Eric Greenspan is a punk rocker turned Chef and founder of The Foundry restaurant on Melrose. Raised in LA, his influences range from one of the city's most famous musical exports of the late 60s and West Coast funk to a jazz recording he considers a punk anthem. Eric's enthusiasm for music is second only to his enthusiasm for food, and he features both prominently at his restaurant. He also competed in the latest version of Food Networks The Next Iron Chef.
For More: www.TheFoundryonMelrose.com
Garth Trinidad: Yo, this is Garth Trinidad from KCRW. I am here with acclaimed chef, Eric Greenspan. A dear friend, and owner of the critically-acclaimed Los Angeles restaurant The Foundry, and a former contestant on the Food Network show, The Next Iron Chef. So, we're going to be talking about some songs that have inspired him as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Now, my man Eric, it's good to see you--
Eric Greenspan: Good to see you, too, sir.
GT: You know, building the restaurant, opening the doors -- music I'm sure has played a critical role. You once held down the position as leader of a band when I knew you back in high school
EG: Yeah, that's right. You used to do the flyers for us.
GT: And so music has been a big part of your life as well. I actually thought you were on your path to being a musician…
EG: Yeah, I appreciate that
GT: Little did I know, you liked being in the kitchen, too.
GT: So, what do you want to throw in there first?
EG: I brought you a Bad Religion song called "I Want To Conquer The World".
EG: In high school, where we met, I was a punk rocker at heart. And there was a band, Bad Religion -- which is what I always thought that The Green Armpits were on their way to being -- 'The Next Bad Religion' out there. In particular, this song really meant a lot to me because it was kind of an anthemic, rally, me-against-the-world kinda fight song. I always thought that that was the most beautiful thing about punk rock -- it's that punk rock, you didn't have to have talent, you just have to have heart. I've carried that throughout my whole life and I kinda love just the anthemic kind of nature of punk rock and I think this is probably one of the best ones out there.
GT: So appropriate for high school, as well.
EG: Indeed. You know, when you're young, you're ready to go! And this is one of those songs that really got you-- you're like 'I'm off, I'm gonna go do great things -- I wanna go off and do something big.'
Song: Bad Religion’s "I Want To Conquer The World"
GT: That was "I Want To Conquer The World" from Bad Religion. What else is on your list?
EG: One of the most inspirational songs to me ever; which was Sly & The Family Stone's "Stand!" Anybody who's heard that song…it's just one of those songs that really gets you to get on moving and keep on doing what you're doing. Not to mention, possibly one of the best breakdowns in any song ever. There's that one part, and you'll hear it when it comes on, and you just go "Uughhh!" and just makes you want to step back and go "Grrrr!"
Song: Sly and the Family Stone’s “Stand!”
EG: I went to Berkeley for college and I used to make that drive up and down the 5 in my Volkswagon Fox. I was sick of all the music that I had so we'd pulled off to a gas station and I was looking through all the different songs, different albums, they had at the gas station and stuff, and I was like 'What am I ever gonna find here?' But I was just so sick of the tapes I had in my car, I needed something new. I had never heard Sly & The Family Stone, but I grabbed that album, “Stand!”
It changed it forever, man. I think Sly & The Family Stone -- a lot of people know them and love them, but a lot of people don't, I've noticed. They're one of those bands that, as the years go on, people are like, 'Who?' and you're like, 'What?!? How do you not know?' I remember, ever since that drive, throughout the entire college years, that's when I kind of started shifting away from just kind of the anger and the fierceness of the punk rock and finding it again in these anthems, these things that kind of get you moving and keep your focus on where you're trying to go. "Stand!" is one of those that'll keep me inspired forever.
GT: That was "Stand!" from Sly & The Family Stone. Eric Greenspan is my guest, owner and chef at The Foundry in Los Angeles, sharing some music with us today. What else is in the goody bag, bro?
EG: Ahh, the goody bag. When I was living in Paris -- I went to culinary school in Paris after I left college -- and there was a street fair going on right on my street in the outskirts of Paris. I didn't speak any French and I didn't know anybody in town and I was there for a couple months before school started thinking, ‘Oh I'll just go to France and I'll learn French before school starts’- didn't work! But I would walk through these street fairs and I saw this person was selling CDs and it was all these random CDs that I'd never heard of and then I came across The Doors' L.A. Woman. "Changeling" was the first cut. First of all, I always thought of The Doors as a groovy, kind of trance-y, hippie kind of band and that song just starts off with another one of those -- kind of like what Sly & The Family Stone- it's just got that "Ughh!" you know with the organs cranking. And, again, another one of those really inspirational songs that kind of gave me an anthem to my life for the next five years.
After culinary school I went to New York City and throughout all of New York City too, when you're making $200 bucks a week and you're living in Manhattan and you're just struggling to get through every day and work is a grind because you're cooking for 14, 15 hours a day and you're getting yelled at and you're getting beat up and there's a line in that song that goes ‘I've lived uptown, I've lived downtown, but I've never been so broke that I couldn't leave town.’ It's one of those things that keeps you going. You're just like, ‘you know, no matter what's going to happen, I got this on lock down, I got this going.’ So from Paris all the way through New York, this song really kind of brought me through for a long time.
Song: The Doors’ "Changeling"
GT: That was "Changeling," from The Doors. I see something else that I, I guess wouldn't have expected from a die hard punk-
GT: - rock musician and fan. This is a joint from Manu Chao
GT: Why'd you pick this?
EG: Well, you know, we all grow up sometimes. *laughs* Manu Chao represented a big changing point in my career, actually. I went up to work in a restaurant in Spain called El Bulli. The summer that I was out there, which was I believe the summer of 2001, was when Próxima Estación: Esperanza-- which is Manu Chao's album that this song comes off of -- came out and it was all the rage out there. It's interesting the way things played out. This was at a time this restaurant was pushing Spanish cuisine to the forefront and pushing creativity and thinking outside of the box of what you do and combining elements from your childhood and elements from your cultures and putting them together in a way that no one's ever seen then before in a super creative fashion and everywhere you looked that summer was Manu Chao
Song: Manu Chao’s "Merry Blues"
EG: He's so unique and he's so creative and he's got such a unique sound that stems from such a personal place. He comes from a punk rock background, but he's also got Caribbean notes to it, just strange centipede segments that he cuts and weaves into his stuff. And, for me, it symbolized a big turning point in my career for learning how to be creative and how to think outside the box and do things like that. So Manu Chao kind of symbolized to me too, from a musical standpoint, that same sense of, ‘I'm gonna do what I do and I'm gonna do it well.’ You know, I don't think this is a man who gets enough play out here. I mean, Manu Chao is one of the those musicians who just does his thing and I'm a big fan of people who just do their thing
GT: That was "Merry Blues," from Manu Chao. Right on, bro
GT: Which leaves us to the very last cut you brought-
EG: Yeah, yeah
GT: -which I just think is phenomenal. Tell us about this Charles Mingus.
EG: Charles Mingus man, I mean Charles Mingus. You wanna talk about punk rock -- Charles Mingus was punk rock. I mean this guy, the stories that you read about Charles Mingus and how he used to act on the road and how he used to do his vision and the way that he played his music and the grinding beat he brings to the bass on top of that is, IT IS punk rock. I think this song that we chose has got more probably more fight in it than most, it’s the "Haitian Fight Song" by Charles Mingus. We play it at the restaurant. At least at one point during every service you'll catch this song just because it gets me pumped to hear it every time and that's what the music is for, it's to kind of bring, to carry that vibe through, throughout the whole restaurant --yeah there's sophistication, just like there's sophistication in the music, but at the end of the day it's really just about expression and about having a good time. That's what this song means to me and that's what the whole Foundry experience is about to me.
Song: Charles Mingus’ "The Haitian Fight Song"
GT: Chef Eric Greenspan's Guest DJ Project, ladies and gentlemen. This cut called "Haitian Fight Song," from Charles Mingus. Awesome that you hung out with us today at KCRW.com
EG: Thanks for having me in.
GT: For the complete track listing of Eric's set, go to KCRW.com/GuestDJProject