Getty Museum Director Michael Brand admits that he sometimes has a stronger reaction to music than art. He dedicates a song to his family, highlights a couple standout artists from his native Australia, and shares musings on the balance of art and commerce that exists in both fields, using an unlikely duet as an example.
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Bob Marley: Small Axe (Paul & Price Remix)
Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue: Where the Wild Roses Grow
Dengue Fever: Tiger Phone Card
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu: Gurrumul History (I Was Born Blind)
Animal Collective: My Girls
Jason Bentley: Hello, this is Jason Bentley from KCRW. I am here with Getty Museum director Michael Brand. Hello, Michael.
Michael Brand: Hi Jason.
JB: Today, we will be playing excerpts of songs that you've selected and have inspired you over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. So, what's your first selection?
MB: It's reggae. Bob Marley. And I think I might have been given this one as a gift or perhaps I was curious about it. I probably actually heard it on KCRW, to tell you the truth. We heard about this house and we used to go there a few times with friends, in a very remote part of Jamaica - it's not in a resort – Westmoreland Parish, right near the village where Peter Tosh lived. I've actually been to Peter Tosh's mausoleum, and when you visit the mausoleum, if you behave yourself, you're offered the chance of meeting Peter Tosh's mother as a bonus. But this is a Bob Marley remix and this is a Paul & Price remix of a song called "Small Axe."
Song: Small Axe (Paul & Price Remix) by Bob Marley
JB: I was wondering why you decided to choose the remix as opposed to the original?
MB: I think it's a very beautiful remix where the vocals really come out strongly and he sings fantastically well. Good lyrics. I mean, I think everyone is in favor of the small axe attacking the big tree. And for me, we have quite strong family links with Jamaica, so it sort of brings back memories. I'm not entirely sure about this, but I actually think a distant relative might have played keyboards for Bob Marley and perhaps is playing on this song – who knows?
JB: That was Bob Marley "Small Axe," the Roots, Rock, Remixed version by local producers Paul & Price. Getty Museum director Michael Brand is our guest DJ on KCRW.com. What's up for number two?
MB: For number two, it's probably no big surprise- I've got to have a Nick Cave song in the list here somewhere. Nick Cave is one of Australia's great musicians, certainly of the current period. He's a denizen of the area of St Kilda, where we live, sort of a legendary figure. I could've picked probably 25 or 30 Nick Cave songs and I have very strong memories of being totally amazed when I heard that Nick Cave was doing a duet with Kylie Minogue.
Song: Where the Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue
MB: At that point…I suppose I'm slightly a bit of a music snob. For me, Nick Cave was the force of good and Kylie was representing the crass commercial side. And I think that Nick Cave doing a duet with her sort of opened up my ears a bit more to what she was doing. It's a great song and that sort of duet where you bring together two very opposite forces is also a very exciting musical opportunity.
JB: Is there something to the balance of art and commerce that exists in your day-to-day work?
MB: Yeah. That's a really nice point, that what has the notion of being sort of pure…but that isn't to say that anything commercial is not pure, so I think it's just good to recognize that art exists in both spheres. In particular, in a city like Los Angeles, we have a real major commercial design, both industry and education. Hopefully, they can learn from each other.
JB: That was Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue, their duet "Where The Wild Roses Grow," from the album, Murder Ballads. Our guest DJ is Michael Brand. What is your third pick today?
MB: This is, I think , a great modern love song by a California-based band, Dengue Fever called "Tiger Phone Card." It's a terrific love song of that period. One person is in New York, one person is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where I've also done a lot of work in the past. My wife Tina comes from Malaysia, so we had a lot of separations early on. Probably the only song that talks about flying at 30,000 feet under the effects of Ambien. And their singer whose name I believe is Chhom Nimol, is from Long Beach and she's just a fantastic singer.
Song: Tiger Phone Card by Dengue Fever
MB: Another thing that interested me about this band is their real interest in 1960's Cambodian music. It is balanced between 60's Cambodian pop and Californian surfing music. And when I was there doing a big project in the early 90's, just around the time of the peace agreement being signed, I remember finding some cassettes of this music in a bazaar there. You know, they're dressed like Frank Sinatra and there's this beautiful torch song sort of music. And then on my last day, on my last visit to Cambodia, going to the Genocide Museum and seeing one of those photos up on the wall and realizing that one of those guys didn't -- well, none of them made it out, but that one in particular had met his end there -- which is just sort of a very shocking experience.
JB: That was Dengue Fever's "Tiger Phone Card" from their last album as chosen by Michael Brand, our guest DJ today at KCRW.com. Now, for this next one, I'm going to have to leave it to you to even pronounce this, I'm not even sure what this is.
MB: Okay, here we go. We're moving back from a local band, back to Australia, and this is a song by Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. He is an indigenous Australian from the northern territory, up near Darwin. From Elcho Island. He was born blind. He learned singing both in his local church, but also through his traditional songs. Just an extraordinary, beautiful voice. He's self-taught on the guitar and it's only much, much later on that somebody said "Hey Geoffrey, did you know that you're playing the guitar upside down?" And so it's all done back to front. He sings almost entirely in one of his own indigenous languages. But in the song I've chosen here, it's called, "Gurrimul History (I Was Born Blind)," he sings mainly in English, although in the end, he reverts back to the aboriginal language which is very, very beautiful.
Song: Gurrumul History (I Was Born Blind) by Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu
MB: For me, and I'm not a specialist, it seems to have a little bit of a church choir in there, as you'd expect to find in the South Pacific. He works with a guy called Michael Honan, I think he's almost his adopted half- brother and he also produces him. And he's been winning these awards recently, but he's totally, totally uninterested in anything to do with the music industry, just sings beautiful music.
JB: Michael Brand from the Getty is our guest DJ at KCRW.com. That was music from Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, the album Gurrumul. Now the final selection, is, ooh I love this one, it's from Animal Collective.
MB: Ok this is a slightly random selection. I mean, it's a great song, but probably the last song I could have picked any number of works. And what I wanted to do here, in a way, is recognize KCRW. This is the sort of song I hear on KCRW when I'm driving around. Go home, go online. if I haven't heard what it was, I can check it up on your playlist. Click over to iTunes, download it, and I've got it. And this was a band I first heard of on KCRW. This song is also in honor of my family. I've got, you know, a wife, two daughters…so any song called "My Girls" has got to be kind of a winner there. Its lyrics from a father saying, all he wants is four walls and an adobe slab for his girls.
Song: My Girls by Animal Collective
MB: I often feel, oh God, it seems perhaps I have a stronger reaction to music than art, which it kind of worries me to say that. But I think there is something a little bit different about music that can overwhelm you more. And also for most people, you listen to your favorite music much more often. I mean, you can have a favorite painting and I hope many people have many favorite paintings at the Getty. But you only go there so often. A piece of music, you get it and you play it about 30 times end to end until either you love it even more, or you start to hate it. That is not something you get with art, unless of course you live with art, which is one of the reasons why it's so important to support the artists of your time and your place. And it's so important, for the kids in particular, to grow up with art so it is something you look at often, in different moods and different times of day, and different light. And not just on your annual trip to the museum.
JB: Getty Museum Director Michael Brand is our guest DJ at KCRW.com. Michael thank you so much for joining us.
MB: Thank you very much. And also can I make just one little addition here? I just want to dedicate this last song to a friend of my eldest daughter's who has been working at an intern at KCRW, Gaby Ross.
JB: Nice. For a complete track listing and to find these songs online, just go to KCRW.com/Guest DJ Project. Thanks Michael.
MB: Thank you.