Q&A: Jay Reatard

Highly prolific Memphis punk rock bruiser Jay Reatard.


Highly prolific Memphis punk rock bruiser Jay Reatard — whose series of limited edition seven-inch singles for Matador is drawing nearly as much interest as the YouTube video of his Silver Dollar punch-up back in April — will be returning to Toronto to play an in-store performance at Sonic Boom (512 Bloor West) at 7 pm and later Sneaky Dee’s with the Brutal Knights and Chocolat on Thursday (Oct. 16).

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What actually happened at that infamous Silver Dollar show which culminated with you giving some dude a knuckle sandwich?

It was just way too crowded. When we started into the first song, people at the front were being crushed so to avoid having their legs mashed, they jumped on stage and someone fell on the microphone stand which busted my mouth open. I picked up the stand and started playing again but 10 seconds later it got knocked over again. Then somebody dumped beer all over our gear and another guy threw a pitcher against my guitar. I tossed it back at him but hit someone standing next to him instead. When the dude jumped on stage, I wasn’t trying to be the enforcer but shit happens. It was just a weird combination of events that led to something really shitty occuring.

Since that YouTube video circulated it has definitely changed the way people behave at my shows. Some dude will see a violent act happening during one of my gigs and he’ll come to the next show to prove that he can knock me out. I’m not a professional wrestler and I didn’t want any part of that whole circus, I just want to play my songs for people who want to hear them. Unfortunately, that 1% of the crowd will spoil a show for the other 99% who just want to have a good time.

Was there any concept behind your singles series for Matador?

No. Just about every recording I’ve ever made had a concept — not in the prog rock sense but a governing idea of capturing a specific mood — so I wanted to try something different with the Matador singles. In the back of my mind, I knew that the songs from the six singles would eventually get compiled and people would listen to it as an album but I didn’t worry about that and just approached each single as a separate entity.

So this wasn’t all part of some elaborate marketing scheme to raise your profile?

Since releasing my first single independently, I’ve probably put out six or more each year so I guess my whole career has been one big marketing scheme. There really wasn’t any big plan. The decreasing quantity of each successive single released in the series happened because when we calculated the production expenses, we discovered we were selling the singles to retailers for less than what it was costing us to have them manufactured. The third single cost us $4.50 to package and we were selling it for $3.00 and it’s just not economically feasible to release a large number of singles when you’re losing $1.50 on every one you sell. The reason we put out only 400 copies of the last one was because I didn’t want to sit around in my living room gluing and stamping any more than 400 sleeves by myself.

What’s next?

Well I have 18 songs written for my next album and about eight or nine recorded so far. My problem is that I’m always second guessing myself. I’ll say I have nine songs finished but only half of them will probably end up on the final album because I see to re-record the same song over and over changing it slightly each time until I end up with something different. After we finish these shows, I should have all of December and January to work on the album which is a good thing because all of the songs are based on a winter theme. The Shining was a big inspiration… heh heh.

Any other projects, collabos, film soundtracks or songs for video games in the works?

I was asked to do a cover of an AC/DC song for some Jack White movie but I passed on that because AC/DC is a gawdawful band. I guess that tune they did about testicles (Big Balls) was OK for a novelty song but I don’t really dig their music at all. It just sounds like boring cock rock to me.

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