In collaboration with 101 Studios and Soho House, host Jason Bentley adds to the airwaves with a new podcast, “The Backstory.”
After an iconic decade as Los Angeles’ KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic host, the multitalented Jason Bentley opted to pursue a new venture. His latest endeavor, podcast series The Backstory, brings together two mavericks in their respective fields to share candid conversations about what drives their passions.
Featuring never-before-told stories and glimpses into what makes these celebrities tick, The Backstory is unlike any other podcast currently on-air. Guests include actress Kristen Bell alongside author Adam Grant; actors Rosalind Chao with Justin Min; and comedian Margaret Cho coupled with director Paul Feig. The podcast premieres December 15 with Bell and Grant as guests to discuss the #GirlDad phenomenon.
Host Bentley also is a renowned DJ for events like the Academy Awards’ after-party and Coachella. In his spare time, he also casually works as the soundtrack supervisor for upcoming films Top Gun: Maverick and The Matrix franchise.
How does he do it all? Bentley connected with The Knockturnal to discuss staying motivated during the pandemic, what audiences can expect from The Backstory, and what’s ahead in 2021.
The Knockturnal: You’ve had such an eclectic career ranging from radio to film, to even being a onetime Top Chef: Masters judge. What do you look for when choosing projects?
Jason Bentley: I suppose it’s an effort to lead an original life, and gravitate to projects that interest me. Music has been my “North Star” but I welcome opportunities that draw me out of my comfort zone. The Backstory podcast is a good example of that. True story: I’m also a recurring character on the cartoon The Fungies on HBO Max. The role was written for me by the show’s creator. I voice a local public radio DJ named Jason Fungie. That’s right, I play a mushroom DJ.
The Knockturnal: That’s amazing! Looking back now a year after your departure from KCRW, what led you to decide to return to hosting with The Backstory?
Jason Bentley: The planning for The Backstory actually goes back quite a while. I was part of the founding membership group for Soho House West Hollywood years ago, and I’ve been involved in presenting events with them for over a decade. A couple years ago we started informally discussing a podcast, with the original idea being to record these talks at a Soho House venue and capture the atmosphere and unique sound signature of different houses. Of course, the pandemic changed that plan somewhat, but it also ushered the start of production in a time when fostering a sense of community was increasingly important.
The Knockturnal: What makes this podcast different from a radio show?
Jason Bentley: As far as the differences in format, radio is typically live, local, and linear listening. Podcasts are liberated from those parameters, which is exciting to me. There’s more of a creative opportunity with podcasting for an immersive, long-form listening experience with a global reach. I definitely want to come back to the idea of recording The Backstory at a Soho House venue in the future. I want the audience to feel like they’re really joining us at the table.
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The Knockturnal: How do you select guests for The Backstory, and what is the curation process like for pairing people?
Jason Bentley: Lining up thoughtful pairings has been a big challenge, but it’s an important way to distinguish The Backstory from other interview podcasts. I have to credit the team at 101 Studios for their insight on booking. They have industry contacts, and a terrific grasp of the Soho House aesthetic. “Curation” is really the key word with respect to representing Soho House, and it’s been a team effort to meet expectation for these highly-curated guest pairings.
The Knockturnal: You’ve also worked with director Joseph Kosinski twice, both on Iron: Legacy and now Top Gun: Maverick. What makes him a good film partner for music supervision?
Jason Bentley: Joe is just a genuine person and so intelligent. I love his design aesthetic, especially for futuristic environments and machines. He’s always a pleasure to work with. We have a lot of music interests in common too.
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The Knockturnal: The Matrix is obviously such an iconic franchise, and the fourth installment is probably the most highly-anticipated film for 2021. How did you craft such a unique and revolutionary soundtrack for those films?
Jason Bentley: All credit goes to The Wachowski’s. The Matrix is their vision. If I was able to support and influence that vision along the way as a music supervisor, then I’ve done my job. A personal highlight from the first soundtrack was the “Clubbed to Death” track that scores the “woman in the red dress” scene. That was literally a 12″ single I pulled out of my record box one day in the edit room for the Wachowski’s to hear, and they loved it.
The Knockturnal: How did the pandemic affect your work both as a DJ and a music supervisor?
Jason Bentley: Well, a lot of that work evaporated overnight, and I’ve had to adapt. Live events and music festivals have been put on hold indefinitely, and much the same for TV and film production. Like everyone, I’m hoping it will all come back next year, but in the meantime I’ve found other ways to stay creative and productive. I started an independent record label, Secret Technology, and released a modern electronic take on the Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush song, “Don’t Give Up” by the artist LATROIT. It’s a hopeful anthem for our times! Getting that single set up on digital platforms, advancing to press, coordinating radio promotion, and even producing a video has been great fun.
I also taught myself the music production program Ableton Live, and began writing original music and doing remixes. I’ve done remixes for the bands Phantom Planet and The Midnight this year. Also, all of the music you hear on The Backstory are my compositions.
The Knockturnal: What are some of your go-t0 songs for DJ sets?
Jason Bentley: That’s a tough question. It probably depends on the situation. I continue to host and produce Metropolis for KCRW every Saturday night at 8pm. It’s a dance-electronic mix show, and still the best indication of what I’m into at the moment. One of the reasons I’m fond of electronic music is that it’s the leading edge of sound. It’s always evolving and navigating new world, and that’s a mentality that I like.
The Knockturnal: What’s next for 2021?
Jason Bentley: One thing I haven’t mentioned is that my wife and I just had twin boys a couple of months ago, so it’s been a crash course in parenthood. I expect that to be a big part of the years ahead.
“The Backstory” airs every Tuesday.