PHOTO: Record producer John King, half the Dust Brothers team. -- Chris Wahl, SUN

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Monday, September 8, 1997

Fest faces the music

Toronto Sun

 The seemily different orbits of red-hot record producers and TV goddesses can and do collide at the Toronto International Film Festival.
 Take yesterday, for example, when a scheduled interview with the Dust Brothers -- a.k.a. John King and Mike Simpson -- is delayed, so I kill some time listening to Farrah Fawcett at a press conference for The Apostle.
 "It was great working in film again," Fawcett said of starring opposite Robert Duvall. "It's great being here. I heard it was a very film-friendly town."
 Meanwhile, the Dust Brothers, whose credits include three tracks on the new Rolling Stone album, Bridges To Babylon, Beck's Grammy Award-winning Odelay, Hanson's No. 1 hit, MMMBop, and the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, are part of today's festival symposium on soundtracks.
 When King finally arrives for the interview alone -- Simpson has blown me off to go see Niagara Falls -- he apologizes for his partner's absence and his own lateness.
 In the end, one Dust Brother is better than none at all.
 King cheerfully agrees to a photo shoot in a cab and later invites me to his room to check out his vinyl collection. The albums, including Grand Funk's 1970 self-titled album, the Rolling Stones' 1968 gem Beggars Banquet and other wonderfully obscure funk, soul and hip-hop collections, came in handy Saturday night when King and Simpson deejayed a party at the Velvet Underground.
 "It doesn't matter to me whether someone's avant-garde or mainstream, it's all about the music to me," King said. "I listen to the music and I don't really think about the politics involved."
 Among those in attendance at the Velvet Underground were actors Danny DeVito and Kevin Spacey. No-shows? The Stones.
 "I want to see them while they're rehearsing," said King. "I gotta call their management and get over there."
 "There" is the Concert Hall, where the Stones have set up camp prior to the Sept. 23 launch of their tour in Chicago.
 Despite having worked with Mick and Keith, King's favorite artist is still Beck.
 "He's a sponge for ideas," he said. "I've never encountered anybody like him that can play with so much soul. He's a skinny white kid."
 King and Simpson, who named themselves after angel dust as a joke, recently wound up among Entertainment Weekly's "100 Most Creative People in Entertainment" and hope to have their own record out soon. They are also in the middle of expanding their independent record label, Nickel Bag.
 In the meantime, producing the Stones seems to have left a major impression.
 "Working with them was such a heavy experience," said King. "There's such a staff of really good people supporting them that it made my job totally cushy. It was just so easy. They had great engineers and people to tune their guitars and get their sounds. When I wanted Mick to play harmonica, Mick was like (imitating Jagger's British accent), 'Well, we've got to get my sound.' "
 But, "it was not intimidating, it was exciting."
 King also noticed different working styles between the Stones songwriting duo.
 "Mick was very, very clear about what he wanted. He didn't really like to waste a lot of time on anything. He liked to get a lot of things done in a day. I'm almost more like a Keith-type person, who's just like hanging out and having fun and partying and just getting things done naturally."

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