Chef Duff Goldman is best known as the Ace of Cakes for his long running reality show on The Food Network. He now has an LA outpost of his store Charm City Cakes but returns to his roots for songs that forever changed his life, from Minor Threat to Led Zeppelin. Duff is a judge on the Holiday Baking Championship series, which recently premiered on the Food Network.
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1. Led Zeppelin - "Nobody's Fault But Mine"
2. Minor Threat - "In My Eyes"
3. Smashing Pumpkins - "Pissant"
4. Juno - "The Young Influentials"
5. A Night In The Box - "The Hustle"
Eric J. Lawrence: Hi, I’m Eric J. Lawrence and I’m here with the Ace of Cakes, Duff Goldman. The Food Network aired a reality show on his Baltimore-based shop “Charm City Cakes” for 10 seasons, and now he has an L.A. outpost as well. Today, we’re going to be talking about some songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Duff, thank you so much for coming in.
Duff Goldman: Thanks for having me.
EJL: So, what’s the first track you got for us?
DG: The first track, obviously, is Led Zeppelin, and it’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”.
It’s that song that I equate with a break-up in high school and like really experiencing that first soul crushing emotional twisting of my heart, you know?
And then like, my redemption, my—my path to recovery was this song because I was like, alright, if there’s gonna be break-ups that means that, you know, I need to sort of like be present, be into this relationship, like do what I got to do. I think, you know, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” was really that maturing song… That song where I realized that “Okay, there’s more to this than the mysteries that we don’t really know what are going on with the opposite sex."
I kind of grew up in a redneck town in Cape Cod-- it was sort of like three stop lights, everybody had a pick-up truck. Their usual Saturday night was having a big bonfire, getting a bunch of beer, and going out into the woods and freaking out.
People would play different music and so when you put on “Nobody’s Fault but Mine”, it’s a great song, great for air drums – it’s a real good song. And it’s got that ending that everybody in the clearing around the bonfire just like “NANANANOOOBODY’S FAULT”, it’s that thing – everybody would sing it together, and it’s just such a great memory for me.
I think High School can probably be summed up mostly with Led Zeppelin.
Song: Led Zeppelin -- “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”
EJL: So what’s the next song you’ve got?
DG: “In My Eyes” by Minor Threat. Minor Threat was always that band that, there was something about them. They weren’t kind of goofy like the Dead Milkmen. They were angry but they were saying something. And, when you’re fourteen, fifteen years old, you listen. You’re definitely listening to those things and that was a time in my life when a lot of people were starting to discover the joys of marijuana and drinking, and people started smoking back then.
When we’re kids like that, we have friends that are older and we look at those friends and we listen to them because we’re trying to figure out, like, what is this new world that we’re entering, because we’re leaving childhood, for real.” It’s pretty quick. You blink, you miss it. It’s kind of like overnight, I went from the Smurfs to Minor Threat.
Song: Minor Threat – “In My Eyes”
DG: When I started listening to the lyrics of Minor Threat, I was like, “This guy Ian is really cool.” And he’s really cool but, he doesn’t like drugs. That’s awesome.”
When your gym teacher is telling you not to do drugs, you’re like, “Well, the gym teacher’s lame, so I kind of want to do drugs because my gym teacher’s kind of a dork. Right?”
But when Ian McKaye’s telling you, “Hey, all these idiots doing drugs…” And describing, telling you, this is what I’m seeing as a young man. Wow, this guy has an independent thought and he has an opinion about this and it was a very personal self-reflective sort of message.
EJL: So what’s the next track you’ve got for us?
DG: Next track I have is, “Pissant” from Smashing Pumpkins.
The Smashing Pumpkins really mean a lot to me, and for a weird reason.
I was taking summer art classes at the Corcoran Gallery in D.C., and I was a graffiti artist at the time. I was young. I was maybe a junior in High School and everybody was a college kid.
One of the kids was a show promoter. I was a developing a portfolio to get into art school, and that was kind of one the things I wanted to do. And, you know, we kind of naturally gravitate towards the things that we’re good at. And, I was a good graffiti artist, that’s what I did, and he asked me, he saw a lot of my work, and he was like, “Hey, will you design me a poster for this band that’s coming to play.” And I was like, sure. And I was like, “Who are they?” And he was like, “This band Smashing Pumpkins from Chicago.” And I’d never heard of them.
So I did a flyer for Smashing Pumpkins and I got $25 and free tickets to the show, and I went to the show.
And I was like “Dude, I’m like fifteen.” And he was like, “No, totally cool man, you can—I’ll get you in, and everything.” So I got to go to the show -- and had to take the bus from Virginia to D.C. -- and go to this show, and it’s all these older kids, and I was like, “Woah, this is really cool.”
I don’t really remember the show that much – it was loud, it was crazy. I loved it, I was really into loud bands at the time. But, it was the first time in my life that I ever got paid for a piece of artwork I did. If you can make art and get paid for it and keep doing it -- and I’m doing it twenty-something years later -- that’s awesome.
Song: Smashing Pumpkins – “Pissant”
EJL: That was “Pissant” from the Smashing Pumpkins, as selected by our guest Duff Goldman. What’s the next track you’ve got for us?
DG: Okay, so the next track is a little bit more obscure. This is by a band called Juno, who are from Seattle. They were on DeSoto Records, and this song is called “The Young Influentials.”
I got to see Juno at a point in my life when a lot of things were changing. I was leaving my full-time job, about to start my bakery. And so I went to see Dismemberment Plan at a club in Baltimore and this band Juno opened up for them, and that rare thing happened where you go to see a band and one of the opening bands absolutely melts your face off.
These guys, they were jumping off the monitors, the drummers had the cans on, was hitting all the triggers. They had three guitars on stage, they just had super attitude. The singer looked like Christian Bale, and he was doing that thing where he’s singing and talking to the sound guy at the same time.
And I’m like, “These guys are so cool.” Right? They’re so cool. And right at the end of their set, they said, “Hey we want to thank this dude playing bass. We don’t have a bass player right now, so he’s filling in for us.”
And I was like (breathes deep) it’s like when Harry Potter got his wand and was like (makes magical noise) I need to play bass for this band. So I go to their merch table afterwards, and was like, “Listen, I need to play bass for you guys. That was the most amazing show I’ve ever seen. I want to learn all your songs. That was incredible.”
They were like, “Dude, that’s awesome. We’re from Seattle.” And I was like, “I will move to Seattle. That’s totally cool.” So, they give me their CDs, two of them. And they’re like, “Learn these songs. We’re going to Europe. When we come back at the end of the summer, you’re going to come to Seattle, you’re going to try out.”
And I was like, “I love it.” So I had a whole summer to learn these songs. I learned these songs backwards and forwards, I had these songs down.
So they get back and I call Gabe, the guitar player, and he was kind of the band leader. I was like, “Hey, I’m ready to come up. I’m gonna blow you guys away. This is great.” And he’s like, “Dude, we totally found a bass player.”
And I was crushed. So I was like, “Alright, I guess I’ll open this bakery.” Then nine months later they broke up.
Song: Juno – “The Young Influentials”
EJL: That was Juno, with the song “Young Influentials”, as selected by our guest Duff Goldman. So what’s the next track you’ve got for us?
DG: The next track I have – it’s called “The Hustle”, and it’s by a band called A Night in the Box.
It’s a spiritual – it’s a real fun song that you can sing along with. And the band I was in, the last band – kind of like a sludgy, hardcore, but instrumental post-rock band, if that makes sense. Kind of math-y, but kind of dirty at the same time.
And we ended up playing a show with these guys. It was kind of a weird thing, here’s a band with banjos and they’re clapping, and they’re stomping on the guitar cases for percussion, that kind of band. And then us. It was just a really weird thing.
We were on tour when we played with them. And so we got one of their CDs, and we’re like totally singing along with this completely super different band than kind of what we were. We loved it, it was great.
At the time it was almost like a novelty for us. And then, as we kept singing it and listening to it I started actually listening to the words, which is something I rarely do, because I’m never interested.
The words kind of really struck a chord with me. It’s a song about being alone, and realizing you need to rely on yourself. And, the things you do, you’re responsible for. It could be the good, it could be the bad. It’s the indifferent. But, anything that you’re doing, really is yours. And you need to own it.
Song: A Night in the Box – “The Hustle”
EJL: Duff I want to thank you so much for coming and joining us here at KCRW.
DG: Thank you very much for having me. This was really cool.