13 January 2010

GOD FUCKIN DAMMIT! Jay Reatard Dead at 29.


Jay Reatard, creator of the 2006 album, Blood Visions, died this morning in his sleep.
Personally speaking, Jay Reatard was the one artist who most exemplified music that appealed to fans like me--people who love punk and garage, but saw no original material coming out of the field. I saw Jay Reatard alone on October 29, 2007, at One-Eyed Jack's in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was so fast and loud that I didn't recognize the songs and it was over within 20 minutes. I was very shocked (almost apalled) then, but afterward I realized that I had just seen today's equivalent of the Ramones. And as of today, Dee Dee, Johnny, Joey, and Jay are all fucking dead.

Here's an article I just read the other day in Antigravity Magazine of New Orleans:

"The past year has certainly been an eventful one for Jay Lindsey, better known to most as Jay Reatard, the twenty-nine-yearold garage-rocking king of Memphis. He’s released a killer new full-length album, Watch Me Fall, that saw Reatard’s sound mature and reach a new level with respect to his songwriting chops, his rhythm section quit in early October just before he was set to embark upon Europe, and he was hand-picked to open three shows for The Pixies on their current national tour. One would be extremely hard pressed to make a case for Jay Reatard being a dull figure; his public persona simply does not allow for it, with his many witnessed brawls and drunken exploits, and his passion for his music becomes apparent with just a brief look into his creative process. When all’s said and done, Reatard proves to be one of today’s more exciting artists, both in how much he has grown with respect to his music and all the hilarities that seem to follow him. So, in light of all the madness that has been just another year for him, ANTIGRAVITY thought it fitting to talk with Mr. Reatard and try to gain perspective from the man himself before he swings through town on his current national tour.
ANTIGRAVITY: I want to talk a little about your new album, Watch Me Fall. I heard that you holed up in Memphis for about a month to record the songs. What sort of process do you go through as far as writing and recording your songs?
Jay Reatard: I actually spent about six months on this record and I recorded multiple versions of every song. For me, usually, I write a ton of songs. I might demo out thirty or forty songs for an album and then pick out fifteen or twenty that I really like. I might record two or three different versions of each of those songs, approaching them differently. Some may be faster or slower, some might be acoustic-based, some might be more toned down. And then really concentrate on sequencing to keep a narrative flow to the record, where there is a beginning, a middle and an end. I always pick the first song and the last song of each side and try to fill everything in from there to try and make things cohesive rather than just a collection of songs. Not on any sort of Yes level of prog; no serious concepts, but loose concepts. Sometimes it can take a long time or it can be really quick. This record, I recorded two different versions of it and one version just did not come out, and one did.
ANTIGRAVITY: As far as collaborations go with other artists, being down here in New Orleans, I know you have worked with [King] Louie Bankston before, and I remember hearing something about how before Chris Knox fell ill, you were planning something with him as well. Got anything coming up?
JAY: I was going to do this series of collaborative singles. One was going to be with my soon-to-be roommate Jeffrey Novak [Ed.: A formidable Tennesssee rocker who has played in the Rat Traps and more recently in Cheap Time with Jemina Pearl and Nathan Vasquez, both formerly of Be Your Own Pet] and I was supposed to do a single with my friend Jered [Gummere] from the band The Ponys, and then the third one was supposed to be a collaborative single with Chris Knox. With Chris falling out, the idea of a trio of singles has kind of been put to the side, so I need to figure out who’s going to be the third person and get some time and really start to knock these things out. I even had an idea of being more ambitious with it and recording six singles with six different people and then compile them in to some sort of LP format with some sort of collective name. I don’t know how that would work. I don’t know what we would call it; we definitely wouldn’t want to call it “Jay & Friends” or anything, but we’ll have to figure out something.
ANTIGRAVITY: That sounds exciting. In addition to what you have talked about before with Chris Knox and loving his music, one of my favorite artists, in addition to Chris Knox, is Brian Eno. I just love what the two of them do within the pop song format to keep things a bit oddball and interesting without loosing any of the catchiness. Do you have any thoughts as far as how you approach writing your songs? I mean, your new songs are very immediate but you have still retained your sound throughout.
JAY: Yeah. Both of those people, Eno and Chris Knox, are huge influences on me and obviously a lot of what they do to make it quirky is production. They both insist in recording their own stuff and being in control of their own stuff. Eno might work with an engineer or producer from time to time, and same with Chris, and it’s always been really important to me being in control of all the different aspects. It’s the same three chords and the same five or six melodies that make up every rock ’n’ roll song, so it’s all about all of the accidentals and the production that you put in to it to make it sound different.
AG: Did you handle all the production yourself or did you work with anyone particularly on your latest?
JAY: No, I recorded everything but one song in my dining room, by myself. Billy [Hayes], my old touring drummer, played on about four songs because I became a bit frustrated playing them myself. I used a cello player on a couple of tracks. I went in to the studio to cut one of the songs. It was mainly because I wanted to use his Wuhrlitzer organ and whatnot.
AG: You’ve played here quite a few times already—are there any favorite places that you enjoy hanging out in New Orleans? Where do you enjoy playing?
JAY: Most of the time I spend hanging out with my friends at their house when I’m there. I think One Eyed Jacks was all right last time; the show seemed pretty good. I’ve played everywhere from that place to the Circle Bar to the Saturn Bar and all those smaller, dive-type places; they’ve always been fun. My least favorite thing is when I came down right after the Hurricane [Katrina, obviously] and played the Circle Bar and the electricity was jacked and we had a huge power surge and it fried all of my tube amps. I guess that’s just how it goes, with everything being kind of crazy around that period.
AG:You said, a few weeks back, that when you were over in Europe doing your tour, that you walked in to a venue and W.A.S.P. was playing. Did you get an opportunity to hang out with those guys at all?
JAY: [Laughs] No. We played at a venue and they brought us over to eat dinner at another venue, and we looked up at the stage when we were eating our food and we were like, “Holy Shit, that’s W.A.S.P. Blackie Lawless is in the building. I hope he comes down and eats meatloaf with us.” I don’t know, he was probably painting his face or something. I heard, I don’t know if you have any thoughts, that the old guys you were playing with, Billy and Stephen [Pope], have been playing some gigs with that kid from San Diego, Wavves. Oh yeah. Little Nate. Yeah, they joined his band; I’m not exactly sure why, [but] it’s cool. I obviously have no hurt feelings about it and I’m completely confident that my music has a lot more substance than that guy. I mean, I like some of the stuff he does, but I was recording on a four-track when I think that kid was eating Gerber. You know, I don’t feel threatened at all.
AG: As far as your tour is going, who are you going to be playing with in your upcoming shows after you jump off the bill with The Pixies?
JAY: Well, after that tour ends it’s up in the air. I think right now the plan is...I play in another band from time to time called the Useful Eaters, a punk band from Memphis, I play bass in that band and my buddy Seth [Sutton] sings and plays guitar, so I think what we are going to do is reverse those roles and he is going to play bass and fill in for a while. There is a drummer from Florida that Eric [Friedl, former member of the Oblivians and owner of Goner Records] knew who started learning a lot of the songs. He sent me videos of himself playing drums along to them. In the past, you have always worked very closely with Goner Records [The Memphis store and label of considerable cultish fame].
AG: What prompted the sign to Matador [Records]?
JAY: I’ve been with Goner, a Memphis label, and they are super-rad and it has served its purpose and they are a great label and they are doing quite well. My goal was to be on a different label through another part of the country. I just kept moving on and I got to a point where it was like, “Well, is it time to sign to a major label, or a bigger indie?” I just didn’t want to make that leap to be on a major label. I felt that that was the wrong idea. It was an option, for sure, but I still wanted to roll with an indie and still kind of try to up the ante a little bit and get exposure to different people. I wanted to break out of the punk rock ghetto slightly without forgetting about it or losing any of the stuff that I think is really important about it. I just wanted to forge a different way and try to sell records a different way. There is nothing wrong with either way, they are just different. Jay Reatard plays One Eyed Jacks on Monday, December 7th with Missing Monuments. For more info, go to jayreatard.com.

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