Reggie Watts.

Most performers need a band, an instrument or a stage to put on a show—but Reggie Watts doesn’t need any of that.

For years, Watts has performed as a one man band, going on peculiar tangents and using his voice and a looper pedal to create comedic songs—completely improvised.

These days, Watts is best known as the bandleader for The Late Late Show With James Corden—and he’ll be performing on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Desert Daze at Lake Perris.

During a recent interview, Watts said his love for music and performing began with mimicry.

“I’ve loved music ever since I was a little kid,” Watts said. “My parents noticed that I was always kind of mimicking the people who I saw performing onscreen. I guess that was kind of the inspiration—just what I saw and heard on the radio and on the television, and mimicking that, is what got me super-excited about music.”

Watts often blends comedy and music, creating beat-box tunes with hilarious lyrics like “Fuck Shit Stack.”

“(Blending comedy and music) was something that I developed on my own, I suppose,” Watts said. “I enjoyed laughing and loved silly, stupid things, and that always made me very happy. Again, I would just kind of mimic those things in my social life, and it was natural. I always like making people laugh and making people smile, and I loved that, in turn, from shows that I watched.”

Watts said his shows are all made up on the spot for good reasons.

“Improvisation is definitely something I just have to do that way, because I can’t really remember things,” Watts said. “I just kind of lost interest in rehearsing and all of those things, so it came almost out of necessity, in a way.”

As a result, no two shows by Watts are the same.

“I’m always listening to or observing things that are happening in pop culture around me,” Watts said. “I just rely on the environment to give me cues and ideas and things like that to do. I don’t really make notes of things; I just go through life noticing stuff and thinking about stuff, and then when it comes time to perform—or to record or whatever it is I’m doing—I just kind of go with what I’m feeling in that moment. … It really just depends on the mood and the situation.”

The nature of Watts’ performances also depends on the response from the crowd.

“There’s always a direct association to what the audience is feeling and doing, and so I always appreciate that,” Watts said. “I love feeling what’s going on in an audience and making sure that I’m not being too selfish with time, and that they’re having a good time.”

The success of another comedy-music pioneer helped Watts realize the potential of melding comedy and music.

“I noticed (the combination) the most when ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic came out with ‘Eat It,’ and also the Dr. Demento (radio) show that played parodies of popular songs, and also just silly songs,” Watts said. “I think it was ‘Weird Al’ who shone the light on what’s possible with comedy and music, especially on a larger scale.”

These days, it’s Watts who is influencing other performers. Check out this performance by Reggie Watts with two other similar creatives, Flying Lotus and Marc Rebillet. (Rebillet has mentioned many times that Watts is one of his primary influences)

“It’s always nice to see someone tell you that they appreciate what you’ve done before, and that it’s helped influence them and things like that,” Watts said. “That’s always really cool to hear—but that’s what hopefully we’re supposed to be doing for each other, at least creatively. Working with Marc is great. He’s a really cool dude, really sweet and extremely talented, and it’s always fun to get together with him, because there’s a lot of commonality that we have.”

Several months ago, James Corden announced that he will be leaving The Late Late Show sometime next year. Not surprisingly, as Watts looks for new ways to expand creatively, live shows and touring is on his mind.

“I definitely want to figure out a better way of touring,” Watts said. “That’s something I’m really interested in—creating a better live show. Since The Late Late Show is going to be retiring, I definitely look forward to being able to create a new live show that’s a little bit bigger than what people are used to. Even though what I do usually is fine, I do like the idea of making a tour bigger, and a little bit more immersive.”

Desert Daze will take place Friday, Sept. 30, through Sunday, Oct. 2, at Lake Perris State Recreation Area, 17801 Lake Perris Drive, in Lake Perris. Reggie Matts will perform on Saturday, Oct. 1. Tickets start at $139. For more information, visit desertdaze.org.

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Matt King

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...

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