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Wayne White helped create the surrealistic world of PeeWee’s Playhouse and is one of the most exciting contemporary artists working today. From country to indie rock, his impassioned Guest DJ set has a running theme of defiance as he spotlights musicians he relates to as a self-described “weirdo misfit”. A documentary about Wayne’s life called “Beauty is Embarrassing” opens in LA on September 7.
For more: http://waynewhiteart.com/
1 - Portland - The Replacements
2 - Color Of The Blues - George Jones
3 - Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way - Waylon Jennings
4 - Hard To Explain - The Strokes
5 - Country Boy - Mike Quinn
Raul Campos : Hey This is Raul Campos from KCRW and I'm here with artist Wayne White. He's known for designing the look of Pee Wee's Playhouse and providing some of the voices. He's also a fine artist and his word pictures are instantly recognizable. Today we're here to talk about tunes that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Wayne, welcome, how are you doing? It's a pleasure…
Wayne White: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me, Raul.
RC: What's this first track we're going to get into?
WW: Well the first one is "Portland", by the Replacements. The Replacements are one of my favorite bands of all time and I think Paul Westerberg is just an amazing song writer. He's one of the masters of sadness and melancholy and yearning, mixed in with defiance and the whole rock and roll attitude. That undercurrent of sadness and yearning is something that I really identify with and this song has both.
Song: The Replacements – “Portland”
WW: Most important of all it has one of my favorite lines of any pop song ever -- "it's too late to turn back, here we go." I mean, that sums up life for me, in a nut shell.
You're never ready. You're never ready for college, you're never ready for parenthood, you're never ready for the big city, but you jump in anyway. It's too late, here we go! No turning back. It's just a beautiful, beautiful piece of poetry set to a beautiful, sad, yearning melody and I just love this song.
RC: So that was The Replacements right here on KCRW.com. The track is "Portland", Our Guest DJ is Mr. Wayne White. This next one's by George Jones. Classic track, talk to us about it.
WW: George Jones is an incredible genius about getting across emotion. And that's what country music is all about. It's about storytelling and wearing your heart on your sleeve and nobody does it better than George.
I picked this early song "Color of the Blues" and it's just classic, early George hardcore honky-tonk. It's about, again, that sense of yearning and loss and sadness that I kind of love in pop songs and it's sung by one of the great stylists whose right up there with Sinatra and Nat King Cole and everybody else, the great George Jones, "Color of The Blues".
RC: Now, you're a very happy guy with the art work and I know you talk about things like laughter and how important those things and how comedy should be respected. It's kind of a flip of what we're hearing in some of these songs right now.
WW: I know, everybody likes to feel sad sometimes, you know. It kind of purges things. It's a way of getting it out of your system without whining to somebody. Nobody likes a whiner. But everyone likes to sit around and cry in their beer and listen to a sad song I think, every now and then. And there's nothing that gets across emotion like music. You can't beat music for going straight for the heart.
Song: George Jones – “Color of the Blues”
RC: That was George Jones "Color of The Blues", picked by our guest DJ Mr. Wayne White. That was a classic. I think we're going to get into another one right off the bat, right?
WW: Yeah, well this is another country song. It's by the great Waylon Jennings "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way". And now we're gonna pick it up a little. This ain't quite about sadness anymore it's about defiance which is another big theme of mine.
A blue collar kid from the south trying to be an artist kicking against all the resistance that brought up, feeling like a weirdo misfit; this is a song about being a weirdo misfit in the music industry. “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”? Well I ain't gonna do it this way. I'm gonna do it my way and everybody can just go jump in a lake.
Song: Waylon Jennings – “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”
WW: I am from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Growing up I didn’t like country cause it was corny and all its crying steel guitars and all those nudie suits. I thought it was the corniest, stupidest stuff in the world. I was embarrassed by it, you know? As kids we were all looking towards Rock and Roll and of course the West Coast and all of a sudden bands start doing country music. And suddenly you realize, hey man country music is cool, I guess! And I started listening to it with a new ear in the ‘70s and started to understand and respect my roots more just because these cool Rock and Roll guys sort of validated it for me.
RC: It is KCRW.com, our guest DJ is Wayne White, and just picking some tunes. That was Waylon Jennings "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way ". Getting into a little honky-tonk but now we're going to switch it up. So we were talking a little bit about Rock and Roll and The Strokes. How did you come onto The Strokes?
WW: Well, I just love this song. There's something about the guitar sound of it that fits my sense of energy. It's called "Hard to Explain" by the Strokes and yes it is hard to explain. And I think this is a fantastic, majestic Rock and Roll song. Plus, I like the contrast -- it's got this driving rock guitar yet he's singing like a crooner.
Song: The Strokes – “Hard to Explain”
RC: His crooning singing style that he does with this hardcore guitar driven rock music -- it's kind of like what we see in some of your paintings where these words that say sometimes very vulgar things but they're set against this kind of pretty background, pristine stuff.
WW: Yes it's the sacred and the profane, the high and the low, the funny and the seriousness. You know anything worth the time to contemplate has a duality and I do kind of get at that in my work.
I like to contrast academic traditional kind of things with an up-to-date in your face kind of vulgar humor, that’s life.
Life is vulgar and boring and crazy and banal. You know it's not refined and beautiful and aesthetic. It's like fleeting and crass and crazy. Yet to capture that and put it in a beautiful setting or mount it beautifully, I think that is funny and it's kind of indicative of the process of creating art. I'm being honest by capturing a chunk of life, but I’m respecting art by painting beautifully and all that aesthetic stuff.
RC: So that was The Strokes "Hard to Explain" right here at KCRW.com and we should get into this final tune and it's "Country Boy in Paradise".
WW: Well, here is my shameless plug for the documentary about my life: “Beauty is Embarrassing”. This is a song from the movie from my good buddy Mike Quinn. Mike is one of the earliest and most important influences on my life. We went to college together.
Mike was much more of a free spirit than I was and he had these puppets in the back of his car one day. These hand puppets and I thought 'what are these?' And he said ‘oh I'm doing a puppet show to get out of writing a paper for my forestry class’.
I thought 'hmm, I can get out of writing my art history paper by doing a puppet show for my art history class, I think I'll do that too.’
So me and Mike put together this show called "Punk and Juicy". It was the era of punk rock and we did these punk rock puppet shows. And puppets would have their heads cut off and gushes of blood would drench the first two rows and we'd set fire to the stage. We'd come out and start choking people. I mean it was a total anti-puppet show. It was all about that deconstruction of show biz and stuff that was really happening in the late ‘70s. So that's what Mike was for me, he got me started on this path that I'm still on today. And he's a big part of the movie as he should be because he was such a big part of my life. And what can I say, it's existential weirdo misfit country music filtered through Kurt Vile and out through I don’t know. It's its own genre.
Song: Mike Quinn - "Country Boy in Paradise"
RC: That was Mike Quinn doing "Country Boy in Paradise" selected here by our guest DJ Wayne White. Thank you so much for coming through.
WW: Hey, my pleasure man.
RC: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.