Michael Sheen

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Actor Michael Sheen has earned a lot of attention for his portrayal of well known public figures like Tony Blair, as well as a recurring role in the Twilight franchise. His music tastes, however, veer towards the ethereal with haunting themes – from the exotic worldly sounds of Peter Gabriel to the unsettling mediations of Laurie Anderson and a tear-inducing cover of Tim Buckley.  The Welsh actor plays a colorful character in the upcoming TRON: Legacy film, out on December 17.
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1. Song To The Siren / The King on Grave Lands (Tim Buckley cover)
2. Blue Skies Will Haunt You From Now On / The Electric Ghosts
3. The Feeling Begins / Peter Gabriel
4. The Eve of the War / Jeff Wayne
5. O Superman (For Massenet) / Laurie Anderson

Raul Campos: Hey, this is Raul Campos from KCRW and I'm here with actor, Michael Sheen.  His portrayals of British politician Tony Blair and journalist, David Frost, as well as a recurring role in the Twilight franchise have earned him a lot of attention here in the States.  I'm curious to find out what songs have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project.  Welcome Michael.  How are you?

Michael Sheen:  I am incredibly thrilled to be here at KCRW.  I have to say, I've lived in L.A. off and on for about 7, 8 years, and the thing that has been consistent for me, that has made me feel at home and comfortable here, is listening to KCRW.   

RC:  Aww, well very cool.  Thank you for that.  What are some of the songs that we are going to check out today?

MS:  There are things like "Song To The Siren" which is my favorite song of all-time, probably. Originally written by Tim Buckley, I got about, I think about 25 different versions of this song.  
And the version we're going to listen to today is the very first version of it I ever heard, which is by a northern Irish Elvis Presley impersonator called The King and it's off an album called “Gravelands” and this was the first version I ever heard of it.   
It sounds ridiculous, but I cannot listen to this song without crying.  I've never once listened to it and not cried; and I've heard it, like literally, thousands of times.  It always makes me think of my daughter -- about swim to me and let my arms enfold you and idea of my…I'm filling up now (laughs), I can't even talk about it without getting moved, but…I just think it's an absolutely beautiful, beautiful song.

1theking.jpgSong: The King - "Song To The Siren"

RC: Are you also an Elvis fan by any chance?

MS:  Elvis impersonators really do have a hold on me, I think (laughs).  The obvious link is that I play a lot of real-life people.  But I don't know, I love the idea of simulations of things, I’m sort of fascinated by that.  The idea of someone who, with absolute commitment, is re-creating somebody else.   I'm only thinking of this for the first time -- but that's probably part of my enjoyment of this version because that's what I try to do in my work.   

RC:  "Song To The Siren", done by The King

RC:  Michael Sheen is our guest DJ here in the studios at KCRW as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project.  Looking at the list and hearing the songs, they all kind of have this eerie, ethereal, tribal-ish feel.   

MS:  Definitely, yeah.  I don't know, I suppose I like songs that inspire me and that there's kind of a mystery about.  So, there's not one way of reading them and, that the music and the lyrics combined, kind of send you off into all kinds of flights of fancy and that are very emotional as well, I suppose.   
This is maybe the most haunting of all the songs for a number of reasons.  This is a song by Electric Ghosts, which is Daniel Johnston and another guy called Jack Medicine. They came together and did an album and this particular song is called "Blue Skies Will Haunt You From Now On".  Daniel is someone who has fought with mental-illness all his life and there's a film about him and it's extraordinary -- he's one of the great singer-songwriters, I think -- but because of his sort of personal circumstances, it's a fairly sort of torturous process.   

Song: Electric Ghosts - "Blue Skies Will Haunt You From Now On"

MS:  This is what I love about music-- it's that just when you think, Well, those are my musical tastes. I'm kind of never really going to find anything else as good as this -- and then suddenly, a door opens and a whole new world suddenly emerges for you.  And it's like…it gets back to that excitement of when I was first discovering the big bands and the great pieces of music, and I guess it's all the more haunting knowing what the guy is going through and what he's gone through in order to make the music in the first place.   

RC:  Our guest DJ is Michael Sheen.  It's KCRW.com

1blueskies.jpgSong: Electric Ghosts - "Blue Skies Will Haunt You From Now On"

RC:  That was "Blue Skies Will Haunt You From Now On" by Electric Ghosts right here at KCRW.com.  And let's get into another one--what's the next one we got?

MS:  Well, the next one is from the soundtrack of Scorsese's film, The Last Temptation Of Christ.  It was a soundtrack that Peter Gabriel put together.  He gathered musicians from all over the world to create this soundtrack and it had a huge effect on me.  I just thought it was an extraordinary piece of work, altogether.  The story of Christ has a huge effect, I think, on us all -- whether we are Christian or not -- whether it was secular or not.  It's that kind of embedded myth.

1petergabriel.jpgSong: Peter Gabriel - "The Feeling Begins"

MS:  The National Theatre Wales approached me about doing a project in my town and so I decided that I would do kind of a modern retelling of the Passion.  But the actual Passion is just sort of underlying kind of platform for it and it's going to be a whole celebration of everything about the town.   
Since the first time I heard it, because there's no words and it's just music and incredibly exotic-sounding instruments being used and things that I've never heard before.  I've always found it incredibly inspiring, so I know when I come to do my production of the Passion, this music will certainly inspire me for it.        

RC:  Peter Gabriel doing "The Feeling Begins" right here at KCRW.com

Song: Peter Gabriel - "The Feeling Begins"

RC:  It is KCRW.com.  Raul Campos here, hanging out with Michael Sheen.  Very cool, well talk to us a little bit about this Jeff Wayne track that we're going to get into.

MS:  This is from the concept album based on H.G. Wells' War Of The Worlds.   
Jeff Wayne, in the 1970's, I believe, put together a kind of musical version of it.  I was first introduced to it by my cousin who is older than me.  He showed me the double album.  It was vinyl.  He showed me the double album and there is all these illustrations and pictures of Victorian people running, screaming away from the Martian death-rays and all of that kind of stuff and it scared the bejinkers out of me, I have to say.  And he played the music and it really terrified me.  And yeah, I really liked it as well.   
The first voice you'll hear on this piece of music, is a man who came from the same town as me Pontrhydyfen -- Richard Burton.  And so there's that connection as well--the fact that it's Burton.  
I love his voice and the beginning of it. “No one would have believed, in the last half of the last century" -- all that kind of stuff.  It's just great.   

1jeffwayne.jpgSong: Jeff Wayne - "The Eve of the War"

MS: I did a performance of "Caligula" in London, and I was also filming at the same time -- I was playing Tony Blair for the first time in a thing called "The Deal" in the day time, and then I would run off the set, jump on to the back of a motorbike, and the motorbike would take me across London to a theatre, then I would get off the bike, run into the theatre, get dressed, run on stage and play Caligula -- so I was absolutely exhausted.  
And so, in order to get me riled up, ready to go on stage, I used to do a one-man version of the entire musical 'War of the Worlds,' all the instruments, all the sounds. I still have my dream to do a performance of War of the Worlds - Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds - doing all the voices, but with an army of beat boxers doing all the noise and all the effects. So, one day I want to do that.

RC: Is there any taping of you doing that?

MS: I don't know, there are no recordings of it. It lives on in the psychologically-scarred memories of the rest of my cast members.  

RC: That was "The Eve of the War" right here on KCRW.com, our guest DJ is Michael Sheen and he's selecting some tunes for our Guest DJ Project. So far so good, what's next on the list?

MS: Well, the next one is possibly the most divisive one I would imagine. I don't think everyone's going to be into this.  
This is by Laurie Anderson. I don't know how she would describe herself, though I suppose she's more of a performance artist than anything else, and this is one of the first singles I ever bought, which I find extraordinary thinking back now, given that the other first lot of singles I bought were "Cars" by Gary Numan, "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen. So, thinking of those, which are all very good pieces in their own right, when you put THIS next to it, I don't know what was going on with me back then, I must have had a very peculiar day!

1laurieanderson.jpgSong: "Oh Superman" by Laurie Anderson

MS: To this day I still think it’s the best example of vocoder, but it could drive you mad…this piece of music could actually drive you mad. And its 8 minutes long. I sort of rediscovered this just fairly recently, about a year ago. And, it had that kind of nostalgic thing, like ‘wow 1981,’ kind of brought me back to that, but also, I found all kinds of new things in it. And again, it’s really something that has inspired me in lots of ways. There's a whole story to it, which is just so unnerving and unsettling. I think it’s great.  


RC: I don't know how much we'll be able to play of it, since, like you said it is an 8-minute song, but here we go. Laurie Anderson "Oh Superman" selected by Michael Sheen, our Guest DJ on the Guest DJ Project here on KCRW.com  
MS: Strap yourselves in, get ready for an experience!

Song: "Oh Superman" by Laurie Anderson

RC: Michael, thanks so so much for coming through, this was a huge pleasure and honor.

MS: Oh, its such a pleasure, it’s like being with a mate and being like "these are the songs I like, what are you into?" its such a great thing. I'm so honored and overjoyed to be able to do this. It’s a pleasure.  

RC: So for a complete track listing and to find these songs, go online to KCRW.com/djproject. 





Raul Campos