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Watts Up: Reggie!

Hair explosion at busy Downtown theatre this weekend

By Wayne Alan Brenner, 1:44PM, Mon. May. 21, 2012

The Man with the Brain-Powered Mouth!
The Man with the Brain-Powered Mouth!

O, fortuna!

Reggie Watts – he of the voice, the verve, the vivacity –
returns to Austin this weekend for two shows at the
Scottish Rite Theatre.

Yes: Reggie Watts.

You know Reggie Watts?

He's got – he's got – he's got, oh, a way about him,
this big man with the giant talent and the
I'mma-mess-with-these-knobs-until-the-audio-freaks-out-like-some-21st-century-inner-city-Finnegan's-Wake-sort-of-motherfucker.

And, sure, Watts recently laid down a brilliant, original soundtrack to Ridley Scott's classic Legend; sure, he opened for Conan O'Brien's Prohibited tour; sure, he's got a new album, A Live in Central Park, coming out on Comedy Central Records. Never mind that, though. (Or, rather: Find out more about that here.) During a recent (and, sadly, brief) interview, I was more interested in where he came from, where he's going, and, well, check it out:

Brenner: How old were you when it occurred to you, "Hey, these noises that I'm making, this beatboxing and singing and everything I'm doing with my voice, I should do this shit in public."

Watts: Well, I think I started performing on the playground, so I guess I would've been in second grade or something like that. Third grade? And I think it was because of Michael Winslow.

Brenner: From the Police Academy movies?

Watts: Yeah, he gave me the idea that you could make these noises with your mouth. I used to do explosions and laser sounds whenever I'd play Star Wars or whatever with my friends. And I didn't know that you could do that and kind of make a living at it, until I saw it in the movies, so it started with him. But I also liked imitating people – people and things – and I always had fun doing it, so I would've been doing it anyway. I couldn't not do it.

Brenner: Well, that's where this next question comes in. It's like an obstacle course question.

Watts: Okay ...

Brenner: What if some bizarre cosmic catastrophe occurs, and the only result is that suddenly, mysteriously, Reggie Watts can no longer make any sound with his larynx – with any of his vocal apparatus ever again? What would you do with the rest of your life?

Watts: Hmmm. Well, I guess I would make electronic beats … Maybe I'd direct films? I probably could do that, yeah.

Brenner: Well, since that catastrophe's not gonna happen –

Watts: [laughs]

Brenner: – what are your long-range plans? What kind of artistic goals do you have in mind, what kind of projects would you like to accomplish by the time you're a celebrated old geezer?

Watts: I'd definitely love to make some films. Interesting film and video, maybe just theatre, just experimenting with new performance technology. I'd like to accomplish the goals I already have, which is to make experimental things – whether it's film, or actual objects, or technology. And just always have an outlet for that, to know enough people to make those things happen.

Brenner: Are there people that you want to work with that you haven't worked with yet? But now you're starting to be able to, because suddenly – well, not suddenly, of course – but because now it's like, "Hey, I'm Reggie Watts, you wanna work with me?" Do you have any people in mind?

Watts: Yeah, I really wanna do something with Jack White. I think that would be really cool.

Brenner: Oh, man. Sign me up!

Watts: It'd be fun to do something with him, I think. And it'd be cool to find out how we'd work together. So him, and maybe somebody like Trentemøller. Or, ah, maybe Imogen Heap? I'm not sure what she'd be like to work with, but I really like her music.

Brenner: So it's all musicians. Any comedians at all?

Watts: Well, maybe if there was a film project or a TV project or something already going, and they thought I'd be the right person, where I could, I don't know … like when there's some project up and they're like, "You know who'd be perfect for this? Michael Cera," and it just fits, something like that would be great. But, I mean, that's not really in my wheelhouse. It's mostly musicians, because I know that a lot more intuitively.

Brenner: Speaking of Michael Cera, did you see Scott Pilgrim versus the World?

Watts: I did. That was brilliant.

Brenner: That's what I was hoping you'd say. I don't understand why that movie didn't, you know, it wasn't a huge hit. It kind of tanked in the theaters, but I thought it was one of the best things I'd seen in the past five years.

Watts: Yeah, between that and, ah, Kick-Ass. I mean, those were two really great superhero movies. Really good, really interesting, and more realistic than most of the superhero movies that have been coming out.

Brenner: With the technology going the way it is, would you ever sign off on a release for, like, when you die, yes, there can be Reggie Watts holograms? What do you think of that whole thing?

Watts: You mean like holographic shows?

Brenner: Well, after somebody's dead, especially. Like Tupac – like bringing him back as a hologram.

Watts: Oh, yeah, I don't know. That's a weird process. To me, the reasons behind it seem definitely financial. It doesn't smack of bringing-your-friend-back, it comes off as purely a financial thing. It's borderline disrespectful. It's not like when Natalie Cole sang that duet with her father – that was different. That was like, here's a chance for her to perform with her father because she never got to, and there was a good, dramatic quality to it. But just holographic dead performers? [laughs] Like, a holographic Kurt Cobain, holographic Elliott Smith? No, that's getting into a weird territory for me, I don't really wanna pursue that.

Brenner: Okay, say it's years in the future – let's be generous and say it's a hundred years from now – and you're dead and gone. So there's a graveyard, Reggie Watts in the celebrity graveyard, what's written on your tombstone?

Watts: It'd be either "You look nice today" –

Brenner: [laughs]

Watts: – or "I'm watching you."

Brenner: "I'm watching you"?

Watts: Yeah.

Brenner: Like … from the clouds? Like a Mufasa sort of thing?

Watts: No, like I'm still there. And I'm watching that person. It's more of an ominous twist: They won't be sure.

Brenner: [laughs] And you've rigged the other tombstones to move slightly around you …

Watts: Of course, of course! The tombstones'll look really aged and everything, but they'll be mechanical.

Brenner: [laughs] But, yeah, that's a hundred years in the future – at least.
And until then, may you live long and prosper.

Watts: Well, thank you. And you, as well.


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