Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti is a lifelong Angeleno and his love for the city is clear in his Guest DJ set – which includes both musicians from LA AND songs that capture how he feels about the city. His DJ set includes a synth masterpiece, a solo piano piece and an 80’s classic. Garcetti’s District 13 includes parts of Hollywood, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Atwater Village, Koreatown and more.
1 - Myself When I Am Real - Charles Mingus
2 - Behind The Mask - Yellow Magic Orchestra
3 - Cities In Dust - Siouxsie & The Banshees
4 - Screen Kiss - Thomas Dolby
5 - Kiko And The Lavender Moon - Los Lobos
Jason Bentley: This is Jason Bentley from KCRW and I am here with Los Angeles City Council President, Eric Garcetti. Hello, Eric.
Eric Garcetti: Hello. Good to be with you.
JB: Now, you will be sharing music with us, playing excerpts of songs that you’ve selected and that have inspired you over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. So, without further adieu, let’s go right into it. What have you brought for us?
EG: My first pick is “Myself When I’m Real,” by Charles Mingus. I love Jazz. And I picked Charles Mingus because he’s an Angeleno. I mean he came from Arizona, of mixed ancestry like half of Los Angeles. He was part Chinese, part Black, part Swedish, I think. I mean, talk about a force of nature. Charles Mingus showed that you can lead from anywhere. I mean the lesson for me is, I always say you know what I do now in politics is I try to bring up a new generation of leaders, and I say the most important thing is to learn how to listen and to learn how to follow.
A bassist is supposed to be somebody in the background and Mingus showed how, by listening to his band, by learning how to follow his band, he could actually lead it as a bassist. And the fact that he spent his formative years here in Los Angeles, growing up in Watts, and was part of the Jazz scene here was the first reason. The second reason I picked this was, probably the most influential Jazz player on me is Keith Jarrett. But this is a solo piano piece by Charles Mingus, so it’s unlike anything that most people associate with Mingus. And it was done before Keith Jarrett started his famous piano improvisations.
If you listen to it, it has the same kind of mysticism, the same Middle Eastern harmonies, some of the free form structure. I loved it because when I discovered this piece, I realized that Keith Jarrett was actually drawing on something that had come first in some ways from Mingus.
Song: Charles Mingus - “Myself When I’m Real”
JB: That was Charles Mingus, “Myself When I’m Real,” as chosen by our Guest DJ, Eric Garcetti. Eric, what is your second selection?
EG: So, my second selection is Yellow Magic Orchestra’s “Behind The Mask”. Yellow Magic Orchestra was described to me one summer when I went to Japan as an exchanged student from LA as ‘The Beatles of Japan.’ Now, they sound nothing like The Beatles, but they were kind of Japan’s first massively embraced modern music group. And “Behind The Mask” was just a synth masterpiece. If you don’t like synth music, you’re going to hate this.
Song: Yellow Magic Orchestra - “Behind The Mask”
EG: I bought a synthesizer the week I came back from Japan and I said, ‘I want to write synthesizer music, this is my dream.’ And this song in particular reminds me of the time that I spent in Japan, which was important and formative to me because it was one of the first times I had lived away from Los Angeles. And, while Japan was completely foreign to me, it was also very familiar because of that cliché that you see the face of the world on the streets of LA. To me, I always find the opposite. The moment I leave LA, I see the face of LA in the world. So Yellow Magic Orchestra just evokes, for me, important years. Luckily I got over my synth phase, but I always will appreciate the complexity of the music and it captured a moment in time.
JB: Yellow Magic Orchestra it’s “Behind The Mask” on KCRW.com. Our Guest DJ this week is Los Angeles City Council President, Eric Garcetti. Eric, nice choices so far and very eclectic, if I do say so myself. And continuing in that theme what is your third selection?
EG: My third selection was my favorite band as a teenager, Siouxsie And the Banshees. It was tough to pick one song but, now that I represent a city, I like “Cities in Dust,” just kind of for the idea that here we are in Los Angeles and we’re building an amazing city - the best city in the world in my humble opinion. But Siouxsie to me was this fearless, attractive, incredible musician that just put on this face that was unlike anything and I think as a 14-year-old kid I was mystified by it.
Song: Siouxsie And the Banshees - “Cities in Dust”
EG: Looking back, it was great when I came back to LA after about 9 1/2 years, this came out of England and it was something that was - basically only white kids were kind of the death rockers . When it became goth, I suddenly saw Latino kids who were goth and Black kids that were goth I was like, ‘Wow, we’ve really hit the big time now.’ I guess I was a little ahead of my time. But Siouxsie to me was the original pre-goth goth.
JB: Are there any photographs of you with eyeliner back in the day?
EG: No, I never put on the eyeliner but I did have the rest of the clothes and I had a Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt I wore until the thing just fell apart.
JB: That was Siouxsie and The Banshees as chosen but Eric Garcetti, who is our Guest
DJ - “Cities in Dust.” What do you have next?
EG: Well my next song is one of the most beautiful songs about LA, in my opinion - “Screen Kissed” by Thomas Dolby. And to me it reminds me of one of my favorite things I did growing up in Los Angeles. There’s a lot more traffic now - but I think the greatest feeling was the feeling of independence - driving up a canyon right after I got my driver’s license as a teen, windows down letting the wind blow through the car, usually listening to KCRW, and when you hit Mulholland and you can look over towards the Valley side or the city side, and see the city laid out like a bed of gems at night…to me is why I knew LA was going to remain my home my entire life.
Thomas Dolby - “Screen Kissed”
EG: It’s a beautiful song that evokes specific places like Beachwood Ave. and the Valley and Mulholland Drive and, while I didn’t grow up very close to the movie industry, I always thought the city was best seen through foreigners’ eyes. Whether it’s David Hockney and his art or if it’s Thomas Dolby and his impressions in LA. They’re kind of somewhat superficial sometimes at times, but they’re also very elemental and very foundational to a part of LA that is LA. So, whenever I listen to this song, I kind of picture myself driving the curves of Mulholland Drive and stopping to see the view one direction or the other in the Valley or the city.
JB: You know, listening to you, it’s so clear that LA is a part of you and your identity. What is it about LA that keeps you inspired and keeps you coming back?
EG: Maybe most people feel like this where they live, but I really think it’s true when we say it that this is the center of the universe right now. I mean LA - culturally, ethnically, economically – it is that hub through which everybody flows, but at the same time I can’t think of another big city in the world that has the kind of topography and the place. I mean, we’ve always been rooted to the ocean, the hills, the desert and a sense of that, I think, brings out that creative ferment. Whether it’s somebody that arrived here yesterday or a fourth generation Angeleno like myself.
Thomas Dolby - “Screen Kissed”
JB: Coming out of a song from Thomas Dolby, a great song about Los Angeles, to your next choice which is one of the great LA bands. It’s Los Lobos with “Kiko and the Lavender Moon.”
EG: First and foremost, I think Los Lobos are just incredible musicians. They are the quintessential kind of garage band that can play anything: Mexican music, they can play rockabilly, they can play stuff that fuses, I think, something unique. You know I’m a typical LA kid in that I have an Italian last name and I’m half Jewish and half Mexican. Take that story and insert whatever different cultural cues and threads and that’s the quilt of LA.
Song: Los Logos - “Kiko and the Lavender Moon”
EG: You know most Mexicans are mestizos, mixed, so part Indian and part European. And Los Lobos are kind of mestizos doubles, they’re like doubly mixed. They not only incorporate those different things about the strains of Chicano culture in Los Angeles but they straddle the acceptance of mainstream music industry and a particular place that doesn’t get a lot of representation.
This album came out I think right after I left for college and so I bought it and immediately I’d be in my dorm room and I’d play it when I got homesick and I’d be back home. And it would make me think of Sunday mornings with a bowl of menudo with my grandparents just kind of kicking it and seeing the sunrise in LA.
JB: “Kiko and the Lavender Moon.” Councilman Garcetti, thanks so much for joining us on KCRW.com today.
EG: Thank you Jason, it’s been a dream come true.
JB: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online all you have to do is go to KCRW.com/guestdjproject.