Ondi Timoner’s career as a filmmaker has introduced her to many of her musical heroes, including Bob Dylan and Paul Westerberg. But its Led Zeppelin she credits with influencing her directing style and Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe with teaching her how to be an artist “riding the edge.” Ondi is a two-time Sundance Documentary Jury Prize winner and her latest film, “Cool It”, recently premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.Tracklisting
CD: It's KCRW's Guest DJ Project, I'm Chris Douridas and I'm here with Ondi Timoner, the only filmmaker to ever win the Sundance Grand Jury Prize twice. First, for the critically acclaimed Dig! and most recently for We Live In Public. Good to have you here, thanks for joining us.
OT: Thanks for having me.
CD: Now, today we're going to be playing excerpts of songs that you selected that have inspired you over the years. It's all part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Ondi, what did you bring in for us today?
OT: Led Zeppelin -- and specifically "Ramble On".
I learned to play guitar. There was a piano in the house and everybody was learning piano, but I wanted an instrument I could carry around with me. And so I learned to play the guitar to Led Zeppelin and the reason why is the only other person I knew who played guitar was a Led Head named Mike, with hair down to his ass, and he taught me everything he knew about Led Zeppelin.
OT: When I was 16, I was at Harvard Summer School and I had that sort of teenage rebellion summer of discovery and tripped acid for the first time and all this, and I had this revelation that Led Zeppelin, at that point, was the only band that really ever needed to exist because within the songs, there were so many dynamics. You know, they would go from a ballad into silence and then come crashing into just a heavy huge rock moment.
And I really try to make my films like that. I try to make them gripping from beginning to end and utterly dramatic. To have moments of silence can sometimes be the most dramatic moment and it allows for whatever follows it to be so powerful. So I think that Led Zeppelin actually really influenced me as an artist all the way around.
CD: It's called "Ramble On," 1969 work from Led Zeppelin. It's part of Ondi Timoner's Guest DJ Project here at KCRW. I'm Chris Douridas. Ondi is in the studio with us. Moving right along, we got another one here for you, what is this?
OT: I really can't talk about my life in regards to music without mentioning The Cars. I'm a child of the MTV generation, for sure. Back when they played music videos. So, I would literally spend hours in my room recording music videos off the TV. I have them to this day -- with menus with my own comments of what I thought, what I liked and all that. The Cars were by far the most innovative at that point and "You Might Think" was just an incredible music video. I thought Ric Ocasek was the bomb-diggety-doo, for sure.
OT: I found out they broke up and I was a page in the Senate for Tom Daschle and I would go to the rotunda to the payphone and I would work on trying to get the exclusive interview with The Cars about their break-up with Ric Ocasek.
I claimed I was a 23-year-old journalist from SPIN Magazine. And I remember being in the page dorm with all the pages gathered around me and he was in the shower and then he called me back and everybody was like "Oh my God! My God!" I had papers of just questions and research and all my insights into The Cars and I told him everything. And, at the end, he said "You know, I've never talked to a journalist who knows this much about my band and who's this insightful and I'd be happy to grant you the exclusive interview."
So, they must have caught on to me, because I never actually got to do the interview -- I think they probably called SPIN and found out I was a 16 year old girl.
CD: That is "Moving In Stereo," another favorite of Ondi Timoner. It's part of her Guest DJ Project here at KCRW. I'm Chris Douridas with Ondi and we are stepping through some things that have influenced you over your lifetime and over the years. What have you got next for us?
OT: I'm like 17 or 18 years old and I'm listening to The Replacements and "Skyway" was like my lullaby. Paul Westerberg would put me to sleep at night.
So then, it’s 1998 -- years later, I'm up for a Grammy and I get a call that Capitol Records would like me to make a film about Paul Westerberg. And I made a film called “Seeing Through Paul,” and it was the first time I was standing face-to-face with a hero of mine. What happened was, Paul Westerberg ended up teaching me how to play "Skyway" and it's in the film. There's a part of the film that has "Skyway" in it and it ends with him teaching me how to play the song.
CD: It's called "Skyway," it's the Replacements from 1987's “Pleased To Meet Me.” You can also find it in the Ondi Timoner film called “Seeing Through Paul.” Ondi is our guest here at KCRW. It's the Guest DJ Project, I'm Chris Douridas. So I see you have Bob Dylan on the list here.
OT: In filming “Seeing Through Paul,” I was in Capitol Records' Studio A and Paul was recording his record “Suicaine Gratifaction.” Don Was was producing it. At one point, Don said, "Do you play guitar?" And I said, "Well actually, it was my original dream, but I'm not that great anymore. Why?" He said, "The way I see it, camera-guitar, what's the difference? It's how you handle your instrument. And I'm wondering, would you take 6 months off to go on tour?"
And I said, "Well, I don't know. Things are going pretty well for me right now. I guess it would depend, who it is." And he said, "Well, it's Bob Dylan."
Two days later, my phone rings and this woman's on the other end and she says, "Is this Ondi?" I said "Yes." She says, "Hold for Bob." I said, "Bob who?" She said, "BOB."
He's like, "Ondi?" I said, "Yeah?" "Would you have any time to play guitar with me tonight?" I said, "Sure, but I'm kind of dirty right now, I need to take a shower." And then I poured my closet onto the floor, basically, and put on this extraordinarily strange outfit, grabbed my guitar without a case, and ran out of the house. We spent hours together and it rapidly disintegrated into a guitar lesson. He was like, "Why are you holding your pick that way?!? You're holding it like a banjo player."
OT: He told me that he was gonna send me music and if I played it every single day, he would call me in about 6 months and we'd go on the road together. Needless to say, I didn't see him again after that, but it was an incredibly influential moment for me.
One year later, I'm filming a series I was making for VH1 called Sound Affects -- very much like this show, about music's affect on people's lives and a song that stands out -- and Susan Tedeschi was this up-and-coming singer-songwriter and I rolled the camera and she says, "So I'm playing a show one day and someone walks up to me and says, 'Bob Dylan wants to talk to you.'" She said, "He asked me if I'd go on the road and play guitar with him."
And she got the gig! And it all came full circle and here I was, a filmmaker recording the story.
CD: From 1965's Highway 61 Revisited, that's "Ballad Of A Thin Man," classic work from Bob Dylan. It's part of Ondi Timoner's Guest DJ Project here on KCRW. I'm Chris Douridas with Ondi, and we're closing with…
OT: I couldn't really do this without talking about Anton and the Brian Jonestown Massacre and I'd say the reason for that is that my youth and my formation as an artist really occurred in my twenties when a camera was basically attached to my right hand and I never put it down and I filmed everything.
So I set out with ten bands on the verge of getting signed, to look at them over a year. I ended up hearing the music of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and meeting Anton and he said, "Forget about those other bands, I'm taking over your documentary. We're having a revolution."
Anton showed me that it was okay to be immersed in my work, to be extreme, to be who I am and doing this, just because he was like that. And he also showed me what going too far is and how, you know, I can become manic and very excited and passionate and ride that edge like any crazy artist can, but to come back from that and to not quite go that far and to be considerate of others. There's just so much that I learned from Anton.
CD: From the album, Bravery, Repetition and Noise, 2001, that's Brian Jonestown Massacre, the track is called "Nevertheless," closing up Ondi Timoner's Guest DJ Project here on KCRW. Well, I appreciate you bringing these songs in for us and sharing your stories with us. It's been great having you here.
OT: Thank you. Music's such a part of my life and my work. It's been a very complex and challenging, but cathartic process prepping for this show. I'm really honored to be here.
CD: Ondi Timoner. It's KCRW's Guest DJ Project here on KCRW. I'm Chris Douridas. For a complete track listing and to find these songs online, go to kcrw.com/guestdjproject.