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Chef Kerry Simon is a fan of bands that push boundaries and take risks, like he does with food. From David Bowie’s glam persona Ziggy Stardust to Cheap Trick and Alice Cooper, Simon chooses some rebellious rockers to lead his Guest DJ set and tells some wild stories straight from the kitchen. Kerry has five restaurants, including two in LA – SIMON LA and LA Market.
For More: http://www.kerrysimon.com/main.html
Raul Campos: Hey, it’s Raul Campos from KCRW and I’m here with Kerry Simon who’s been dubbed the rock and roll chef by Rolling Stone magazine.
Now, fittingly, he’s here to talk about music. We’re going to play a little bit of rock and roll, going to play excerpts of tunes that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s guest DJ project. Kerry — welcome. How are you?
Kerry Simon: Hey. Thanks for having me. I’m excited. This is awesome.
RC: So, man, you brought in some music for us. So, what’s this first one you brought in for us?
KS: It’s Alice Cooper, “Be My Lover”. It’s from “Killer”. I just remember…you really didn’t know much about Alice Cooper then. You saw a little bit of press here and there in Rolling Stone or whatever. He was wearing makeup and the sound was so crazy. And “Be My Lover” was just kind of this song that’d say…’the singer’s name is Alice’ and I used to think, ‘Yeah, what’s the deal with that? That’s kind of weird. You know, that’s kind of strange.’
KS: I remember “School’s Out”. That was the first tour with that band — all those guys. They were the first to be like that. You know, all that shock rock or glam rock or whatever it was. And you’d just seem them on stage — they’re just living the life, you know, it was just great.
It’s very different than how they represent him now…with the boa constrictor. Well, anyway, years later, Shep Gordon, who represented chefs is Alice Cooper’s manager and he wanted me to help him with this big event in South Beach where I had a restaurant and I get the list of all these celebrities and Alice Cooper and Sammy Hagar are going to be there. Well, on Alice’s list, he had rattlesnake chili… and I’m supposed to make these dishes, so I’m like, ‘Where am I going to see that at?!?’
RC: Alice Cooper right here on KCRW.com. “Be My Lover” is the tune selected by our guest DJ, Mr. Kerry Simon, superstar chef and just rocking out a little bit. Now, I know you called him a little bit of glam, but definitely shock rock.
Some people wouldn’t necessarily call him glam, but we’re definitely going to go into somebody that WAS into glam rock…
KS: Oh yeah.
RC: Who’s this next artist that we’re going to get into?
KS: We’re going to listen to David Bowie, “Starman” off his “Ziggy Stardust” album.
For me, this song was…I woke up one morning and the radio woke me up for high school and I heard this song, “Starman” and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s unbelievable’ ‘cause it was really ahead of its time and then they said, “Tickets on sale for David Bowie tonight.”
So, I went to the show and there it was, this whole Ziggy Stardust. It just, it changed my life, because David Bowie was so who that person was, trying to get his message across and it was, once again, another one of those art kind of things. Glam rock is definitely what it was, but playing a role, and it was pushing the limits.
KS: Then, at one point, I had a table in the kitchen at the Plaza and this was in, I don’t know, the Trump zone. It was ’91 or something and somebody called me and said, ‘Iman wants to come into the kitchen to have dinner.’” And then they called back later and said, ‘and David Bowie’s going to be with them and they might be getting engaged.’
So they came in for dinner. David was shocked he was eating in the kitchen. I think he thought he was going to eat in the dining room and they had this whole long winding way into the kitchen. So, later, they got engaged in my kitchen.
RC: That was “Starman” by David Bowie, right here on KCRW.com. Our guest DJ is Kerry Simon, superstar chef — the rock and roll chef. What’s the next tune that we’re going to get into?
KS: We’re going to listen to Cheap Trick, “ELO Kiddies”, it’s off their first album. I’m friends with these guys. I met them at my restaurants over the years. They played in the back yard at the Hard Rock. So, I met them there and we became fast friends. They’re really into food and Rick comes to all my restaurants — Rick Neilson. Anyway, this song was like so hard and it was during that sort of punk era, you know — Johnny Rotten.
KS: Rick and those guys, they just have that Chicago kind of a thing about them and when they first started, to me, it was the same thing — it was like they were pushing the edges of things. They’d be ripping out ceilings when they’d play in clubs and stuff, and Rick would be hocking the tiles over his head and throwing them at the audience. It was just crazy antics, you know, but plus you had this great music behind them. And I think the first album, especially, went so unnoticed, but in our restaurant, when I was working, growing up, listening, that was the album that was played constantly.
RC: And that’s one of those tunes that, immediately when the drums hit, you know what song that is. It’s like, from the get go and it starts that driving…
KS: It’s so powerful, and you can just see Rick Neilson in your head, just rocking back and forth and then Robin’s voice comes through there. And he’s one of the most amazing singers ever.
RC: Cheap Trick, right here on KCRW.com, our guest DJ is Kerry Simon. Stellar list so far, man. What’s this next one we’re going to get into?
KS: Well, this is kind of the same thing. As we’re going through this, I’m realizing there’s a big mentality about the bands I picked and sort of the edges, I think…
So, when the Rolling Stones did “Exile on Main Street” -- and this song is “Rocks Off” -- to me, that was the day that they were all of a sudden on their own again. They left London, and they were starting their own business over. You know what I mean?
There’s something about “Exile on Main Street” that hits home with me, and I don’t know what, if it’s the country and the blues and all that, but “Rocks Off” was that song -- it was a hit, but it should’ve been bigger, I just thought. And the Stones always were, when we were listening in the kitchens that I’ve worked in, they’ve always been, like a good working song. Like somehow, they end up being part of it and part of the play program in the front of the house, too.
RC: Alright, that was The Rolling Stones, doing “Rocks Off” right here on KCRW.com. Our guest in the studio is Mr. Kerry Simon, superstar rock and roll chef and just playing a bunch of great rock and roll. So, we’re going to get into something a little bit newer. I guess you can still call this “new school”. INXS? Why INXS?
KS: Yeah. INXS — “New Sensation”. Well, I was a fan of INXS when I first heard of them and when I was at the Plaza, they came to the states and based themselves out of the plaza and they used to come in and eat in the kitchen all the time, so we became very good friends. Those guys were so appreciative of food and life and I just thought this song so represented them as a band. They had this sound that was very edgy, but very kind of soulful, exciting. It kind of jumps at you, you know, and it’s got that Michael voice. You can tell that there’s somebody that’s leading the band that’s got some real rock star energy.
KS: I remember reading that the album with “New Sensation” was an album the record company was unhappy with and wanted them to redo it. And I think they ended up with four hits off of it, or something like that, I can’t remember how many, but that’s what they heard and that’s what they wanted us to hear. So, it’s just kind of doing what they wanted to do.
RC: That was “New Sensation” by INXS on KCRW.com. Kerry Simon’s been our guest DJ. Kerry — thank you so much for doing this.
KS: Oh man, are you kidding? It was awesome. Anytime. Anytime.
RC: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online, go to KCRW.com/GuestDJProject.