Photographer and documentary filmmaker Cheryl Dunn finds inspiration in street culture, as well as a wide variety of music she associates with people, places and experiences throughout her life – from classic Alice Coltrane to her favorite New York band Endless Boogie. Her film “Everybody Street” will soon be playing at the Tate Modern in London and she is working on a feature length version of the documentary to be completed in Fall.
For More: http://www.cheryldunn.net
1.) Journey in Satchidananda- Alice Coltrane
2.) Feelin' Alright- Grand Funk Railroad
3.) Bad River- Endless Boogie
4.) Fools Gold 4.15- The Stone Roses
5.) California- Joni Mitchell
ANTHONY VALADEZ: Hi, I’m Anthony Valadez, and I’m here with photographer and documentary filmmaker Cheryl Dunn. Her work is focused on street culture, but we’re here to talk about the music and the songs that have inspired over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Cheryl, how are you?
CHERYL DUNN: I’m fine, thanks.
AV: Great! What did you bring for us today?
CD: I brought an array of different songs. It was painful, because I love music so much and it really informs pretty much all my moves, kind of, so, I wanted to pick a real, a broad selection, that was kind of different types of music. The first one on the list, we have, Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidananda.
Song: Alice Coltrane - Journey in Satchidananda
First of all, she’s an incredibly amazing woman, ground-breaking musician, and was kinda in the boy’s club, you know. And (chuckle) I feel like this song, it’s like a sedative.
If you ever think you’re gonna die, and you have time to put on a song, this is the one you should go for because it’s just so ethereal.
And I used this song one time when I was filming this PBS project. It was in India: it was about women that were doing extraordinary things for other women. And we did an interview of this mountaineer; she was the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest. And her name was Pechendri Pao. And we drove up the Himalayas, close to Nepal- super switchback-y roads, but it was the day time, and we do this interview, and it’s about 10 hours from Delhi, and we have to travel back, and now we’ve gotta travel in the dark in this van.
And it was pretty much the most horrifying 10 hours of my life (chuckle); you know, not only the switchback roads, but then you start going through these villages and it’s just barely road, it’s just kind of dirt, and there’s elephants, and carts, and trucks with 20 guys hanging off it, and no lights, people are just passing everyone willy-nilly, and it’s completely chaos, and I just put this song on, and I just listened to it over and over, and it sort of just calmed me and and that’s why I recommend this song.
AV: So we’re gonna take a listen.
AV: That was Alice Coltrane, Journey into Satchidananda. What else do you have for us?
CD: Ok. Grand Funk Railroad, Feeling Alright.
I was pretty much weened on rock, like bluesy rock, Allman Brothers. They were also influenced by the British music that was coming in, so this song, “Feeling Alright”, was written by Dave Mason who was in Traffic. And I love that band, and no one really thinks that’s cool, but …
Grand Funk Railroad -- I feel like it wasn’t like a mega, mega band, but it was real American. And it’s kind of a combination of…the 70s rock music was so simple; the lyrics were just like: “let’s have fun, let’s get high, let’s make out.” You know, it was just like so basic and just simple, and that’s why I kinda picked this song.
Song: Grand Funk Railroad -- Feeling Alright.
AV: This is Grand Funk Railroad, with “Feeling Alright”. With this track, I was listening to the lyrics, and in a lot of ways, there seems to be a connection with the subjects of your pictures, of your photography, and even your movies, based on what I watched.
CD: I spend a lot of time editing photographs and a lot of time editing film. And music really helps you get through it. And I kind of try not to make literal connections, but you kinda inevitably do.
I can’t sit in one place, and I, that’s why I’m drawn to go out on the street, because you walk on the streets of New York and anything can happen. I mean, you can see the most amazing thing, the most disgusting thing, the scariest thing, the most beautiful thing.
Like you can be totally destitute one day and then someone might walk by and hand you some ticket to something where, you know, I’ve been standing out on the street and someone said, “You wanna go see Johnny Cash?” And this stranger hands me a ticket to a show. Anything can happen! So if you’re out there, get away from a computer, get outside! (chuckle) It’s really simple, it’s just a simple message, and I just think it’s pretty truthful.
AV: Ok so what else do you have for us Cheryl?
CD: The next song is by my favorite New York band, Endless Boogie. I’m gonna choose “Bad River”.
When you guys see this band, they’ll do a show, and they’ll play one song, and it’ll last 50 minutes; which is good when you’re shooting, because they only let you shoot the first three songs and the song never ends so the security guards don’t know when kick you out of the pit.
These guys, they’re friends. Paul Majors is just one of the most amazing guitar players. And I think they all used to work at Matador Records, except Paul, and they started this band, I think, to get him out there, because he’s so incredible. He’s played in so many bands over the years.
But to me, they’re really like, New York, in a rock sense, you know? New York music- people have different ideas of what New York music is. I mean it’s just, it’s everything. But from a rock sense, these guys, to me they reflect the feeling that I have when I’m cruising around on the streets, just strolling around. And most of the songs are heavier than this, but I chose this song because it’s connected to a film I’m making, and it’s very beautiful.
AV: Great, let’s take a listen. This is Endless Boogie, selected by our guest DJ Cheryl Dunn. This is “Bad River”.
Song: Endless Boogie – Bad River
AV: Ok, next one?
CD: So the next one I chose is by Stone Roses and it’s “Fool’s Gold”.
I had a summer where I just rolled around with this crew of girls and we just went to every single show. We’d just like sneak into the back door of clubs and we snuck into Oasis, before, people even, like the next week everyone knew who they were. But, you know, it was one of those summers, where every night, or every week, we like go see whatever band was cruising through New York.
And my friend, used to live in Manchester, so she kinda knew some of the roadies or something so we got to go along with her, we hung out in New York. Then, like two years later, I’m walking down Canal St and see Ian Brown. He was buying a little Chinese shirt for his kid and we went to have some food and he said, ‘Oh I wanna get some smoke,’ so I took him to a friend’s house in SoHo, we’re sitting there, and this beautiful girl comes running down from upstairs, and she’s a visiting friend, and she says “Oh my God, I just got 2 tickets for the Beastie Boys in Madison Square Garden, who wants to go?”
And he looks at me and I look at him and I’m like: “You have to go.” And he’s like: “Yeah? Is that cool?” And I’m like: “You have to go.” So he winds up going with her, they fall in love, they have two kids now. It like changed the course of his life so, that’s my Ian Brown story.
Song: Stone Roses – “Fool’s Gold”.
AV: That was Stone Roses with “Fool’s Gold”, selected by photographer and documentary filmmaker Cheryl Dunn. What’s your last selection?
CD: The last one is Joni Mitchell, “California”.
This was also in a film I made. You know when you cut films, and you put the songs, your DREAM songs in them and then the reality of like, “Oh I have to figure out how to get permission to have this song in a film.” And then you either have to figure that out and come up with some cash or you change it.
But I had this song in a film that I made called Creative Life Store, and it was a document of a group of 14 artists that we all were in Tokyo together in 2000. I have this beautiful 16 millimeter film of Margaret Kilgallen, and she passed away a few months after that.
This song was sort of the closing of my film and runs underneath this beautiful film of her and her work and, still to this day, because it symbolizes her and coming home - she lived in San Francisco - it still makes me emotional when I hear this song.
I just think, music in general, it has that magic to evoke emotion. It makes you think really clear cut visual in your head of a person, or a place, or an experience, and can just make you cry. And this song has that for me.
Song: Joni Mitchell - California.
AV: That was Joni Mitchell selected by documentary filmmaker Cheryl Dunn. Cheryl, thanks so much for joining us on KCRW.com
CD: Thank you. Thank you so much. I really love your station and I listen to it all day long. Radio, I love it. Thanks.
AV: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online, go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject.