Reggie Watts Wants to Make You Uncomfortable: VICE Podcast 013

Reggie Watts Wants to Make You Uncomfortable: VICE Podcast 013

REGGIE WATTS: We don’t want
bands that are original. We don’t want original
music anymore. We don’t want films that– we want remakes. We want remakes of stuff. We want stuff that sounds
familiar to something, but isn’t that, so it
feels like we’re discovering something new. [MUSIC PLAYING] REIHAN SALAM: Hi, I’m Reihan
Salam with a Vice Podcast. And I’m joined today by Reggie
Watts, a comedic entertainer, a multi-instrumentalist,
a man who is many things to so many people. Reggie, thanks for joining me. REGGIE WATTS: Thanks
for having me. REIHAN SALAM: So Reggie. What is Jash? It sounds like some terrible
skin condition one might have. REGGIE WATTS: Well, you
can get a Jash if you’re not too careful. REIHAN SALAM: It would depend on
which bars you hang around. REGGIE WATTS: Yes. definitely. Or which bars you use. Sometimes you have
sensitive skin. Now, Jash, essentially, is, I
guess, a conglomerate of four comedic entities. So it’s Sarah Silverman, Michael
Cera, Tim and Eric, and myself. REIHAN SALAM: And silent
partner, Vladimir Putin. REGGIE WATTS: Yes. Yeah, of course. REIHAN SALAM: We don’t
talk about that. REGGIE WATTS: Very silent. Very silent. Pussy Riot! But also that Daniel Kellison is
the executive producer, and so I think it was kind
of his idea. His and Sarah’s musings, that
led to this Google/YouTube relationship. And then inviting these other
partners, or whatever they call them on the sight. Luminaries. And again, it’s just a YouTube
channel that features all of the weird shit that we make,
specifically with Jash producing it. That’s kind of it. REIHAN SALAM: Reggie,
what is your agenda? Do you have one? Do you have a plan
for destruction? Do you have a plan
for delight? Do you have a 10-year that
you’ve been slowly implementing? REGGIE WATTS: I do
have an agenda. Well, I don’t know if
I have an agenda. REIHAN SALAM: Do you
feel comfortable revealing your agenda? REGGIE WATTS: Of course. I have to think about it. I think it’s a certain form of
disruption and discomfort. But it’s under a benevolent– REIHAN SALAM: You’re making me
very uncomfortable right now, so you’re succeeding. REGGIE WATTS: Well, I’m trying
to do it benevolently. It’s like hey man,
bluh bluh bluh. Ugh, oh. But not so bad. Yeah. I guess it’s just about
a form of disruption. Just disrupting a certain
thought process or ways that we go about things, and just
reframing it or re- or de-contextualizing. REIHAN SALAM: So rattling
people. Someone who, I look at things
in this one way. This is the way my community
looks at it. And then suddenly I see Reggie,
and he’s just sort of like [FUNNY NOISE], and he
kind of discombobulates. But what is the outcome
of this disruption? What is the best-case scenario
for I come to your show, and then things are seen a little
off-kilter, a little askew. And what comes from that? REGGIE WATTS: Well, I
think it’s a form of destabilization. I think that when people are
destabilized from their expectations, I think it
actually frees the mind. It actually puts the mind in a
state that it wants to be in. We have a tendency of wanting to
define things so much that we feel that we truly
understand, or we feel safe about our understanding
about reality. Which is an important
aspect to have, otherwise we would go insane. But I think the mind naturally
wants to think of things in many different ways, and
to explore things. And I think that, for me, when I
perform, it’s mostly about– well, OK, subverting
expectation. But getting to a point where
people just surrender to an experience. And then hopefully that
inspires some kind of self-exploration, or just
immersion to let them be in the experience. Or perhaps, at best, take away
something that makes them think of things differently. REIHAN SALAM: When
did you start thinking along these lines? When you were a little kid, were
you aware of this idea that people had a certain
expectation of you? And that you could disrupt
that expectation. REGGIE WATTS: Oh
yeah, for sure. When I was a kid, I grew
up in Montana. So there weren’t a lot of black
kids or kids of other races, really. There was probably maybe 15
total in the school system. That you could say, a
half-Thai kid; me, a half-white, half-black
kid; two black guys– REIHAN SALAM: Did you all
form a musical troupe? REGGIE WATTS: Yeah, we were
just like, The Minorities! It’s like, I love
The Minorities! You just didn’t see a
lot of similarities. Or I didn’t see a lot
of similarities– at least to other people,
physically that looked like me. But I definitely loved the fact
that people expected– well, they didn’t quite
know what to expect, really, I think. Because all they had
were movies and TV. So if they saw a black kid,
they were like, well, on Brewster’s Millions, black
people act like this. Or Eddie Murphy does this,
or Bill Cosby does this. So they just had
TV and movies. And they had to get
to know me. So they had to kind of
go, here’s a dude that looks like this. And then I’m not behaving
the way that they do. In a way, Montana was a good
place to grow up, because people didn’t really have
too many expectations. REIHAN SALAM: One thing I wonder
about is, being in that kind of environment that’s a
pretty homogeneous, I wonder if actually you noticed more
distinctions among white people than you would’ve
noticed otherwise. Because to an outsider– let’s say I’m coming from some
super-diverse place, I’m coming from LA, what have
you, coming to Montana. And I might see this
undifferentiated mass of white Montanans. Whereas you, as someone who
was in that culture and attuned to it, you might have
been a little bit better able to pick up on some of
those differences? REGGIE WATTS: Oh, definitely. Growing up, it was mostly
white population. But I definitely saw differences
in people. That’s the funny thing, that’s
something that I like to play off of very much. This whole idea of majorities
and minorities and things like that, which is completely
fictional. Because everything
is completely– it depends on how you frame it,
what you’re comparing it to, that creates these
majorities or minorities. But specifically, growing up,
there was the kids that were lower middle class
or working class. And they ate really shitty food
and cussed a lot, and were chewing by the age of 10. There were the preppier kids. There were all those
class systems. But then there were people
from different heritages. People with Greek backgrounds,
and people with Italian backgrounds, and Polish
backgrounds. So it was just such
a mishmash. I just see people as people. I’ve always just seen
people as people. And I don’t really attribute
race too much. And that’s from, I think,
growing up in a mixed race, mixed cultural, mostly
white place. And then moving to Seattle, and
a little bit more minority in the mix. And then moving to New
York, and a lot of minority in the mix. But I think all of that
prepared me to see people as people. And then of course
with the genetic findings that most people– everything that we see that’s
different visually is just completely superficial. We’re all the same race. Back in the day, when they were
like, well, black people are a certain race, and they’ve
got certain traits. No, those are just adaptive
genetics. REIHAN SALAM: It is interesting
the way that you have these micro-groups, like
the Kalenjin of Kenya. This is a group that has some
distinctive qualities. This temperature,
you’ll have– But what I find interesting
about what you said. So when you’re talking about
those class distinctions in Montana, and the way the preppy
kids dressed, and chewing dip, or whatever. What I find interesting
is how permeable things are or aren’t. Is there a moment where the
Greek kid who is this way could then wear this stone
washed denim jacket with a purple unicorn on it, and
do they suddenly change categories? Are they able to do that? Or in a community that’s
very tight knit, people call you on it. But what are the ways that you
can shift subtly from one thing to another? And were you someone who moved
from group to group? Were you able to tweak one
thing, and then enter a different category? REGGIE WATTS: Yeah, that’s
right on the money. Definitely, for sure. When we’re younger, we don’t
really have that association, too much differentiation,
aside from major things. Like if a kid was born without
an arm or something, you’d be like, wow, he doesn’t
have an arm. I have an arm. That’s weird. Or normal. But as I grew older, I was
interested in all the different social classes. And in junior high, I
was a weird mix of– it was a small class group. So when I went to junior
high, it expanded. There were more kids. And so suddenly, I was in this
more social environment. And there were more deviations
from the former class. People just went whoosh! out into these different
social spectrums. More sports, or more academic,
more outsider smoking on a rock. All those start to divvy up. Then all the movies started to
come out, John Hughes movies and things. Which shed light on the identity
of class division within a young population. And so I became interested
in trying to navigate between all of them. Because I found them all
equally compelling. And I also liked getting
along with everybody. REIHAN SALAM: But also, someone
who was kind of outside and a little marginal,
it gave you that freedom to actually dip in and tip
out as you chose. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah,
absolutely. I They just knew me
as the weird kid. And so junior high,
I was a nothing. I liked break dancing,
but I wasn’t a very good break dancer. I really liked music. I studied music. I played in orchestra, so I was
definitely an orchestra nerd, or whatever the hell
they were called. I was in debate, and I loved
math and science and science fiction and fantasy stuff. I played Dungeons and Dragons. But I also was really good
friends with the popular girl. I was friends with them. I wasn’t ever attractive
to them. But I was definitely friends
of hot girls. Which I will take. I will take any day over not
being friends with them. But yeah. So I was always interested
in balance. Like, how can the tough
bully kid– I remember in high school
especially, I really went for all the different classes. The first year, I was really a
nothing going into sports. And I didn’t even
like football. I just decided to join football
because I thought– REIHAN SALAM: Take this
in as an experience. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah. What is it like to be
a football player? And so I joined football. I was a terrible football
player. I couldn’t remember
any of the plays. But I remember there was a kid
who was known to have the hardest punch in school. And no one messed with him. And my school was about
1,300 kids. And I just remember one day,
everyone was playing the flinching game– [REIHAN LAUGHS] REGGIE WATTS: –and I was
totally trying to avoid this kid in the locker room. But at one point, I just turned
around, and he just happened to be right in
my field of vision. And he just kind of went– like that. And I was like uh! And I was like, fuck! And he was like, 10 punches. To the arm. And I was like, no! And so he punched me– REIHAN SALAM: You still have
a welt on that arm. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah, still. One arm is slightly bigger
than the other. There’s a memory. If someone grasps me too
hard, I’m like ah! It’s like a flashback. But he hit me nine times. The bell rang for class
or whatever. He didn’t give me
the 10th one. So for three days, he kept
saying, I owe you one. I owe you a punch. And I was like, goddammit! The whole time, I was just
dreading it, dreading, dreading it. And then finally, we were in
the locker room, and I just went up to him. And I was like, let’s just
get this over with. Just punch me. And he just went– like that. REIHAN SALAM: That’s
really nice. REGGIE WATTS: And I was
like, what a badass. What a badass. It was cool to be in that
circle, and understand– REIHAN SALAM: That’s actually
really quite something. This kid sounds like a pretty
interesting person. REGGIE WATTS: He
was a cool guy. REIHAN SALAM: He’s terrifying
you with this. And then suddenly, you were
willing to take it. And it was like, OK. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah, yeah. I think he just respected
the fact. He was tormenting me. It was like that movie
“Three O’Clock High.” Very similar to that. The whole time this guy’s
going to beat him up. Although that guy
wasn’t as nice. But it was definitely like,
you’re going to have to face your fear. And there’s nothing you
can do to avoid it. REIHAN SALAM: It’s interesting
to me that you were so self-conscious about this
idea of wanting to try different things. It sounds that you didn’t seem
super vulnerable as an early adolescent. It sounds like you felt
pretty confident and solid in who you were. Which is rare. Where do you think
that came from? REGGIE WATTS: I think it’s the
multicultural, multiracial upbringing. My mom’s French and white,
and my dad was black and he’s from Ohio. She spoke French,
I spoke French. REIHAN SALAM: Did that
give her sense of– I assume it gave her a sense
of separateness from the Montana scene, but did that also
give her a sense of, I’m a little separate/above this a
bit, and I’m not like going to be intimidated or
whatever by– REGGIE WATTS: Well, she’s
French, first of all. And she’s a redhead. REIHAN SALAM: Not
to generalize. REGGIE WATTS: No, no no. But no. No. But it’s totally true. She’s got a very strong
egalitarian sensibility, so any time she senses
something unjust– But I also have to realize
that my mom and dad got together in 1967, which was
crazy for a mixed race couple to be together. Europe was a little bit
more progressive than the United States. But in a way, them to decide
to be together, then him bringing her back to
the United States– REIHAN SALAM: Was already
such a choice. REGGIE WATTS: It was crazy. REIHAN SALAM: A choice about
what they believed in and what they cared about. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah. And my mom was very sensitive
about race. She was very sensitive about
the way that would people would talk to my dad
or treat my dad. And she would say things
to him or to them. So she had that sensibility. And she was also protective
of me as well. And my dad was also similar. He would say, stick
up for yourself. So my way of getting back to
people wasn’t to necessarily fight back. It was to either make them
laugh, and make them just see my as something harmless. Or to make fun of them in a way
that they’re not aware of me making fun of them. And so those were my weapons. And mostly just humor. I just wanted people to– I like it when people like me. But it started when
I was a kid. I just needed that. Because I wanted to hang
out everybody. I didn’t want there to be tons
and tons of divisions. REIHAN SALAM: It also seems
that you took– it sounds as though you’ve taken
being this weird kid in school, who is just doing your
own thing and feeling pretty solid and confident, but also
being playful in this way. And you somehow turned
it into a job. And that’s not necessarily
in an intuitive thing. And you were interested in
math and science and everything else. And so was there a moment in
Montana, just when you were thinking, somehow this is
something I want to make something out of. I want to make this my life. This project of this curiosity
and this desire to entertain. How did that unfold? REGGIE WATTS: That’s an
interesting question. I’ve thought about that, and I
try to put myself back there. I don’t know if I was so
conscious as to say, this is what I’m going to do. I think it felt to me at that
time more like, I can’t not do something like this. So I’m just going to keep doing
this, and I’m going to move to places where creative
stuff is happening. And I’ll figure out something. I’ll figure out something. REIHAN SALAM: You’re about to be
on a sitcom Can you tell us a little bit about it? REGGIE WATTS: Oh. Which one? REIHAN SALAM: Oh gosh. Well, tell me about the one
you’re most excited about. I guess I don’t want to make you
choose, so tell me about all of them. REGGIE WATTS: I haven’t heard
about the other one, if they picked it up yet. But I did make a pilot for a
potential sitcom called Bad Advice from my Brother. I think that’s what
it’s called. And we shot a pilot for it. And it feels like a mid
’90s dude sitcom. It really is very just straight
down the road. Little brother does badly
in school because of the influences of his older
brother, who lives in New York. Father gets mad at the older
brother, so to punish the older brother, sends the little
brother to live with his older brother’s. To give him guidance
or whatever. They have to deal
with each other. REIHAN SALAM: This sounds like
incredibly reckless parenting. REGGIE WATTS: Oh, completely. Completely. The whole thing is dysfunctional
behavior. But it’s great. Because Miles Fisher is
such a strange man. He’s very ambitious. He’s an internet-minded man. But his family at the same time
is incredibly wealthy, and deals with the
banking system. So it’s perfect for his
character, who is a Wall Street dude. And he’s corrected some of the
people who are writing this script about how people would
actually approach finances, which I thought was kind
of interesting. So he’s the real deal. REIHAN SALAM: I would love the
show if you played the 14-year-old boy. And you’re wearing overalls
and you’ve got a boom box. REGGIE WATTS: No one notices. Kind of like a Stuck version
of Quantum Leap. REIHAN SALAM: Kind of like the
way Beverly Hills 90210, they were all 40 years old, and they
were playing teenagers. REGGIE WATTS: Oh, I know. And you’re like, no. I believe that. There’s a lot of soft
filters going on. REIHAN SALAM: But who
are you on the show? It’s the classic weirdo
friend that hangs out and says weird shit. And that Miles’s character just
thinks I can do no wrong. I’m like his weird dysfunctional
shaman or something like that. And his little brother, played
by Mike Castle, who’s incredible. It’s just the straight dude. Kind of like a young
Tom Hanks. Straight dude. He’s brilliant. So it’s interesting. That’s the sitcom. I don’t know what’s going
to happen with that. But who knows? If it gets picked up, it’d be
great, because it films here in New York. REIHAN SALAM: One thing
I wonder about is– I brought it up partly because
I’m thinking, something like a sitcom, this the kind of thing
that many people aspire to this their entire lives. It’s a source of legitimacy. And it’s this kind
of recognition. But it seems that you have been
trying to do something very distinctive, artistically
and otherwise. And I asked about the agenda,
partly because not everyone necessarily has an agenda
beyond ‘I want to be recognized.’ And I want to– there’s an ego satisfaction. There’s nothing wrong
with that. But there’s an ego satisfaction
dimension. So for you, appearing in sitcoms
and working towards this legitimacy, is that
a means to an end? Is this something that– REGGIE WATTS: It’s
a side project. I always tell this
to my agents. It’s not what they
want to hear. But I’m just like, TV
and movies, for me, is a side project. Me auditioning for something,
or someone asking me to be part of something,
which is amazing. It’s great to people think
to ask me to do things, which is awesome. But that’s not my main thing. My main thing is I just want to
be able to make anything I want to make, in any medium I
want to make, at any point in time, as quickly as possible. That’s really all I’m
concerned with. So all of these opportunities
are great to gain experience. How does TV work? How does it function? What’s the production
structure? REIHAN SALAM: So it’s like
joining the football team, on some level. REGGIE WATTS: Exactly. REIHAN SALAM: Like,
let me figure out. Let me navigate this. But these are also
an ego dimension? For someone, you could say that,
hey, I’m an alterna-kid. But I can be on the
football team. There’s a levels of, I
can do this thing. I don’t want to do
it, necessarily. That’s not what I’m about. So is there a little
bit of that? I can do this legitimate
thing, but I can also– and see how far you can go? REGGIE WATTS: Yeah. Can I do something like this? Oh, that’s interesting. I can. Because the funny thing is, is
I love TV, and I love movies. I love specific TVs
and movies. I can’t stand commercials,
that drives me nuts. But I watch what I can without
commercials, and I’m really involved in it, and I love
watching TV again. Because all throughout the ’90s
I didn’t watch TV at all, because there was no such
thing as streaming, non-commercial– REIHAN SALAM: And you moved to
Seattle, and you were not in a life situation where you
were going to be– REGGIE WATTS: No. And I didn’t want to
be around a TV. I had a TV, but I had a VCR. So I just watched movies. I just couldn’t handle
the commercials. So I became interested in TV. But I was also a TV kid. I loved watching TV. REIHAN SALAM: When you say “TV
kid,” do you mean you knew the whole TV schedule,
from 3:00 PM to– what are we talking about? REGGIE WATTS: Kind of. Kind of. REIHAN SALAM: There weren’t
that many channels then. REGGIE WATTS: There weren’t
that many channels. There was maybe, at the time, 11
channels or something like that, when I was growing up. Yeah and then we got, of course,
cable came along. HBO, Cinemax, Showtime. That was crazy. And MTV. REIHAN SALAM: Then
it was anarchy. Then suddenly people started
smoking crack and murdering each other in the street. REGGIE WATTS: But definitely
heard a lot more about crack. There were a lot more
stories about it. I just enjoyed TV. I loved getting lost
in those worlds. I watched a lot of PBS, too. A lot of British programming. And I loved it. I loved mysteries. I was a little kid. I just loved detective
mysteries. REIHAN SALAM: What was it? I’m fascinated by anglophilia
in general. But one aspect– So you have this country,
this island. You’ve got 65 million
people on it. And then you realize there’s
this mutantoid, crazy, multiracial, polyglot bastard
child of your country that has five times as many people. I always find that interesting,
the relationship. But then we’re so fascinated
with that thing. What was it about those shows
that you found compelling? Was it that it’s similar
but different? REGGIE WATTS: Well,
I’ve always been interested in the past. And so the BBC had a lot of
shows that were slow-paced, that were more immersive
in the time period. So if it was Inspector Poirot–
which wasn’t my favorite– but Inspector
Poirot– REIHAN SALAM: No, but
that was the shit. I remember that show. REGGIE WATTS: It was the shit. I spoke French, and I was like,
that’s not a French guy. That’s a terrible
French accent. REIHAN SALAM: He’s
also Belgian. REGGIE WATTS: Oh yeah,
that’s right. Yeah. He was French-Belgian. But still terrible. Just a terrible French accent. A [INAUDIBLE] accent. Not very good. But I liked the slow-paced
immersion. And I also loved
fantasy stuff. I loved dragons, and knights,
and creatures, and magic, and sorcerers, and stuff
like that. And so the English accent just
puts you right there. Because King Arthur and all
those legends, those are all Celtic, Gaelic, Britain area,
druidic past, Anglo influences. REIHAN SALAM: You have
a druidic quality. REGGIE WATTS: I like
the druids. Whenever I got to the UK, I
always talk about how people are descendants of druids. And I’m like, you’ve got
to bring it back. I love it. I’m just fascinated with
the ancient cultures. And I was also a
big Egypt kid. I loved Egypt and Mesopotamia. I was just very fascinated
with those pasts. And English, I could
understand it. REIHAN SALAM: So is that
when the mimicry began? REGGIE WATTS: Yes. REIHAN SALAM: Was that learning
from the shows? REGGIE WATTS: Yeah. All the English stuff. When I go to England, and people
are like, I thought you were English. Because I think probably at
least 40% of my life I’ve spoken in an English accent. I just loved getting all the
nuances of those accents. REIHAN SALAM: Do you bleed in? So for example, when you are in
the South, when you’re in England, are you bleeding into
the speech around you because of your desire to please
the people around you? Or is it very self conscious,
like click, I’m going to do this thing now. REGGIE WATTS: There’s a little
bit of thought behind it. If I come out and I go
to South Carolina, [CAROLINA ACCENT] and I’m talking like
this, I’m like, hey guys, how are you today. I was just at your store the
other day, and I was talking to Ms. Smithson. But when I’m talking
like this– [REGULAR VOICE] I have to stop and think,
is this insulting? Or is this beneficial? Is there a reason I would
be using this voice? In England, I use an English
accent just because I feel comfortable enough with it that
I can forget that I’m using the accent, and I can just
be very natural on stage. And if I’m being that way,
the audience will forget. They’ll just go, oh,
this is this guy. This is the way this
guy speaks. But something like other areas,
things will bleed in. But I will only use them if
I’m confident enough that there is a purpose for using. Like in Ireland, I can kind
of do an Irish accent. But I’m not confident enough. And the Irish are hyper-critical
of people doing their accent and essentially
being racist to the Irish, which happens a lot. Talking about leprechauns
and stuff like that. Never mention anything
about a leprechaun or four-leaf clovers. They’ll just feel like punching
you in the face. They really don’t like it. REIHAN SALAM: And they might. REGGIE WATTS: And they might,
depending on the time of day. It’s just one of those things
where I have to think about what I’m about to do. If I’m performing in a country
that doesn’t primarily speak English, that most people don’t
speak English– like southern Italy, or something
like that, or southern Spain– I would definitely do a
gibberish language that has elements of either Italian
or Spanish in it. And more physical
humor and music. REIHAN SALAM: The gibberish
languages are terrifying. They’re absolutely
fascinating. Tell us a little bit about
the concept behind the gibberish language. REGGIE WATTS: Well,
I’m too lazy to learn certain languages. So I listen to the way that they
sound, and try to kind of evoke the essence of it. If I’m in Scandinavia, so
if I’m saying [IMITATING SCANDINAVIAN LANUAGE] That kind of has a cadence
that’s pan-Scandinavian Pandinavian. Yeah Oh, sorry. I find it fascinating. REIHAN SALAM: “Pandinavian”
brings to mind pandas in Viking suits. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah, of course. Two cultures together, China
and Scandinavia. Finally. Or Holland, or France,
or Germany. I did some gigs in
Saudi Arabia, and I couldn’t really– I felt so constricted. I had to be very careful. REIHAN SALAM: What I worry about
is people in the future. All human knowledge
has been lost. The library’s been burned down,
the digital cassettes have deteriorated. And they just find your
gibberish language. And they try to reconstruct
languages from your gibberish language. That would be very interesting
and terrifying. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah, I know. I would be very strange. Do you remember a book
called Snowcrash? REIHAN SALAM: Oh, of course. REGGIE WATTS: They talk about
the mother language or the mother tongue. This master language that was
the beginning of language for humanity, or the first
fully-evolved form of spoken language. And I think about that. And I’m like, there must
be some way of mixing. Better than Esperanto. Just some way of mixing all
these various aspects of language together that are
enough that if you– I look at it as there’s
a sub-carrier wave. So oftentimes, coded messages
will sound like a bunch of gibberish or static, transmitted
messages. But really, there’s a message
that’s encoded underneath it that is the distraction. It’s like a duck on water. What’s really happening is under
the water, but you just see a duck. And you’re like,
that’s a duck. So the idea of like speaking
gibberish, but also projecting an intent and meaning. It’s not scientific
by any means. But it feels like if I do
project something meaningful underneath it, that potentially meaning can be derived. REIHAN SALAM: Do you have
a through line? When you’re speaking gibberish,
do you have a sense, this is, in fact, what
I’m trying to convey. REGGIE WATTS: Not totally. It goes in and out. I would say mostly not. It’s mostly me mimicking the way
that we converse with our body and, language-wise, and
cadence-wise, and tonality, and volume, and all of that
stuff, to make it sound like conversation. Well, it’s also just the idea
of language as music. When you think about language as
a series of sounds that to someone who does not speak
the language would be indecipherable, that’s
always very powerful. REIHAN SALAM: But I wonder, what
is it that drew you to music initially? Was it the idea of a community
around it, or the idea of a shared experience? And creating a shared experience
for people? REGGIE WATTS: Well, music was
the first thing that I was attracted to as a kid. So I think it is the ultimate
language, for people that can hear. And sometimes who can’t
hear, they can still feel subsonic stuff. It’s the most universal
language that there is, really. And so I think I was drawn
to that as a kid. It’s why I was interested in
learning the piano, I was interested in playing violin. I just loved music. I was always singing. I was always playing rhythms,
making weird noises, trying to mimic machines and
things like that. So that’s my main language,
I think. And it’s a really wonderful
thing, to be able to travel too North Korea or something
like that, and be able to find some musicians, and start
playing a rhythm. And we just start playing
together. It’s immediate. Everyone understands
it instantaneously. And so that’s the strongest base
of what I do as music. REIHAN SALAM: Did you
struggle with it? When you were just starting
out, did it come very naturally to you? Or was it something that you
really felt like you really put a lot of work into it in
that early period of mastering instruments? REGGIE WATTS: I was taking piano
lessons, and I started when I was age five. So I just did what my teacher
asked, and I tried to get better at it. But I definitely
understood it. I think I had difficulty when
it came to reading music. Reading and playing,
like sight reading. I got good to a certain point,
and then I just became disinterested. I just became more interested
in improvising. REIHAN SALAM: Once you could
improvise, once you felt comfortable and confident. Knowing, I’m going to do
this and it’s going to create this sound. And then you were like– REGGIE WATTS: Yeah. It couldn’t hold my
attention anymore. And my teacher tried. And I just stopped doing
the homework. So my theory went
down the drain. I was still playing violin. I was able to read the music
of violin But it was combination of listening to what
my section was doing, and then memorizing the music. And also seeing it. And it made sense
when I read it. But I just wasn’t one of those
people that’s like, OK. And just be able to play it,
and know all the rests, and what that symbol means, and how
long the hold before this note, and this note extends,
and what that means. That was too much information. It was much easier for
me to just improvise. REIHAN SALAM: You grew up
in a time when musical connoisseurship was actually
challenging. If you wanted to get certain
records, you could not necessarily get them. And then when you think about
someone who is a teenager now, they do have, in theory at
least, this infinite access to an infinite amount of music. And I always wonder about how
that shapes experience. For you, that barrier
to entry– and you were still exposed this
pastiche of different music from different eras as
what have you, and able to, through your improvisation– But I wonder now, because it
seems like the sheer volume of material that you can
have exposure to– What do you think about it? Do you ever talk to younger– REGGIE WATTS: I definitely
have the, ‘back in my day!’ problem. But I think it’s true. I really try to check myself on
it, that I’m not trying to like, I’m from an older
perspective. These kids, blah blah. But I feel like kids these
days have it much harder. Because essentially, the
corporate entertainment structure– and even YouTube, which is the
people’s information library, which is, I would say,
90% to 95% bullshit– it’s all just mostly
distraction art and business art. And it’s art that’s
algorithmical art, and what I like to call pastiche bands. A lot of bands that sound
like other bands. They’re almost as good
as Fleetwood Mac. Oh, the singer sings almost
as great as Pat Benatar. They’re kind of a little bit
like Nirvana, kind of, a little bit. It has that newness feeling
kind of like that. REIHAN SALAM: But a bit
more Brooklyn-y. REGGIE WATTS: But
more Brooklyn-y. Exactly. Yeah. And it’s hard. There’s plenty of original
groups, but it’s not what celebrated. So for a teenager to like– and I guess you could argue
that when I when I was in Great Falls, Top 40 radio
was Top 40 radio. It’s what the curators
put on the radio. And said, these are the hits. But I will say that, for the
most part, at least 50% of the music on Top 40 when I was
listening to Casey Kasem or whatever was actually good
music, played by really talented musicians. People who actually studied and
hit the road, and toured for a long time. REIHAN SALAM: Kenny Loggings. REGGIE WATTS: Kenny
Loggins, man. Absolutely. I can’t stop listening to
Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Heart to Heart. I’ve been listening to
that nonstop for a month and a half now. REIHAN SALAM: Yeah. It’s weirdly good. REGGIE WATTS: We don’t
have that. Or even like Phil Collins,
or even Cyndi Lauper. Which seems silly or whatever,
but it was wonderful, joyful music. You had people from the fusion
age, the R&B fusion age from the ’70s, having solo
careers in the ’80s. So you still had a lot of people
that could play stuff. Or like Van Halen. That’s was a band that
could really play. REIHAN SALAM: Where do you see
yourself in relation to figures like that? I’m curious. Because you clearly have this
musical agenda, this musical project kind of thing
that you try to do. Do you see yourself in that
tradition of those artists you’ve identified? REGGIE WATTS: I mean I try to
infuse as much quality as I can in the music that I make. A lot of times, when I perform
live and it’s my show, I have to do pretty rudimentary
stuff. Because I don’t really
have a lot of time. I don’t want to waste people’s
time out there with me really building subtle changes, or
creating a prechorus on this track, and then a full chorus. So it’s pretty rudimentary. But I try to infuse enough
musicianship that it feels as though they’re getting some kind
of an understanding of the possibilities of music. At least, through
my experience. And it’s just important,
I think. And I try to encourage people. I say it all the time. Sometimes I’ll go on these
tirades, similar to what I was doing, about bands. But I’ll approach it
sarcastically. And I’ll say, we don’t want
bands that are original. We don’t want original
music anymore. We don’t want films that– we want remakes. We want remakes of stuff. We want stuff that sounds
familiar to something, but isn’t that, so it
feels like we’re discovering something new. That thing I really try
to drive in there. Because I really hope that there
is a generation of kids that really are into studying
music and to developing their ability to understand music. It’s great if someone can take
a sampler, or they can take a graded midi interface, and put
a bunch of active samples. It’s a great evolution. But to understand what
music is, even a little bit of theory. Understanding musics from
different places around the world, traditional musics, and
then having that influence what you’re doing now, I think
is really important. And there are plans
that do that. I’m not saying that there
is none of that. But it’s harder to find, and
it’s not what sells. REIHAN SALAM: What I find
interesting about– not to accuse you
of crankiness. But what’s interesting is that
I think, actually, a lot of your music, what’s interesting
to me about it is that it actually is drawing on this
idea that there’s a thick cloud of references and things
in the universe that your audiences are likely to share. They don’t always share it, but
they’re likely to share. And so then you take from
those references. It seems that you are doing this
mixed-media kind of stuff that is compelling, partly
because they’re like, oh, you’re activating part
of my memory. It’s drawing on this nostalgia
for the present. It’s like a little refracted. That seems like exactly
the best version of what we’re doing now. When you’re talking about
algorithmic music, so let me unpack that. So it’s the idea of like, OK,
we know exactly that your brain responds to this. Bee boop bop. So we will add these
three instruments. And then we’re like, rrr! And we’ll give you
a musical boner. And this is how we will
sell lots of records. But I think that, in a way,
that’s sort of what you’re doing, too, right? Because you’re trying to access
parts of your bain. It’s not done in that corporate
rigorous way, and it’s playful. But it does seem like, in a
world where we have this density of stuff, so much stuff
is being created, that’s the only you can do. The only you can do is make
things that are intra-textual. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah,
absolutely. It’s interesting. I had this big discussion on
Twitter about blurred lines, the Robin Thicke song. And I just said, I wonder if
they have to pay royalties to Marvin Gaye for– I forget the name the song
that it sounds like. I had it in my head. But it sounds exactly like
this Marvin Gaye song. So close. It’s got the cow bell in it. It’s got party people noises in
the background through it. It’s got the same rhythm. It’s got the same feel. It’s relatively the
same base line. But then it’s sung in a
falsetto, which is similar to how Marvin’s singing on it. And I researched it, and there
is no mention of them crediting it. And I’m like, wow, I have
a problem with that. I have a problem. Because people were like,
well, art, people steal. That’s the way art is. And I’m like, yeah, yeah. It’s one thing to take the Mona
Lisa and copy it 98% and then just throw some
patterns on it. We know Andy Warhol did
a version of that. But there was a contextual
reason for that. REIHAN SALAM: How
serious are you? This is interesting. One argument, obviously, is
that if everything is pastiche, then you need
a copy culture. And actually, many of the best
aspects of our culture are copy culture. And you expect that to happen. You expect themes
to recapitulate. But how serious are you
about the idea? Is it just about crediting? Or is it literally about
copyright, and the Marvin Gaye estate should get a check? REGGIE WATTS: That’s
the byproduct. The main thing is
that it’s lazy. And that it’s too calculated,
it’s too easy. It’s really easy to
make a hit song. It’s not that hard. It’s how many gates do you
have to get through to actually get to the point at
which the distribution guardians are like, OK, let’s
put this out here and let’s put some money behind it. REIHAN SALAM: That’s a really
interesting thought. REGGIE WATTS: It’s just
very, very lazy. And when I see Pharrell. He’s making a resurgence
now, and he was on the Daft Punk thing. When I heard that song,
that funk song, I knew it was Pharrell. And then two things happened. I was like, this is
a funky track. My favorite part of the track
is when he’s not singing. And when he is singing, it
sounds like scratch vocals. Because he’s a terrible
singer. And so I was thinking, so is the
only reason they left his vocals on– obviously he wrote
it, the line, or co-wrote it– did they leave it on because
it’s Pharrell, and everyone loves Pharrell. Is that the value? Or is the value that they want
the music to sound great? Because to me, in my opinion,
as a producer, I would have said, that’s great Pharrell. Now let’s get a real
singer to sing it. It’s a really hooky line, I
can’t get it out of my head. But let’s get a real
singer in there. I’m suspicious of
people that are celebrated as very original. Kanye West is another person
in the hip hop world. He really prides himself on
knowing what’s underground and bringing that out
in his music. But he’s also very good at not
crediting those people. And I think there’s a danger
when people just let that fly. REIHAN SALAM: At the very least,
call them out on it. Is that what you’re saying? REGGIE WATTS: Totally. And I will. I will. And I think it’s one thing
to have someone who’s not experienced in music to call out
something, and people are like, oh yeah, you think
you acn do better? How do you know? What would you know? And I think it’s important for
people that do have experience in music, if they feel strongly
about something, to say something about it. REIHAN SALAM: There
are two things I need to ask you about. One of which is definitely
stupid, the other which is hopefully less stupid. But the first thing is about
Pharrell’s voice. Forget about Pharrell
specifically. REGGIE WATTS: Sure. REIHAN SALAM: But don’t you
kind of like the idea of jagged, shitty vocals
in a way? I find the idea of, in this
algorithmic era, the idea of bad singing, I kind of
find it appealing. Because it’s seeing the
guts of things. Seeing the stuffing on the
couch sticking out. I think there’s something
sloppy about it. REGGIE WATTS: Perhaps karaoke
had a lot to do with making that more acceptable. But for me, I figure if you’re
going to have a lot of money– and also, I’m OK with vocals
that aren’t perfect. It’s that I need
things to be– I don’t sing perfectly at all. I’m flat a lot of the times. Or you listen to Billie Holiday-
she was constantly a little flat. There are examples when– REIHAN SALAM: Calling out
Billie Holiday now. REGGIE WATTS: I now. Billie! Wherever you are! Sharp it up! It’s like, I didn’t know,
I didn’t know. No, but I just have a problem
when things get really super popular and very celebrated,
but I love great vocalists. I like to hear a person’s
voice that that’s being sincere and has the expertise
and the skill. REIHAN SALAM: It’s
like fantasy. You want them to respect
the process. It’s the way that people were
angry with George Lucas because he was not respecting
his own Star Wars mythology. REGGIE WATTS: Oh, yeah. REIHAN SALAM: So you want them,
if you’re making this music, and you’re going
to be making hit records, respect it. And give it a high sheen
and do it right. REGGIE WATTS: Oh, totally. It’s like when I say, if
you were to take– what’s a modern band?–
like the Foo Fighters. And you put them next to a
really happening, cool band. And the Foo Fighters get
up, and they would just destroy that band. Because the sheer level of
musicianship in their pinkies just supersedes. REIHAN SALAM: They might
physically destroy them. REGGIE WATTS: They
would definitely physically destroy them. REIHAN SALAM: Very sad
for everybody. REGGIE WATTS: It would
be very sad, for– REIHAN SALAM: Another thing
you raised is this idea of it’s easy to make
a hit record. The key thing is just getting
to the right people, getting through those barriers, and
getting to that point. And I wonder, how do
you feel about– because it sounds to me as
though you’ve gotten through those barriers. You’re in a place where you
will be listened to. You’re at a place where you’ve
build a career, where you have this legitimacy and you can
make things happen. And I wonder, is that a feeling
that you have, like yeah, I solidly feel that way. Or is it more a feeling of,
that’s true right now. And that might not be
true in two years. Do you feel a tentative
about it? REGGIE WATTS: I have
hope for sure. And everybody needs
a great tune. Everybody needs a good club
anthem for the summer. I’m all about it. I love dancing, and I love good
music that’s just like, oh, I love this tune. But when I listen to Janelle
Monae, her voice is incredible. She’s insanely talented. REIHAN SALAM: She might be
a robot from the future. REGGIE WATTS: I know. I know, exactly. We’ll see how she chooses
her path. But her raw talent level is
she’s kind of like James Brown reincarnated, in a way. And even her new project with
Erykah Badu is very intriguing. REIHAN SALAM: Do you think there
are 15 Janelle Monaes, or 500 Janelle Monaes who just
haven’t gotten through the gatekeepers, and who can’t? REGGIE WATTS: Sure. And also, there’s something that
happens with people that are like that. Like Azealia Banks. Two One Two is massive. It’s an incredible song. I love it. I think it’s so ill. But I wonder. I know that she’s working
with Missy Elliott now. I love Missy Elliott. Missy Elliott was killing
in the ’90s. I always called her the
Bjork of hip hop. But interesting videos. Cool, weird, abstract,
absurdist contrasts in the videos. Just great imagination,
and funky as fuck. And then a bunch of bullshit
club hip hop, like fake gangster shit. And then now we’re like, oh,
there’s odd future, and there’s this bubbling. In the last 10 years, there’s
bubbling of this underground hip hop culture coming up. So when I saw Azaelia Banks,
I was like, ah, this is refreshing. This is great. But it’s just that song. And that’s all I’ve gotten
from her so far, so I’m a little scared. I just hope that when someone
has the raw talent, that when they’re taken in, there
are people like, yeah, that’s the talent. Let me work with you, kid. I hope that they’re strong
enough in their will that they’re able to have
their vision fostered, to carry on through. But that’s kind of a natural
selection process, I suppose. But I have hope. I always have hope. I just think that we need
to be more critical. People are critical about
me and my shows. And I enjoy it. It’s a conversation. REIHAN SALAM: So what is the
most incisive criticism? What’s a criticism like, you’re
paying attention, you basically get what I’m
about, and you have a problem with it. Is there anything like that? That’s like, yeah, that’s
pretty on-point. REGGIE WATTS: Definitely. I’ve had people on Twitter
say stuff. That’s really the only
social thing I do. But they’ll say a comment
about like, yeah, in the middle it was a little
bit slow or whatever. And I’ll be like, you’re
completely right. You’re completely right. It was slow. I could have done better. REIHAN SALAM: So it’s more
specific about the particular performance, rather than
anything your larger– REGGIE WATTS: Sometimes
say, I don’t get it. Why do people think
this guy’s funny? That kind of stuff. And then I’ll address them. I love addressing people
directly, it’s great. Because I like discussions. And so oftentimes they’ll
just tell me why they don’t think it’s good. And then I’ll say, well, here’s
a couple examples of things I’m influenced by. I like the discussion. I don’t like it when people
just draw a line. It’s weak to just say something
and walk away. The internet promotes a
lot of that bullshit. Where someone’s having a bad
day, and they see something, and it’s kind of popular. And they’re like, well, this
sucks the asses of dragons and it’s so gay. I can’t believe how gay it is. So gay. Super gay. And they they just walk away. It’s like, no, you can’t
get away with that. No. Tell me why it’s gay. Tell me why it’s gay, and
tell me why you’re using the word dragons. I don’t know. Just explain yourself. And I don’t mind. I think everyone should
have an opinion. I think that’s important. But I think that people need to
be held accountable for the comments that they make. I say a lot of inflammatory
things. I’m not known for that. But I will, at times. I’m sure if I met Pharrell at
a party, he’d be like dude, I’ve been hearing about what
you’ve been saying. And I’d be like, well,
you’re nice guy. But here’s why. And then we’d get into a
discussion about it. Or he’d just hate me. But I think that the
discussion is the important thing. And I just think that the
internet is not promoting responsibility or accountability
for a statement, and then thereby
create a discussion. REIHAN SALAM: One thing I wonder
about is that you seem like someone who is pretty
steeped in what we used to call a youth culture. And you’re someone who’s
listening to Top 40. You’re engaged with this. And it’s part of your work,
to be engaged with it. But you’re in your early 40s. And how do you feel your
relationship to this universe, this cultural universe that
is very youth-oriented? And also, how does it shape your
self-presentation, and how you edit and change
that over time? Is that something you
think about, aging? REGGIE WATTS: My thing is I want
to be able to appeal to as many humans as possible. But young humans, specifically,
are super important to me. Because I really want to have
a connection with them. Because I don’t have kids. I don’t know if I
will have kids. But that’s my contribution
in a way. I identify with me being
16, 17, 18 years old. Because that was some of the
most transformative years. REIHAN SALAM: Do you imagine
weird kids in Montana just hitting upon your videos
on YouTube? REGGIE WATTS: Yeah. And I walk down the street, and
a lot of young kids will say, yo, man I saw
your [INAUDIBLE]. And I’m like, oh, that’s cool. The great thing– I was in Miami. And these young, 20-year-old
Cuban-American kids came up, and they’re like, yo man,
I saw your Ted Talk. It was so great. And I’m like, that’s the shit. REIHAN SALAM: That’s wild. That’s really cool. REGGIE WATTS: That’s what
I’m talking about. Education, science, the arts. The other things, cool. But those are the most important
things for advancing human culture. It’s science, art. Those are the things that are
curious and explorative. And that’s what human beings
are, they’re explorers. REIHAN SALAM: Do you ever wish
you’d become a scientist? Or do you feel like you
are a scientist? REGGIE WATTS: I think I’m an
anthropologist slash science lover, I would say. I involve myself
in technology. I love in the intersection
between technology and human interface and interaction. But more importantly, what
does it do as a tool to people’s experiences, and
does it distract. I’m interested in
those things. I have a lot of friends that are
developers of websites or inventions or processes or
interfaces for musical instruments and things
like that. I’m always interested in that,
because I’m interested in what engages people’s curiosity. What’s useful, and what’s
not useful? There’s a lot of things that
people come up with. It doesn’t resonate. There’s too much of
a learning curve. We need something that’s
intuitive immediately so people can engage that curious
part of themselves. Because if people are occupied
with things that are creative and curious, it only increases
their intelligence and their understanding of the world. It gives them options to be
able to have multiple perspectives at any
moment in time. And that’s incredibly
powerful. And I think that the reason why
there’s so much trouble and violence and division is
because people just getting ingrained to just see it in just
a few different ways, and to react in a way that
they see and mimic. And so being able to create
more free agents of perspective is incredibly. REIHAN SALAM: You
mentioned that you’re not very political. And perhaps that’s not the
right characterization. But I wonder if that partly
flows from what sounds like a kind of empathy. Just the ability to see– you grew up in Montana. You get where people
are coming from. Is that what it is,
to some degree? People have different arguments,
they sit in different places. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah. I’m not interested in politics,
because I think they function in the current
system. Things happen because of it. And it has an importance
in that way. But on a human evolutionary
progressive level, it is irrelevant. It is a distraction. The politics are just an
interference game that’s being run where other things are
happening underneath it. It’s not a conspiracy thing. It’s just the way
things happen. I always relate all of
life to high school and the social format. I look at how high school
organizes itself, and all the different classes. And how does that all work? How do people become popular? How does someone become
an outcast? What actions are performed to
either gain, or lose, or just stay in the middle, or
become invisible? All of those things. The high school model is
scalable to any situation. REIHAN SALAM: So there’s
scientific, technological innovations that
are happening. There’s cultural change
that’s happening. And then on top, you have this
thin layer of politics that’s above that. But it’s really the
stuff that’s roiling under the surface. And they just have to respond
to whatever that is. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah. They’re trying to organize
it and keep it organized. And there’s the whole
thing about monetary system and stuff. But aside from that, the reason
why I’m not political is because I don’t
really think– I think the best way, or the
most effective way to influence society is to
encourage people’s imagination and interest in science and
possibilities like that. Because then that projects
their creativity outward, instead of being in a feedback
loop inside of their head. I can’t pay the bills. I’ve got to do this. This person doesn’t
like me at work. All of these various things that
we can’t help but to be consumed with. But when you have a creative
out, it reduces that ability. It enables you to shift into a
progression, as opposed to just getting locked into
something and going, well, this is the way it is. Life’s tough. And that’s it, and you just
continue life that way. Then maybe at the end you’re
like, oh wait a– REIHAN SALAM: So you’re
fundamentally optimistic. You feel like this a moment
when there is a lot of scientific technological change
that’s happening, that it’s creating possibilities
for progress? Is that a fair characterization? REGGIE WATTS: Yeah. There’s a lot of it that’s
used for control as well. But I’m hoping that people
see the benevolent side. Because essentially, someone
said that it was very Ayn Rand-ian. But I just see, if someone
selfish, let’s say the head of a massive multinational
corporation is very selfishly and wants to have control, by
killing people and by creating false value for things, and
subverting things, or putting a bunch of disinformation, or
releasing a product that is knowingly harmful to people but
getting around it legally, blah blah blah. That’s an inefficient way of
being a selfish or, for lack of a better word, evil person. They’re being very terrible
at being selfish. If you’re really selfish and
you wanted to really have a lot of control, you would
figure out a way to have everyone very satisfied
with their lives. But in a truly satisfied way,
not just an opiate. REIHAN SALAM: Because it’s
durable when it’s genuine. REGGIE WATTS: And
people like you. If you’re in a party and people
respect you, and you respect people in return, but
let’s say you have better skill at organizing things, so
you become more of a central hub, a connector or a maven,
that is a much better world to live in. You can still have
the decadent shit that you want to have. And you can still do all that
crazy whatever things that you want, because you have access
to the resources. But you also have a world that
you can move freely within, and people will help. So I never understood
the idea of people who are just corrupt. No, you guys are just really
shitty at being evil. You’re terrible at it. REIHAN SALAM: You seem like
someone who draws so much energy from the people you’re
around, and also just observing and absorbing
what you get from the people around you. Yet you spend a huge amount
of time on tour. And I imagine that can be quite
isolating in a way. How do you do being alone? REGGIE WATTS: I grew up
as an only child. So I spent a lot of time in my
bedroom looking at Star Wars action figures and creating
scenarios and melting things in the garage with gasoline. REIHAN SALAM: That actually
sounds really dangerous. REGGIE WATTS: It’s
very dangerous. [FUNNY VOICE] But hey, I was a
dangerous kid. I was edgy! [NORMAL VOICE] I was just interested
in special effects. But I grew up as an only child,
so I spent a lot of time with myself. And my mom was solitary
in a way. She loved me, but we both
respected our space. My dad was also a
solitary person. So I was surrounded it by these
professional people that were good at being with
themselves, alone. REIHAN SALAM: And you wound up
having this job where you’re out in the world and
super in-tuned. REGGIE WATTS: I played
in bands. I like being in organizations
and stuff. I just realized, towards the end
of playing in my 25th band in Seattle in 2003,
from 1990 to 2003. I was like, how am I going
to make a living at all? And I was like, well, in high
school I used to just go around being an idiot by
myself on stage, doing impressions and just bluh bluh
bluh, check this out what about this? [FUNNY VOICE] Did you know about the– [NORMAL VOICE] And I was like, why don’t
I try that again? And people enjoyed it. And I was like, OK,
this is great. I get to make decisions
in the moment. I’m responsible for
the whole thing. REIHAN SALAM: So it was when
you were around 30 that you hit upon this thing that started
making sense and fitting what you cared about. REGGIE WATTS: Yeah. I dabbled with it throughout
the ’90s. But I didn’t go, oh, let’s see
if I can make this a thing. REIHAN SALAM: I think a lot of
people will find that very inspiring, that it took you a
little while to hit upon that. REGGIE WATTS: I hope that. One of the guys that I look
up to a lot is Brian Eno. And Brian Eno, I’ve had the good
fortune of becoming his friend over time and spending
time with them. And he’s inspiring, because he
never has lost his childlike curiosity for everything. He is interested in anything. If someone is wearing a sock in
a weird position, and their pant let is a little bit higher
or something, and there’s a strange stitching on
it he’ll go over to them, and he’ll be like, [BRIAN ENO VOICE] Why do you wear this
like this? Oh, that’s very interesting. I see now. In 1973– [REGULAR VOICE] He’s very– REIHAN SALAM: People
want to be seen. REGGIE WATTS: He’s there. He’s present and he’s curious. and hopefully throughout my
entire life, I don’t want to limit myself by the stage
that I’m at in my age. I don’t want that
to be a factor. I want it to be a factor
insomuch as whatever experiences I’ve accumulated
guides me to wherever I’m interested in going. But I never want to get too tied
in with the system to be able to be so plugged that
I can’t remove myself immediately. Because I’ve always
been an observer. And I like staying
observational. Not to separate myself, or
not to be disconnected. But just to be flexible, to
be able to move freely. And I think that that’s the
thing that I have to protect. Like the Beastie Boys said,
you have to fight for your right to party. It’s totally true. If you start to feel sedentary,
or you feel to domestic, and you’re
not liking it– or whatever you’re doing in
life, and you’re not liking it– you have to
listen to that. And you have to do something. REIHAN SALAM: You have to fight
for your right to party with yourself, sometimes. REGGIE WATTS: You’re your
greatest relationship. And a lot of people exert
themselves outside of themselves and forget about
the fact that they have a relationship with themselves. Whatever’s observing the
world is a duality. You have to develop a
relationship, the observer and the experiencer. I think whatever encourages
that. You call it intuition, sixth
sense, or whatever it is. Or a person that looks for
signs, whatever your style is. Just listen to that and
do something about it. And it’s harder for
some than others. But I think that knowing that
you always have choice is incredibly powerful. REIHAN SALAM: Reggie, thank
you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. REGGIE WATTS: Oh, yeah. Of course. My pleasure. That was awesome. Great meeting you.

100 thoughts on “Reggie Watts Wants to Make You Uncomfortable: VICE Podcast 013

  1. Surprised to see the hate on the interviewer. If you can get passed "the way he talks" his questions are so geared and informed. He invokes genuine conversation that brings out what Reggie is all about. I was ridiculously impressed.

  2. He has made more profound points in the first five minutes than everything I have ever seen him do in his performances on stage for "comedy," for TED, and for tv.

  3. The reason evil people are bad at being evil is because they are mentally underdeveloped in the first place; all evil is is mental health problems.

  4. I love how he laughs at his own jokes. its great after comedians all say funny cleaver things that THEY think is funny. yay know? 

  5. This was a very entertaining interview with good questions and inspiring responses. Still, I wish Reggie didn't get cut off by the interviewer @ 7:27, sounded like he was going to elaborate on epigenetics; it would have been interesting to hear what he had to say about that. Thank you for posting.

  6. Mega props to the interviewer.. just saw this comment about some hate on him or something about how he talks.. WTF!?
    he just had a legit 1 hour conversation with reggie! i loved the whole interview whole way though 10/10!

    Reggie you da shit on my wall!

  7. First time i saw Reggie was his video at Ted.
    Ever since then i watched a few more of his full shows and straight away i called him a comedic genius.
    But after watching this video, Reggie is a brilliant Human. 

  8. I think it is pretty obvious that the implied meaning of the comment regarding sucking the ass of a dragon is that the true fire of your performance is going on in your conscious and subconscious mind and that the digested remains of the fuel for this fire are what you share with the audience.  

  9. Dude, Reihan is a wicked good interviewer. He asks some really, really good questions.
    Definitely going to watch more VICE Podcasts.


  11. Started lessons piano at 5. Improvising was strong suit , site reading took backs seat..comedy. languages, voices, humour, musicality, vocab. history, fantasy, diverse interest, not the norm….ALL are totally relateable to me!

  12. Wow, I'm so glad he said that about get lucky.  I thought the song was alright, but I couldn't believe how rough the vox were for such a major hit.  I mean, pitch correction alone can fix a lot of that shit if you can't. Always bugged me a little.

  13. Tremendous interview. Great conversation between two very intelligent people. To all those hating on the interviewer, what you're seeing that makes you uncomfortable there is that he's actually thinking and reacting–it's not just a bunch of canned questions on a stack of blue cards. It's a dialogue, and therefore a great interview.

  14. This is one of the best interviews I've ever seen. I'm getting a very "human" emotion when I listen to Reggie talk. Extremely brilliant, and unnaturally aware. I'm getting a Carl Sagan-esque vibe here.

  15. You guys found a way to make this truly interesting man boring for an hour. Not a fan of the interviewer's style. It would have been better to ask him random internet q&a or ama questions. Thanks for letting us see Reggie out of character though.

  16. hmm, reggie's take on accents and languages is similar to mine, I've always been able to adopt regional accents enough to blend in with the people I talk to and have often wondered if they hear me speaking to others in a different way, will it affect their opinion of me. Interesting.

  17. I thought this dude was briliant when he talks "jibberish nonsense" and sings his silly songs. Now that I actually hear him talking straight I realize… Yes he really is brilliant!

  18. @32:31 It is true kids today have more music and media at their disposal, and there is less of a barrier of entry. But for some reason, I find they are more scared to discover new music that they aren't exposed to; be it digging up the past or stepping into a new genre or uncovering a kick-ass obscur band.

  19. Man, I've listened to this vid, but I haven't LISTENED to it until now. Really cool, inspiring stuff. I'm trying to move
    away from the constant production of subpar, half-inspired content, and start creating stuff that I REALLY care about. And Reggie and the interviewer have helped :33

  20. So the comments here gos about 40% love 60% hate on the intreviewer .. haha nice . that tells alot of things

    I kinda wanna see Reggie on the Joe Rogen podcast …. alot

  21. It's astoundingly difficult to tell the difference between the real Reggie and Reggie in character. I still can't tell…

  22. I will be really interested to see how Reggie evolves. I saw him open for Conan on his tour and was totally hooked from then. People's minds will get conditioned to his style, I don't know if thats good or bad. He'll find a way though, I'm sure.

  23. I don't think the Interview was controlling or judging at all. This man is asking the questions that bring out the Reggie that isn't on stage. Props to Reihan for asking questions that are thoughtful and show how intelligent Reggie really is.

  24. He mentions Ayn Rand, but I feel like his dispositions concerning selfishness are more in line with Max Stirner's egoism.  I don't know why I pictured him as a progressive, but that's really refreshing.

  25. Reihan Salam, what a great interviewer! He flowed with where the natrual direction of the discussion was going, and therefore really drew out Reggies perspectives and Character thoroughly, it was nice to see that he was genuinely interested in interviewing him, for maybe personal curiousity and to share it. Also nice to see he wasn't just focusing on really shallow interests, like all his fame stories and meeting other famous people, but connecting to him on a human level. Because Reggie is just a person doing his thing, but he's interesting because he is uninhibited and doing exactly what he loves. But at the same time he is just a person and eats sandwiches and farts and that. Anyway a really great interview give yourselfs pats on the back! Whoop whoop! shrimpout.

  26. Wow, one of the best interviews I have ever seen. The way he leads but also let's go and follows any new interesting subject Reggie brings up. The interviewer has an amazing ability to pick up on glimpses of ideas that are gold mines that Reggie puts out and explores them. You can tell this dude did some amazing research. Also Reggie being one of my favorite artists this becomes incredible. Well fucking DONE!!

  27. Man…what a GREAT interview/interviewER. Great questions! He connected with Reggie entirely…he totally gets Reggie's utterly unique wavelength. Glad it's a good hour as well. Love this… 🙂

  28. Jesus fucking christ Reggie…..those final 20 minutes were profound to me. I have nothing more to add. That was just beautiful and summed-up my entire outlook on life…and gave me inspiration to continue on. Wow… I have to re-watch this several times…..

  29. idk why host constantly brings up race and culture. I mean c'mon talk about something what Reggie wants to say

  30. early 40’s? he looked like he was in his mid 20’s in 2013! bless up
    great interview and awesome interviewer!

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