Director Brett Ratner explains the roots of his hugely successful “Rush Hour” series, tells us how to charm a lady, and deems the Rolling Stones “one of the greatest bands that ever lived” in his Guest DJ set. His most recent project is the action-comedy film Tower Heist, and he is also on board to co-produce the 84th Academy Awards.
For More: http://www.towerheist.net
1.) Theme From "Enter The Dragon" (Main Title)/ Lalo Schifrin
2.) We Are The Champions (Ruined by Rick Rubin)- Rick Rubin (remix)
3.) Just to Be Close to You- The Commodores
4.) If I Was Your Girlfriend- Prince
5.) Angie- The Rolling Stones
Valida Carroll: Hi, I'm Valida Carroll and I’m here with director and producer Brett Ratner. Today, we’re going to play excerpts of songs he’s selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Brett, what did you bring for us today?
Brett Ratner: I brought you five of my favorite songs, for different reasons.
VC: Let’s start with the first one.
BR: Okay, the first one is the “Theme from Enter the Dragon” by Lalo Schifrin. Enter the Dragon is one of my favorite movies, but its one of my favorite movies for one main reason: that it’s the best score I have ever heard in any movie.
Scores are my life, movie scores, and Lalo’s score - who happens to be an Argentinean composer - did something so cool and so urban and so funky because, I don’t know if you remember, but Jim Kelly was in the movie. He had a big afro. He was with Bruce Lee in the movie. So Lalo saw the movie and said I’m going to take urban grooves to represent Jim Kelly and I’m going to take Chinese instrumentation and I’m going to create this incredible theme. And he took Bruce Lee’s voice, going ‘Wooooaaaah’, and put it into the actual score. So that’s why I think it’s the coolest film music I’ve heard, probably in my life.
That music inspired me so much to make a movie like Rush Hour and I ended up using Lalo to score Rush Hour. This is 20-something years later.
VC: That’s fantastic.
Song: Theme from Enter the Dragon – Lalo Schifrin
VC: And that was the “Theme from Enter the Dragon” by Lalo Schifrin and it’s the choice of our guest DJ, director Brett Ratner. So, what’s next, Brett?
BR: One of my good friends and favorite producers, Rick Rubin, did a remix - he doesn’t call it a remix; he calls it “Ruined by Rick Rubin” - for Queen, We Are the Champions, which is one of my favorite songs, as is. But then Rick took basically a hip hop beat, I don’t know if it was “Funky Drummer” or something from James Brown, and put it underneath the record, “ruined” the record, in his own words, and basically remixed Queen’s 2-inch original recordings and was able to separate the tracks, keep the vocals.
The greatest collaboration of rock and hip hop. Rick Rubin was actually the one who produced the original Run DMC/Aerosmith record, “Walk this Way”, when they collaborated, so this made total sense. I was so happy that he was able to do it with Queen.
Song: We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions – Queen (Rick Rubin ‘Ruined’ Remix)
BR: I’d love to find a place in one of my movies for it. I haven’t really found a place, but I am holding on to that. This is one of my little gems. Hopefully, another director won’t hear this and put it into one of his films. You know, there’s been a lot of record producers, hip hop producers, who’ve remixed rock records since, or kind of done, mash-ups, or kind of hybrids of rock records -- you know, Jay-Z, did The Black Album. And this, to me, is the coolest remix of a rock record I have ever heard.
VC: That was “We Are the Champions” by Queen, remixed by Rick Rubin, or rather “ruined” by Rick Rubin. Tell me what’s next.
BR: When I want to get really sexy with a girl, okay, and I want to sing to the girl, because I’m not really much of a singer, but I know the words backwards and forwards, I put on the Commodores’ “Just to Be Close to You”, but the extended version, because Lionel Richie is talking for about three minutes before the actual song starts.
And he’s so country and he’s from Alabama and he talks, you know, “… material things I thought had so much had so much value… But it has no value at all”, you know, “I’m a lonely man”…. I mean they’re such great lyrics. No one writes songs like that anymore and it’s romantic, it’s fun, it’s a cool record. When I saw a music video of it, or I saw them performing I think on Soul Train, the drummer was actually singing the backup vocals, which is so cool. You know, you never really see that; a drummer’s usually just drumming. But it is, to me, one of the coolest, and at the same time romantic, records ever, so I always play it for a girl I just meet. If I want to sing a song to them, this is the song that I pick to sing them.
VC: And, what’s the response?
BR: It usually works, 99.9% of the time. They don’t really like my singing necessarily, but they definitely like the choice that I made. It’s not a song that they’re very familiar with, because they probably weren’t even born when this song came out.
Song: Just to Be Close to You – The Commodores
VC: That was “Just to Be Close to You”, the extended version, by the Commodores and that’s the choice of our guest DJ, director and producer Brett Ratner. So, what’s next on your list, Brett?
BR: One of my favorite singers of all time is Prince. First of all, one of the greatest lyricists, ever, of all time. And I love records where the singer is talking on the record. I just love that ‘old school’ kind of talking and “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, by Prince, is just one of the greatest lyrical songs I’ve ever heard, ever.
I mean, the lyrics are just mind-blowing and I kind of go back and forth between “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and “Just to Be Close to You”, in the singing department, because there’s talking in it, so I could also talk through it. I could talk through it, you know, I’m not really much of a singer, as I said.
But, one of the best lyrics in it is “Would you run to me if somebody hurt you, even if that somebody was me / Sometimes I trip on how happy we could be”.
But also, it gets very sexual at the end of the song and it’s talking about, you know, “Would you dance a naked ballet? Could I dance a naked ballet for you? What would turn you on?” All that type of stuff. It’s really hot and sexy and brilliant and evocative and just a cool, cool record, which is very sing-along-able.
I love it. I think it stands the test of time, for sure.
VC: I have a feeling a lot of people are going to be taking notes on that one.
Song: If I Was Your Girlfriend – Prince
VC: And that was a sexy choice, “If I Was Your Girlfriend” by Prince, by our guest DJ, Brett Ratner. Tell me what’s next.
BR: I’ve got to top off my list with, I think, one of the greatest bands that ever lived and I am proud to say that the leader of the band is my buddy, is Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. There are so many great Stones records, but one of my favorites is “Angie”. Just, every time it comes on, I just stop whatever I am doing and I just have to listen to it and I’ve heard it hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times.
Song: Angie – the Rolling Stones
BR: It is, by far, one of the greatest records, ever. And just his vocals, the performance of the song, the music. I have a lot of records that I love, but that is up there, definitely in my top five.
VC: It’s definitely the most sentimental of all the songs that you’ve picked for us today.
BR: You know, songs, to me, are supposed to make you, just like a movie, just like anything, a piece of art that’s created -- it’s mostly to make you feel something. And, I don’t know if it was because I remember the first time that I heard the record and it takes me back to that place, different songs affect me for different reasons, or if it’s the performance, the emotionality of the performance. Either it’s personal or something that it makes me feel. It’s something that’s really subliminal; I can’t really pinpoint why. So each record, that’s what’s so brilliant about music, is that it just, it takes you back to your youth, your childhood, you’re remembering things that are mostly joyful.
VC: So, as a director, do you use music on the set?
BR: Not as much as, like, Quentin Tarantino does. He’s famous for doing that. Sometimes I’ll play a song. On this movie I just did, “Tower Heist”, it’s a kind of quintessential ‘New York heist’ movie, very ‘70s. So I was playing stuff from like, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three; the original score from that movie. So, sometimes I will do it.
I did it on Rush Hour, with Michael Jackson and it ended up in the movie. You know, I played Michael Jackson records and Chris Tucker just started dancing in the middle of the scene and I ended up using it in the movie. So, sometimes, it helps come up with some great outtakes, or even something that could even make it into the film, or it inspires. I think music definitely inspires. As a filmmaker, I’ve got to find inspiration for the actors to be excited about their work.
VC. So Brett, thanks so much for joining us on KCRW.com.
BR: Thanks for having me.
VC: For a complete track-listing and to find these songs online, go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the Podcast through iTunes