Michael Fassbender is one of the most in-demand actors of the moment, including roles in award-winning fare like 12 Years a Slave and as Magneto in the X-Men films. From a new wave staple to soul, he offers a mix of genres, including the revelation that he mimicked Michael Jackson moves before becoming a teenage metalhead. He plays a musical genius in his latest project, Frank, opening August 22.
1. Gary Numan - "Cars"
2. Michael Jackson - "Human Nature"
3. Marvin Gaye - "Sexual Healing"
4. Metallica = "Master of Puppets"
5. Rolling Stones - "Gimme Shelter"
Travis Holcombe: Hi, I’m Travis Holcombe, and I’m here with one of the most in-demand actors of the moment, Michael Fassbender. From award-winning fare like 12 Years a Slave to his role as Magneto in the X-Men films, he always makes his mark.
For his latest project, Frank, he plays a musical genius and we’re here to talk about some of the songs that have inspired him throughout his life as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project.
Michael, what’s the first track you’ve brought for us?
Michael Fassbender: I brought "Cars" by Gary Numan. That was my first memory of a song that I actually liked. My cousin got me Pleasure Principle because I was singing the “Cars” song so that’s why I picked that one. That’s the first record I owned.
Song: Gary Numan – “Cars”
TH: That was “Cars” by Gary Numan. Coming up next we have a track from Michael Jackson. What can you tell us about “Human Nature”?
MF: Michael Jackson another huge influence on me, musically, from probably the age of 4 to 12. “Human Nature”, I don’t know, I just picked that one as a sort of one that really encapsulates the idea of Michael Jackson - for me anyway. Somebody that basically gave his whole life, I think, to an industry.
TH: Did you ever try to moonwalk when you were a kid?
MF: Oh yeah sure, I still try. (laughs)
Yeah, I definitely did mimic as many of the moves as I could. That was also a big influence, you know, just the way he moved and the dancing. There was nothing like it that I’ve ever seen. And only now sort of looking back at some of Bob Fosse’s stuff, I see some of those influences in the way he moved. But, certainly, it was brand new at the time.
TH: Alright, let’s give it a listen. This is “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson.
Song: Michael Jackson – “Human Nature”
TH: That was “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson and we’re here with Michael Fassbender. Coming up next, we have one from Marvin Gaye. This is “Sexual Healing”.
MF: Marvin Gaye, probably, well, he would be my favorite male vocalist. The sweetness and the sour of what’s going on in his songs and sort of the way he delivers them, there is a lot of frailty there and a lot of emotion, obviously. And just the ease with which all of that is delivered by him. His voice is amazing.
The man himself, obviously, was struggling with his fair share of demons and that’s sort of right underneath the surface of that song, those demons at play.
Song: Marvin Gaye – “Sexual Healing”
TH: So we are talking to Michael Fassbender, whose new project is called Frank, and that we just listened to “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye.
Coming up next we are going to make a bit of a left turn with “Master of Puppets” by Metallica. What can you tell us about this song?
MF: Okay, well, we’re sort of into teenage years now and Metallica was a big influence on me.
TH: I mean, would you consider yourself a bit of a metal head growing up then?
MF: Yeah, I mean, at the time when I was growing up, music kind of defined your group, you know.
Nowadays, people just listen to everything, it’s great, but back when I was at school, high school, you were a goth or you were into grunge or you were into punk or you were into metal and that kind of defined your style -- in what you wore and the groups you hang out with.
I think in places, you know, growing up in the countryside, I think music is a very big deal for teenagers and especially in places away from cities. It’s kind of the one outlet you can get. There’s not a lot of options other than, you know, fields and mountains which are beautiful and great, but in terms of any action it was found through some sort of music. So yeah, heavy metal was big.
Song: Metallica – “Master of Puppets”
TH: That was Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” Coming up, we have a classic from the Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter.”
MF: I think more than any other song, there is a real sense of foreboding or, you know, something is about to happen. There’s almost sort of anticipation at the beginning of this song and then just the backing vocals on it are, for me, what makes the whole song work.
TH: Merry Clayton?
MF: Yes, Merry Clayton. I could just listen to that section of the song over and over again.
And I think one of the best songs to play as a soundtrack for a scene in a movie, as Martin Scorsese has done very successfully.
TH: Michael, thank you so much for joining us at KCRW.
MF: Thanks so much for having me, Travis.