By Leah Greenblatt
Updated April 27, 2010 at 09:30 PM EDT

Following a six-episode run last fall, IFC’s Dinner with the Band returns tonight at 10:30pm EST, with guests like Rufus Wainwright (this evening’s inaugural sous chef/performer), Andrew W.K., the Mountain Goats, and Au Revoire Simone.

Host Sam Mason, a Manhattan culinary star known nearly as much for his tattooed, camera-ready panache as his high-profile restaurant gigs and outre cooking style, loves good music in the kitchen nearly as much as he loves a good olive confit.

After the jump, a playlist he composed for EW of some of his all-time favorites, including tracks from Beck, Devo, the Clash, Waylon Jennings, and (indeed) Steely Dan.

“Ooh, this is a good one! Here’s the thing—this is like a compilation of an average day in the kitchen, and with a song like this, the whole point of music in the kitchen is for two things: one, it shuts everybody up, and two, it helps everyone be a little more efficient and get more down. And this song gets it done.”

“His entire catalog works for me in the kitchen. It’s dynamic enough that you can put it on random. You can keep the ball moving. Why did I say that? And the train rollin’. [laughs] But the tempo of this song, there’s a cadence to it that I think tends to make sense.”

“This is one of those songs that you might not necessarily play, but when it comes up on shuffle you don’t change it. It’s just a song that everyone knows, a good one for everyone to sing along to. The girls on the waitstaff even like that one.”

“It’s got sirens in it! I just got excited when you said those words. We don’t do a lot of Clash, so that’s one of the few we tend to hear in the kitchen, and now that I say that, I don’t know why [laughs].”

“That, once again, is on the testosterone part of the list. That’s the one that’s a little aggressive, a little fist-clenching, it plays quite often, that whole catalog.”

“It’s just a great goddamn song. We do a bit of Bowie, but not as much as I would think. The prep time in a kitchen tends to have a different rhythm than right when service is starting. At 5:59 before service began, I would always play “I’m Bad” by LL Cool J, that start-your-engines, let’s-get-ready-to-rumble thing. There’s something to be said about that switch that clicks from getting ready to “Hey, it’s go-time.'”

“They were on the show this season, but I’ve been a fan for many years, I wouldn’t say they’re exactly bluegrass or country or rockabilly, but they have all those elements. When you see the show, you will get hammered and you will become a fan. For the most part I forced them on a lot of people in the kitchen, and made a lot of new fans.”

“Up until a few years ago, I just knew ‘Whip It,’ and the flower pots on the head. But they have some great all-over-the-place music, and this one has a great intro, just great musicians.”

“I’m a huge Dwight fan, I celebrate his entire catalog. ‘Carmelita’ is actually a Warren Zevon song, also covered by GG Allin, but Dwight is another one I forced on the staff. He’s more modern, one of those people you actually really try to read the lyrics and the liner notes because they’re done so well and they mean so much.”

“I’m gonna slide them in the testosterone category—and this still counts if you’re a girl: You might shove the cook next to you and not even know it. It’s for beer o’clock. Mastadon’s ‘Oblivion’ does the same thing.”

“Peter Tosh is always something that once again kind of breaks up the norm. It’s nice too sometimes to switch it up a bit, and him and Elvis Costello are both great for that. Change is good. You can’t always go balls to the wall, you need peaks and valleys, or you’d be exhausted.”

“Usually, we put the whole Steely Dan scenario on and let it go, but this one has a special spot in my heart. We had this one line cook who was an ex-hardcore guy, and the first time Steely Dan was on he was like, ‘What is this?’ And by the end, that was probably his favorite song ever. I bet he even sings it in the shower now [laughs].”

“What can I say that hasn’t been said about Waylon? The reason for this song is kind of in the same vein as Steely Dan—it’s a song that the group in the kitchen wasn’t very familiar with, but it was a big bonding song for some reason. At the end of the day, this is one of the ones that they always remind me of, and they always bring up, which I think is kind of awesome.”

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