Today’s Feature, November 5th & 6th: Reggie Watts

November 5, 2007 at 10:16 pm (Today's Feature)

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Reggie Watts calls it Simplified – a word he came upon as he sorted the many thoughts drumming through his head. He uses the word to describe his work, “pure, simple melodies; basic rhythms.” Simplified is also the title of Watts’ first solo record – sounds he considers “super mellow, but pop… a marriage of new wave sound with a soulful sensibility.”

In the case of Reggie Watts, “Simplified” takes on a whole new meaning. He refers to his work as simple; likely because that’s how he sees his music. He understands the particulars of his craft, seeing something special behind the beats and notes he creates, like it’s some sort of code. I mean have you ever seen a Watts’ show? If anything, I’d call it complex! Demonstrating his own voice as his most versatile instrument, Watts mixes harmony over harmony in a distinctive whirlwind of a performance; one that illustrates just how Watts sees his own reality.

Watts feeds off of his live performances, referring to it as a “feeling of being on the edge of the unknowing, especially if you are improvising…the air of risk. When an audience accepts you or seems to be getting you or even if you are confusing people, or affecting them in some way, you can feel it.” Critics and fans have taken notice of these acts – Reggie won the first annual Oy! Oy! Award, as well as the 2006 Andy Kaufman Award.

If you find yourself in a spot along the London, New York or L.A. alternative comedy scenes, look out for Watts. His mix of music and comedy is something to witness for yourself. The next solo record will be out soon, perhaps on a new label that is being looked into by roommate Jakob Lodwick, creator of Vimeo.com. It’s all interesting, so jump into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Reggie Watts

PEV: How and when did you first get started in music?

Reggie Watts (RW): When I was four years old

PEV: And growing up who were you listening to?

RW: My mom listened to a lot of jazz and soul and a lot of French music too. She loved Julio Iglesias and stuff like that…

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a recording studio to record your music?

RW: It was really great. It was in a friend’s garage, like when I was a sophomore in high school. I was in the orchestra and a friend of a friend in the orchestra had a 4 track recorder in his garage. Me and like 3 other people went in there to record a song for this girl in the orchestra who was really hot…

PEV: Did it work?

RW: Well…it worked in the sense that we made a song.

PEV: You traveled around a lot and played everywhere, but is there one place in particular that you feel has the best appreciation for music and art?

RW: This is a hard one…A lot of places we’ve been to have been good. I liked performing in Brighten, England. It was a cool vibe there. The kids were like really into it and it was a good friendly atmosphere. Burning Man was really great too.

PEV: What can people expect from a live Reggie Watts show?

RW: I don’t know. It is mostly improvised. A lot of times I just do a stream of consciousness. It’s weird, like story telling and jokes and things of that nature…Like one of the things where it depends on how I am feeling. What I am reading at the time goes into my stream of consciousness. I show videos on the screen too. There is also a keyboard up there as well and I’ll play that.

PEV: You mentioned the videos, and I have watched a bunch of them off your site. How do you use the videos to enhance the performance?

RW: It is a means of relief, sometimes I am speaking, and sometimes I get a little heavy. Or if I do an hour, it is a good time to take a break (laughs), and gives people a chance to see other information on how I see the world or what I see as funny. It is more creative, and shows people, like, “this is how I see things if life could be this way”.

PEV: With your release, Simplified, you said you wanted to work on a solo album and what can people expect from Simplified? What was your take on how the final product turned out?

RW: It was the first time I decided to do a solo record. I wasn’t expecting anything; I just wanted to have fun and record. In the studio I like to improvise on songs. The songs are pretty fresh and they were created pretty quickly. I think it was great. There are some songs that I am really super proud of. It was where it was at that time.

PEV: On an non-music related question…would you ever consider cutting your hair?

RW: I would consider cutting my hair, only if I were in really good shape.

PEV: what is the best part about playing live?

RW: It is the feeling of being on the edge of the unknowing, especially if you are improvising…the air of risk. When an audience accepts you or seems to be getting you or even if you are confusing people, or affecting them in some way, you can feel it. It is the combination of being on stage…being exposed…and hopefully commanding the attention of people. The best part is taking a risk and allowing yourself to like fall off a cliff and knowing you are going to be okay…and that feeling is very empowering.

PEV: With all the shows and traveling, what is road life like for you?

RW: I kind of don’t enjoy it (laughs). The reason why I don’t enjoy it is because I’ve done a lot of it. It’s just necessary. It’s necessary because performing in front of people, which is great, any time on stage is great. But because I am a solo artist, I travel by myself and that can get kind of lonely. If I’m out on the road, like this last time for two months, it can be kind of draining. And there are definitely fun moments. But then again, it is just a way to make money. I want to get to the point where if I don’t need to tour, I won’t. Now as I get older (laughs), I just imagine myself being in one place just working on a couple of projects…I’m getting there.

PEV: It’s been quite some time since you were Montana State High School Comedy Champ. As well you have performed on many stages. How has your comedy changed or evolved since the early days of high school?

RW: I think in many ways it hasn’t really evolved in many ways. When I was in competitive dramatics, the first year I did it – my junior year, there are several different categories, that year I chose humorous solo, which is what I am doing now. I didn’t focus at all, I just improvised every time. So, it hasn’t really changed. I’ve always just gone for it. The second year I did it, I did humorous duo with a friend of mine and we did a very lose structure and just improvised. Then at the end of the year we had a written piece. I am better at vocabulary now and more refined in music but the core of it, feels pretty much the same.

PEV: When you sit down to write music or comedy, what kind of environment do you surround yourself in?

RW: Well, when I am writing music, generally in my home when I am alone or in a hotel room when I am traveling. It’s not so much the atmosphere…the ideas just come to me and I’ll just sing it into my phone and voice record it and save it. Or if I am on stage I might record back from that. When I really do want to hardcore create, I like to be in the studio and start from scratch. But I don’t really have a process, like sitting in a cafe or having a cup of tea (laughs). I wish I did, but I guess that is from traveling so much and not having a set routine.

PEV: When you have some down time, what can we find you doing?

RW: Down time…I like to go see movies…I like to hang out with friends if possible. I like to have dinners or have someone over. If there is a lady friend at the time that I happen to be seeing, I like to spend time with her. It’s pretty mellow. If there is a weekend off, like, I went to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and danced for three days, that was really fun. Writing stuff or filming, which is really something I like to do. Nothing too esoteric.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist in any genre that you think we should be looking out for?

RW: As a comedian, I really like this guy John Molaney. A young comic, 25, but he’s like this 45 year old in a 25 year old body. He kind of reminds me of a young Matthew Broderick in a way…like his brother but a lot wittier. He is so comfortable on stage and he is so f–kin’ funny. He makes so many old school references on stage, like he is in Vaudeville or something. There is an electronic mix crew called Glitch Mob and they are out of LA and San Francisco. Their music is f–king ridiculous. When I hear their stuff, I hear like Justin Timberlake using their style of music…very futuristic. There is a woman, named Eliza Ariasontos, she’s really cool, she reminds me of me a lot. She’ll like get really high and eat like some pot cookies and just like improvise and major comedy clubs…not every time, but. Jacquelyn Novak. Kind of abstract mind.

PEV: So what’s next for Reggie Watts?

RW: The plan is to get another solo record. My roommate Jakob Lodwick is basically going to start a label and help me with that. He was the one who started Vimeo.com. I have a theater piece that I have been working on with my writing partner Tommy Smith and we created it at the PBA Festival in Portland. From that we got to do Under The Radar, in New York; an underground theater festival. We might do some other theater festivals as well. “This Information”, with myself Tony Smith, Amy O’Neil a choreographer, another one of the up and coming, she’s incredible and Oriana Herman, and is kind of lightly structured. Kind of like my stand up. And we’ll see what happens from there.

For more information on Reggie Watts, check out www.ReggieWatts.com

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