Street artist Mear One is an LA native and digs into his roots in his Guest DJ set. Whether discovering his rebellious side via Frank Zappa or relating to the “hood” stories of Grandmaster Flash, music has played a major role in his art and his life. KCRW will be hosting a screening of the iconic graffiti doc Style Wars on July 28 featuring live art by Mear One. Find out more at www.kcrw.com/stylewars
For More: http://www.mearone.com/
1. Frank Zappa -- Trouble Every Day
2. Grandmaster Flash -- The Message
3. Myka 9 / Freestyle Fellowship -- Park Bench People
4. Gaslamp Killer (feat. Daedalus) – Impulse
Anthony Valadez: Hi, I’m Anthony Valadez and I’m here with popular LA street artist and graphic designer Mear One.
Today, we’re going to talk about songs he’s selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Mear, what did you bring for us?
Mear One: I guess the first song is by Frank Zappa called “Trouble Every Day”. When I was a little boy I picked this album up out of a garage sale somewhere and it was great visual art, very psychedelic, and his lyrics and his music were super penetrating to me. It inspired me to be a rebel at an early age and to speak out and think differently.
Song: Frank Zappa – “Trouble Every Day”
Mear: I think he had a very political standpoint in his way he viewed the world too. Having that connection to poor folk, and soul music, and also having a deep philosophical, political view made him quite a cynic and it came through in his music. He had funny things he said that just, like, hit me like a lightning bolt.
Growing up in a Latino neighborhood was like, one of his lyrics “I’m not black, but there’s a lot of times I’d like to say I wasn’t white.” And, you know, my grandmother back in the 70s and 80s would have not the prettiest things to say about non-white folk, and I struggled with that, because all my friends were Latino, and just growing up in Los Angeles, it’s a big melting pot, and I think that to see another light skinned, white, Caucasian man kind of annunciate these social issues was enlightening in a sense. It was inspirational to stand up to things you didn’t agree with.
AV: That was Frank Zappa with “Trouble Every Day”. So what’s next for us Mear?
Mear: Next song would be Grandmaster Flash, “The Message”. When I was in junior high school hip hop was the predominant underground subculture developing, along with L.A. gangs, and skaters, and surfers, and stoners, and all the other oddball characters that were growing up in L.A. But hip hop had the staying power and had a solid foundation to build off of and that song, “The Message”, kind of defined, to this day, what hip hop still means to me, and it legitimized a lot of my anger and frustration. It spoke directly to the conditions that hip hop grew from. To this day, I hear that song and it takes me right back to junior high school days.
Song: Grandmaster Flash – “The Message”
Mear: The song speaks about the conditions of American life, in “hood” or in urban dwelling, or in downtown major cities that some of the broken reality becomes kind of dear to us, and we recognize it as home, and it gets articulated through this song, and it gets put in a perspective where you can also grow a social, political understanding of the world around you just from listening to that song alone, so that was a huge inspiration to me as a graffiti artist, you know, crawling all over the city and whatnot.
AV: That was Grandmaster Flash with “The Message” selected by Mear One as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Mear, what’s next man?
Mear: Next is a member of my favorite group from the hip hop era, and pretty much just one of my favorite groups of all time, the Freestyle Fellowship, kind of the grandfathers of Los Angeles hip hop.
Myka 9 did this song called “Park Bench People”, and when I first heard that song, it did to me what a great Miles Davis, a beautiful Beatles song “Norwegian Wood”, or any deep, transcendent music, spiritual music -- that Myka 9 reached that transcendent stage of music where his voice was powerful enough to carry us. When I first discovered Freestyle Fellowship, that was a crucial change in my graffiti life.
Song: Myka 9 (Freestyle Fellowship) – “Park Bench People”
Mear: Myka 9’s amazing abilities to carry different melodic tones, to calculate words, and cognify verbs, and wput all this terminology into a crunched in sentence of power the way he does, was a huge inspiration for my art. I just wanted to be able to paint to that level, and consequently it inspired what I do with live art now.
AV: That was Myka 9 and Freestyle Fellowship with “Park Bench People”. What’s next Mear?
Mear: Next is Gaslamp Killer & Daedelus with this song called “Impulse”. It’s dark and it’s wild, and sporadic, and abstract and I like that. I like the fact that it doesn’t really have a solid form to it, and you can’t really put it in a box, and it changes as it progress…
AV: Kind of like your art
Mear: Yeah, yeah. (laughs)
Song: Gaslamp Killer feat Daedelus – Impulse
Mear: This is where I really evolved my live art was in this environment, this type of music, this type of BPM, this type of heavy bass flow environment was really super beneficial to coming up with ideas in the moment.
AV: That was the Gaslamp Killer with Daedelus doing “Impulse”. So what’s the last song for us?
Mear: A very dear friend of mine who, we often joke, if Iggy Pop and Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison had an orgy, and had a baby, it would be Blackbird.
This dude’s energy is out if control, he’s like a self-contained little nuclear bomb.
I’ve grown up around him, and watched his struggles, and watched him, like a Phoenix burn himself into some dark ashes and be reborn. He’s so talented, I really want the whole world to check this guy out. His message is hilarious. He’s able someone to pull himself out of the grave, and stand up, and rebuild himself in a sense -- interpret life, talk about the pain, and laugh at it, and describe in intricate form the process of being a human, finding humor in it, and being able to just kick back, and enjoy your own moment.
He’s another one of my big inspirations when I’m feeling really down and out, and I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall, I listen to him, and realize this is such a small little step in my life and I just gotta get up and move around it.
AV: Let’s take a listen. I can’t wait to hear it. This is Blackbird with “Homecoming”.
AV: That was Blackbird with “Homecoming” selected by Mear One as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Mear, we’re so happy to have you. Thank you for coming through man.
Mear: Thank you.
AV: For a complete track listing, and to find out more about these songs, go online to kcrw.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.