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Peripheral Vision 004: Reggie Watts on using technology to make art, pterodactyls

Brian Heater
September 19, 2013
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You don't have to ask Reggie Watts to make music. He just does. As he fumbles around for cords and components in the drawers and bookshelves of his Brooklyn apartment, everything that falls within eyeshot becomes a song. Spending a few minutes in his presence, you get the feeling that Watts would have been doing this in some form or other, no matter what career path he'd ultimately settled on, making a name for himself as the singing lawyer or beat boxing chef. But the stars aligned for the musician / comedian, aided in no small part by the increasing availability of cheap, affordable technology.

"I grew up in what i like to call 'the perfect technology curve,' " explains Watts. "When I was a kid, I had organic instruments. There wasn't super high tech stuff. All the super high tech stuff would have been way too expensive. The idea of owning a synthesizer in 1980 was insane for a kid. I [eventually owned] Casio keyboard. That was awesome. I got to experiment with that and make it do things it wasn't designed to do." The technology now forms the backbone of Watts' improvisational music making, inhibited only by the constraints of his knapsack. "Everything fits in my backpack," he says. "That's my setup, that's my rule. If anything else comes along, it would have to fit in my backpack."

Watts assembles a rough version of his live setup, looping and layering an increasingly complex track. He begins singing off-the-cuff in a manner not entirely dissimilar from the absent-minded tunes that pour out of him as he shuffles around his apartment. The home setup, he explains, is a bit of anomaly created for our benefit. There's no home practice or recording. Watts' magic is limited to the stage alone. "I don't rehearse," he says. "I just show up for shows and perform. The stage is where i figure out stuff. There's the right ingredients: pressure... and pterodactyls."

Reggie Watts will be appearing at Engadget Expand NY in November. For more flying musical reptiles, check out Comedy Bang Bang on IFC.

Check out all of our Peripheral Vision Episodes:

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