Excerpts from 2006 Jay Reatard Interview
Sometime in 2006 I interviewed Jay Reatard for Thrasher. It took a while for the mag to run the piece but Jay ended up getting a two-page spread in the May 2007 issue. I think he was pretty happy with it. The excerpts below are bits and pieces that didn’t run in the mag.
What I recall about this interview: I had received Blood Visions early on from Larry Hardy. I had seen Lost Sounds, liked them, but was really blown away by Jay’s new solo record. I remember Jay being really lucid; he seemed to have total focus on his career and gave the impression that he knew exactly where he wanted to go with his music—traits that clashed with the preconceived notion I had that he was a twenty-four hour ball of nervous energy.
Months after conducting the interview I DJed the Los Angeles leg of the Blood Visions tour. I talked with Jay after the show. He was disappointed that the interview hadn’t run yet and mentioned that he’d been burned on interviews before; I told him that these things take time and that it was going to happen (Thrasher ran the interview a short time later). Jay wasn’t in the best of shape—as per his usual he was brutal to his band on stage—but he was easy to talk with and seemed appreciative of the help I was giving him. At the time I had no idea his solo career would go on to become so successful. I saw him play a couple of times afterwards. Although I exchanged a few e-mails with him later on, I never met or spoke with Jay again.
Interview by Ryan Leach
Ryan: Blood Visions came out on In The Red. I can’t think of a better label for the album. That being said you’ve got Shattered going right now with Alix Brown.
Jay: Alix and I had been seeing each other for a few months (before we started Shattered). Alix had helped out with another label—Die Slaughterhaus—for a while. We’d both sit around and help them pack boxes. Nobody could make up their mind whose label Die Slaughterhaus was; it was just a bunch of people arguing about who owned it and who made the decisions. I told Alix, “Fuck it. Let’s do our own label.” We’ve put out about a record a month (with Shattered) for the past year and a half. We’re slowing down a bit though. We just want to put out records by our friends’ bands, stuff that we think is good. We’re looking for records people might not have heard.
Ryan: When you played with The Reatards at The Scene in Glendale, do you remember a woman hitting you in the face with a shoe?
Jay: Yeah. I thought it was a bottle. She split the corner of my eye; there was blood running down my face. I remember singing into a shoe at one point. I was pretty wasted.
Ryan: It was a stiletto heel.
Jay: Oh, okay. I thought it was a beer bottle. (laughs) That left a scar. It looks like I’ve got part of a crow’s feet on the corner of my eye. It aged my appearance.
Ryan: What’s up with the Reatards now? Is it just a matter of you and Ryan (Rousseau) finding time to meet up?
Jay: No. Ryan and I decided that the South By Southwest show was the last time we’d do it. I told Ryan I didn’t have any interest in doing The Reatards anymore after this record came out. The Reatards was something fun to do. It pacified me. I was really pissed off that The Lost Sounds—a band I had been in for six years—had just broken up. The Reatards was something that was there. We knew we could tour, get plastered, and break a bunch of shit. That tour that we did of the West Coast and Europe almost killed me.
Ryan: I heard about that. You were riding comatose on a Greyhound bus.
Jay: (laughs) Yeah. On the way back. Totally. I took a thirty-hour Greyhound trip back to Memphis after being on tour for a month. We flew back from Europe. It took thirteen hours to get back to Arizona. I slept for three hours there and took a thirty-hour Greyhound trip back to Memphis. It was three days of travel and it was terrible.
Ryan: Blood Visions has a loud mix. Can you talk about the production of the album?
Jay: Yeah. Because of affordability, I’ve been recording on digital stuff for the past six years or so. I went to Atlanta to rerecord Blood Visions. I befriended The Carbonas. They let me use their practice space. They had an 8-track tape machine. I recorded the drums there. I had the song ideas in my head and recorded the drums first. I went to an apartment and plugged everything else straight into the mixer of a digital machine. I used no amplifiers. I overdubbed everything through headphones. I used a distortion pedal on my guitar and plugged straight in.
I told Larry (Hardy), “Hey, I started on my record.” He said, “Great. When are you going to finish?” I told him, “Well, I used all eight tracks for the drums. I need to get a machine to dump it onto, so buy me one.” It was a few thousand dollars. I wanted to use an amplifier (in Atlanta) but I didn’t have one and I’m sure the neighbors would have flipped out. When I got back to Memphis to mix the record, I didn’t care for some of the parts because of the tone. I was able to resend them out of the machine into an amp and then re-mic it. But all of the initial stuff was going straight in.
Ryan: The record sounds powerful.
Jay: I think if you take away the air and the acoustics of a room—those things sometimes muddy records up. Everything sounds more direct and punchy when you plug straight in.
Ryan: It reminded me of the Exploding Hearts record. Whenever you put that album on your turntable you have to turn the volume knob down a few notches.
Jay: It’s all about good mastering and not listening to people when they tell you that you can’t turn it up anymore. The mastering guy kept telling me over and over, “It’s too loud. You need to back it down.” If you don’t make a record loud they sometimes get lost. DJs at bars have trouble if the record’s quiet. It’s important for college radio.
Ryan: You mentioned earlier that you’ve got a bunch of kids from Memphis backing you for the new record.
Jay: They’re all in college so basically I’m going to practice with them throughout the spring with weekend shows here and there. We’ll hit Europe in the summer.
Ryan: I really like Blood Visions. It’s one of the best records I’ve heard this year.
Jay: Thanks. It’s the first record I’ve made where I’ve been completely satisfied with it. I like it.
Ryan: “My Family” is a favorite. “Death Is Forming” is great. You do that machine gun-like chorus.
Jay: Yeah. That was really hard to do without passing out. (laughs) I had to do each verse individually. I had to stop the machine and catch my breath. The demo I made earlier—it became almost like a tongue twister. I would only get about halfway through it.
Ryan: What’s your take on Memphis currently? Are you happy living there?
Jay: I think it’s impossible to be completely happy living here. The odds are stacked against you in Memphis. I like the city. It fits my personality. The people don’t, but the city does. I wouldn’t trade it for living in any other place. I’ve been to Europe and Canada and all over the United States. I can’t say I’d want to move to any of the cities I’ve been to. Maybe I’m so used to Memphis that I don’t leave. People say that: Memphis bums you out so much that it traps you. Maybe. I don’t know. I can’t stand not having wide open spaces. I can drive across town in Memphis in fifteen minutes. There’s no traffic here.
Ryan Rousseau Interview
This interview originally ran on April 14, 2013 at www.spacecaserecords.com. It is a small excerpt from an interview Ryan Leach did with Ryan Rousseau for a Lost Sounds article. This is about Rousseau's early days in Yuma and meeting the late Jay Reatard.
Interview by Ryan Leach
Photos by Mor Fleisher-Leach (taken at GonerFest 10 on Saturday 28, 2013)
Ryan Leach: Have you always lived in Phoenix?
Ryan Rousseau: No. I grew up in Yuma, Arizona.
Leach: How did you end up in Memphis?
Rousseau: I lived in Memphis when I was young from about ‘84 to ‘88. I didn’t know anybody there then. I was just a little kid. My family moved to Yuma because my dad was in the military. He also flies for FedEx. He would fly fighter jets in Yuma. After that he flew for FedEx.
Leach: You’re a little older than Jay (Reatard), correct?
Leach: How did you and Jay end up crossing paths?
Rousseau: I had The Wongs in Yuma. We played in Phoenix with The Oblivians in ‘97. We also played a few months earlier in Phoenix. It was our first show there. It was for the premiere of the film Sore Losers. Have you seen the movie?
Leach: It’s the film with D’lana (Tunnell) and Jack Oblivian in it.
Rousseau: Guitar Wolf is in it too. We played that premiere and I talked with (Sore Losers director) Mike McCarthy for a while. He was a cool guy. I told him we were playing with the Oblivians in a couple of months. At the show (with The Oblivians), I talked with Jack Oblivian. I told him my family was moving back to Memphis and that I was thinking of moving back too, just to get a job. I asked him, “Is Memphis cool these days?” Jack said, “Yeah. Things are picking up. And if you do go you should call this kid Jay. He’s has this 7” out on Goner.” I said, “Fuck, that’s cool. I’ll call him.” I wasn’t too into The Oblivians or Crypt records. Eventually I learned to love that stuff. I was a Killed By Death kind of kid.
Leach: The Wongs were more Killed By Death.
Rousseau: Yeah. I was going to move to Phoenix but I partied too much and couldn’t find a job so I moved to Memphis to work for FedEx. They’ll hire anybody. Memphis was the hub of FedEx. There are a lot of jobs there because they have a lot of turnover. It’s hard work. I started going to Shangri-Las records. I did call Jay with the number Jack gave me but the phone was disconnected. I recorded a bunch of demos on a 4-track recorder before I left Yuma. A lot of them ended up being Wongs songs. Some of them became Reatard songs. I put up a flyer at Shangri-Las Records. It read, “I want to start a band. If you’re into Dead Boys, Teengenerate, New York Dolls and the Pagans, give me a call.” I had never done that before in my life but I didn’t know anybody in Memphis. I got a call on my answering machine from some college kid. He said, “Oh, I see you like The New York Dolls. I also like Phish.” I thought, “Oh, now way.” I didn’t call that dude back. He sounded like a dork. A couple of days later a kid called me. He said, “Let’s start a band.” I asked him, “Hey, what’s your name?” He said, “Jay.” “Reatard?” “Yeah, dude.” He was in Mississippi at the time. He was recording with a band he was in called The Eunuchs. They were recording their LP. Jay said, “When I get back to Memphis we’ll practice; see what we can do.” I knew nothing about Jay. When he got back into town, he told me he didn’t have a car. I had a ‘78 Datsun pickup truck with a camper on it (laughs). It was sick. I went to this shitty neighborhood and picked up this scruffy longhaired kid up. I thought, “Oh, fuck, what did I get myself into?” But he had a leather jacket on so he looked pretty cool. The first thing he tells me is he has to go to this girl’s house to get his 4-track. Next thing I know we’re driving twenty miles to Millington (Tennessee). Some far ass drive to nowhere. I didn’t have the gas for this. We got his 4-track. I played some of his songs; he played some of my songs. He played drums on my shit; I played drums on his shit. We recorded a demo called TV Eye.
Leach: You guys recorded Teenage Hate not long afterwards, huh?
Rousseau: Yeah. We recorded the stuff on Bedroom Disasters first. Then Jay said, “I’ve got to record this album for Goner. Let’s record it. You play drums.” I was good at drums and Jay wasn’t. He was a lot better at guitar than I was. Although I could play drums well I had trouble with the caveman style of drumming he wanted. I eventually got the hang of it. I thought Teenage Hate (1998) sounded sick. We did Reatards for a while. I’d fly to Phoenix for a weekend and do a Wongs show. Then I’d fly back to Memphis and do a Reatards show.
Leach: Were you living in Memphis still?
Rousseau: I was living in Memphis. I moved back to Phoenix shortly afterwards. I didn’t like living in Memphis. There weren’t enough girls there and I like Mexican food. I grew up in Yuma. I hung out in Mexico half the time. I like the desert. Memphis is cool but I belong in Arizona. Whenever I could I’d fly back to Memphis for Reatards shows.