INTERVIEW: Jason Bentley

Hi Jason, welcome to Vents! Before we get started, how has 2021 been treating you so far?

Is it 2021 already? Time is flying by, but so far so good in the new year, despite still feeling like we’re in a state of suspended animation with the pandemic. 

1. Congrats and major kudos for The Backstory, one of the more unique and original podcasts we’ve come across! For the unfortunate few not in the know, can you give readers a summation of what The Backstory is about?

The Backstory is basically a conversation series with creative people – actors, authors, musicians, etc.. Originally envisioned as an in-person meeting at one of the Soho Houses, we’ve been making the best of the situation online. 

2. With so much competition out there in the world of podcasts – and some are quite outstanding – how does The Backstory stand out from the pack?

I think we stand out with thoughtful guests, the quality of the conversations, and the affiliation to Soho House as a global brand. Also, we try to pair unlikely people together for these talks. It hasn’t been the rule for every episode, but when the chemistry is right among guests who admire each other but haven’t met previously, there’s something special that happens. 

3. Creativity is a real buzzword in relation to The Backstory. As you spoke to and interviewed so many creative innovators, was there one underlying or recurring theme in all of their stories?

Everyone’s story is different. Recurring themes include the type of commitment it takes to get a project across the finish line and the ongoing struggle of marginalized communities finding representation in mainstream media. 

4. You’ve had so many fascinating people on The Backstory: Paul Feig, Kristen Bell, Casey Affleck, Terence Blanchard and on and on. The old bromide with Hollywood is that the folks in the industry are just like your next door neighbor, the only major differing point being what they get to do for a living. Did you find this to be true during your talks with these talented individuals? Are they all pretty humble and down to earth?

Yeah, guests are typically humble and approachable. Obviously, they’ve agreed to participate and everyone understands that this is a recorded program going out to the masses so they approach things thoughtfully. That’s not to say they’re guarded, but they know to be careful with words or ideas that may have negative consequences in the public sphere. The public is so reactionary these days, even more so with social media. My sense is that celebrity hasn’t been placed ahead of artistic purpose with these conversations and the projects they’re involved in have real merit.

5. With such a powerhouse list of fascinating guests this season, is there ever any concerns about the ability to maintain this level and quantity of star wattage?

I have to credit my podcast producer 101 Studios for the booking. Since 101 is actively making movies and TV shows, they have leverage with publicists and agents that give us better opportunities with talent than I would have making calls on my own. Keeping a steady flow of inspired guest pairings will always be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. 

6. Your latest episodes feature a real roundtable of creative wunderkinds: Director Darius Marder of The Sound of Metal fame, composer tour de force Ludwig Goransson whose work graces the silver screen in such films as Tenet and thespian and funnyman Jim Parsons. Again, a great assemblage of real talent. Any surprises that listeners might want to keep an ear out for in this episode?

I think hearing everything that went into making Sound Of Metal, and what it took to capture the authenticity that you feel in that film (a must see) was an interesting part of the Darius Marder and Ludwig Goransson talk. Jim Parsons is a separate episode and is really honest and forthcoming about his journey – probably a million miles from his character Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. 

7. The Backstory has benefited tremendously not only from its own innate tastes but also from a veritable deluge of media attention from such outlets as The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. Have you been surprised by the level of interest exhibited thus far for the podcast?

I think a lot of media outlets were interested in what I was doing after a long tenure at public radio here in SoCal. Also there’s so much growth in the podcast space, so that along with the supporting cast of interesting guests, the reputation of Soho House, and 101 Studios supporting, it’s a convergence that has gravitational pull.

8. Speaking of the level of interest: Are there any plans to grow the brand of The Backstory? For example, could you envision a studio audience televised version of the show?

I think we’re still navigating a way out of the pandemic from a production point of view. Again, the original idea was having some of these brilliant Soho House venues around the world as the backdrop for the show, which opens up lots of potential for an immersive listening (or viewing) experience. Imagine the unique sonic signature of Soho House Istanbul or closer to home Soho Warehouse downtown LA for our conversations? I think that’s the growth potential for the show, but we’ll have to wait and see.

9. Can you give us any hints as to what a season 2 of The Backstory might look like?

I haven’t gotten word on a season 2 renewal for the show, but I’m hopeful we’ll continue with our great work, and for now I’m really proud of the 8 episodes that makeup season 1.

10. Jason, you come to The Backstory with a tremendous resume: On top of being a modern-day Alan Freed or Jim Lounsbury with your renowned DJ skills, you’ve also served as host at KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, spun the vinyl at the Oscars after-party at the Governors Ball and Coachella. And, if we weren’t already salivating, you are also part of the music supervision team for the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick sequel. Is there a particular highlight from your years in the industry and where does The Backstory rank in that regard?

I like to view my current project as the focus, as opposed to revisiting in the past. I’ve been lucky having an amazing career in music and culture curation, exposing people to new and interesting art and ideas, and I want to continue to do that. The Backstory has enabled me to do that, and at the same time it’s been a different challenge from what I’ve done in the past. 

11. Final – SILLY – Question: If you could land on one deceased figure in the entertainment industry that you could magically bring back to life for a Backstory podcast, who would it be?

David Bowie


About Ryan Vandergriff

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