With: Danny Masterson of ‘The Ranch’, ‘That 70’s Show’

The Role of Music in My Life:

It’s almost more than an influence. It’s always just there. I wake up, shower, get in my car and music is playing. Then I get into my dressing room and put on my iTunes. I’ve basically spent my whole life with music always being in the background. That probably comes from my Mom. Since I was born, she was constantly playing records in the house. Even when we were eating dinner, there was a record playing in the living room. If I don’t have music on or playing, I get a little anxiety and nervous. It’s like the silence in a horror movie when you feel something strange because there’s no sound in the background. That’s exactly how I get when there’s not music playing.

My wife will say, “How can you go see three of four concerts in a week?” And I’ll say, “How can you not want to go see someone perform live and see something new you’ve never seen before Even if it’s a band you seen 10 times before, you’ve never seen them play that riff that way.” Whether it’s good or bad, I don’t know, I think I was just born with that need.

Earliest Music Memories:

I grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Dan Foggleberg, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and all of the Motown Records. Being born in ’76, I got lucky with having a lot of great music playing at that time. My first concert was Jackson Browne at Madison Square Garden. Springsteen came out and did the encore with him. I very much remember that night.

Growing up in the 80’s I was listening to all that hair metal. Then when hip-hop came around with Run DMC, I started listening to that a lot. When my favorite band, Pearl Jam, came out in ’91, it was finally a genre of music for me. That Seattle scene just took me for years, really until the indie scene started getting good again with The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. It was away from grunge, but an ode to pioneer rock bands of the 60’s and 70’s. They were telling stories and painting pictures, but doing it with a good hook to keep you interested.

Where it all Began:

I started modelling at four-years-old in New York. I was basically doing jobs every day in the summers when I wasn’t in school. I then did 150 commercials. After that, I did this musical called Dragons where I sang and performed. I sang in a bunch of plays until I hit puberty. Then my vocal chords said, “No, you don’t sound good anymore.” So I stopped.

What I Listen to While Working:

Because I’ve been DJ’ing for so long, I have 100 different playlists. I even have three different versions of mellow music; one is acoustic, one is more ethereal and one is more down-tempo. It really just depends on what I am doing and what I have to concentrate on. Indie dance rock like Rapture and Bloc Party, that’s the stuff I like working out to. I also have lists for old-school hip-hop. If we’re having a pool party I have an 80’s list with Billy Idol pumping. My music is so eclectic that people seem to like that I will play a million different hits within my DJ sets. I’ll play Chuck Berry or Little Walter into more rhythmic stuff into Run DMC into Jay Z into Bon Jovi. That’s why I am one of the last open-format DJ’s still going. I play stuff that I like to listen to. I always approach my DJ sets like — if this were a New Year’s party, what would be the most fun song to hear

Playing Guitar:

I started playing guitar about 10 years ago. I didn’t play as a kid. I played sports instead. Growing up in Long Island, music classes only lasted three lessons because you had to practice. To me, practice sucked when I could be outside playing roller hockey or stickball. I never had the attention span to concentrate on playing scales or learning how to read music. So at 30, after having been involved in a million bonfires or drinks on the beach at night, I thought it was so stupid that I could not pick up the guitar and play a Bob Dylan or Pearl Jam or Beatles song. I had a friend come over and told him I don’t need to be able to write music, I just want to be able to play any song I want. So we started and now I have a band, Grandpa vs. Prowler, where I get to play guitar next to Jonny Radke. It’s pretty fun.

My band, Grandpa vs. Prowler, took out Dead Sara, which is one of my favorite bands in LA and probably one of the best live bands I’ve seen the past 20 years. We were going to do our own shows in small clubs, but grabbing Dead Sara, we were able to do 500–800 capacity venues. We played 15 shows in a row and it was incredible. So I had a little something in the arts before I went back to shooting season three and four of The Ranch.

Grandpa vs. Prowler

I have a guitar lying around when filming though. I have this amazing guitar that my family got me for my birthday. It’s an old 60’s Gibson 330 that looks like it just came off the hand-maker’s shelf. I play that in my dressing room a little bit every day. I will go over my bands set or practice parts that are difficult for me. Then I have a studio in the back of my house called Bronson Island. We film bands, a lot of bands record there and there’s a bunch of cool things on YouTube under Bronson Island. We film live in the studio. We are back there late at night after shooting the show. It gets loud and late back in Bronson Island.

Being on Stage vs. Being on Screen:

It’s a hell of a lot more fun being on stage. My job as an actor can be pretty boring. They say, you get paid to wait because you are basically sitting around all day waiting for the camera to move, to rehearse, for people to memorize their lines or waiting for the new dialog. When you are on stage shooting a show, it’s very exciting. You get a lot of adrenaline being in front of a live audience. You can manipulate the crowd with when you crack a joke and what kind of timing you put on it. It takes more mind work to make a scene work really well. Whereas being on stage, ripping a guitar and playing a song, you are basically just in your basement jumping up and down on a mattress. You think nobody can see you, but everyone’s staring at you.

Music in The Ranch:

There are four of us that own the show; (Ashton) Kutcher, Jim Patterson, Don Reo and myself. Kutcher and Jim are massive country fans. Our show is nothing but country music. We have music playing in just about every scene whether it’s in a car on the radio or in a bar. My knowledge in that area is a lot smaller than theirs. I have a lot of country artists that I love. For example I think this kid Colter Wall is the greatest thing coming since Johnny Cash. I know a lot of the cool indie country stuff, but I leave the scoring to our music supervisor, Kutcher and Jim. They know every Garth song. They know all the big stuff, I know all the little stuff. I had never heard of Florida Georgia Line until they brought their music into our show. Those guys know those songs so well, like I would know a Pearl Jam song. They know the exact song to play and when. They’ve never been wrong. It’s super cool to see.

Five Favorite Artists:

Eddie Vedder, Julian Casablancas, Karen O, Perry Farrell, Mick Jagger.

Catch Season 3 of the Ranch on Netflix starting June 16th!

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In collaboration with/produced by Jeff Gorra

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