Gizmodo this morning and I even saw a clip on TED just the other day.
When I first heard Reggie he was the front man for the Seattle based nu-soul band Maktub. Heading to work early one morning listening to NPR I was totally caught off-guard by Maktub's sound and Reggie's amazing voice. I was totally blown away. As fate would have it, two days later Maktub's release "Khronos" appears in my mailbox for review and their PR agent card is in my hand. The next morning I've got my suction cup recorder attached to the telephone receiver and I'm interviewing Reggie Watts. Enjoy.
This interview originally appeared on Phreshwater.com May 2003
Seattle based Maktub [pronounced Mock-Tube] has surged onto the national scene with a resounding thunder clap in late 2002 and their good fortune is continuing to improve in a short length of time. Their brilliant blend of Soul, Funk, and Rock has catapulted their independent release 'Khronos' into the lap of Velour Records and on tour supporting Jazz and Jam maestros Soulive.
On a quick break from their tour and ready to rejoin with Soulive at the 930 club in Washington DC, I was able to speak with Maktub front man Reggie Watts. His powerful baritone voice, spherically perfect afro, and energetic stage presence are leading Maktub into the ranks of the most talked about up and coming live acts on the road today.
|Matub - 2003|
RW: Reggie Watts
SR: S. Remington
SR: I heard you guys on NPR driving to work and I think that’s how a lot of folks had their first exposure to Maktub. I was wondering how this became a giant leap for your band?
RW: It was one of those things that you don’t know how big it is or how effective it is until it actually happens. But at the time when we had done the interviews….in the local NPR studios in Seattle…they said it was going to air with Fresh Air [an NPR program] but they just didn’t know when and it just kind of sat for a few months and we just kind of forgot about it. We did it off of the first release of our record which was in April  and it didn’t air until November or December. So, we really thought it would never get released and then we got this call and they said it was going to air tomorrow. So it aired and I listened to it and I thought ‘This is really neat’ and then we started checking our record sales on the website and they were going off the scale and they were selling out at Amazon.
SR: I was wondering what you were doing musically before Maktub had formed?
RW: ….I was playing in like 6 billion bands in Seattle [laughs from both]…Rock bands, experimental music…things like that
SR: Where did you grow up and did you have any idea that you would be the front man of a band someday?
RW: I grew up in Great Falls, Montana. I was always into music and I studied piano from age five to sixteen and classical violin for eight years of that time period as well. I was always involved with music and I didn’t necessarily consider myself much of a singer, per se, although I did sing all the time. When I was in high school I formed this band called Autumn Asylum and I played Keyboard/Bass and by default I just started singing for the band…..but I never really considered myself a vocalist. When I came to Seattle I was playing mainly as a Keyboard player and then I started slowly singing in groups and eventually I went on to school to study jazz voice for two and a half years and then I became the vocalist in a 70’s cover group which definitely honed a lot of stage time and being a front person…
SR: On ‘Khronos’ we get to hear a bit of the ‘Regg-A-Phone’. What is it exactly and is it part of your stage show?
RW: Yes it is….. It’s a 1950’s telephone hand set that’s been outfitted with a ¼ inch cable that’s able to fit into an effect unit… and it has this tinny, radio, type of sound. I started to use it like six years ago, a different version of it, that a friend's dad made…he was a telephone repairman for the phone company and they had these telephones with these clips for the wires…in the old days they had the same but the kind that would plug into a switchboard with the phone cable which is the same size as the modern patch cable for musical instruments. He would use it sometimes for his home recordings and he let me borrow it once and I started using it live and it just became an indispensible tool that I used and he eventually had to take it back and he gave me the parts for a new one
SR: I understand that ‘Khronos’ has been released on Velour and that must be very exciting news for you guys.
RW: Oh, yeah…it was great. Usually labels don’t license albums that you’ve already done…they want you to record something new. So, that was a treat. It was totally unexpected…
SR: You guys have been touring with Soulive?
RW: We have been touring with Soulive and have broken off from them and started doing a lot of dates on our own and then we are going to hook back up with them in DC [Washington].
SR: Since both bands have been playing these dates together, have you had an opportunity to jam on stage at all?
RW: Yeah, we do. I usually sing a song with them on their sets… Neal, the Keyboard player, he has a solo record that he’s working on and I’ve recorded vocals on two of his songs and will continue to write lyrics and melodies for more…..
SR: How has touring with Soulive had positive effects on Maktub as a band?
RW: A good positive effect is that it’s introducing us to a different market and their market can involve some of the Jam Band scene which is great….they are music fans, straight up… So it’s been great to be in their presence, perform with them and get their feedback.. .. and plus all their inspiration as musicians…They just rock out on stage
SR: The legal bootleg trading community can definitely use some live Maktub in circulation and I was wondering if you guys allow taping of your shows?
RW: Yeah, we fully support anybody who wants to record our set…There are some tracks out there but more is ALWAYS better….[laughs form both]
SR: How does Thaddeus come off with such fat riffs!?!
RW: I guess it’s just Natural! [laughs from both]
SR: I’ve read a lot of press on Maktub recently, with all the NPR exposure and all, and I keep seeing this main theme that the writers just seem to hammer on over the fact that “Maktub comes from Seattle and doesn’t play ‘Grunge’ music”…..Do you find this a disservice to Seattle’s overall musical talent?
RW: I wouldn’t necessarily call it a ‘disservice’ but it definitely puts a damper on or diverts attention from you when you get dismissed as ‘Oh….It’s just that’. But nothing could be further from the truth……there is so much diverse music going on there…Electronic, Electronic producers, Hip-Hop artist, Hip-Hop labels, Country bands, Folk bands, everything exists there and it’s thriving just fine. People think what they think because that’s all they know until more things start happening. This is one of the things and main points about being in this band is that I’m looking forward to spreading the word on what’s going on in Seattle currently…