Actor Daniel Radcliffe starred in one of the most successful film franchises of all time but when it comes to music, the Harry Potter star likes a bit of anarchy. He thinks the Sex Pistols “are as important as The Beatles” as far as British music is concerned and also shared tracks from the Pixies, The Libertines and more. His latest project is a romantic comedy called What If, out on August 15th.
For More: http://whatifmovie.com/
1. Lou Reed - "Walk On the Wild Side"
2. The Sex Pistols - "EMI"
3. The Libertines - "Time For Heroes"
4. Pixies - "Broken Face"
5. Perfume Genius - "Hood"
Eric J. Lawrence: Hi, I’m Eric J. Lawrence and I am here with actor Daniel Radcliffe. After many years in one of the most successful film franchises of all times, the Harry Potter star is now taking center stage in a romantic comedy called What If. But, today, we’re here to talk about some songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Daniel, thanks for coming down.
Daniel Radcliffe: Thank you very much for having me, this is a total pleasure.
EJL: So what’s the first track you got for us?
DR: The first track is Lou Reed, “Walk on the Wild Side”. The whole Transformer album is so unusual, but in particular “Walk on the Wild Side”. I like the fact that it has kind of become, to me, it is an anthem of rock’n’roll, even though it is sort of the least, in terms of the sound of it, it’s the least rock’n’roll song I can think of that is also the prime example of the genre.
But that song means so much to so many people, as so many of his songs do, but I do feel that song particularly gave a lot of people license to be themselves and that’s an amazing gift for a song to give it’s listenership, if that’s a word.
I’ve rediscovered it lately and it’s just an amazing song. It’s definitely one, if I could only listen to five songs the rest of my life, it would definitely be one of them.
Song: Lou Reed – “Walk on the Wild Side”
EJL: That was “Walk on the Wild Side” by the late Lou Reed. What song do you have up for us next?
DR: The next track, again, was quite hard to pick one song off this album, but I went with “EMI” by the Sex Pistols. In my opinion, and I can and will get flack for this I’m sure, but in my opinion they are as important as The Beatles in terms of what they did for British music. My dresser on Potter was a guy called Will Stagel and he got me into punk, starting with the Pistols.
I feel like the Sex Pistols are often seen as more important for what they stood for and what they brought on than for the actual music, but the actual music is really, really good too.
I just think there was something so exciting about the Sex Pistols. When I watched footage of them live, I just fail to see how you could have been in that room and feeling anything other than total joy and excitement.
Cause it’s joy in everything – it’s joy in anger, it’s joy in death – and it’s just his character, the persona of Johnny Rotten that he created on stage, which was by the way in part based on Olivier’s Richard III, was so smart and snarling.
And that’s the thing, people are very dismissive of punk because it’s easy to be because it’s kind of easy to say that they are all sort of stupid and sort of thuggish. But, it’s actually like, John Lydon is smarter than you or me or anyone. He is not somebody I would like to get into a debate about anything.
Song: Sex Pistols – “EMI”
EJL: That was punk rock progenitors the Sex Pistols with their classic “EMI” as selected by our guest, actor Daniel Radcliffe. What’s the next track you got for us?
DR: The next track is by The Libertines, it’s called “Time for Heroes”.
All of my musical influences came from three people until I was about 14. It was my dad who introduced me to Bowie and T-Rex, my dresser on Potter, Will, who introduced me to punk and then actually my driver on Potter, who drove me for the ten years as well on most films, was a guy called Peter was a guy who introduced me to the 60’s, basically.
So, until I was 14, I was just kind of listening to all of that, and I hadn’t ever really discovered new music that was from my generation. I remember thinking, ‘who is the British band I can really get behind’ and suddenly I heard Up the Bracket, which is The Libertines’ first album.
And it was just like, they were the Sex Pistols of my generation, I think in some ways. They are a much more lyrical band, they’re a much more romantic band than the Sex Pistols, but they do have the same kind of chaotic, anarchic energy. That’s what I love about The Libertines, in all their albums there is a romance about England combined with a realism about it - about how cynical it is, about how negative it can be. But despite all of that, we still love it and are still incredibly proud to be English, despite all the things that are not right in our country. And I suppose it’s a call for arms, it’s a call for heroes. And it does make me blush every time I wear a cap around a lot, like a baseball cap. There is a line in the song where he says “There’s fewer more distressing sights than that of an English man in a baseball cap,” So I always, every time I hear that line I go “Damn you, Pete for writing that and making me feel shame.”
Song: The Libertines – “Time for Heroes”
EJL: That was The Libertines with “Time for Heroes”. What’s up next?
DR: I wanted to pick a track from Surfer Rosa by the Pixies because that’s my favorite of their albums, because, again, it’s just anarchy. It does whatever it wants.
“Something Against You” is an amazing song because (sings) that initial riff and the screaming is so insane, that when I first heard that song I thought, “What is this? Is this music? This is fantastic!”
But the track I’ve picked is “Broken Face” because I think that it best exemplifies the energy of that album. His lyrics, I’ve always felt, because I’m really into lyrics, and I’ve always been one of those people that if I couldn’t understand what someone was saying, which is a lot of the Pixies’ tracks, I would look them up and find out. What’s great about doing it with the Pixies is you look it up and you’re like “I still don’t really know what’s going on, but I don’t mind.”
Song: The Pixies – “Broken Face”
EJL: That was the Pixies with “Broken Face”. What’s the final selection you’ve got for us?
DR: The last track is by Perfume Genius and is called “Hood”. I always use music to prepare for my work, which you can put down to lack of training, but it is very instant, music can take you immediately to a different emotional state and that’s why it is very useful for my job and recently Perfume Genius have become my go to. It is very dark music at times, it is always very beautiful, it’s very atmospheric, it’s very cinematic and very good if you’re on set with the music plugged in so you can hear it. It gets you into that atmosphere of the whole thing. There is a real melancholy to it and a lot of the characters I play tend to be quite melancholy at times or go through stuff. Also, a lot of his songs deal with longing - I think or maybe not, I’m probably putting words into his mouth - it’s a very hard thing to sing about without it sounding whiny. So thank you, Perfume Genius, for being an inspiration for the last couple of years.
EJL: You’ve had the opportunity to play a real writer, Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings. Is there a rock star you can envision yourself playing?
DR: Ummm, I’ve often said Iggy Pop. Just cause we’ve got a similar, gnarly sort of slightly strange skinny bodies. Where you’re like “you’re skinny, but are you healthy” (in funny voice). But I don’t know, other than that. What really short white rock stars were there?
EJL: Something to think about!
DR: I will, I will think about it. I would genuinely love to play a musician in something, because it would be great fun. I think it goes back to the thing that all actors are just frustrated frontmen on some level.
EJL: Well Daniel, I wanted to thank you so much for coming down and joining us at KCRW.com.
DR: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been great.
Banner image by Rob LaFond
Daniel Radcliffe, actor