Filmmaker Miranda July is a true original and she gives us a glimpse into her creative process in her Guest DJ set – from the song that inspires her to sit down and write to how she chose music for a key scene in her movie The Future. Miranda wrote, directed and stars in the film which is out now.
For More: http://mirandajuly.com
1. White Magic - "Keeping The Wolves From The Door"
2. Leonard Cohen - "Bird On A Wire"
3. People Get Ready - "Uncanny"
4. Chris Norman and Suzi Quatro, called "Stumblin' In"
5. Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman called "Where or When"
DW: Hi, this is Dan Wilcox from KCRW and I am sitting here with performance artist, filmmaker and writer, Miranda July. Her work seems to defy classification, so we are really excited to get into some insight into the songs that have inspired her as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Miranda, welcome.
DW: Hello. So what have you brought for us here today?
MJ: Well, I've done this DJing thing before and you can get a lot of s**t for not, you know, being eclectic enough or like if you don't have a rap song, then it's like you don't like rap, and you know, so I was trying to figure out a way around all of that in some unifying principle that could serve as my alibi; and so, these are songs that relate to my movie, The Future…yeah, my new movie.
DW: Great. So what is the first song that you wanna talk about here?
MJ: This song, by White Magic is "Keeping The Wolves From The Door" and it's the first song because it's a writing song for me. Which is to say, that when I would sit down for the day, after I unplugged the internet and made my cup of tea, I would play this and it was kinda like -- you know when you try to get the crowds revved up and in the mood? It was like getting me in the mood to write, and specifically, the words to it, if you listen to them carefully, I think really speak to the futile effort, you know -- because writing always feels pretty futile and, more than that, I think being reminded of another person who one day, was alone and wrote something and it connected. It's great to have evidence of that right before you start writing and this song is evidence of that. I mean, to me, this makes me feel something.
Music: White Magic - "Keeping The Wolves From The Door"
DW: Okay, we just heard the song, "Keeping The Wolves From The Door" from the band, White Magic. And Miranda, what is the next song that you've got for us?
MJ: The next song is Leonard Cohen's "Bird On A Wire". Leonard Cohen, I listened to growing up. My parents were very into him and then, of course, everyone loves him now, as well. But this song, for some reason, I never really got this song until more recently. Maybe I hadn't, like, suffered enough. It's a really sad song and --
DW: For Leonard Cohen -- that's so strange…since he's such an upbeat individual.
MJ: I know, what? It's so out of character.
It's basically like, this person apologizing for all the horrible things they've done and saying like, “I was trying in my way, to be free”, and that is very much the essence of my movie, The Future. There's all kinds of massive failures and betrayals in that movie, but I think in the end, it is about people trying to be free, which isn't an easy thing to do at all.
Music: Leonard Cohen - "Bird On A Wire"
DW: Okay, we just heard Leonard Cohen's "Bird On A Wire". I'm sitting here with Miranda July, and Miranda, what is the next song you'd like to get into?
MJ: This is a song that probably no one has heard; so it's making its debut, radio debut, here on KCRW.
DW: Cool. Alright.
MJ: The artist is People Get Ready, the song is called "Uncanny" and the man behind People Get Ready is a man named Steven Reker. And I included it as a really odd, indirect connection to the movie, it's really just an opportunity for me to tell a story.
I do a dance in the movie. I do a kind of strange dance involving a yellow t-shirt and I was looking for a long time for someone to help me with that dance. I'm not…I love to dance, but I'm not a trained dancer and I needed help.
I did this performance at The Kitchen in New York and it was called Things We Don't Understand and Definitely Are Not Going To Talk About. It was a very audience-participatory performance, and in the audience one night was David Byrne and he really loved the performance and, more specifically, he wondered if I could maybe concoct an audience-participatory aspect to his show that he was touring right then for his last album.
So I met him in San Francisco where he was doing a giant show and he had three dancers that he was working with on that tour, if anyone saw that tour, doing like, kind of, modern dance along with the music, and one of them was this guy, Steven Reker. He's a musician and does his own dance that's super-interesting and he became a huge part of me figuring out this dance, and then I just became a fan of his. So, I wanted to play this song.
Music: People Get Ready - "Uncanny"
DW: We just heard the song, "Uncanny" from People Get Ready. And where are we going to go next?
MJ: Now we are going to listen to a song by Smokie, which is Chris Norman and Suzi Quatro, called "Stumblin' In". It's definitely a song from my childhood. It was my parents' special song that they would play, and it's a very intense, romantic song, you know -- "We'll be laying our hearts on the table / Stumblin' in" and they sing to each other and you get a sense that like, we've been through hard times, but like, our love endures, you know? And not only that, but our love is alive.
Although, at the time, I have to say that it always felt a little queasy to me, like me and my brother, we just wanted that song to be over with, you know, cause it clearly doesn’t involve us, you know.
DW: That was their private time song.
MJ: It might involve them having to go take a nap.
But in the movie, The Future, my character and Hamish Linklater's character, Jason, are a couple and they have a conversation about, well what if something were to happen to one us, whereby we lost our minds or got amnesia or were in a car wreck and we couldn't recognize each other. Like how would we signal each other, and they're trying to think of "what could be a signal that would cut through anything that might happen". And he suggests a song. And so I needed a song! So I thought it could be this one, "Stumblin' In. I thought, you know, it's so resonant for me, and for my parents, this would be the song that would do that.
Music: Chris Norman and Suzi Quatro, - "Stumblin' In"
MJ: So for about two years, I thought that this was going to be the special song in my movie that was the signal that this couple had agreed upon that they would give each other if they were to ever to forget each other. And because it was this special song between my parents it was very resonant to me, but I began to realize that for other people it was just…funny.
And I was like, ‘oh no, this is one of those terrible things where like it's not going to work, it's only me’, and you're trying to be somewhat universal, especially with movies. So I had to find another song, and it was actually my friend Carrie Brownstein who suggested a Peggy Lee song, and it's crazy how much the lyrics to this song are appropriate for the exact scenario of a song that's a signal to remind you of your love that you have forgotten.
Music: Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman - "Where or When"
MJ: Of course it's not a cheap song, it's really not an appropriate song for a tiny budget independent movie. And I remember my producer being like, ‘Oh, that's the signal?’, you know like…
DW: ...and that's a song that obviously has to be written into the script and has to be, yeah..
MJ: You have to decide beforehand, you know, you buy it, you have to decide and know you can afford it. So I probably got one less day of shooting or something because of this song, but it seemed so important to me and inviting in a way.
DW: I'm dying to hear it and give it a listen. This is Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman with the song called "Where or When".
Music: Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman called "Where or When".
DW: Ok that was Peggy Lee and Benny Gooman's song, "Where or When" as chosen by our guest DJ here Miranda July. Miranda, thank you so much for joining us here on kcrw.com.
MJ: Thank you for having me.
DW: For a complete track listing and find these songs online, go to kcrw.com/guestdjproject.