Architect Barbara Bestor compares her design aesthetic to creating bass tracks, a rare groove that will live on for a long time. From Betty Davis to Das Racist, she picks a variety of tunes by artists who have a distinct voice. Barbara is behind several bohemian modern homes, as well as hangouts like Intelligentsia Café in Silver Lake and the new offices for Danger Bird Records. She is currently the guest curator for the LACE auction.
1.) Anti Love Song - Betty Davis
2.) Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell - Das Racist
3.) Dem Nah Like Me - Ghislain Poirier
4.) Why Do These Parties Always End the Same Way? - Benji Hughes
5.) Trans Europe Express - Kraftwerk
GT: Hey this is Garth Trinidad from KCRW and I have the pleasure of spending a little bit of time with architect Barbara Bestor today. She's the designer of several standout modern homes, as well as hangouts like Intelligentsia Café in Silver Lake and the new offices for Dangerbird Records. Today we'll be playing excerpts of songs that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Barbara, I am ecstatic to have you here. I see you've brought the Betty Davis record "The Anti Love Song." How did that happen?
Song: "The Anti Love Song" by Betty Davis
BB: She was the ex-wife of Mile Davis and she had this band which had people from Sly Stone's band and Graham Central Station and stuff. Then, she was like, I think, a major sex symbol. So extreme that she was a banned a lot. A friend of mine has a poster of hers in her garage and I was like ‘Who is that woman? That is so insane!’ and it's one of her album covers.
GT: That was music from Betty Davis, "The Anti Love Song." Architect Barbara Bestor is our Guest DJ for KCRW's Guest DJ Project. What's next on the list?
BB: Das Racist- even just their name is so awesome.
Song: "Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell," by Das Racist
BB: Obviously a totally infectious beat, but the whole idea that you have a whole song about a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, which I didn't actually realize existed until after I'd been playing it for awhile and then my children got completely obsessed with it and then we were driving down Vine and they were like, ‘Mom! Stop the car! There's a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell!’
This is the one that, if I was gonna make music, I'd wanna make stuff like this because a lot of stuff that I like to do in my own work is to take something from another genre and use it in a building. I like that spirit that you can kind of be a magpie and pick and choose from the culture. And then to take something that's probably based on some strange corporate merger or, you know, like lower overhead for some reason these two brands are kind of like mushed together. To take that out of its context and reuse it as this amazing pop song because it's such a funny phrase to say and then it celebrates and elevates stuff that otherwise might be derided by kind of more conservative critics as, you know, the scourge of contemporary life. I mean, I may not want to hang out at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell all the time, but the fact that I see that it's there and realize – like acknowledge and think that's kind of funny – is a great gift to us from Das Racist.
GT: Ladies and gentlemen, Barbara Bestor, architect extraordinaire, is our guest DJ for KCRW's Guest DJ Project. That was a track from Das Racist, it's called "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell." What's next?
BB: Okay, next is Ghislain Poirier, who's a guy from Canada. He does these really great scratchy messy beats behind things, then he collaborates with a lot of people, but then this song has a really amazing bass, dub chord that I thought was really good. And then the guy doing the words on this Dr. Lee, I think is his name, has this really great deep voice. It's one of those songs that they build up. They kind of start slow with a good beat but then they grow slowly into a strong emotional state. And this is one of those ones that builds and builds and then suddenly it has a repeating chorus that's extremely powerful. Actually its "Dem na like me and me na like dem,"- ‘yes, that is true! I don't like them!’
Song: "Dem Na Like Me," by Ghislain Poirier
BB: I think that there's something about growing up with so much, let's say bass, in my life. I kind of feel like that is a little bit what I do as an architect. I sort of create bass tracks. I don't try to control the other stuff, you know, that's like people living in the space or how they're going to furnish it or something like that. But I try to get the rare groove that’s going to last, so that thing will work for like 20 years no matter what people will do to it. And that's really not easy to do. But that is, I think, sort of what we can do -- create these places with many readings and different kinds of people will like it for different reasons and it works for them, the old ladies and young Turks alike. And a lot of music is much more flexible. It can do that more easily, even more than like painting or something.
GT: "Dem na Like Me" the name of the tune from Ghislain Poirier. Barbara Bestor is our Guest DJ on KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Oh wow, I see that you have something from the young man out of Charlotte, Benji Hughes.
BB: I mean, he's such a great singer-songwriter. And it's hilarious because my boyfriend would say I really hate singer-songwriters in general. *laughs* It's really not the genre that I like at all, but I actually really like him. This song in particular is not actually straight up singer-songwriter because it's like a flip side of night life. It's sort of a sad song and yet it's like a really fun, funny song that my kids totally like to listen to over and over again in the car. It's like models and bottles for a couple hours and then ‘Why do these parties always end the same way?!’
Song: "Why Do These Parties Always End The Same Way" by Benji Hughes
GT: Being in Silverlake, does it inspire what you do currently?
BB: I think that there's something about living in a place that's this kind of funny, hillside-- it's almost fairytale-ish how the geography works out there with all these little hills and little streets that sort of dead end. It was an amazing incubator for modern architecture earlier in the 20th century and I think it's worked as an incubator for just basically different kinds of creative endeavor because it gives everybody a sort of like a sense of privacy, but also a sense of community. There's a little lake to kind of go around. There's something about it, work wise, that feels like I can kind of tap into this longer tradition of creative, progressive people. That's why it’s like the perfect place for me to get to work.
GT: That was Benji Hughes, a track called "Why Do These Parties Always End The Same Way." Barbara Bestor is our Guest DJ for KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Last but not least, a monster hit -- Kraftwerk, "Trans-Europe Express." Why is that part of your set?
BB: I have ironical feelings about Kraftwerk because they're so much like the old architect’s band in a way. I was into them back in the day. I guess that record came out when I was in 7th grade or something, 6th grade. But I kind of got back into them again more recently. Maybe 6 or 7 years ago, they played Coachella and just kicked ass. But, for me personally, I also just always felt that they were incredibly romantic. Like “Trans-Europe,” but also “Tour De France.” Then those, mixed with the visuals that they produce which are hard to forget, which are often just a road unfolding in front of you or a train going through a countryside. That, in a way, is one of those places you can always go that's sort of like nice and calm and contemplative, like it's not that complicated but it's also just sort of like a happy place. *chuckles* So Kraftwerk brings me to a happy place.
Song: "Trans-Europe Express" by Kraftwerk
BB: I think a lot of spaces can or should have soundtracks and I try to create them for spaces in my head sometimes. I mean, you can kind of tell if something's working or not in a given building or project, whether it's able to accommodate the kind of soundtrack that's probably appropriate for that group of people that's using it. I think music is the only thing I can think of like architecture that's complex enough to work on three dimensions and beyond in terms of how people actually feel when they get in a space and it can totally change your mood in the same way.
GT: That was music from Kraftwerk, a track called "Trans-Europe Express." Architect Barbara Bestor is our Guest DJ for KCRW's Guest DJ project. Barbara, thank you it's been a pleasure. Thank you for hanging out with us on KCRW.com.
BB: Thank you very much, Garth. It was super fun.
GT: For a complete track listing simply online go to KCRW.com/GuestDJProject