There’s more drawing, by Getty’s daughter now, who intermittently brings him crayon characters and environs from a room over, which he folds one-by-one, feeding them into the slats of his audio mixer. We are in his recording studio—the spawning ground for his new label, Purplehaus—inside a house owned by Rick Rubin, where Method Man contributed his irrefutably critical method a couple of days ago, alongside Getty and rapper KO The Legend. Getty shoves upward the mixer’s volume nobs into a welcome roar of sound. The song is “Miami,” yet unreleased, which smatters its lothario oiliness all over the room. It delivers a kind of pop delirium, like a cheap, sugary hit in the arm, a Cuban coffee, some near-sinister tan lines, and a swim off the two-hundo block of Ocean Drive. Quickly materialized: a vision of Miami, the moving-image version, which Getty plans to create next month, his pummeling a hot car up the beach, emoting the coolness and self-effacing, referential swag a song as such would call for.
And that’s it. Getty’s an actor. He’s an artist. He’s done some great work. And he’s akin to goofing. So the near tongue-in-cheek “Miami” vision is easy. Down below: the brutalist playground, swimming in that sepia-brown Los Angeles haze. Then: some kush, the discovery of a fallen beehive (those bees, so fucked, their babies starving for pollen), a welcome interruption by the lovely Rosetta Getty, pizza, chuckles, and short-sleeves in January. Americana, idiosyncrasy, graffiti, hip-hop, gold grills, Latin bravado, cerebral drag racing, hooks, canyons, French runways, Hollywood, and everything else in the slow-mo blender, all part of Getty’s unique L.A. story.
Here is Balthazar Getty who: 1. wakes up to his wife and their four children. 2. wraps himself in Tefillin after morning coffee. 3. mounts (or climbs) into a sport vehicle, often, after lunch. 4. rubs elbows with rapper KO The Legend, who burned down an ABMB party in December with Flaunt. 5. sits down for coffee with the staff at Purplehaus, who put out the Solardrive record you’ll hear discussed below in 2013 and houses one of the better melodies of the year, “Lovely,” the video of which sees the near 40-year-old father eating ice cream and driving around Munich. 6. will release the latest from Ringside [formerly of Interscope], via Purplehaus, along with hip-hop project The Wow, and his producer touches on Abstracto (with Asdru of Ozomatli) in 2014. 7. turns up (since he was 13) for film and television roles, with 40-some flicks already in the can. 8. is writing a TV pilot. (“It’s sort of semi-autobiographical about this orphaned rich kid raised by his controlling grandmother and his father’s best friend who’s a bookie. He’s basically a degenerate gambler who lives in a dilapidated mansion in Los Feliz who, in a weird twist of fate, inherits his bookie’s 14-year-old daughter and the book. It’s the story of redemption, survival, and addiction.”) 9. is grateful, a prankster, a radster, and most of the time…in motion.
Talk about the Tefillin. What’s that about? These are just [supposed] ancient technology, like an early computer system where you’re downloading energy from above. I know it sounds pretty whacked out but at its simplest level, it’s just a way to create some attention, to have a moment of gratitude and to reset yourself every day…To try to be the best version of yourself, I suppose.
It necessitates discipline? When you hear “discipline,” it almost has a negative feeling to me. Listen, life can get really good. I mean, life can get really shitty and then when it’s really shitty you start your spiritual work, you start reaching out, you start doing all those things you know are going to make you feel better. And then life gets better and you forget all the work, you neglect all those things that helped get you there. So I think discipline, that’s really when it matters, when life is good and full and that’s when you need to be the most disciplined in whatever it is that helped support you in getting there.
Do you see the advent of Purplehaus as an extension of discipline? Or is it something else? I had a record deal at Interscope with Ringside and nine times out of 10, I felt I had the best idea in the room. It was mainly my relationships that seemed to open many of the doors; getting early spreads in Flaunt, for instance. And Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen—I was the one reaching out.
I had made this Solardrive album which was really intense—and during an intense time in my life. I’ve told this story a couple times, but Joaquin Phoenix and my wife gifted me this rig here, an HD ProTools rig. And this is what you used to need [pointing at a room full of equipment] and this is all you need now. And I basically sat down and taught myself how to record on it and I spent three weeks recording that album. But then I never ended up doing anything with the album. I wasn’t going to get a record deal because it’s not really a live band; there’s featured artists all over it. There’s no clear way of making money from it per se. So the idea was to put out the record. I’m going to start my own label and see if I can’t do this myself.
The Wow is bananas good. With KO, man, I ended up getting to work with Method Man and Fatlip and Prodigy and all these guys I had idolized growing up. I was really a hip-hop kid, that’s always where my heart’s been and that’s how I look at myself. I always wanted to make a hip-hop record and I finally got to and I got to do it with a bunch of my heroes.
And it feels good? I feel like we could really bust through. It’s hard to be independent and to really break through. It’s not easy, man. The record industry is still a money game. Like radio and shit like that. Unless you get incredibly lucky and you have one of these internet songs that just breaks through, all the stars align, the right kid tweets it, and it’s the right song, it’s the right time. But other than that it’s still big guys paying pop radio stations a lot of money.
And that’s what’s appetizing or sexy or appealing about going at it the indie route? Why not me? David Geffen started a label. And when you think of Geffen, you know what you’re getting. I want Purplehaus to be a label where you know the kind of sound that they’re going to bring. And you trust that label.
How about the collaboration with Asdru? Asdru is actually on the Solardrive album. He’s from Ozomatli, which is this very well-known L.A. band that came up in the Chili Peppers-era, a big band, they had a rapper in it, they got a horn section, kind of a jam band, and they’ve had a level of success. Asdru’s a really quiet guy; he’s very shy, non-confrontational in a way.
But I mean my whole life I basically listened to reggae, I listened to jazz, I listened to a lot of hip-hop. But I listened also to a lot of Latin music. Brazilian, Cuban, Mexican, Spanish—that exotic feeling and the horns, those big brass sections. There’s just something about the energy and that feel. So basically, I told him to set up here and he’s been living here since right before Christmas. You know, I’m in this incredible house; I’m in this incredible space. There’s this amazing talent. I’m just kind of coming in and helping to channel it and to shape it, to identify it. Normally the beats—the music, most of it—I’m creating. This one has really more of an old school producer touch, it’s more like what [Phil] Spector did or Rick [Rubin] does. My tendency is to basically strip everything out. These guys, especially if they’re multi-instrumentalists, they wanna sing, they wanna bass, they want a ukulele, they want a fucking harmonica, and then the horns and then they want strings. And I take it all out. I just want a vocal and a bass line.
That distinctive horn you mention. Where does it take you in your imagination? It’s just so cinematic, in a way. In my head I go from being in a border town in [Cuidad] Juarez, involved in a love triangle with a narco kingpin, all the way to the beaches of southern Europe down to Mexico City and it’s all very groovy. Look, if you can fuck and fight and dance to it, those are the three things I think you want. That’s the litmus test.
Groovy is a word synonymous with the West Coast and a kind of sunshine, refracting, psychedelic psychology. Do you identify with the word the same way? It’s odd because I don’t normally say that word, but it is just groovy. Maybe it’s time for that word to have some resurgence again. It’s got a movement. It’s got a consciousness to it. And then the Ringside shit, man. Wait until you hear this. We have one song called “Miami” and—again—it’s super groovy. It’s like the Eagles and Phil Collins and all that kind of ’70s, ’80s, white boys trying to be R&B singers, but over beats. It’s all groovy. That’s the word of the day.
You’re a West Coast guy with a West Coast family. You’re here. There’s no signs of taking Purplehaus elsewhere? L.A. is such a bubble. You can go from your house into your Tahoe to whatever location and not have to once interact with anybody. No real life. In Europe, you have to interact. Maybe there won’t be any ice in your drink. You might have to walk a little bit and you might have to get a little bit uncomfortable, god forbid. But imagine getting the Massive Attack guys and the Sneaker Pimps guys and the Bomb the Bass guys together? But no, we’re very much rooted in Cali. I’m originally from San Francisco but I was born here and I’ve been here since I was 13. I lived at the Chateau Marmont when I was three. You know what I mean?
What about the bubble feeds your creativity? I’m in a bubble inside a bubble. I’m in a quadruple bubble. I’m also very much in my head so I’m in another bubble on top of the four bubbles. I don’t know. I have the luxury of hanging out with you. And then Asdru’s going to come by after dinner and we’re going to work tonight. And I can afford that freedom and that’s an incredible blessing. It’s something I’m very aware of and very grateful for. But the bubble affords me the time to be able to pursue my passions. That’s not normal. Most people can’t just go: “All right, I’m just going to make records, start a label, see what happens.” For a long time I was a gigging actor. I did a TV show for five years, man. I’ve been working since I was 13. I’ve done over 40, maybe 50 movies. Spent six years at Disney on a TV show. I’ve done that. And I did that for a long time. I had to do Charmed. Do you know what that does to a person’s soul? [Laughs hysterically] Nothing against the girls from Charmed. But I needed the money. I had created a lifestyle that cost money. I’m in a place now where I don’t have to do that anymore. And we’re launching Rosie’s clothing line and we’re doing it the way we want to do it. We’re going to New York in a few weeks, and we’re going to Paris. Then I can dip out of all that and come down here and make my music. There’s also the acting. I still have a lot I want to prove. I still get a lot of joy out of that, under the right circumstance. Normally it’s pretty humiliating—putting on makeup and sitting around and then all the games. It’s not very conducive for a guy like me. It’s so forced; it’s all ruled by committee. Then there’s all this hierarchy. There’s just desperation there. And then sometimes the whole thing just seems ridiculous to me, a bunch of talking heads, trying to create some bullshit emotion, and I don’t even want to do it all. [At this exact moment, Getty spots something on the ground.] Whoa, is that a beehive?
It is indeed. Tell me about what this fallen hive says to you? I think it’s interesting where we end up and why. Why us? Why here? Why now? It’s almost too much for your brain to think about sometimes. Well, just the fact that we share DNA with plants. That’s just crazy, man.
This is the List Issue. Talk to me about lists. One thing I always do—my sister taught me—before we fly, always, my wife and I do something called an “Ideal Scene.” You draw a heart and then in the middle of it you write, “We are.” Then, you draw lines from that heart and you write, “We are…thoroughly enjoying a turbulence free flight,” and “We are… gleefully arriving at our destination,” and “The children are...happily playing in the yard.”
At this point, Getty succumbs to the tugs of his daughter, who is through with drawing and is eager to go exploring. He drops his pen and disappears beyond the recording equipment and out onto the open-air porch, the soup of the city glowing below them.