Aurgasm Interview: Jason Bentley
Morning Becomes Eclectic // KCRW
We here at Aurgasm are big fans of the folks at KCRW in Los Angeles. Aside from being a leading NPR affiliate, it is home to a wide variety of both locally and nationally-based arts, news and culture talk programs. KCRW might be headquartered in a basement at Santa Monica College, but maintains a worldwide fanbase due to the station’s 24/7 live-stream, web-exclusive music and news content, and podcasts. Musically, KCRW is perhaps one of the most influential independent radio stations in the world, garnering a “tastemaker” reputation due to their tendency to break the next big acts in music. Jason Bentley, KCRW’s Music Director and host of the venerable morning show, Morning Becomes Eclectic, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions and discussed discovering new acts, the “digital revolution” and his favorite new music.
Before you became the host of Morning Becomes Eclectic and the Music Director for KCRW, you hosted “Metropolis” (on KCRW) and “Afterhours” (on KROQ) for a number of years. “Metropolis” was especially connected with electronic music and global club culture. How was the experience transitioning from an evening show to a morning show? Does the musical aesthetic change when you’re talking about a morning show versus an evening show?
Yeah, the vibe is totally different. Having been a champion of electronic music and club culture for many years, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to broaden my musical horizons. I still bring my love of dance and electronic music to the mix, but my responsibilities as Music Director are different now. I still play out in clubs, underground events, art galleries, etc to fulfill my need to rock a dancefloor, so it’s all good.
[Fun Fact: The first artist Jason had on Morning Becomes Eclectic after he became the host was an Aurgasm feature! Oren Lavie performed on MBE on December 2, 2008. We first featured Oren in early 2007.]
Last September, you became the first DJ in North America to perform using the Pioneer CDJ-2000 when you spun the Gizmodo Gallery in New York. The player itself is a huge leap forward in terms of technology and as a digital player for DJs. In the last few years, KCRW has also digitized its entire music library. How do you think the transition to digital music affected how you listen and what you play on air?
The most immediate benefit of the digital revolution has been access to music – both in terms of finding/reviewing new material but also being able to call up a track as soon as the thought occurs. There’s definitely a lot more music out there and theÂ casual music fan will always need filters/curators so, on that level, the DJs role is even more important. I like to say that “I listen to bad music so you don’t have to.” In the end, technology is just a tool, there still needs to be a creative impulse driving the mix to make the magic happen.
KCRW is notorious for breaking new artists and keeping things fresh, musically. How have you discovered some of your recent finds? Word of mouth? Live shows?
I review a lot of new music, but word of mouth is legitimate as well. I kind of approach it as a fan and collector of music, so I’m initially looking for a few indicators – label, producer, general buzz, cover art, back story, etc… Having done this for a while, my ear is pretty well tuned. I can get a sense of whether something will work for me very quickly. Live shows are usually good for me to get a better sense of the true potential of an artist, whether there is any longevity.
Local Natives is just one of a number of Aurgasm features that have performed on MBE.
The Living Sisters, Jonsi, Laura Veirs, Princeton, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Sea Wolf, Fink, Little Dragon, Fol Chen, Theresa Andersson, Lay Low, Mexican Institute of Sound, Matt & Kim, Curumin, Asa and Oren Lavie are among the others that have performed on MBE since Jason took over hosting duties in late 2008.
At Aurgasm we always like to provide our readers with new music they probably haven’t heard before. Are there any songs or bands that have caught your attention recently? What music have you been excited about lately?
Editor’s note: Future Islands will be on Morning Becomes Eclectic this Thursday, July 24 at 11:15am PST. You can listen live at kcrw.com. Morning Becomes Eclectic airs every Monday-Friday, 9am-12pm PST.