Chef and cookbook author Ani Phyo has been called the “goddess of raw foods” and takes us through her life’s journey – from working in underground clubs to studying social psychology and digital art – in her song picks. Her choices are as diverse as her past, from the queen of rave Rozalla to Peter Gabriel. Ani just released her latest book, “Ani’s Raw Food Asia.”
1. Everybody’s Free to Feel Good - Rozalla
2. Kiss That Frog - Peter Gabriel
3. Mr. Jones - The Counting Crows
4. Porcelain - Moby
5. Scream - Andy Caldwell
Eric J. Lawrence: Hi this is Eric J. Lawrence from KCRW and I am here with Chef and Cookbook Author, Ani Phyo. A rock star in the raw food world, her cooking style is organic and healthy so we’re curious as to where her music tastes fall. Today, we’re going to be talking about songs that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Ani, thank you for coming down.
Ani Phyo: Wow, thank you so much for having me here. I’m so excited!
EJL: What’s the first song you’ve got for us?
AP: Okay, the first song is “Everybody’s Free to Feel Good” by Rozalla.
That came out in the early ‘90s, 1991, at a time when I was actually living in London working at an underground club called The Garden Club. It was when the whole rave scene was happening.
AP: So having grown up Asian American, typical, learning piano and violin, much more conservative, and then going into new wave - this was a whole new genre of music that I just loved so much. And after they would close down the club we’d go to the after hours club, like Trade. And in the morning of course they’d always play this song because it was so uplifting and so happy feeling. And then we’d go out and it would be like noon and it would be light outside.
AP: But it just really shifted my whole reality in life because I grew up sort of more of a shy kid and I felt that it did help to open me up and really find who I was and to express myself more. So I felt that that was sort of the start of music, entertainment, and visuals and all of that - my track along that route.
EJL: The track from the queen of rave, Rozalla with “Everybody’s Free to Feel Good.”
Song: “Everybody’s Free to Feel Good” - Rozalla
EJL: That was Rozalla with “Everybody’s Free to Feel Good,” as selected by our guest Ani Phyo. What’s the next track you’ve got for us?
AP: So the next track is “Kiss That Frog” by Peter Gabriel.
AP: That came out in 1992 and one of the reasons I loved that was because I always wanted to do art and my parents were like, ‘We’re not going to send you to college to study art.’ So I studied Business Management and Human Ecology Design instead.
So after college I actually started a Masters Program in Social Psychology, but then I discovered all of these art classes and I really gravitated towards painting and sculpture, and I was pouring iron and bronze. And I stumbled upon this class called 3D Modeling and Animation and I thought, well, if I could 3D model then I don’t have to pour iron and bronze I could actually model more of my designs and concepts and do more art that way. And so I started studying that and I was really into that and multimedia and digital video and animation. And then all of the sudden MTV and I saw “Kiss That Frog” where there was a 3D world, 3D frog and it was just incredible and I thought to myself, “Wow that is what I want to be doing.”
Song: “Kiss That Frog” - Peter Gabriel
AP: The director of “Kiss That Frog” was Brett Leonard. So, the director of “The Lawnmower Man.” This sort of inspired me to go to multimedia college in San Francisco. So, as soon as I landed there, the first job that I got was at a studio that was on tour. The way that I found them was because I read an article that they were on tour with Peter Gabriel doing the live video projections with the live camera feeds coming in and compositing in real time. This is like early, before they were doing that at concerts really. Also through that studio, I ended up working with Brett Leonard. So, I worked on “Virtuosity.” So, it was really, really cool to get to work in Hollywood, to get to meet Brett Leonard, to do all that.
EJL: From Peter Gabriel it’s “Kiss That Frog”
EJL: Ani, what’s the next track you’ve got for us?
AP: The next track is “Mr. Jones” from The Counting Crows. And still even today whenever I hear it, it sort of brings tears to my eyes or something. Because when I first heard it - it’s a very inspiring song about somebody who’s longing to live their dreams, right.
So I love the line that says, “When everybody loves me, I’ll never be lonely.” And that’s sort of what we all think will happen once we think, you know, when we achieve this goal that we think is so important of having fame and having fortune and having everyone know who you are. But we all know at the end of that road that’s not necessarily where you get to.
Song: “Mr. Jones” - The Counting Crows
AP: There’s a specific line that I remember that I just love and it was, “When I look at the TV I want to see myself staring right back at me.” So that was a line that I always remembered. And actually maybe just a couple months ago I was on a plane coming back from a shoot, and this segment that I’d shot for “Bizarre Foods,” actually played on the airplane.
AP: And I was watching myself...
EJL: Seeing yourself on the airplane!
AP: And I started crying. And then when that happens is when I think of this song because, “When I look at the television I want to see myself staring right back at me.” And it was like a very inspiring song for me and whenever that does happen, I just think of this song and it actually makes me cry.
EJL: That was The Counting Crows with “Mr. Jones” as selected by our Guest DJ, Ani Phyo. What’s the next track you’ve got for us?
AP: The next track, is was challenging - it’s by Moby, who I just love. And I love all of his music so it’s hard to just choose one. So, “Porcelain.”
I think that the reason I chose “Porcelain,” because he has so many other ones that were so instrumental in the rave days and things, but Porcelain in specific came out in 2000 and it was at a period in time for me when I was really transitioning between my multimedia and internet career into my raw food career, which I still am in now today.
And, you know, that song is about letting go and all of that so I felt like it was really instrumental in that way -- basically it represents my transition even from San Francisco to LA and then my transition from media into more lifestyle - raw foods, health, well being, letting go. Which was also with all the detoxes that I was learning to do to heal my body from all the Rozalla days stuff, right? Like all the detoxes and cleanses on the physical level, letting go of things on an emotional level, letting go of things on a spiritual level.
Song: “Porcelain” - Moby
EJL: That was Moby performing “Porcelain” as selected by our guest, Ani Phyo. What’s the next track you’ve got for us?
AP: The next track is by a friend of mine named Andy Caldwell. Do you know Andy?
EJL: Yeah, I do.
AP: Yeah, he’s such a sweetie. And it’s called “Scream.”
AP: And he wrote that for his now wife who is also absolutely a total sweetie - I love them both, they’re like my ideal, model couple. I actually asked him what the motivation was. He said it was a primal motivation, you know sexual to physical to metaphysical, and that - this is so sweet - but he was trying to be the best person that he could be for his partner to evoke raw emotion from her and to also have that reciprocated back to him. So, I just that that was just the sweetest, sweetest thing.
I really love that song - it really resonates with me. I just love the way it sounds. When I first heard it I just loved it. And I think right now it’s significant to me because it’s inspiring me. I’m like, “I want to find my special guy.”
Song: “Scream” - Any Caldwell
EJL: What about it that really sort of stands out for you?
AP: Oh, it’s just he just wants to be there for her and to basically make her scream, right? So, he wants to be the one that like is there supporting here. Pushing her buttons isn’t really the right word. But he wants to be the one that really excites her. You know - turns her on, improves her life basically.
EJL: Another positive message.
AP: Yeah, definitely!
EJL: When talking about all of these different elements of your career, different parts of your life, some of them have very specific connections to music. Do you listen to music when you’re cooking?
AP: Yeah, absolutely when I’m cooking. A lot of the times I’ll listen to things like telepop music - like sort of electronic you know that type of more ambient type of thing. I think that with all music, because it’s a resonance and vibration, it just shifts my whole state of mind. It helps me to focus better, it helps me to flow better. So, I definitely like the more like uplifting - but depending on if I have to really do more analytical thinking it’ll be more like the telepop music, more airy-electronic. But then if I’m sort of just doing production - where I’m just making recipes or testing recipes then I’ll definitely be like in the kitchen singing and dancing and stuff.
EJL: Well, here’s that track from Andy Caldwell. The track is “Scream.”
Song: “Scream” - Andy Caldwell
EJL: Well, Ani, I want to thank you so much for coming down and joining us at KCRW.com.
AP: Thank you so much for having me! It was so much fun!
EJL: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject.