Reggie Watts

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Reggie Watts is a beatboxer, bandleader and standup comedian but - more than anything - a true original.  He tells us how the Cocteau twins changed the way he perceived music, introduces us to the “funkiest, deepest, groove, imaginable” and picks the perfect pop song.  Reggie is in the midst of a U.S. tour and will be in LA on May 30. He also appears on the IFC series "Comedy Bang Bang" which begins airing in June and his new cd/dvd "Reggie Watts: A Live At Central Park' is out now.
For more:

1. Streets Of Your Town - The Go-Betweens
2. Wax And Wane - Cocteau Twins
3. No Quarter - Led Zeppelin
4. Everybody Wants To Rule The World - Tears For Fears
5. One Mo'gin - D'Angelo

AV: Hi, I’m Anthony Valadez and I’m here with internationally renowned vocalist, beat boxer, bandleader, and comedian, Reggie Watts. And today we’re going to talk about songs he selected that have inspired him over the years, as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. So let’s start with your first song.
RW: Yeah, it’s called “Streets of Your Town” by The Go Betweens. They’re an Australian band. First of all, it sounds amazing. It’s got this beautiful poppy tempo, and this kinda atmospheric, jangly, reverbed out guitar sound. And the rhythm is great and the melodies are wonderful and the guys voice is really nice and a kind of a like a medium raspy tone.
Song: The Go Betweens – “Streets of Your Town”
RW: I love how descriptive it is. It’s talking about old towns that are shut down, like they’re post-industrial towns that are shut down. Describing what it used to be like, you know, traveling by boat through these unused bridges and these strange characters that exist.
What industry leaving a town, leaves a town as. And so that was very descriptive and I used to just close my eyes and put on the headphones and kind of leave. And, I don’t know what it is, it just always was a haunting thing for me as a kid. So that song had a really huge effect on me.
AV: That was “Streets of Your Town” by The Go Betweens, selected by Reggie Watts as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. What’s next for us?
RW: The next song is “Wax and Wane” by the Cocteau Twins. It’s kind of like their first major underground hit. When it came out, at first I hated it.
AV: Why did you hate it?
RW: I guess I didn’t like it because it was not pop music. I loved most of what was on Top 40. And, back in the 80’s, Top 40’s was such a crazy hodgepodge of all different kinds of bands and so I was used to that sound. I was used to the immediate, like, here’s the pop, here’s the hook.
So it was very confusing for me and just this weird woman who’s kinda singing gibberish -- but later I find out is a mixture of Gaelic and gibberish -- and she’s got this incredible voice, but it’s heavily drenched in reverb. And I fell in love with it. And I liked the idea that I could only pick out certain words, which is like the ‘Devil something wax and wane’, the ‘Devil something wax and wane’. So that really opened up my brain to a whole new way of perceiving music.
Song: Cocteau Twins – “Wax and Wane”
AV: That was the Cocteau Twins with “Wax and Wane” selected by Reggie Watts as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Great one man, what’s next?
RW: Next one is a song called “No Quarter” by a newer band called Led Zeppelin. You know, funny thing is, when I was 10 or 11I found a Led Zeppelin cassette tape in front of my house, on the edge of the street and I grabbed it. And it had that like dude with wings, like little icon that was on it. And I put it in my cassette player and I thought it was like some kind of weird evil music or something, and I destroyed it!
Song: Led Zeppelin – “No Quarter”
RW: And then I went to Seattle, I moved to Seattle, and when I was about 19 or 20 I moved in with this guy named Chuck. He was a Led Zeppelin and an amazing drummer. I think was on mushrooms or LSD, something like that and he put this Led Zeppelin record on and the first song he played was “No Quarter”. And this entire universe opened up and I immediately fell deeply in love with Led Zeppelin. “No Quarter” is like the weirdest song, like the way it sounds, his voice with a little like phasing or chorus on it and this kind of Norse mythology happening.
AV: And the drum’s are crazy at the beginning
RW: Oh yeah, oh, man, it’s a beautiful, beautiful song. I just couldn’t believe that I’ve missed out on all those years.
AV: That was “No Quarter” selected by Reggie Watts as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Man, this is so fun, what’s next for us?
RW: “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears For Fears.
Everybody’s heard it, everyone knows the song, but I don’t think people realize how amazing the song is, in the context of what its doing musically because it’s six over four.
So, it’s very African. It’s a very African rhythm song and most people never attribute it to it. Cause these two British guys, you know, making this pop song. But because you have one, two, three, four, five, six, one, two, three, four, five, six, one, two, three, four, five, six, one, two, three, four. And then over that you have: one, two, three, four, one, two, three. So you have, (sings) “Everybody wants to rule the world”…
That’s insane! And so you get that pulse, the shimmer, but then you get the four, you know, so everyone hears the four cause that’s what we’re used to. Our Western heads always listen to that, but the six underneath it is like this total amazing thing. And that’s what makes the guitar solo one of my favorite guitar solos of all pop music that I ever listened to. It’s sooo ill.
Song: Tears For Fears – “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”
AV: What about the music content? When he talks about “It’s my own desire, it’s my own remorse to rule the world.” I mean, there’s also this great - the lyrical content -- what does it say to you? I’m curious.
RW: Well, you know, it’s funny cause I always go rhythm, texture, hooks first and then the last thing I listen to are lyrics. But he’s kind of like talking from the perspective of the mind set of people who want to rule the world. Like why people even want to in the first place. And talking about all these kind of different versions of that. But comparing it to himself, so he’s kinda like, he’s doing it from his own perspective but he’s enacting these different moods of thinking. And so, acting out your best behavior, turn your back on Mother Nature. It’s great; it’s such a beautiful song. It’s one of those rare songs when I think it’s an absolute perfect pop song.
AV: That was “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears For Fears selected by Reggie Watts, he’s here, we’re having so much fun. What’s next?
RW: “One Mo'Gin” by D’Angelo. This is so sexy and at the same time just pure genius, because all the rhythms are all shifted. They’re played on purpose really behind the beat, you know, when people talk about behind the beat. It’s like you have: one, two, three, four, but when you’re playing behind the beat, if you’re doing like (beatboxes) but if you’re playing around the beat or messing with time, you’re like (beatboxes) you know, so, this whole album is messing with time and all of this collage shifting of different beats and rhythms creates the funkiest, deepest, groove, that is imaginable.
Song: D’Angelo – “One Mo'Gin”
AV: On a Saturday night when you’re chilling with the ladies, do you put this on the record player?
RW: Haha, you know I used to. But, you know, the problem is, it’s so loaded because back in the day, like when that first came out and you played that, it just meant that it was time to get down. You know, it was either you’re gonna dance slow or you gonna be getting it on with somebody. Like that’s all that record…
AV: No in-between.
RW: There’s no in-between man. Like you know, even that video.
AV: You were the stunt double for that, correct?
RW:  Yeah, I was, I was, back in my really super in shape days. That video was incredible! It was incredible. So, I mean, yeah, I definitely rocked it.
AV: That was “One Mo'Gin” by D’Angelo selected by Reggie Watts. Reggie thanks so much for joining us here on KCRW.
RW: No problem.
AV: Great. For a complete track listing and to find these songs go online to K-C-R-W dot com slash Guest DJ Project and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.