Reggie Watts on Improvisation, LCD Soundsystem, and Brian Eno
We have been shaking in anticipation of Reggie Watts's performance at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse this Thursday and Friday. Intersecting the worlds of music and comedy, Watts is truly unlike any "musical comedian" who has come before him. Using his loop petal, Watts completely improvises every performance brilliantly, in turn creating art that serves to inspect and comment on music and comedy as living languages, deconstructing them into something beautifully psychedelic.
It's no wonder he won the 2006 Andy Kaufman Comedy Award. We caught up with Watts on his creative process, performing at the last LCD Soundsystem shows and his peculiar friendship with Brian Eno.
New Times: You had been a fixture of Seattle's music scene before transitioning into comedy. Has style of comedy evolved since then?
Reggie Watts: It's pretty similar, actually. I have more refinement with the looping pedal but same sensibilities. Same absurdist, stream of consciousness, non-linear culture samples.
Your comedy is so in the moment. How much do you think about material or what you are going to do before you do it?
I don't really think about it at all. I just sort of hang out, do shit, and then someone says "it's time to go on stage" and I start performing.
For something that is so improvisational, your act is very polished. A traditional standup may go to an open mic and see what jokes work and which don't. How do you refine what your act is?
It's just being on stage. Being on stage for me really qualifies as rehearsal. Every time I go up is a performance experiment, hopefully. And that's when I learn new things, new techniques, new perspectives on ways of performing.
Is this your first time performing in Miami?
Second time. First time as a comedian.
Your comedy is entirely unique to you. Even to describe you as a 'musical comedian', which is a phrase that sort of conjures up images of a comedian with a guitar doing song parodies, seems unfair. Outside of "Fuck Shit Stack" and "What About Blowjobs" it also seems that you have eschewed trying to develop songs that serve you as singles or music videos. What sort of projects do you want to do in the future ?
I definitely don't want to overexpose myself in a way that people get tired of what I do. That's my biggest fear, so I do need to evolve. This year I am trying to produce a music album. I'd also love to get a TV show on and do more short film work.
You had a pilot deal with Comedy Central. Is that still in development or something that may see the light of day?
No. They passed on it. It was a really basic format. A variety show. I was the host of the Reggie Watts Show. I'd come out, do a bit, maybe have a video segment. Then introduce a guest who would perform. And then at the end some sort of jam session.
You performed with James Murphy at the last several LCD Soundsystem shows in New York.
It was incredible, almost supernatural feeling. It definitely felt like something was going down. That something historical was happening, without sounding too self-important. The band was tight as hell; they played as fast as they could possibly play. And the fans were just loving it. It seemed like people's guards were down. People weren't concerned with being too cool, they were just like "We don't have time to fuck around with that shit, let's have a good time". And it was just incredible to watch the music and hear the rhythm section destroy every beat.
Recently you've become friends with legendary music producer and performer Brian Eno. Is there a collaboration in the works from you two?
We've mostly just hung out and had conversations and he's invited me to play at festivals. We've jammed a little bit in the studios, sort of soundscape-type stuff where I create loops and he modifies the loops and the chords, nothing long or structured enough to really be anything. I don't know if we'll produce something together or not. He's definitely a specific kind of producer and nothing I'm doing is really concrete enough for someone like him to spend time on that. Not to say that he wouldn't want to. And I'm quite happy when I go to London or he goes to New York saying 'hey' to him. It's mostly just about the amazing conversations we have.
Is there anyone is particular you would like to collaborate with?
I'd love to get a chance to work with Jack White on something. James Murphy would be fun to do something with. I'd love to work with someone like a badass R&B producer. Someone with an open minded approach to R&B. I really like Darkchild, which is really hyper-overproduced but in a very interesting way. I'd love to work with someone like that who is open minded enough to work with someone who improvises but can also help structure it, that's the goal.
Watts performs May 12 and 13 at Light Box at Goldman Warehouse (404 NW 26th St., Miami) at 8 p.m. Presented by the Miami Light Project, the event cost $15 general and $50 for VIP. Call 305-576-4350 or visit miamilightproject.com.
You have until noon today to win two free tickets to see Reggie Watts. Read details here.
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