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Interview: Jason Bentley's First Day on the Job at KCRW

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Photo by Drew Ressler/Rukes.com

Jason Bentley began his journey at KCRW 89.9 FM in 1988 as a volunteer. Today he takes the helm with the one of the most important jobs at the radio station: Music Director. He succeeds Nic Hartcourt who announced that he was stepping down earlier this month. That means Bentley leaves his weeknight show, Metropolis, for the popular Morning Becomes Eclectic, which airs this morning at 9 a.m. We shot over a handful questions, thanks to LAist staff and readers, to ask him about the changes, local bands and more.

One of the biggest issues on listeners' minds is the direction you'll take KCRW. They wonder how much like Nic Hartcourt you'll be and how your electronic influences will affect the morning slot. What say you?

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My responsibility in this position is to integrate the influences of all the Music Directors before me, and take it to another place altogether--which means all genres of music from all over the world.

Besides a reverence of Joe Strummer and The Clash and a good ear for underground bands that could appeal to a wider audience, I don't have that much in common with Nic musically. Nic's been great at the helm of MBE, but I'm going to bring my own music experience to the program with an appreciation of where it's been. Yes, that does mean an affinity for Electronic music and global club culture, but that's not all and I certainly will consider what works best during the morning hours.

Will you start focusing locally?

I feel like I do already to a great extent. I've been producing events locally for nearly two decades. I'm very involved in the LA scene, and KCRW is totally invested in local music, while at the same time actively making connections abroad. Personally, Silversun Pickups and Morgan Page are among my favorite local artists.

What considerations and thoughts will go into who you choose to play in studio?

Mostly looking to mix it up - everything from Afrobeat to Neo Soul and quirky Folk.

You once called Justice "overrated" on the air. Can you go further into that statement?

I like Justice, but seeing these guys consistently headlining festivals based on an average album and the rather forgettable "D.A.N.C.E." single is really suspect. Add to that the nagging questions about their authenticity as musicians (playing on equipment that doesn't appear to be plugged in) and you have to wonder.

I can't help but think of them as the Sex Pistols of the Hipster scene, with Busy P (Pedro Winter) as their Malcolm McLaren. Whenever I see this kind of unchecked hype it makes me take pause. I hope these questions are put to rest by their next album and live tour. That recent MGMT remix was definitely a promising sign!

Are you going to take a different programming vision in regards to the KCRW Hollywood Bowl shows?

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The Bowl program will reflect KCRW's diverse programming as always, and the standard will be kept very high.

Have you been working on any remixes lately?

I'm remixing Murs "Everything" and The Boxer Rebellion "Spitting Fire." Just finished Femi Kuti's "You Better Ask Yourself" for a KCRW vs Femi Soundclash EP coming out in January. It features Garth Trinidad, Jeremy Sole, Liza Richardson, and Raul Campos remixes as well.

You're going from nights to mornings. What was your schedule like then and what is the plan now?

Yeah, it will be a switch. I was really hooked on rowing in the early morning for a couple years, so I know I'm capable of waking up and my wife is really excited about finally having me home for dinner.

Your show will be surrounded by breakfast and lunch. What are your favorite local places to eat those meals at?

A great low key breakfast spot is Omelette Parlor on Main Street in Santa Monica, and, if you want to step it up, I would recommend Joe's on Abbot Kinney for weekend brunch. For lunch I would say Father's Office over at the Helms Baker Building.

Last words and thoughts before your first show?

I'm just anxious to get started. Are you ready for KCRW's new "morning zoo" Los Angeles?! Joking. I've got some great music for you, and live sets in the first week from Oren Lavie, Keane, and School of Seven Bells.

Thanks so much and good luck today! We'll be tuning in to listen

More on Bentley:
- Garth Trinidad takes Bentley's Weeknight Spot
- 2007 Interview in Celebration of MBE's 30th Anniversary
- Top Ten Albums of 2008
- Top Ten Albums of 2007