with the Beatles for me, like a lot of people I suppose. I picked “Happiness is a Warm Gun” off The White Album. They are my favorite band, I suppose. I was introduced to them when I was a kid by my dad. Myself and my brother were quite close in age and we started to get into it and investigate the band further. We would go to the library in Cork and rent out the tapes and rent out the records. So we went through all the albums – Revolver, Rubber Soul, Pepper, Abbey Road -- and then I remember coming across The White Album when I was about 12 or 13, and that was like this revelation. It was kind of overwhelming in its range and sophistication of it and the humor of it. And this one was always my favorite off the album.
Song: The Beatles’ Happiness is a Warm Gun
CM: I think, probably as a 12 year old, I missed a lot of the references in it. [Laughs] You know, "I need a fix cause I'm going down" that definitely went over my head. The significance of a gun being warm, I think went over my head. But I remember loving the imagery of it, you know the man in the crowd with the multicolored mirrors on his boots. It appealed to that teenage imagination. I really love it and, when you play it loud, it’s great.
DW: Let's do that. For you listening out there turn your computers, I guess, up. [Laughs]
Well, that was The Beatles with the song “Happiness is a Warm Gun." I’m sitting here with actor Cillian Murphy. And Mr. Murphy, what is next on your list?
CM: I’m gonna pick Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me” off Moondance. The first track on Moondance. Again this is from my childhood and again I’m going to have to give my dad credit for introducing me to Van Morrison. We used to go on holidays in France, you know camping holidays with the family – we would all be squashed in the back of the car, and we'd all be car sick and sweating. [Laughs]
But he'd have Van Morrison on and I just loved his voice I loved the soulfulness of his tunes. The reason I picked this one is I play a bit of guitar and I was playing the guitar as a kid and it’s the first song I think I properly mastered. I remember coming down after working it out and playing it for my parents and I remember being so proud of myself that I could actually play this tune.
Song: Van Morrison’s And It Stoned Me
DW: So you started out as a musician?
CM: Yeah, I played in various bands growing up through school. We took it to a point, until I was about 20, and it began to get kind of serious. We had to make a decision about whether we were going to continue doing that and really pursue it. And, just at that time, I got a part in a play. I got really into the acting, and it seemed like far less hassle. [Laughs] It was only me, there wasn’t five guys.
DW: Alright that was Van Morrison's "And It Stoned Me"; I'm sitting here with actor Cillian Murphy as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project, and what do we have next?
CM: From Van Morrison to Frank Zappa. As I mentioned, I was playing guitar in this band with my brother all the way through our teenage years, you know it was kind of Beatles-y kind of stuff we were playing, and busking on the street. We were staying up late one night watching the telly on BBC and this guy came on– it was from like the BBC archives – and this guy came on with this like this freaky mustache and this crazy hair and he looked so cool. He was obviously doing a BBC session. We had never heard of Frank Zappa – he was doing this long instrumental piece and it totally knocked us out, and the next day we went in and ended up with Hot Rats, and put it on and that was it. We started writing all this kind of Zappa-influenced music for the band. The mood that it always sends me into is just kind of like fun, but slightly weird as well. There is a great joy in this whole record; it puts me in a good mood.
Song: Frank Zappa’s Peaches en Regalia
CM: There’s this amazing YouTube clip of Zappa, maybe he’s about 20 or something like that, he was on the Steve Alan show I think, and he’s like, playing a bicycle. So before he’s famous or anything, he comes on, and Steve Alan’s kind of like taking a mickey out of him
DW: I've seen that
CM: Yeah and he’s making music out of a bicycle. So, it’s that sort of imagination and weird sense of humor that he had. He was a proper artist, you know, and a real creative force.
DW: Well, that was Frank Zappa with “Peaches En Regalia.” I’m sitting here with actor Cillian Murphy, and what are we going to hear next?
CM: Again, from around the same time, it's a Stevie Wonder tune, and it’s off Signed, Sealed Delivered, and it’s called “Sugar”.
I wasn’t really aware…somehow Stevie Wonder, growing up when I was discovering all these other bands, he just escaped the net somehow. And then when I was about 18, this friend of mine, a theater director, gave me a tape of Innervisions on one side and Talking Book on the other.
DW: That’s a friend right there.
CM: Yeah! That, like, totally opened my eyes to it. And I listened to that tape constantly, so, this tune is from a few years earlier. The energy off this and this sort of life force coming out of it, and it’s the joy with which he sings it.
Song: Stevie Wonder’s “Sugar”
CM: It’s an amazing tune to put on before you go out on stage, or before you go on and do a performance because the energy that it, sort of, hits you with is something, I supposed I’m a bit of a sucker for music that makes you feel good. There’s something about a song that gives you an instant hit of summer. Just the positivity that just comes off it in waves – I never get sick of listening to it.
DW: That was Stevie Wonder’s song, “Sugar”, as chosen by Cillian Murphy in this KCRW’s Guest DJ Project here. So, what is next?
CM: Just to reassure people that I’m not just a wannabe hippie, and don’t listen to music from 1970 only, I do listen to a lot of contemporary music. So, Broken Social Scene, from their new record, which is called Forgiveness Rock Record. It’s called “All is All.” I’m a big, big fan of these guys and have seen them many times. I love the philosophy of the band. I love that collaborative nature of it. When they play live, I think there are 11 or 12 of them onstage and you get this incredible energy. They had a big impact on me when I heard them for the first time.
Song: Broken Social Scene’s All is All
CM: Music can send you somewhere different, and I think it’s brilliant what iPods have done to society. I can give an example, like when you’re on a film set, you just have those white buds in your ears, and people know you’re having your quiet time, and you just need to be left alone. Because there’s a lot of stuff going on and going to sleep isn’t always the best preparation [Laughs]. So, if you just want to get into a place, and you just put those earphones on. It’s kind of revolutionized the way people communicate with it.
DW: Well that was Broken Social Scene’s “All is All”, as chosen by actor Cillian Murphy here. Cillian, thank you so much for coming in and sharing all these songs with us here on KCRW.com.
CM: Thanks, it was a real pleasure.
DW: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online, go to kcrw.com/guestdjproject.