Director Sylvain White got his start with a series of sensational shorts and reflects on how music has influenced his process in his Guest DJ set, from the song that opens his first long form film to his go-to track for happy scenes. He also shares a tune that celebrates the simple things in life, as well as an instrumental from one of hip hop’s best. Sylvain’s latest project is “The Losers,” a film based on the Vertigo comic series.
Mathieu Schreyer: Hi I'm Mathieu Schreyer from KCRW and I am here with director Sylvain White. He got his start with a series of sensational short films. His latest project is “The Losers,” a film based on the Vertigo comic series, and today we will be playing excerpts of songs he’s selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Sylvain, what did you bring for us?
Sylvain White: I have a song called "All I Got" by Amel Larrieux. This song has significance for me because it's the song that I used in a movie which was my first long form film. It's the song that I ended up using for the opening of the movie.
Song: "All I Got" by Amel Larrieux
SW: I chose this song because it's about really putting your skills out there, showing yourself. It's a very uplifting song in that sense. Basically, what you are is what you are and you have to be honest in putting it out there. I feel like, particularly in the art of filmmaking, it's very important as a filmmaker to trust your instincts. To trust what you have inside of you, the vision you have of the material and be confident in it and just put it out there and all you can do is hope for people to appreciate it and interpret it in the right way.
MS: That was "All I Got" by Amel Larrieux. What do you have for us next?
SW: I have a song called "Oppression" by Ben Harper from the album “Fight For Your Mind.” For me, it really meant a lot in the sense that I was just coming to the US at the time to go to college and it was one of those songs that a local artist at the time -- Ben Harper was out of Claremont and that is where I went to school, Claremont Colleges -- he was performing that song in this little coffee shop in Claremont. It had so much meaning and so much power. And, at the same time, it kind of underlined for me -- as a foreign kid coming in from France and feeling the cultural clash here in the States -- what racism means in this country. The historical dynamic that impacts all of us, I felt, was particularly well captured in this song because it's something that's so intangible, but yet you feel it all the time. I felt like a song like this, and Ben Harper is a very popular artist in Europe, sort of captures the feeling and the meaning of it in a macro way.
Song: "Oppression" by Ben Harper
MW: That was "Oppression" by Ben Harper. I am here with Sylvain White. What else you got?
SW: Well, I have a crazy song.
MS: We like those.
MW: Of an album? Go ahead…
SW: Called “Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear he is the Center of the Universe.” Fishbone was one of those bands that when I came to Los Angeles, when I was 19, 20, was one of those local bands that I completely fell in love with off the bat. Their live shows were so amazing. I had the opportunity to see them quite a few times and I actually invited them to play at the Claremont Colleges where I went to school. They just combined funk, punk, horns and rock so well together in a fusion style that I think nobody else can mimic.
Song: "Unyielding Conditioning" by Fishbone
SW: And it's also about not letting the outside world affect you. It's one of those songs that, as a filmmaker and having come from a lot of visualization in terms of music videos, I always liked songs that gave me ideas. And this is always one of those songs that I revert to when I am trying to when I am trying to think of a happy scene, of a happy moment, of a joyful, emotional moment. I always like to put this one on and see what comes up.
MS: Well, that was Fishbone. What else is up in the crate?
SW: The next song I have here is…you know, I feel in this small collection here, I just really wanted to use a song that I use to just get my day going. It's a song that I came across a few years ago by Blackalicious and its "Make You Feel That Way." It's a song that summarizes, in a very simple way, the everyday things, the simplistic things of everyday life, that you have to enjoy. That help you go through the day; get through the day. It's a very upbeat, positive song. I like the energy, I like the horn quality that it has and these guys have fun, poppy lyrics that are really bright and encouraging. So, after the crazy Fishbone song, I just wanted balance it out with something simple and cool that I always enjoy.
Song: "Make you Feel That Way" by Blackalicious
MS: That was "Make You Feel That Way" by Blackalicious. What's your last pick?
SW: The last pick is probably one of my favorite songs of all time, by one of my favorite bands of all time. De La Soul. I remember being in the subway. I was probably 12 or 13 years old in Paris. And I saw a poster in the subway that was pink with flowers on it and there were 3 black guys with braids and dreadlocks on it. And I thought, as a young black American in Paris growing up, ‘Well, who the hell are these guys? What is this?’ I went to buy tickets and me and my younger brother went to check it out and it was basically the first live hip-hop I had ever heard and it had such an incredible impact on me. That band was so smart with their lyrics, so ahead of their time. It's interesting to even listen to their older songs now and they haven't even aged that much.
MS: No, not at all.
S W: It's just their lyrical patterns. It's really incredible stuff. This song, however, is an instrumental song. It is from the album “Buhloone Mindstate” and they had Maceo Parker featured on this song. It's basically a Maceo Parker song, but it's truly amazing. For me it tells a story in the sense that it can be interpreted in so many ways and every time I hear that song, I feel a different story, a different emotion.
Song: De La Soul feat. Maceo Parker "I Be Blowin "
SW: It's just beautiful horn work.
MS: He's one of the best isn't he?
SW: He really is and I feel like on this track he just lets loose and he lets it flow and I don't know exactly what the process was, but every time I hear it, the sort of improvisational feel that this song has, it gives me inspiration and creativity and I really like it. It's very relaxing.
M.S.: Well that was "I Be Blowin" from De La Soul. Thank you so much, Sylvain, for joining us on KCRW.COM
S.W.: Thank you for having me.
M.S. Great choices, thank you. For a complete track listing and to find these songs on line, go to KCRW.COM/Guest DJ Project.