Reggie Watts on First-Kiss Jams and Loving Industrial Music
The stream-of-consciousness stand-up shares the soundtrack to his life
Brooklyn-based comedian Reggie Watts is all over the place, from his surreal and wildly entertaining stand-up act to his loop-based music to his role as Scott Aukerman’s sidekick on IFC’s Comedy Bang Bang. SPIN was lucky enough to snag the 41-year-old recently before he hopped onstage at Manhattan’s Le Poisson Rouge, where (among other delightful antics) he sung the praises of the new LittleBits Synth Kit he developed with Korg. As the comedian chomped on some almonds backstage, he shared the music of his life.
What’s a song you’ve listened to today?
Let’s see, I listened to “Might Find It Cheap” by Blitzen Trapper and “Another Try” by America. I was listening to music with my girlfriend at her place. She really, really likes music and puts me on to a lot of stuff. She listens to a lot of trap, and I think that stuff is just fucking disgusting.
Is trap influencing your own music at all?
Oh, definitely. I haven’t been able to nail the essence live, but there are some elements that I think about. She listens to a lot of late-’50s doo-wop as well. Last night during a comedy set I even did a doo-wop-style loop.
What was the last concert you went to?
I saw this solo artist Aaron Embry, who is in Edward Sharpe’s band. He was just by himself playing this old player piano and some really old guitars and a harmonica. He was doing mostly arbitrary Appalachian folk covers. He was pretty awesome.
When you were growing up, did your parents object to anything you were listening to?
Not that I can remember. When I was in high school, I got really into industrial music like Ministry and Front 242. I wasn’t playing that around my mom like, “Hey, you love French folk music, check this out.” But both of my parents just loved music, so I was lucky that way.
Did they turn you on to stuff, then?
My dad was a huge jazz fan, and my mom liked French folk music a lot, and they both loved James Brown. I remember listening to a lot of James Brown and Miles Davis.
Who was the first artist you became obsessed with?
It was Elvis. I was three or four, and that was my first album. I remember being given a red record player, and my mom gave me this Elvis greatest-hits record, it was golden see-through vinyl. I listened that to that so much, and I loved Ray Charles. Those were my two guys when I was a little kid.
Do you remember what you were listening to the first time you smoked weed?
It was that Bauhaus song “King Volcano.” I love that shit. It was in Great Falls, Montana. I had the coolest group of friends there. My friend John Thomas introduced me to the Smiths and Dead Milkmen and Alien Sex Fiend. A lot of early Art of Noise. It was all us kids that were weirdos and skateboarded or rode BMX.
Did you have a band back then?
When I was 17, and we were called Autumn Asylum. We played something in between Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Cure. I was the singer and bass player on synth. We were together for about a year and a half. Autumn Asylum, what a name.
Do you remember what you were listening to during your first kiss?
That happened at John Thomas’ house, outside under a tree. That house was the hub for my friends. John was a badass. The girl’s name was Brenda, and we were listening to the B-52’s song “She Brakes for Rainbows” that has the name Brenda in the lyrics.
Who is someone you’ve worked with that you’ve bonded over music with?
My friend Daniel Spills, who was the keyboardist in my last band, Maktub, he loved synthesizer-based music, stuff with square, rudimentary, Kraftwerk-style beats. We were into a lot of the same stuff, and he just had such a diverse repertoire. We still talk about music a lot.
Who’s an artist who has helped you through a rough emotional period?
I have to say, in recent times it’s been Memoryhouse, Broadcast, and Beach House. With those acts, you’re covered in the “beautiful female vocal” and “wonderfully produced music” categories. Broadcast sound like they’re making music for experimental ’60s films. Memoryhouse have a specifically Canadian, melancholic vibe that paints the picture of two teenagers locked in a bedroom during cold weather, both suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Beach House are just a rare, perfect band. They’re calming but tense and take risks from album to album within their own world.