From Jet Back to Albino White, My 10 Minutes with Gentleman Reg
Gentleman Reg and Scott who are both crossing thier fingers for Courtney Love's musical redemption.
The gear is being unloaded from the alley into Vancouver’s fabulous Commodore Ballroom and Gentleman Reg still has no idea where his bandmates are. He checks his phone for messages. They are lost to Vancouver’s downtown core for now. Everyone seems to be running on “band time.” The bar staff are stocking up on ice. Montreal headliners, The Stills, are waiting for their soundcheck. There is still merchandise and the band’s per diem to be taken care of with the tour manager. And Reg still has no idea where his dressing room is.
Despite this time crunch, he was nice enough to make some time for me before attending to business.
Here are my 10 minutes with Gentleman Reg.
Scott Wood: A lot interviews joke about how white you are. Damn, they are not lying. [While we are talking, I notice that even his eyelashes are the color of straw.] If you were a vampire, who would you bite to be your vampire consort?
Gentleman Reg: Who would I bite? That’s a toughie. There are probably lots of people I would bite. Juliette Lewis! That would be fun. She would be great for a vampire movie.
Scott Wood: She would make a great vampire sidekick. I read that you grew up as an army brat. You’ve chosen the opposite life, how do your parents understand what you do?I just wanted to make a really good record and that meant certain things. It was an evolution, which I guess evolved with my musical tastes.
Gentleman Reg: Well, the irony is that my parents are very musical—even thought my dad was in the army, he was also a singer. So, they both sing barbershop and we grew up around music.
The army brat thing has been sort of taken out of context. We didn’t live on army bases per se, we just lived in army towns. But, yeah, there’s been music all around. My parents support it. They like the traveling. My dad’s also a pilot, so they understand the traveling aspect and wanting to perform.
Scott Wood: Cool. So can you harmonize barbershop?
Gentleman Reg: Yeah. I could do the lead in the barbershop. I could learn them, I don’t know them. It’s a very specific four-part harmony that is different. For sure that helped me learn how to harmonize in general and just have it become this innate thing I don’t have to think about.
Scott Wood: For this record, you said that “sooner or later you’re gonna have to let that ego go” in terms of writing. What does that mean for Jet Black?
Gentleman Reg: I just didn’t treat the songs as preciously as I did in the past. In the sense of me writing it in my bedroom and saying, “that’s the song and it can’t be touched.” This time, I was way more into opening things up and experimenting in the studio. Experimenting on computers with Protools and cutting songs up and just doing what is best for the music. So, if it would improve it, then, in that sense, I had to step back and say, “Maybe I didn’t think of this, but it’s great.” I stood back and it worked.
Scott Wood: The quote implies that something had to change in you. What changed?
Gentleman Reg: There was about four years in between this record and the last one, so lots of stuff happened. I just wanted to make a really good record and that meant certain things. It meant we took off a bunch of slow songs. It meant I added a dance track. It was an evolution, which I guess evolved with my musical tastes. I was also thinking of the live show and wanted to convey something specific on stage, which is a certain amount of energy. I hope this set of songs helps to facilitate that.
"This time, I was way more into opening things up and experimenting in the studio."
Scott Wood: Well, in my opinion, it worked. Jet Black is a really great record. I was reading that “Rewind” comes from a bunch of mixtapes you got in university?
Gentleman Reg: Not really. An old friend of mine from Guelph wrote it for me. A band called The Valentines. Teenage years actually. They never really made an album, but it’s just a song I’ve had in my head for 15 years. But I highly arranged it; it’s very different.
Scott Wood: My favourite song on the record is “To Some It Comes Easy.” They lyric is “I’m going to drink myself into a nursery rhyme”—which fairytale character appeals to you the most these days?
Gentleman Reg: How can I pick one? Maybe The Tortoise and The Hare? Maybe I am the tortoise.
Scott Wood: Slow and steady, but he wins the race?
Gentleman Reg: Yeah.
Scott Wood: Courtney Love is one of your Top Friends on Myspace. She is a gay icon, but has had a troubled history—especially lately. If you could offer her a bit of advice to get back on track, what would it be?
Gentleman Reg: Yeah, that’s a toughie. I am one of those people that has faith in her and faith in people—even if they have self-destructed, or gone down weird paths—I like to hope for the best.
With her, I dunno man, she just needs to make a record and put it out there. I’ve heard all the demos that she’s done. Some of them are amazing and some of them are so-so. She knows what’s going on in her head.
I’m actually fascinated by her. I think she is a genius and she is underrated because she has so many hijinks and things—but you can’t forget Live Thru This and The People Vs. Larry Flint. She has proven herself, she’s just fell off and we’ll see.
Scott Wood: “Malibu” was my favourite song of hers. I find her fascinating because she does the same fucked up things as Lindsay Lohan, yet one is reviled and the other one is still loved—just because she is under 25. Why do you think gay culture hangs on to the older ladies?
Gentleman Reg: I dunno. I guess it’s just the survivor thing. She’s been through a lot—she’s been the drug addict; she’s been the widow and she’s still survived. So I guess hard times just appeals to gay culture.
Scott Wood: I was reading that you want to do a foray into dance music and drag performance. Gentleman Reg is an awesome stage name, but what would your drag name be?
Gentleman Reg: That’s a good question. I’ve talked about this a lot with people, and we haven’t come up with anything. I think I need to hone in on what the performance would be before I could come up with a good name. There are so many ways you could go with it. I almost don’t know how to talk about drag because I haven’t done it. I want to do something different with it and that would dictate the name. But I am glad you like Gentleman Reg.
Scott Wood: It’s an awesome name! You are on the prestigious Canadian indie label Arts & Crafts—home of Feist, and Broken Social Scene, among many other Canadian talents. Kevin Drew, the label’s founder, said that he “finds personal music irritating” and that he finds your music “very universal.” How do you react to that?
Gentleman Reg: Yeah, I felt that was interesting because, in a lot of ways, my music is very personal. With this record, it maybe branches out more and that’s probably what he was referring to, which is why they are putting out this record and not my last one.Sometimes I feel out of place at pride festivals and sometimes I feel out of place at a rock bar. It depends on my mood and what I am wearing and what songs we play in the set.�
The songs, I think, have a broader appeal; they’re not just diary entries. It’s interesting that he said that because it’s actually true. There is a lot of fiction, there is certainly some autobiographical stuff, but generally its masked and embellished with fictitious things—and not specifically to make it universal, I don’t have anything like that mind—it sort of goes back to that experimenting thing I was doingin the studio.
Scott Wood: You are one of the very few “gay guys” in the skinny-jean white male-dominated world of indie rock and you have made a really solid indie record in Jet Black. Since most openly gay performers seem to only want to make dance music or be on American Idol, how you do approach making music for an audience who are different than you?
Gentleman Reg: It’s interesting because it’s just the way it’s always been. The kind of stuff I do, and the label I was on and the scene I was around was just inherently straight, so luckily I fit into that. So I just deal with it; and sometimes it’s strange and generally it’s good. Sometimes I feel out of place at pride festivals and sometimes I feel out of place at a rock bar. It depends on my mood and what I am wearing and what songs we play in the set.
It’s just my life. In Toronto, I don’t live in the gay village and I don’t hang out here very often, so I feel like I am in the sort of the underground gay scene. But that’s not because I don’t like what everything else has to offer. It’s just where I am and the people that respond to my music—that’s where I’ll play.
Scott Wood: Do you think being an outsider in both the gay and indie scenes helps or hinders your art?
Gentleman Reg: I don’t know if that plays into the music. It might play a little bit into the live show just because you get very aware of who’s watching you. In terms of the music, I don’t really think about who will be into it. I just home that some will be.
Scott Wood: After I interview most openly gay artists, I usually get a little gossip. What will I get when I turn off the mic with Gentleman Reg?
Gentleman Reg: You might hear a little bit of dirt. No who’s sleeping with who. Yeah, I don’t know what you’ll hear from me. I guess we’ll have to turn the mic and find out.
Scott Wood [lying]: I just turned it off.
Gentleman Reg: Yeah right. I don’t have any gossip for you, sorry.
Scott Wood: You can just make stuff up—like I’d know.
Gentleman Reg: Right. I’m in a huge fight with Owen Pallett. We’re rivals now. His new album is all about getting back at me or something like that.Find Gentleman Reg online at www.gentlemanreg.com/ and www.myspace.com/gentlemanreg
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