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Transcribed by Eric Alexander Moore
In this episode, I talk to Brendan Davis. Brendan is an old friend of mine and he was one of the first people I met in Los Angeles when I moved out here in 2006. He showed me around and hired me to do graphic design for him, and I spent many hours getting free psychotherapy. A little history about Brendan, as a kid he started out running the lights in theater productions in his hometown. His band went on to appear on the TV show, Star Search, with good old Ed McMahon. He talks about his fun experiences with Kevin James, Punky Brewster and Dweezil Zappa, Martha Quinn of MTV fame, remember her? He also tells me about his run-ins with my hero, Kip Winger, of the band, Winger. I will forever be envious.
Brendan has done tons of crazy things in showbiz from doing sound for the TV show, Alias, to producing a Chinese TV show starring Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee, M. Night Shyamalan, the director Justin Lin, and Sean Astin of The Goonies and Boobathon. Who writes this? He now lives in China and travels the world working as a movie producer. His most recent film, as of the recording of this episode in early 2019, is called My Favorite Season, which was shot in Paris.
So here we go.
I’m here with Brendan Davis. Go. Talk.
BD: No pressure.
CK: Yeah, what’s your deal? What’s going on here?
BD: How’s it going, Carl King?
CK: I came down here. We’re going to talk and we’re going to get some food afterwards.
BD: This is the promise.
CK: I’m looking forward to the food.
BD: This is what I was told.
CK: For some reason, I’m interested in that.
BD: All thanks. The interview is to be suffered through. But you came bearing gifts of the t-shirt that I help pay for with my Kickstarter contribution-
CK: Yes, thank you, thank you.
BD: … to The Oracle of Outer Space. It’s a lovely … it’s quite a fetching t-shirt and I think anyone listening would look fantastic in one.
CK: Yeah. It ended up being nice and soft too.
BD: Where could they get one of those, Carl?
CK: I don’t know. Oracleofouterspace.com or something.
BD: All right.
CK: I also … I recently upgraded my domain name.
BD: You did?
CK: Yeah, for years I’ve had carlkingdom.com but now you can access my website at carlkingdumb.com.
CK: It is now spelled D-U-M-B at the end, carlkingdumb.com.
BD: Oh really?
BD: So you changed it?
CK: The old one still works, but the new, important-
BD: Oh. Did you have it redirect to dumb?
CK: Yeah, somebody on Facebook, Ugis Berzins, or whatever his name is, he’s changed his last name a lot but I think it’s pronounced Ugis or Ugis. He’s an artist, and he told me on Facebook, “By the way, someday someone’s going to buy carlkingdumb.com-“
BD: And you thought, “That day is today and-“
CK: And I thought, “All right, there it is. Why not?”
BD: “… the guy’s name is me.”
CK: Why not?
CK: Kind of one of those George Bush things.
BD: Well I’m glad I could be here for this confessional.
BD: We’re doing a show, right? Are we?
CK: We’re recording right now.
BD: Oh, sweet.
CK: We’re talking on The Carl King Podcast.
BD: Excellent. Well hi, everybody, listening to The Carl King Podcast. I am glad to be here, although here is technically my apartment, but I’m glad you’re here and I’m here.
CK: We’re in Hollywood, I think.
BD: So it’s our time.
CK: Is this technically Hollywood? Kind of a Hollywood Hills kind of-
BD: Yeah, metaphorically it is all of these things.
CK: We’re on a hill.
BD: We’re on a hill and we’re in Hollywood.
BD: We’re at the base. I mean, anyone who actually lived here and tried to say they lived in the Hollywood Hills, they would be stretching it to be fancy.
CK: I would stretch it.
BD: Well, you know, why not? It ain’t bragging if you can do it.
CK: I say I live in LA, but I live in LA County.
BD: And that’s letter of the law.
CK: Today I wanted to talk with you about something that you brought up originally when you interviewed me, and-
BD: For the Big Fish in the Middle Kingdom podcast. You were my last guest on my long-running China show as I transition to a non-China show very much like that.
CK: Is it okay to have my feet here or should I-
BD: It is, it is.
CK: … leave my feet outside?
BD: No, no, your feet can go with the rest of you.
CK: All right. So-
BD: Comfortably propped. Since this is audio, people can’t see.
CK: We talked about identity the last time we talked.
BD: Yes, as pertains to you.
CK: Yeah, but we’re going to talk about your identity-
BD: Oh boy.
CK: … and the development of your identity, and sort of reinventing yourself, this theme which you brought up, and you suggested that we talk about it again today, and I totally agree. I think that’s very interesting. And I also want to start by saying that one of the things I notice about you when I’m like, “Hm, I’m Carl King and this other person over here is Brendan Davis, and what’s different about this guy from me?” There was a moment that I had that was very inspiring and striking years ago when I … at random I went down to your place when you lived in Santa Monica.
BD: Right, this was a great spot over there.
CK: I don’t even remember why I ended up down at your place or what we were doing or meeting up for some reason, maybe food or something.
BD: It could’ve been probably some food. It was before you went full vegan, and-
CK: Maybe or maybe not, but I think it was-
BD: … probably some Callahan’s might have been involved.
CK: It might have been.
BD: May they rest in peace.
CK: I was like, “What are you working on lately?” And you pulled out this huge portfolio movie bible of this huge project you were working on at the time.
BD: Oh yeah, that movie.
CK: It was some sort of international thing with all these actors and-
BD: Fancy people, yeah, yeah.
CK: … it was like a huge investment … not an investment portfolio but-
BD: Yeah, it was a pitch deck, yeah.
CK: Yeah. But this was a big ass, printed-
BD: It was a book. It was a book on-
CK: Yeah, with locations and-
BD: Heavyweight, glossy paper, hardbound book.
CK: Yeah, and it was like, “Holy shit, what is this guy doing? What is this?”
BD: Well, I wish I knew.
CK: Yeah. So, I don’t know what project that was or anything, but I remember thinking at the time, “Wow, I live such a routine life, in practical terms, going around and around from my house to Whole Foods, back and forth-“
BD: Kind of making the track. The human habitrail of … you’ve got the Carl King lane on the roads-
CK: Yeah, when Fred Flintstone runs around in his apartment or his house or whatever, leaves the little track … Does that even happen or is that the … It might be the green vitamins kicking in right now that are in the room.
BD: I don’t think you can get a contact high from un-smoked marijuana.
CK: Or edibles. You can’t get a contact high from-
BD: I don’t edible.
CK: … edibles that are not consumed.
BD: Probably not, and there aren’t any here actually.
CK: That aren’t edibled.
CK: You are an adventurer, is the way that I see it, and you are engaged in way more speculative pursuits than I am in a certain way. It’s a different flavor of adventuring, outward.
BD: Got it. Sure, sure.
CK: I’m in my safe little bubble going around and around and working on-
BD: Whole Foods to home.
CK: But working on my ideas all the time, writing a screenplay about this, making an album about that, but I’m in my little home space, and you’re out there in the world. For quite a while you lived in China and I think you still do live in China.
BD: Well, I still do technically, but I’m alive and I’m sitting in LA, so, yeah, living here at the moment, but yeah.
CK: I wanted to start off by-
BD: Here for a project, yeah.
CK: Yeah. I just want to start off by saying that it’s something that I see about you that I admire, that you are out there adventuring physically and I’m not.
BD: Well, thanks?
BD: Thank you. I mean, I know that’s a topic and we did our pregame on this, not to ruin the mystery for the kids at home, but yeah, I appreciate … I hadn’t thought of it that way, but so far everything you’re speaking is the truth. I’m out in the world and that’s kind of been my … that’s been my modus operandi for the longest time.
CK: So, you grew up in small town Georgia and Alabama.
BD: Yes, I did.
CK: Do you want to talk about-
BD: Sure. Yeah, yeah.
CK: Was this the beginning of your “get the fuck out of wherever”?
BD: I would say so, not in the sense that I had anything necessarily against those places, and I still don’t, but it definitely applies in terms of … I mean, everyone starts somewhere, so I’m someone who almost no one has heard of. Handful of people have, outside of people who know me directly from work and this and that, but to the degree that there was a career to be made in the entertainment arts, which is what I’ve always been involved in, in one way or another, or aspiring to, I definitely had this sense from childhood that my life was Out There, and Out There, capital O, capital T, whatever that meant, that was to be determined.
Growing up in those environments, man, I was in and around Atlanta but the suburbs and the Southern-y suburbs and the more country suburbs, so it wasn’t like living in the big city, but I would get there sometimes to where I would see it, and then my summers as well as four complete years of my life, were spent in Anniston, Alabama, where my mom’s parents lived and I’ve just lived all over the place in the South, and I think the point, if I have a point to sort of help us get going here, is this was way pre-internet, so you only know what you know from books and talking to people and what you see on television or movies-
CK: Weren’t those interesting days, though, where you had to go out of your way to find this information?
CK: You had to go to the library.
BD: Loved it.
CK: Dig through newspapers on a microfiche or something.
BD: Yes, I microfiche and what’s the difference between microfiche and microfilm? Microfiche is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Okay, okay, thank you, miss librarian, for the … I mean, I asked the question, I got an answer. Yeah, yeah, that was my world, was reading and venturing every cliché of venturing to far-off lands in your head, in your imagination. I was in and around theater, everything from semi-professional to professional theater, that my dad was sometimes involved in or my folks were involved in. Very involved in community theater, things like that, and I was in and around it and was occasionally on stage, but usually not in the starring role. I often did actually lighting, is what … I assisted the lighting guy at the community theater, was one of my first little gigs that was totally a volunteer thing. I was 10, 11 years old.
I was a little kid and so I remember getting to run lights for The Glass Menagerie in a pretty psychedelic production of The Glass Menagerie, and there was this guy, and I don’t remember his name, but there was this guy who played the lead role, which is essentially kind of this … Nowadays you would say he’s probably somewhere on the spectrum, but this very introverted and misunderstood and strange young man. That guy had been … he was this actor who had been “in Hollywood,” quote-unquote, and he’s back in small town Alabama, and he starred in this production and he gave just a mind-blowing performance. I mean, so into it. This guy was immersed in this really tricky, as I learned later with maturity and I’ve seen big productions of this, bigger productions of this, complex, psychological thing, and this guy was … he could’ve been at Carnegie Hall, and I was blown away, but then also getting to know him behind the scenes, he was the kind of weird that’s maybe not all good. I don’t mean he didn’t touch me in my bathing suit area or anything, but he … Made Carl laugh off mic. He was very strange and then he basically was sort of a casualty of Hollywood, is my point. So I met this guy when I was really young who was the first … Well he actually wasn’t even the first, but he was one of many people I sort of cross paths with even as a kid who showed me there was a world outside the world I knew.
CK: What’s this story I hear about a baby rattle?
BD: Oh, okay. So, being that I was actually a zygote and then an infant when this happened, I have to go by other people’s recollections of this, but among other things my dad, who was quite a bit of a character, he had some sort of a talk show that I think was sort of like a low-rent, redneck version of The Tonight Show, only on … probably on public access stations, and he would have people touring, so comedians coming through, which was not a big thing, but this one comedian came through named Gabe Kaplan, who went on to star in the TV show, Welcome Back, Kotter, which launched John Travolta and there were a lot of people in that show that were known to different degrees in the ’70s, at least, and he supposedly gave me one of my first baby gifts, gave me a baby rattle, because he got to know my dad. Now, this could all be a bunch of horse shit. My mom would probably debunk this for me if I ask her this particular story, but I grew up hearing this story from my dad. “You know, your first gift as a baby was a baby rattle from Gabe Kaplan. You know him, right?” “Oh yeah. Okay, sure, great. Awesome. Well, will that pay for my college, Dad?” That’s another story. It didn’t pay for college.
CK: Now how do we move into this next bullet point of-
BD: This is riveting.
CK: Your mom was a hot single woman in the ’70s.
BD: Yeah, yeah, she was. So there were a whole series of these people, though, who I met in my later childhood at different times, and sort of a non-chronological order of these people would be … largely due to the fact that my mom was a really pretty hot single mama in the ’70s. My parents got divorced when I was six and my mom got her spirit back and got out there into the world of the ’70s dating scene and worked two or three jobs to keep us alive, which was amazing. But she managed to find the time occasionally to go out and so a few of the different people who she dated or were friends at least in the circle, there was … for instance there was this guy who was a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. There was a bad called the Atlanta Rhythm Section. They had a bunch of hits back in the ’70s and ’80s and they were a big deal, and they-
CK: I’ve heard the name for sure and I might recognize their songs if I heard them, but yeah, the name jumps out. I was like, “Oh, I know of that.”
BD: A song called Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight, and it sort of … repeat that a lot and kind of a woo-woo in the background. But they were a big deal and this guy was like part of their world, and I remember going over to his condo and he basically had a studio in his place, and it was all tape back then, of course. But he had a bedroom that had been turned into what I now know is a songwriting studio. And he said as much to me as well, that’s kind of how I help remember it, but he was pretty interesting. I mean, he had electronic guitars. That was the first time I ever touched a guitar. I’m not a Strat guy but I remember it was a really nice Strat.
CK: Man, you’re bringing back my … Real quick I’ll just say my memory of seeing guitars for the first time, seeing electric guitars-
BD: It is something, right?
CK: … and just being like, “What are these machines and how do they make those sounds?”
BD: Right, because I was playing-
CK: And you plunk it when it’s not plugged in and you’re like, “I don’t understand-“
BD: And it’s like, “That’s not impressive at all.”
CK: It’s got a whammy bar and it’s like, “I don’t know what-“
BD: Yeah, what is this thing?
CK: How does Steve Vai do that?
BD: Right, and this is way before Steve Vai, in my case, but … I mean, he had what I know realize … I mean, nice guitars and they were hanging on the walls in some cases. This is a working musician’s pad, so he was part of … I heard this band on the radio and this guy had gold and platinum albums on the wall for this band that I know of, and although I’m a little kid, I’m remembering this and he’s excited to tell me. It’s like, “Oh yeah, I covered this song and this song and et cetera.” And I’m like, “Wow, that’s a job? People do that?”
CK: Right, and that’s making you … it’s planting the seed that this sort of thing is possible.
BD: Yeah, totally, totally. And he had the total ’70s white boy fro, like the crazy, super curly mop of hair. I don’t know how old he was, but he’s relatively young. I’m like, “Man, you’re like a grownup but you’re cool. This is great.” There were just all these different people who kind of came and went. There was this character … I think the theme, when I gave you those bullet points that you have there in your lap as a reference was just a handful of all these people who I’ve been lucky or had the interesting fortune to meet. In different ways they all showed me that there was some life outside of what was tangible and visible and right now and what I could train for in school, you know?
There was a guy that was a movie producer who my mom went out with for five minutes named Monti Rock, and credited on the … had this album, Sgt. Pepper’s … They did a movie called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It starred the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Billy Preston, bunch of other people. Steve Martin I think was in it maybe, possibly? But it was one of these crazy ’70s films and sure enough there’s Monti Rock. It’s like a double album and you open up and there’s a finale scene with all these people sort of walking toward the camera that’s like an anthemic, celebratory parade and sure as hell there’s Monti Rock right there. I could pick him out right now, because he’s the guy with the black fro and the sunglasses.
So, what does this have to do with anything? We’re in Atlanta, Georgia or suburbs of Atlanta, and this is a guy who’s … he’s doing what? He’s involved in records and he knows people who make records and movies. It was all … made a very big impression. There was this guy who she dated for a while who’s a writer. He had family from small town, from Anniston, which is why she ever ran into him when we were living there, but he didn’t live there. He was kind of between Atlanta, Birmingham and New York. Anyway, he ended up going off to write for Paris Match, the famous literary magazine in Paris, but he had been giving me his records, early punk rock. He was traveling overseas a lot for writing assignments and leading up to getting that job, and he was always bringing back two or three of the latest things, and so as a kid, I had God Save the Queen on 12″ on Sex Pistols Records. I had radio copies of the first Blondie demo pressing of their first record and the first Ramones. I had the Sheena Is a Punk Rocker single, first pressing, technically maybe one of the first punk songs. All this stuff and then when he moved, because he couldn’t … he was moving to Europe. He gave me his stereo equipment. I had my crappy little record player but then he gave me his much nicer setup, because he’s like, “Yeah, you know, it won’t work over there. We’re going to be gone. The electricity’s not the same. I’ll get a new thing.” And it was probably just the beater that he had in his room at his parents’ house anyway, but to me it was like, “Whoa, you gave me a Mercedes.” It was amazing.
But I had all these records. I mean, talk about … I was a little prepubescent boy and I put on The Clash, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, and I took the needle off the record and I was a man with … Patton Oswalt had some line about that. He’s talking about he went into Star Wars as a boy and he walked out a man with chest hairs and in debt. And that was pretty close to it for me, but musically, it’s no exaggeration to say that I’m probably the first kid in the entire United States who heard … I mean, other than if the Ramones had cousins, but publicly heard all these bands that became the legendary bands, and a bunch who never did shit.
CK: Well they would test them on you and say, “Brendan, what do you think of these guys? [inaudible 00:22:00]”
BD: I’m sure they were really into the fifth or seventh grader in Anniston, Alabama demographic was what they were aiming for.
CK: It sounds like an interesting documentary.
BD: But it was useful for me, and I met somebody at the local music store who became really significant in my life. This guy, he went by Bill then. Later he changed his name to Will Owsley because he was in the shadow of his dad was Bill. He’s like Bill the third or something. Amazing guitar player. Only a couple years older than me, but could already play Van Halen almost correct, like almost right, and he was 15 and I was 13, and he became … against his will, he sort of became an older mentor-y, big brother type figure from my point of view. From his point of view I was the irritating kid he taught guitar lessons to who wouldn’t go away. But he ended up having … I couldn’t do justice to it unless we were doing an hour on just him, but saw him ascend from … like graduated high school but playing in the best cover band to playing with a show band that was this road band playing gigs where they had their own sound and a light show and they’re doing all the hits, but there’s a whole show and there’s dance moves and it’s kind of like a more accessible Zappa tour or something where there’s all this stuff happening as well. It’s a spectacle. But he became a really big deal in Nashville, and writer, producer, engineer, nominated for a Grammy for engineering for his debut album, and Shania Twain’s band leader for a while, but Amy Grant’s band leader for the longest time. He was with her for, I mean, 15 years or so. Co-wrote quite a few hits that were like country or inspirational music type songs-
CK: And did you go to Amy Grant and vouch for him and be like, “Look, I’m the one that discovered the Ramones and all of this, so this guy-”
BD: Oh, I’m sure that my cred would have not-
CK: “… this is who you want.”
BD: I appreciate the thought, but I think they probably didn’t need my opinion, but I talked to him a few times after he was on the road with her or when he did his solo stuff, but yeah, he was somebody who I saw go off. I mean, he was on MTV with a previous band. Like the first band that was kind of his first big break, this guy Judson Spence, kind of a dance-y pop-punk, white boy, Prince R&B kind of thing. I know it sounds pretty horrible. Really talented group of amazing musicians. Show band is the concept. That’s the phrase people used to use, but Judson Spence came out and had a big deal. People thought he was the second coming of somebody and they gave him a big deal and Will was his number two guy. He was lead guitar player and sang backups and super cute dude that everybody liked, and yeah. So I saw him have his career and I’m still working my way through college trying to get a film degree and I’m watching him remotely, and again, pre-internet, so this is all through MTV or music magazines or newspaper articles occasionally or word of mouth back when … or occasionally connecting on a phone call.
CK: What about this Star Search thing?
BD: Oh, okay-
CK: You also founded Star Search, right?
BD: I didn’t found it.
CK: Well, you don’t have to be humble, but you were on it, right?
BD: I was on it.
CK: Yeah, okay.
BD: I didn’t found it. That was … Wow. Yeah, so it’s funny, my own … So my first career is failed rock star. That’s what I usually used to tell people for shorthand because I got very serious about guitar. I was telling somebody the other day who asked me if I wanted to play their guitar and I said, “No, I’m just a guitar owner now.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, I used to be a guitarist for a brief moment in time. I was a guitar player most of my life, but now I’m just a guitar owner, so-“
CK: That whole thing-
BD: You can tell I used to play guitar. [inaudible 00:26:09] you could tell that, “That guy probably used to be pretty good, but-“
CK: It takes me a few weeks to become a guitar player again.
BD: Yeah, I could do it.
CK: To my 18-year-old level, but-
BD: I’ve done it on and off.
CK: … I think of those situations as, like Dick Cheney would say, it’s fluid.
BD: I love how you just … that’s a great reference for this. Yeah. But you have to bring Dick Cheney into it to use the word “fluid.” I’m going to drink some fluid. I was parched.
CK: No, but I just want to make the comment that sometimes there’s a lot of pressure on us failed musicians to … the question of identity, of, “Am I a musician anymore or am I not?”
BD: Right, right.
CK: And to me that kind of depends on what day it is or what month it is or what I have to get done.
BD: But you’re putting out records though. You put out a record every so often and you … Even when you do video stuff, you’re working with music and music people, so you’re still surrounded by it.
CK: Yeah, sometimes, but if I need to grab a guitar and make music for something then I’ll do it. It just depends, but I think that musician is such a heavy identity thing that gets burned into us when we’re a teenager … Well, maybe that might be the first thing that we-
BD: True. Totally, totally.
CK: … form our egos with.
BD: Oh, I identified with it … You mentioned identity. That was absolutely … For a kid from kind of nowhere and fairly seemingly … I don’t want to sound like I had limited prospects but it was very much a crap shoot and I’m happy to talk about whatever, but it was a very difficult situation in terms of family and finances and this and that. So, just like no stability ever in my life, so it was always anything I knew … My mom tried really hard. Thank God for my grandmother or I wouldn’t be here at all. My mom’s mom, Geneva Thompson, gets … Pretty much anything good in me, she or my mom get the credit at least for the base of it.
But back to your story, so, flash forward and most people who are guitar players or the equivalent on their instrument of choice, if it’s a rock or pop type instrument, they have their high school bands and they maybe have college band and then if they continue with it, then they start to have a real band. I had a real band after … I mean, I actually had it during college because I worked my way through. It took forever to go through college, but then we continued afterward. I wrote the music but … and the singer wrote the lyrics, and we arranged stuff together to different degrees, but the music was mostly as it existed on the demos that I made. Anyway, yeah, we were talked into all this shooting for Star Search. If people don’t know this show, basically American Idol is the vocal competition from Star Search. So all those Pop Idol, American Idol, all that stuff, they all owe a debt to Star Search. That was the-
CK: Now, was there a huge gap in time between Star Search and American Idol-type shows?
BD: Yeah, yeah, there was.
CK: Like that show happened and then there was-
BD: A long time.
CK: 20 years between them-
BD: 15 years, something like that.
CK: … sort of, and then it came back, that kind of-
BD: Absolutely, it got resurrected.
CK: … competition show.
BD: They had a modeling … It was kind of weird. It was a variety show. It was a variety show talent competition. They had a band category, a singer … like just a singer, like a Celine Dion or somebody who’d sing to a track kind of thing. They had a modeling category, they had an acting category, so people did scenes-
BD: … and compete. It was so stupid.
CK: Man, I would love to see that.
BD: But some of it was great, and the thing is, there are a handful of bands, especially in the country world, there’s a band called Sawyer Brown that’s still a band, that still tours and became … they came out of Star Search. The show had been suffering, in particular the ratings as we came to understand and have all this inside baseball knowledge about it because we ended up getting in it, especially the music. No one took the music seriously, and Ed McMahon, former … speaking of Johnny Carson, long-time … you know, Johnny Carson’s sidekick, Ed McMahon, he was the host and exec producer of Star Search. Well, he got remarried to a lovely woman, Pam, who was young for him. She was in her 40s and he was, you know, not. But she was relatively young and hip and everything, and apparently it didn’t sit right with them that the music was not taken seriously, because they’d had a few bands make it off the show, but at the time, all the acts, everything happened on this one main stage down at the Universal theme park down in Florida. There was the theater there and the bands would play on these stages and they’re hitting cardboard cymbals and stuff. So it’s lipsynching. Sometimes I think they tried live mic but everything else is pantomime, playing to a track, total crap. Anybody watching and listening with ears knows it’s crap, and sorry for the … probably some good bands who went through that just to try to deal with it. Anyway-
CK: You’ll have to apologize to those cardboard cymbals.
CK: Those are some very fine cardboard cymbals up there these days. Things have changed, Brendan.
BD: If you dig that up on the internet, it’s probably a funny tape, but … Am I going on too much about this?
BD: This is probably one of my better stories if I wrap it up.
CK: Yeah. I saw the video at some point and it was very entertaining.
BD: Oh yeah, video exists. So, I think you would appreciate the making of more than the actual result is that … but we were kind of in our so-called heyday in Atlanta. We were kind of in our moment where people knew us and we had a certain amount of attention and a certain amount of label interest and this and that, and we took ourselves pretty seriously, perhaps a bit too seriously, but we were … that’s the best we ever were. We were good at the time, and we got word from one of the clubs, called our day-to-day de facto manager was our drummer, Tammy Hurt, who’s now a past president … she’s on the national board for the Grammys, past president of the Atlanta chapter for years, but she’s really involved involved in the Grammys. She’s also really involved in the music industry tax incentive program in Georgia, the state of Georgia. Her and Michelle Caplinger, four people that are the prime movers, and they would give credit to tons of people, but Tammy Hurt’s the drummer for my old band and she became such a powerhouse in the industry later that I’m really amazed to have seen her growth.
But back to the story, so this guy from the club called her and said, “Hey, there’s a guy coming to town. He says he’s a producer with this TV show and they’re looking for the best bands in Atlanta and they’re traveling around the world … traveling around the country, excuse me, to find the best unknown bands and I’d love to have you come in and audition.” This is one of the owners of the Cotton Club, which was … and that’s a name that’s used a lot. Of course there’s the real Cotton Club in the movie, but there was a club in Atlanta called the Cotton Club. It was a good venue and they owned a bunch of other venues.
So this guy’s telling Tammy, “We’d love for you guys to come down and audition for this. It’s like a daytime … you’ll play. You’ll bring your guitars and you’ll bring your snare and your pedals, but it’s like, set up, play three songs.” She said, “What is it?” And he said, “Star Search.” She hung up. She hung up the phone. He called back and was like, “What are you doing?” She said, “Please, Star Search? That’s cheesy. Cardboard cymbals,” and he said, “Look, this guy is really awesome. You’ve got to come. He’s the real deal. You’ve got to come down.” She talked to us, we laughed about it. Then we finally said, “Oh, what the hell? They’re not going to pick us. Let’s just go in there and just fuck it up.” I don’t mean screw it up, I mean let’s go in there and be as metal, aggressive, screamo. Let’s go in there and just absolutely turn this shit up to 11,” which we did. And it’s an empty club other than there’s a few bar … It was like 2:30 in the afternoon or something, so there’s not even people prepping for the night. There are people who came to let it in, there’s the guy, our guy, we had our guy run sound, and it was the producer, Ty Braswell and the guys from the club and a few other people, and then the bands who were waiting to go in. People were scheduled to file in and out.
And we got up there and we did three things and we just … we rocked and had a great time and then ended and just unplugged and just didn’t give a shit. We’re just like packing it up, okay, you know? And meanwhile he’s freaking out. Ty’s like, “Oh my God.” I can’t remember what he said because it’s been so long ago, but he was really freaking the hell out, like, “You guys are bad ass and it’s amazing.” And he’s like, “You’ve got to be on the show, you’ve got to be on the show,” and we’re like, “Oh, come on, man.” And he told us the story about how, “Well, Ed McMahon’s wife Pam really wants the music to be taken seriously,” and so they ended up … somebody knew me and I went in to interview for the job of producing the music, and they said, “What do we do?” He said, “Well, we want real bands but nobody takes us seriously. What do we do?”
He said, “Well, you’ve got to get them off the stage [inaudible 00:36:24] the cardboard cymbals and you’ve got to get them playing. Find a venue that’s a real venue that is … ideally there’s a lot of drunk people who will really want to hear some music.” Yeah, so we said yes and we ended up going down. Chris couldn’t go with us because he was still under contract to Chrysalis Records at the time, and he hadn’t officially joined, but the two things sort of overlapped. In hindsight I wish you could have been there too. It would’ve sounded cooler and been even more fun. It would have been nice to have had him in the little time capsule basically. Yeah, so we did it and we were on … Oh my God, I just realized something. You reminded me of this story. I have two stories.
CK: All right.
BD: Oh, I have three stories. I’m doing the whole podcast about being on Star Search now. You probably don’t want me to do that, do you? I’ll probably try to-
CK: If you’ve got stories, let’s hear the stories. I’ve got one that I want to hear, coming up next, so go for it.
BD: Okay. All right, well let me try to give you the relevant, interesting … hopefully the interesting part of this is … I have three different stories and they involve different times, different personalities. We were down there on and off for a month. We were down there for about two weeks-
CK: In Florida.
BD: Yeah, we were down there two weeks-
CK: In Orlando.
BD: Yes, to record … We were down there about two solid weeks to record a bunch of music. Then there was-
CK: How old were you at the time? I’m trying to picture your …
BD: We recorded in ’94 and then it was ’95 when they came out. The shows started up I guess maybe it was spring of ’95 when they started airing, but we had recorded them over the summer. It was hotter than 17 hells.
CK: I’m just trying to imagine how old you are, hanging out down in Florida.
BD: Yeah, well it would have been ’94, so born in ’68, so would have been … yeah, I would have been like 25.
CK: Okay, cool.
BD: Yeah, 25, 26, 27.
CK: I’m imagining what the hell I was doing at that age, so I’m comparing.
BD: Okay. Yeah, so … well, ’94. Yeah, I would have been 26. So, three different stories, because again, we were down there two weeks doing the playing. Then there was a production break because the crew was this IATSE crew from up North from New York and they all went to go do the Grammys. And then it’s funny because watching the Grammys, I’m like, “Oh, there’s Mannie. There’s the camera guy that covers me on my side of the stage.” Because you see the behind-the-scenes people and it’s like, “Oh shit, there’s Stan. There’s our stage manager in the credits.” Anyway, stupid stuff. But my cameraman shot Charlie Watts for the Stones.
CK: Oh, there you go.
BD: I remember that. When the Stones played the Grammys that year, the guy who shot me on Star Search, he was the guy shooting Charlie Watts too, and we talked about it when I saw him again. But anyway, three different stories. Soleil Moon Frye, TV’s Punky Brewster, Kevin James, King of Queens, comedian, and Ahmet and Dweezil Zappa when they were still friends as well as brothers. Three intersections.
CK: Three intersecting stories.
BD: So, short version is Soleil Moon Frye … Well, who knows where this will go. I believe she’s a happily married woman with a bunch of kids. She liked my lead singer a lot. I’ll just say that. Second story is longer and the short version of that is Kevin James went on to become the comedy grand champion winner. This is what launched Kevin James. He went from this to some third wheel gig, the MTV Beach House where he was the fat guy in a tower in the lake while the two good looking kids, the guy with the shirt off and the girl in the bikini, hosted the kids on the beach and the funny fat guy was up in a booth adding color commentary. That was a year later. First he won the 100 grand on Star Search. But I remember being backstage with him. This was when we were shooting the part where they played … They threw it from the main stage where everyone else happened. “Now let’s go to Martha Quinn from MTV.” She hosted the music segments. Got to be buddies with Martha for a while. Went to dinner, me and my dad, he came down to visit. We were on good terms at the moment and-
CK: See, these are the random-
BD: … Martha went out to dinner with us.
CK: … adventures of Brendan Davis that are like, “What the hell?”
BD: That’s the random thing, exactly. And she was really cool. Her long-term boyfriend was Stiv Bators from the band the Dead Boys. She was a New York punk rock girl.
CK: Dead Boys, yeah.
BD: She was super cool.
CK: I only know them from a Sleepytime song reference.
CK: “Remember the Dead Boys.”
BD: There you go. There you go. I had a couple of their records from that punk rock guy my mom knew. But yeah, backstage with Kevin James looking at the craft service table, I’m just going to say it now, be controversial, not that it matters. There was a bit that he ended up doing that he got from me. It’s fine. I mean, I don’t think he owes me a beach house in Malibu for this although I guess I wouldn’t say no. I doubt this bought him a beach house but it definitely didn’t hurt.
CK: Excuse me while I bang around in the background.
BD: Yeah, that’s okay. Make as much noise. Try to fuck up those cables too-
CK: Sorry, I’m screwing up some cables.
BD: Try to run over all my cables with those wheels.
CK: Oh, there’s electricity going everywhere. Okay.
BD: Sweet. I’m cursing up a storm. I hope that’s okay.
CK: That’s all right.
BD: So, we’re backstage at craft service and just killing time. Couple fat guys just hanging out looking at the food, and I had actually done a crazy diet so I wasn’t fat at the moment but I’m a fat kid looking at all the food. And it was the earliest days where you had the muffin, where there’s the muffin body and then the muffin top, it’s like a hubcap. It’s like a frisbee. In all seriousness, it’s probably five or six inches with this crazy, crispy, really extra yummy muffin top and then the muffin itself is like a smaller cupcake underneath, so it’s a really out-of-whack looking … This was the trend. So the idea was that the muffin top was all you wanted to eat, and I was riffing about this and he’s like, “Oh, that’s funny. Look at that.” And we were just riffing about it and I was saying, “This is like a fucking Frisbee right here. Or like a hockey puck, it’s bigger than a hockey puck. But don’t you just want to eat this?” He was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” He went out on onstage about an hour and a half later and he did a few things obviously he had prepared, and then he started riffing on muffin tops and brought the house down. Anyway, that became a big bit of his. Anyway, again, I’m not saying … I shouldn’t say-
CK: You’re not claiming you founded the Star Search?
BD: I’m not claiming, I’m just saying that I said it-
CK: You launched him to success.
BD: … and he seemed to not have thought of it before and then he did it on TV.
CK: You discovered the Ramones.
BD: I did not discover the Ramones but I appreciate the thought. And then the last one was, so, our last show that we were on … So the way it worked was they had a series of judges and everybody voted. It was one to four stars per judge, and then if there was a tie, then the tiebreaker would be the audience would get to vote. And again, audience, sweet people.
CK: They probably like to have as many tiebreakers as possible, right?
BD: Okay, so let me ask you this, being that you’re from Venice, Florida. What do you imagine the composition of Universal Hollywood Theme Park? You imagine probably middle aged and senior citizens, a lot [inaudible 00:44:13] shorts, a lot of country music, conservative. You imagine that’s kind of the demographic?
CK: Wheelchairs and walkers.
BD: Wheelchairs and walkers. Pretty accurate. Okay, so let me tell you about my band. My band was me and I had hair down close to my waist. Angry Black Latino man screaming at them on the mic, big old, hairy bass player, Filipino guy and my drummer was like a five foot power chick. Is the word dyke politically incorrect? I mean, she would own it back in the day but, you know … So we’re this motley crew of people compared to them, and so we get up there and we did our thing. And we had played before. This was pre-tape from before, and so we’re backstage with … they’re waiting to throw to Martha. We’re backstage at Pleasure Island and actually we’re backstage at the theater there where Ed McMahon was like … He was passing us going to and from … going out to stage.
So we’re backstage with the other band, and the other band were these kids from like Cousin Kiss, Arkansas called County Line and they all had these super starched … they had the Wranglers with the sharp crease that you could get a paper cut off of and the giant, fancy cowboy hats, and hey, nothing wrong with that. They were really good and actually their lead guitar player was ridiculously … He’s amazing, of like that country and those double stops and all that crazy … those kind of country guys who are just ridiculous, he was one of those guys. He was a badass, and had Coke bottle glasses, sort of looked like the kid on the porch in Deliverance.
CK: We’re receiving a transmission from space. I don’t know … I think that’s this. Hold on just a moment.
BD: Was it your phone?
BD: Okay. Are you going to edit that part out?
BD: Great. So, are we like an hour into this? I’m still on my …
CK: 14 minutes in. No, it’s 50.
BD: That’s not at all accurate. Okay. So, I want to tell the story because this will bring it full circle and let you actually say something here besides there’s interference with the recording. We knew that if it ever was a tie, ever tied with the judges, that we knew that we’re done. We knew we were gone. And so these guys got up there and they played some song … I don’t remember the title of it. I do know that when they played their show, because you would play a few other songs, then there was the song you were playing that was the song for competition, and you’d play that three or four or five, six times to get a bunch of takes, bunch of angles, whatever, and they’d comp it all together, and then you’d play a few more songs so that it was a show for the nice people who listened to you play one song six times. You also played them a few … And their songs, it was like Boot Scootin’ Boogie from Brooks and Dunn, which was like the top country song, and they played the hell out of it. It’s not my kind of music but they played the living shit out of that song when they played it. But the other song that they played was not an original song. The song that they competed with was another country hit, it was like a top hit, right? It was a hit right at the moment. I’m like, “What the fuck are these kids doing?” Like we’re all original, rock band writing sensitive, dark stuff, life on the streets and it’s hard out here for a pimp. They’re up there doing the equivalent of Boot Scootin’ Boogie which was the number one song. And of course the audience is hearing the tape of this, but the audience went wild in the theater. Drinking problem. Yeah. It’s okay.
CK: Yeah, sorry, I’m just pouring liquid all over my-
BD: He just spilled.
CK: More liquid references.
BD: Spilled water-
CK: All over myself.
BD: … all over himself. Well, good thing it’s water. Thanks for having me on your podcast too. I feel like I’m just doing a one-man show-
CK: Yeah, see you later.
BD: … about this story. I really hope to make this more interesting for people.
CK: I’m glad I could carry this whole show.
BD: Me too. Somebody has to. So, it was announced that … We were waiting with bated breath and we were waiting … It was Martha in the middle and us on one side and these boys … So one side is literally like five really nicely dressed young men from the middle of the … like Midwest, whatever. Again, creased, sharp, shirts are tucked in, like those fancy belt buckles that look like a weapon. The hats, the whole thing, and smiling ear to ear, and we’re just like glum and just couldn’t be bothered with this shit, was just the look on our face because we’re trying to be cool. And Martha’s like, when it threw to her, “Okay, I’m back here with County Line and Minority Rules waiting for the results of the judges’ vote.” And then you saw who voted for who. Well, Dweezil and Ahmet gave us four stars. They were a vote. They were a judge. Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa voted for us four stars and they were like, “They’re bad ass. That drummer is total badass.” Everybody loved Tammy. She’s amazing. And so they were super enthusiastic. They were our biggest fans by far. Dweezil, we met backstage after all this. He would not remember me from Adam, but if there’s ever an opportunity for you to tell him, “You know, you and your brother did Star Search, you were Star Search. You gave my friend’s band five … four stars, and damn it, he still remembers that positively.” So please tell him thank you.
BD: Because then the thing, the other … we tied, and so the look on our face was already glum and then the camera cut and the light went off, and so … and I was standing right next to Martha and we went, cut, and I said, “Well, it’s been nice to meet you.” And she started to cry and she knew. She knew we were done, because it was an audience vote. “Oh, after the break we’ll …” Okay. So Ma and Pa Kettle were out there looking for their golf pencil in and the little pad. They’re all going to write, “What’s those nice boys’ names again? We don’t trust those city people.” So yeah, so County Line won and we went home, but …
CK: I have to ask you about a strange thing you’ve mentioned, and it’s the most important question of the evening. What’s this stuff about you running into Kip Winger? Because Kip Winger is one of my all-time favorite-
BD: That’s hilarious. He’s not even on the prep list. I forgot about that random thing.
CK: He hasn’t died yet, thankfully-
BD: Oh, [inaudible 00:50:52].
CK: … so there’s still a chance for me to work with him some day.
BD: There is.
CK: I don’t know how. I emailed him, actually, a few years ago and I was like, “Hey, I would love to do a little documentary on you sometime.”
BD: Did you get a?
CK: But I love Winger. I love Kip Winger.
BD: I think he still does enough co-writes that he’s probably not hurting for money.
CK: And not ironically, not sarcastically. I love his stuff.
CK: And you’ve mentioned in the past, “Hey, you know, by the way,” you ran into him or something-
BD: Dear audience, I don’t-
CK: Or you kind of knew him or something.
BD: I don’t wear it on my sleeve like this. You saw the photo of us goofing around at a Mexican restaurant, but with like-
CK: Yeah, but this is another weird, random Brendan Davis thing.
BD: Random thing. Okay, so-
CK: What the hell are you doing with Kip Winger in a Mexican restaurant?
BD: So in journalism they call this burying the lede, because the topic of … This wasn’t even on the list. See, I told you, there’s all these people I forgot about. But the lede of this, if we were writing this like a story, it would be something like, “Brendan has had this random existence and sort of like a slightly smarter and less charming Forrest Gump meets Chance the gardener from Being There, the Peter Sellers … I’ve randomed myself into all these weird situations with famous or semi-famous or people who are talented and should be … But just my whole life has been this most … and all over the freaking country and world actually now. So, I worked my way through college, that’s a lot later, I started working, lived with mom, the last year I lived with mom-
CK: Hold on a second.
BD: Okay. This is the Kip Winger story.
CK: Before that, you’re in Atlanta or something. You’re doing-
BD: Yeah, I’m going way back in time.
CK: Okay, but real quick, I just want to throw in that-
BD: Star Search is like I’m in my 20s in college.
CK: Somewhere in there you were a boom operator for Alias, the TV show.
BD: That’s also way later. That’s after I moved to LA.
CK: So that’s later.
BD: Which story do you want to hear?
CK: Well, Kip Winger, of course.
BD: Chronologically it’s Kip Winger-
CK: Okay, I didn’t want to, you know …
BD: We told you, it’s Spinal Tap, then puppet show.
CK: Okay, okay, okay.
BD: You’ve got to get the marquee right. So in high school, 10th grade, I work my way through high school. I worked 30 hours a week.
CK: This is almost like the life story of L. Ron Hubbard or something in a way.
BD: I just see the sailer outfit and I need to be friends with Jack Parsons and do some rich … join the OTO.
CK: Wow, okay, yeah.
BD: All these interesting L. Ron tidbits.
CK: There’s more ways we can go there.
BD: Yeah, we could get into more of that. So, really briefly, 10th grade, lived in Denver, Colorado. My mom had moved out there for seeking better opportunity, and I had a job. She got me work permits, so I was basically just 15 years old and working as much as they would legally let you, which was I think 30 or 32 hours a week, and I worked at a record shop and instrument store. We sold instruments. There was a whole section that was just pianos, but then there were guitars, bass, drums in the front and records and tapes and sheet music, and then there was a hall that was huge. It’s called Villa Music. Anybody in Colorado’s heard of Villa Music. I don’t know how many there were. There were dozens of them at one time and I worked in the giant one in Lakewood, Colorado, at the Villa Rica Shopping Center, it was called, [inaudible 00:54:15] something like that. Doesn’t matter. I’m conflating the name. Sorry, yeah, that’s not what the shopping center was called. Doesn’t matter, but the story is that I used to know this guy. You know, he was just a cool … He was a teenage guy who was just … Or maybe early 20s. I’m 15 and there’s this really cool dude who’s probably 20, 21, who taught guitar and bass and the teachers would have … the students would pay at the register and I was running the register and doing all these different things like that, and there was like a box where you kept the track. It was like old school, paper, pen, like a ledger, and so kids would pay for their lessons a certain amount at a time and so I’d take the money and then, okay, it’s time for your lesson with Kip, you know? And so Kip Winger taught bass and guitar-
CK: Oh my God.
BD: … at the record store where I was a cashier and a clerk when I was in 10th grade and he was probably 20, 21. He’s from Denver. And so I knew him then and he was fine.
CK: What do you mean fine? He’s Kip Winger.
BD: He was serious about also getting the fuck out of there and he already looked like the Kip Winger who the world came to know and love, where hey, with his band, Winger. He already was looking like that, but basically he moved to LA and his story would be his story, but I think he sort of got hooked up and played bass with Alice Cooper. I know he did that-
CK: Yeah, I think he did that a little bit.
BD: I think that was his big break. I think that was his break, was that he became a session guy and then joined this tour. Anyway, I think that might have even been what got him to LA. Maybe he joined a tour because he was known and he’s a great looking guy, great hair, whatever, and that was really important back in the day.
CK: I think he might have also been working with that lady Fiona at the time.
BD: Oh, yeah, yeah.
CK: The name Fiona is also part of your history.
BD: Yeah, in a few weird ways. Fiona Horne, Life With Fiona.
CK: Right. But anyway, I don’t know. I don’t remember the exact story, but that’s interesting.
BD: Well, so, randomly was acquainted with him. [inaudible 00:56:27] knew him, knew him in the sense of I rang up his lessons and paid him out.
CK: You’re Sexing Me. That was the song. You’re Sexing Me by Fiona.
BD: Oh, that’s right. So he worked with her, you think?
CK: He did like a duet with her.
BD: Oh, okay.
CK: I think he was maybe producing her or involved with her record.
BD: Makes sense. Well, so-
BD: So years later I’m in Atlanta. Worked my way through film school. Atlanta’s where my real band was. Working, doing sound for film and TV, so I was a production and sound guy. I was either the mixer, the one recording the dialogue, or I was the guy on the mic, the boom operator, who was booming the scene or putting wireless mics on actors, and occasionally I was the utility guy who’s the third guy helping connect all the dots, maintaining gear, change batteries, do all that stuff. So I did that job for about a dozen years, film and TV, and that’s kind of the base of my film and TV background before writing and producing and stuff. So I was in Atlanta doing this stuff. Atlanta’s huge now for this. The previous way was when I was there. There had been a way before that. I was kind of in that second wave of them having a film and TV business and then it kind of really slowed down a lot and that’s … I moved to LA in 2002, so I … But back to the story, so in Atlanta, and I worked on a show and one of the guys working on the show had been a rock and roll tour guy, this guy Mickey. Mickey Davis. God, I’ve got to look him up. We’re not on Facebook or anything.
But anyway, Mickey had toured with Winger the last couple of tours before they sort of gave it up, and he used to tell me the stories and this and that and he stayed in touch with him, and one day we were working on this show, Lynette Jennings’s HouseSmart. She was kind of like Canada’s answer to Martha Stewart and had a bunch of home improvement shows and I was her sound man for a year. And so working. Mickey’s in the art department and he came over to me at some point and said, “Hey man, guess what. Kip Winger’s doing like a solo thing and he’s going to be coming through Atlanta and I’m going to reach out. Do you want to go?” Yeah, so cut to: go to Borders bookstore or something and he had a record, he had had a tough time-
CK: Like a solo record kind of thing?
BD: Solo record. I think it was his … maybe not his first solo record, but he brought a really nice 12-string. He brought a rock star’s 12-string with him, like some really nice guitar, sounded amazing, and good God, he was amazing. I mean, I remember talking to you about this a lot. His playing was economical but absolutely precise and great. He’s playing like a producer, musical savant/producer plays, for the song exactly the right moment and nothing else. He’s not chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga, you know? Like a lot of my bands I like are like chugga-chugga-chugga guitar or there’s always something, like the right hand never stops basically. No, man, Kip, it was like surgical with him and it was fucking brilliant, and good God, his voice killed me. I’m still a little gay for his voice.
BD: He was so good and so pure, fucking blew me away, man.
BD: And he told stories and it was so sweet. There were all these girls that you could tell had been kind of groupies or wannabes back in the day that kind of came out of the woodwork and some of them are still getting it done and some of them had to really … people made an effort to look nice, to say hi to Kip and get a picture, and this is before smartphones, so it’s still literally film pictures. But we’re the hosts, and so it’s me … I’m with Mickey but he’s got two other friends. One of the guys also was a little bit on the tour at one point, doesn’t know him as well, but, so Kip’s with us. After the gig, the meet-and-greet and the pictures, and that’s when I actually finally met him, met him, and then we’re like, “Okay,” and we went to some Mexican restaurant, and it’s me and Mickey and the guy and his girlfriend or wife, and Kip, and for whatever reason we just all kind of … We had fun, drinking margaritas, hit it off and yeah, and there’s some goofy pictures that got taken of me and Kip Winger horsing around, playing with our food at a Mexican restaurant.
CK: I’ve got to meet that guy someday or work with him somehow. I don’t know.
BD: Well I literally came across one of those photos. It’s buried on my Facebook. I guess I had reposted it for some purpose, simple vanity, I’m sure.
BD: I had reposted it at some point however many years ago it was, two days ago, so it had popped up in my “this day on blah, blah, blah,” and there’s a date burned in on the photo. It’s ’97. It’s 1997.
BD: So yeah, so that’s the last … I haven’t talked to Kip Winger in 22 years, is the point, so I can’t help you.
CK: Well nevermind then. See you later.
BD: It’s on you to make friends.
CK: You went to do some sort of Stan Lee project. You’re producing that. I don’t know what the story was with that. That was at some point.
BD: Yeah, yeah. Well that’s related to all my China Hollywood stuff, which is-
CK: So that’s in the China Hollywood stuff.
BD: … what I’ve been doing in the last chunk of time until right now. So I don’t know if you have other things you want to talk about. That’s the second to last incarnation of me. Or third to last.
CK: We could go off into all sorts of philosophical stuff. Maybe that will be part two of the podcast someday.
BD: Okay. I’ll talk about whatever you want to talk about.
CK: I’m curious about this Stan Lee China thing. That’s kind of interesting.
BD: Okay, so cut to … Well, I guess, let me try to help add this in since I have been known to do a podcast myself occasionally. Trying to help, because you set off with this theme, which it’s interesting and I appreciate it, it’s, for me to think about, is interesting, of adventure and through a series of circumstance, I ended up becoming acquainted with certain Chinese producers and filmmakers and investors coming to LA looking to do things. I had a lawyer that was involved in that world and had done a lot of China business, and through a series of circumstance, and actually I taught filmmaking and producing at New York Film Academy here in LA.
CK: Oh, that’s true. I completely blocked that out. Yeah.
BD: For about six years, about six years on and off. That six years was about the greatest three years of my life, I’ll just say that. A lot of it was really great. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, although I’d trade some of it for some things, but overall I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Lot of great people I worked with and had some awesome students, and, you know, some shitty ones, but I had a few standouts and a few-
CK: He’s not talking about you. He’s not talking about you.
BD: I’m not talking about you, if you’re listening. That’s a whole other subject, which I won’t tangent on, but it’s been really great over the last five or so years as those students have gone off and done stuff. I mean, a lot of them are doing great stuff. One of them just had their first feature, was at Berlin in competition and won a special jury prize. Shout out to Jose. Anyway, all these-
CK: Before I forget, I want to throw this in.
BD: Yeah. Stan Lee.
CK: See, we’re in the middle of talking about some Stan Lee thing, but at some point-
BD: We’ll come back.
CK: I don’t remember how this even happened, but you dragged me along to Terry Rossio’s house for this big party.
BD: That’s yet another story.
CK: And I ended up hanging out with him and he gave me a bunch of screenplays and books.
BD: I think he related to you. He liked you-
CK: That was very strange.
BD: … as the serious writer nerd guy.
CK: You never know where you’re going to end up if you hang out with Brendan. This is what I mean-
BD: Maybe cautionary tale?
CK: It’s very strange.
BD: Yeah, that’s a different story entirely, predates the China Stan Lee one.
CK: It’s always one of those … You were one of the-
BD: I was going to direct a project that he was involved in and he was kind enough to throw a kickoff party for us, and he hosted a really great, really lovely party for us at one of his homes. It was kind of his party house. He had his house more in town that was I think more for writing and the close friends and then he had his party house that used to belong to Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P.
CK: What? I didn’t know that.
BD: Blackie Lawless was the previous owner of that house.
BD: Where you came up in Topanga, that house. But yeah, so that was Terry.
CK: For those who don’t know Terry Rossio, huge writer-
BD: He and his writing partner created Shrek. You might have heard of Shrek. They did Aladdin previous to that.
CK: Pirates of the Caribbean.
BD: Pirates of the Caribbean was their pitch.
CK: But he gave me some sort of a cool little collectible from that.
BD: He gave you a bunch. What it was, was all these … So people who-
CK: But he gave me like a-
BD: He gave you a stack of screenplays, but they’re in the form that you get them from the studios, “Please consider this for Best Original Screenplay or Best Adapted Screenplay.”
CK: But the other thing he gave me was some collectible that had the Pirates of Caribbean thing in it from the set, from the production.
BD: I don’t know this.
CK: Like some personal thing for like the grips to have or something.
BD: Oh wow.
CK: It had these schedules in them and stuff.
BD: Oh cool.
CK: So that was kind of neat.
BD: That’s pretty sweet. You got that-
CK: It was like a leather bound thing with the logo embossed in it.
BD: That sounds amazing. Do you have that on a shelf somewhere in your-
CK: It’s in my garage somewhere, yeah.
BD: Oh man, you ought to dust that off, put that in lucite, buddy.
CK: Yeah, that was pretty cool. Yeah, I’m cool too.
BD: Put a little light on it. So, since 2013 I’ve been co-located in Beijing, China and what that means practically is that I’ve been going for a month every four to six months, and living there and working there and developing business. But before I even went, I had started this company with my then-business partner who is Chinese. I was going to say she was Chinese. She’s still Chinese as far as I’m aware. But we formed a production and consulting company and Steve Barr was another partner in this with us, and Chris Sanders was involved with this, and these are friends of mine who are producers, and I EP’d and produced and we produced together this … a season of a long running hit Chinese show that interviews writers, directors, actors, producers in front of a big audience and there’s a giant rear screen projection screen where they show clips and the interviewer … and normally it’s all in Chinese and shot in Beijing, but they had really wanted to do a season … the parent network had licensed a bunch more of these Western films and they wanted to do … You couldn’t practically travel people from mostly LA is where most of the industry is … You couldn’t travel people from LA to China, between the time, the turnaround that you have, the cost of what people get that they want to have. Economically it didn’t make any sense because you would be basically needing a week out of somebody’s life to do a half-hour TV show or an hour show if they did a long one.
So they decide to come to LA and do a series of these and through a former student, I was introduced to one of the exec producers, and I ended up being their guy, and my team, we were the folks. So Stan Lee was a guest on two of our episodes and we also had M. Night Shyamalan, who was lovely to us and it was a limited engagement. There’s kind of a mixed bag about him perhaps being a bit prideful, I think is the polite word. Couldn’t have been nicer to us, and really wanted to do the show. He was really excited. He was sort of in a lull. It was before he started making the comeback he’s had in the last few years, and he was really happy, because the parent … They had licensed The Sixth Sense and … I can’t speak. Ss are a problem for me. The Sixth Sense and they just did the sequel, Glass, to Unbreakable.
CK: Ah, yes.
BD: They just licensed those films, and so he was real excited to do an interview that would help set those films up, and we did it and it was fun. Yeah, Justin Lin, M. Night Shyamalan, Sean Astin from Lord of the Rings, who sort of acquainted with through small world stuff anyway here in LA, but we did that series and then after that my then-partner and I started making trips for her. It was back home and we were also involved, so that’s why we’re kind of traveling together, but yeah, we started making trips back to China and I started developing … I was trying to do a couple co-productions and yeah, it basically began this long-term career that I’ve now had … I shouldn’t say it’s a long-term career, it’s about seven, eight years legitimately at this point. So now my primary residence is Beijing, China. As I sit here, we’re here in LA in our place that I’ve subrented to … I was brought back to do a film project and that’s why I’ve been back. I’ve been back three times since I moved and every time I was brought back for work, and I love LA, but this is how I wanted to come back. I wanted to be brought back by a company or by a production for a reason to do professional work and that’s the best relationship, but I love being here.
CK: And now you’re going soon to …
BD: I’m going to Paris. I’m not sure exactly when this will release, but this coming Friday as we sit here and record this, I’m going to Paris. We just finished shooting a short film and we is me and my writer-director, Larry Sullivan, and the team of people we worked with, our DP [inaudible 01:10:50] who’s amazing, our co-producer, Julie Baron, and this is kind of the core team of us. We just finished this short film that was … it’s derived from a feature film and essentially some of the components of the feature are put together, and Larry’s an optioned writer with several options and sales to his credit, but he’s a first-time director, and to get the level of talent we want for the feature, we needed … our casting directors needed … he has something from film school from way back when, but he needed something contemporary that shows he can really nail it, and I’m not saying this as PR, he did a great job. I mean, technically he’s relying on us and the team going into it-
CK: Do you want to say the name of the film?
BD: My Favorite Season.
CK: My Favorite Season.
BD: Yeah, and it refers to seasons of passion. It’s young Chinese designer girl from basically a poor background, amazing talent, goes to the best college on scholarship for design, wins an internship with the so-called king of Paris fashion, a fake guy named Jean-Pierre [Dravon 01:12:01], and she goes to Paris to intern for him and trouble ensues. And he’s very much based … As we record this, Karl Lagerfeld died. Our guy is very much based on sort of a ’40s Karl … I mean, like a 40-ish, 50-ish year-old Karl Lagerfeld. Whiplash is a template we use a lot both in terms of the demanding mentor who ultimately has a heart of gold but it’s hard to see under all that rust and crust, but also Whiplash was a short film that was developed at the Sundance labs and went on to win awards at Sundance, went on to become the feature film and made like 10X its budget, so it did great, and J.K. Simmons won an Oscar.
CK: He’s crazy. He’s great.
BD: Yeah, he’s awesome, and put Miles Teller into a new category.
CK: Did you see that thing where he played in that show Counterpart?
BD: A little bit.
CK: He plays multiple versions of himself.
BD: A little bit, because there was a … Yeah.
CK: That was some good acting.
BD: I did not watch it, watch it, because I was living in China already and that was not a show that was popular and therefore sort of available legally, actually, but licensed by the video platforms in China. They don’t have Netflix but they have Youku. Instead of YouTube, there’s Youku and iQIYI and there are a few of these other platforms, and it’s really cheap to have your version of a Netflix subscription that even here is, what, it’s between 8 to 12 bucks depending on what you have or this or that. It’s the equivalent of maybe $2 a month, and now granted you don’t have the same access to everything and of course there are censorship issues with what they put on the platform, but they had been pretty liberal with Western television, but that wasn’t a show that was popular. But I know it because a friend of mine was developing a project and he kept coming up with notes to make it more interesting and then somebody in the circle will go, “Oh, that’s like that show Counterpart.” “Shit, shit.” And for whatever reason all the great ideas-
CK: I’m only bringing it up because we mentioned that actor.
BD: I know, you mentioned J.K. Simmons. It’s funny to me because I remember with my buddy. “I had this idea,” and yeah, to me it’s a great idea and then somebody kind of meekly raises their hand and the room goes, “They did that on Counterpart, episode four.” “Fuck.” You know?
BD: So that show was the bane of our existence because we were trying to develop this show. I was part of that process too. Anyway.
CK: I think it’s really cool that you’re out there doing this stuff and you’re going to Paris and China and all of these things, and I’m just still doing my little old … Any day you can either find me at home or at Whole Foods.
CK: So it’s kind of a crazy thing to watch you out there doing all this stuff.
BD: Well, I don’t know other than listening to my travelog what people got out of this, but hopefully … I mean, if anything, I guess I would say that-
CK: I would say I’m lucky to have met you early on when I moved to LA. You were one of the first people that … Well, you helped me out tremendously.
CK: And it’s so interesting to see you go on and do all of this crazy shit, and here we are, getting to hang out again for a bit.
BD: Well, you’re the one who’s buddies with Dweezil and he gave me four stars back in the day.
CK: Well, he did not give me four stars, so I will need to talk to him about that.
BD: You’ll have to have words with Mr. Zappa.
BD: Well, look, it’s great to talk to you. Am I wrapping up? It’s your show.
CK: Okay, bye. I keep doing that “Okay, bye” thing.
BD: You do.
CK: That’s how I usually end the show and then there’s some glass smashing.
BD: Well, it seriously means a lot to me to get to … You and I have spent more time … We spent the most time together since I’ve been back on this visit than we have in the last few years, and yeah, I’ve been living in China, but I mean the last few years before I moved.
CK: I mean, make an effort, Brendan.
BD: I know, Carl. But seriously, it’s so fun to see you … I mean, because you’re one of the most … Look, there are all these talented people. Here’s the thing … And there are tons of people I didn’t even get to in context. I mean, I would be remiss without even just saying Rook Overman. Huge part of my life, and that’s a whole other conversation for another day apparently, but there’s so many of these interesting people that had a profound impact to me and you’re one of them. You’re one of the people who, when I was with [Stuart Karares 01:16:42] the other day and he’s like, “Oh, you’re going to be on Carl’s show? That’s cool.” He loved the interview with you on Big Fish that was a few weeks back, but yeah, you’re one of these random brilliant creative people I happened to have met along my Gumpian journey through the entertainment business. I mean, if anything, I would say for people, because you have an eclectic … I mean, I listen to some of your shows and you’ve had name brands like Steve Vai or whatnot on your show, you’ve had other kinds of people on your show, so I’m not an active musician. It seems like you’ve had a lot of musicians.
CK: Well, I wanted to have cult leaders as well, so it’s okay.
BD: Oh, sweet, so you’re starting with me?
BD: Nice. Well, I haven’t … Don’t get ahead of the story here. No. I need some land first. We’re going to need some real estate to quote the band Bring Me … The band Bring Me the Horizon has a song on their new record called Mantra and he says, “Say you want to start a cult with me?” And then he says some other things. He says, “We’re going to need some real estate.” It’s like, yeah. Start with a plot of land and a philosophy. But yeah, this is just unfiltered. I can’t blame lack of coffee, low blood sugar, just being casual with my friend, but it’s meant a lot to see you grow and change and to see you go from that scared kid from Venice, Florida to-
CK: Scared kid in LA.
BD: … to the confident, happily married to an awesome woman, man with a career and a business.
CK: She’s not a woman-man.
BD: Hey, it’s 2019. I don’t judge.
BD: But you know what I’m saying, I think, but to see your arc has been equally impressive to me. You keep looking at something on my desk.
CK: No, not looking at anything. Thank you, Mr. Davis, Brendan. Where do people find you?
BD: Best bet is to go to crazyinagoodway.com. That is my main website. It is the hub for most things me. The name derives from my idea that you have to be at least a little bit crazy to survive the entertainment business, but hopefully it’s in a good way.
CK: There it was. All right, thank you.