Talk Talk: KCRW Music Director and 'Morning Becomes Eclectic' Host Jason Bentley (Part 1)

Jason Bentley, pictured, hosted Metropolis on noted Santa Moniac-based public radio station KCRW for 16 years, before taking over on December 1 of last year as both music director and host of the long-running and beloved Morning Becomes Eclectic.

He'll be DJing at, of all places, South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa this Wednesday, June 24 as part of the "Stars of Santa Barbara" event, a wine-tasting benefiting the  Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. Tickets are $65.

So what better time to catch up with the guy, in the first installment of our new blog-exclusive Q&A column, Talk Talk? (A: No better time.)

Q: You've been host and music director since December--how's it feeling? I imagine the answer is "pretty awesome."

A: Yeah. it's definitely a dream job. I love it. It's still a work in progress, of course, and I'm so close to it as a project on a day-to-day basis that I think I'm always--I'm never content with that. I always want to improve it, tweak it. The smallest things tend to bug me, like demeanor. Do I still hang onto this nighttime demeanor, that I've been accustomed to for 16 years? I'm still figuring out what my morning personality is, because I'm just a night person. I made the shift physically. I get up at 6 like clockwork, it's hard now for me to sleep later than that. I've shifted my lifestyle, but it's still a moving target in terms of what I feel good about in terms of delivery. Your responsibility to a certain extent is to get LA going--musically, and just in terms of the feeling of the show.


How much input do you have on which bands get booked for

Morning Becomes Eclectic


A: We have a producer. She has worked with every music director that we've ever had. she's a real mainstay. Her name is Ariana Morgenstern. She's a great help. especially in the transition for me. We have the luxury of getting pitched constantly, but you can't just rest on your reputation, I still feel that I need to prompt her to go after certain things. The great thing about KCRW is that our DJs are empowered to play music they love, and have sets that build a story, an arc, like a true DJ--which I would consider artistic. The ability to relay feelings through music. you kind of catch a little wave and everybody rides and jumps on with you.

Q: How have you approached MBE differently than your past shows on the station?

A: I think the big thing with the morning show is I needed to open my mind up to even more music, and even more creative directions. My responsibility now as music director, and even with MBE, is to sort of broaden the range of what I play. That may surprise a lot of people. I think a lot of people might have been concerned with me coming in--is this going to be techno hour, or whatever?--I'm sure I've allayed all those fears. MBE is an institution that doesn't belong to me. I need to respect the brand, while still putting my own spin it it. I've had to open my mind to things I wouldn't have given a chance before. I feel like I'm better for it.

Q: What was, in your estimation, the coolest performance or interview of your MBE stint so far?

A: I really liked the Cat Stevens interview [show airs July 3]. He's really my parents' generation artist, but to get on the level with him, and hear about his whole journey, was pretty interesting, and pretty unique for  me. I've never been a hardcore fan, but when you really go and take a look at what he's done, it's pretty remarkable. Tori Amos was pretty special. A lot of times when I'm really personally invested in an artist, and we have a session, it's a completely disaster. A lot of times when I don't care, and I'm detached, and I'm like, "I'm just going through the motions here," it's much better. It's more natural. They're not super-heroes, they're just people. That happened recently with the Horrors--I just love the record, they're awesome, it's kind of a return to, like, an '80s goth. I built them up in my mind. I think the interview was just clunky as hell and it was really hard to relate, and I was just so disappointed. I thought, "God I've got to stop liking these people so much and setting them up as these inhuman music gods, because it's always my undoing, without fail." There have been a lot of situations when I've been pretty much unfamiliar with an artist, and go "Wow, you are amazing." That Australian brand, the Church.

Q: Yeah. "Under the Milky Way Tonight."

A: Yeah, they don't play that anymore. That's their "Freebird," they hate it. They were so great. There's a reason they've been doing it for 30 years. They love each other, they're really talented, and they kick ass. There's a singer-songeriter, Jason Lytle.

Q: From Grandaddy.

A: Yeah. I'm not really a fan of his music, so I did my prep--his whole bio is about how dysfunctional he is. He's just messed up. So when that's your bio material, that's what we're going to talk about. I don't know if that's a surprise to him or not. It was a good session because it was so personal, and he was shifting in his seat, and surprised that I would be probing here and there. I'm sorry, but that's what your publicist is sending out! Don't be surprised and upset when it turns into a therapy session. I liked the eels, too, that was cool. He was kind of messed up too, but really sweet. It seemed like he has had some real hardships. Some of the Latin alternative stuff we've done have been gratifying. They're really appreciative, because they don't get a lot of coverage. It's always nice when you feel an artist appreciates everybody's efforts in supporting a record and taking the time.

Read part two here.

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