Living and working in a city as culturally rich as Los Angeles, it’s no small feat to be dubbed a musical tastemaker. But with two radio shows, a healthy tour itinerary, and a wide range of musicians who credit him with breaking their career, few would argue that Jason Bentley hasn’t earned the title. Since busting onto the scene more than 15 years ago, Bentley has had his finger on the pulse of electronic and dance music. And with his help, acts like Paul Oakenfold, Daft Punk, and UNKLE have managed to crawl off the dance floor and onto the airwaves of major L.A. radio stations KCRW and the alt-rock monolith KROQ.
Currently, Bentley is hard at work on a number of different projects, including playing music supervisor to Disney’s tech-filled sequel to Tron and putting the finishing touches on his own album of mixes. In between it all Bentley will be making his highly anticipated return to town for this month’s season-closing Nights event at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The evening will be Bentley’s second Nights performance. It will also mark the only time this year the museum will open up its back patio to the party, creating an expansive dance floor for the DJ to reign over.
“They made the call and I think it was a wise decision,” said Bentley of the setup. “It’s always tricky, especially in the venues like that that aren’t necessarily nightclubs or music venues : [But the last time I played] it was good. It was a pretty hot crowd, actually. People seemed to be hooking up and having fun. I was really caught off guard. You think going to a museum would be a bit staunchy, but people were really there to let their hair down and have some fun and meet people.”
No stranger to the party scene, Bentley continues to make time to play live despite his seemingly unending list of jobs and obligations. Getting his start in the clubs, it’s no wonder that he feels so at home there. “I like being in a live environment and playing on a big sound system or at a pool party,” he said. “I just really feed off of people and their reaction to music, so you get that coming back from people when you play live. It’s fun. It’s a rush. Working in a studio is so much more of an applied process. : One is more of an instant gratification thing and the other is something that you feel more satisfaction with over time : being able to look at a body of work and feel good about it and have people comment about it later or pick up on it later.”
In fact, it is that mix of raw energy and the need for longevity that has made Bentley not only one of the most sought-after deejays in the world, but one of the most well-respected opinions in electronic music. It’s his fascination with the next great thing that makes his set lists as diverse as they are danceable.
“I think the more interesting things happening musically are in a more rock-dance fusion,” he said. “[It’s] been happening for the last year or two-sort of this hipster, American Apparel nation of really young kids who are taking equal parts from rock and hip-hop and rave and punk. They’re just making their own style out of a patchwork of all of these different things that we’ve already experienced-sort of turning it into something new. It’s really exciting and it’s fun and you can’t deny them. They’re like ants, they just keep coming. And they have their own scene and they don’t really care about whatever has happened before.
“It’s a seismic shift that I feel, culturally, in the underground,” he elaborated. “And it’s nice to play to these rabid music fans. I mean, we’re talking about the most active music demographic that there is. These are people that will wait on lines-that will do anything. They’re obsessive, and I remember being that way too, so it’s nice.”
Jason Bentley will be spinning Thursday, September 18, at 7 p.m. at the SBMA’s final Nights event of 2008. Call 884-6414 or visit sbma.net/nights.com for details.