Reggie Watts has no problem taking things into his own hands, all for the sake of his art. If he doesn’t feel that a situation is conducive to what he needs to do with his work, then he will find a way to make it so it is. And rest assured, anyone who likes the type of stuff that he produces will follow him to where his art can best be enjoyed. That goes without saying.
Like all of us, Reggie Watts is on social media. He has been for quite some time. However, after having grown tired of the algorithms and monetizing of it all, as well as the interface itself, he decided he would once again take things into his own hands. So back in April, he created his own app Watts App, which is available in the App Store. Here, you can see what Reggie is working on and, if you’re so inclined, buy items that Reggie is no longer using from his store. And while he still has Instagram and Twitter, the best way to get to the core of who Reggie Watts is is through Watts App.
A key component of this new app is something that Reggie has been wanting to do for a while. Droneversations is an interview show filmed entirely on a noisy drone. So does that mean that you might have a hard time hearing the guests at times? Yes. Is that all a part of the intentional joke? Yes. Past guests have included Jack White, Fred Armisen, Thundercat, Feist, and more. And we’re proud to present an exclusive look at this week’s Droneversations with JoJo.
We recently spoke with Reggie Watts about his new app, how timing seems to be everything, the inspiration for Droneversations as well as some dream guests, how going back to being in-studio for The Late Late Show has still managed to be fun during a pandemic, and what he has learned as a creative this year.
Tell me a bit about the process of starting your own app. What made you want to take this on?
Well I’ve been using Tumblr and then I started using Instagram before FaceBook came around. And I really liked just being able to post my media and have a good time having a record of it and having public interaction with it. And then IG just became more and more monetized about advertising. And they didn’t make it chronological anymore. They started using algorithms. And it just started getting worse. And I hated the design of it. It started falling into the things that FaceBook does, which is they just keep f*cking up their user interface and it looks like garbage all the time. And it’s just obviously based around marketing and selling things.
I was just kind of tired of all these like data tracking methods and data harvesting that these companies were doing and kind of realizing that we were giving up our rights as free agents. Being able to behave without being watched, that just wasn’t happening. And these companies have a monopoly on social platforms. So with all of that said, I still use Instagram. I only use two things, Twitter and Instagram. And I was just kind of getting tired of feeling slightly ominously not great about using it all the time. And then being confused when my friend would post something. Like “Oh. I didn’t see it.” Well yeah, because the algorithm is like suggesting other things in my feed.
So all of that is to say that I wanted to have an app of my own. I dreamed of having an app of my own where people could at least come and see what I do and what I make without about being tracked. But it’s still an application, so it still has interactive elements to it more than just a website. So yeah. So I got some really good advice from a friend who knew this genius dude Oliver Thomas Klein. And he was like “Yeah, I could build it for the cost that you want to build it for,” because usually they’re very, very expensive. So I got lucky and found a one stop shop for that and created the app and have a store on it and get to post whatever I want and no one’s getting tracked and there’s no community. It’s exactly what I want. It’s the beginning of the new web. So that’s why I did it.
And how long was this in the works? Because something like this usually can take a pretty long stretch of time.
Yeah, they can. It didn’t really take that long. I think it took like 6 months for him to design it. And maybe it was a little bit longer by the time it was released, but I think it was that amount of time. Yeah, he’s just really fast. This guy is just amazing. He’s really, really fast and intelligent and has really great taste. So I got really lucky. And as easy as it is for me to make a loop improvisationally on the spot, it’s the same for him in coding an app. So it’s awesome to work with someone like that.
Totally. And you had it coming out right at the end of March, when everyone is looking at their phones anyone for an extended period of time. And so as all the other comics and musicians were trying to figure out how to transition from live shows to what we all know now, you were already there in a sense.
Yeah. It was just a coinkydink. Yeah, we just got lucky. It was released in like April or something like that. So we were really lucky. And obviously none of us knew. So yeah, it was just good time. Luckily, there’s a few major times in my life that I’ve had really good luck with timing. Being in the right place at the right time and creating a thing just at the right time. So it’s just luck.
And you’ve always seemed like a self-starter as a creative goes. Like if everyone is on one side of things, you have no problems it seems going to the other side and doing your own thing. Has that always been the case?
You know, I guess I’ve always been that one. I’ve always been hard headed and determined. Since I was a little kid. If someone was like, “There’s no way you’d be able to do that,” I’d be like “Oh yeah? Well I’ll show ya. I’ll show ya. You’ll see! You’ll see!” And then I make a pencil disappear. No, but I just always had this kind of determinism. Like if something seemed difficult or if someone said something was impossible, I always thought “Oh, well I’ll just do it my own way.” Or if someone like “No, you can’t do this.” I’d be like “Well, I asked officially. And I’m still going to figure out a way to make it happen.” You know, I didn’t always succeed, but I did always have the determination to do things like that.
And I just get tired. I have a really low tolerance for bad design and inefficiency. So as time has gone by, I’ve gained enough experience doing what I do. I’ve been able to kind of refine the things that annoy me and make them more efficient. Or at least efficient for me. So it’s been a natural disposition that I’ve had, and then on top of that just me being motivated to try to make these things happen, whatever they are.
Right. And let’s jump to your drone interview show, Droneversations. This is something I read that you had been looking to do for a while prior to it actually taking off?
Yeah. Everyone was using drones and there was that phase where drones were starting to kind of make their mark in the mainstream. And I love what drones can do and how they really open up a whole new way of filming and technological film revolution or whatever. But they’re really f*cking loud. And so I thought it would be hilarious to just do this stupid interview show that is shot entirely on drones. And they’re so loud that you can barely hear the conversations. And that just to me seemed so unnecessary to do that I had to do it.
Yeah, it was rolling around in my head for a few years. And then I got the opportunity to find a good producer who could help make the idea to happen. And I was like “You know what? I’m gonna stop waiting for other people like production companies and talking to people and pitching ideas and so forth to different entities to get these ideas made. I’d just rather do them myself.” And then that in conjunction with having an app that I could then put these things on started to happen. So that kind of created a production company and a multi-media distribution hub.
So it all started to come together. But I did my first Droneversation without the app first. I hadn’t really committed to building it, but I just wanted to do it just to finally see what it looks like to see if it is funny. Because obviously it could just be really sh*tty. But people really like them. They’re really annoyed by them, but they seem to like them as well. They seem to get it. And it’s been great. I also thought it would be funny to have such amazing musicians on that kind of blur the lines a little bit that in a way it seems like kind of a waste, having that guest on. And I love aspect of it. I love throwing away an opportunity. I think it’s kind of funny to me.
Were there any guests that you had to sell a little harder than others on such a different sort of idea?
You know, everybody that I picked got right. The person that I thought might have been the least receptive to it was maybe Jack White?? Or maybe even Feist. But Feist was so chill. So she was the perfect first guest. She got it really easily. And I think musicians kind of get it, too. Because it’s a sound gag. It’s an audio gag. So they totally got it. But when I explain it to people, they’re like “Sure. It sounds fun.” Plus, it’s super fast for people. I made it as efficient as possible for people. Like “You know, it shouldn’t take more than 2 hours maximum. And hopefully less than that. And everything will be ready to go.” So they just show up, get miced, and then we immediately start going. And then we walk around, maybe the drones have to change batteries once, but then they’re done.
So it’s a pretty easy to sell to people. And if they’re available, they were down. But you know Thunder Cat was always going to be down. And Jack White like loves comedy and we have a history together and he was down. And he happened to be in L.A. and again, hardly any of his time. Fred Armisen I knew immediately would be down. That was a no-brainer.
And JoJo was a little more of a reach, because she’s more of a musician and she’s not really a comedian, but I just thought her album is so incredible and she’s got such an interesting history. And she’s just an incredible singer. So it was kind of fun. And I think this new Droneversations episode will be pretty fun. I’ve shown it to a few people, and they really like it. And it’s got some different stuff in it, too.
And who would you say are some of your Dream gets for the show?
I wanna get Jack Black. Actually, Jack Black I think is going to do it. He wanted to do it, but then he had to cancel in the recent past. But he’s definitely down to do it. So Jack Black for sure. (Pause). That’s a tough one. Another friend that I think would be willing to do it is Julian Casablancas. I think he’s a perfect candidate for it. He’s a really goofy, funny, mischievous dude. So I think that would be great.
But I’d love to do something like maybe Dolly Parton. I haven’t gone really too far because I’ve been getting everybody that I wanted to in the beginning, which has been awesome. I’m trying to think of someone else that would be great, but not too…
Out of reach?
Well not too out of reach, but also not too mainstream where it seems like a reach. Where it’s too big of a reach. Because sometimes it just feels like you’re forcing it. Like if Beyoncé was on it, it would just be… it could be really fun. But also, it’d just be weird. It would just feel weird. So Julian for sure. Dolly Parton for sure would be great. Maybe Bootsy Collins, someone like that. Like a legend. Or even one of the guys from like Meshuggah would be sick. There are a lot of cats that are just like weirdos. They’re weirdo hybrid musicians with goofy sensibilities. And that’s really all it takes. So I’m really open to anybody that’s interesting or down.
And let’s jump around just a little bit more. It’s been a few months since you returned to the studio for The Late Late Show. What has the vibe been going back post-lockdown?
Yeah. I mean it’s been really easy. At first it was like really weird. It just took a while to get used to it, especially being in quarantine and then suddenly being back in the studio again. That was very odd. But now it’s running really well. Super fast, really efficient, really fun. And we’re just goofing around all the time and having fun conversations. James is so much fun, especially nowadays because he relies on us a lot more for banter and exchanges. And there’s just some really good gold that comes out of it. Not all of it is gold, but I think we definitely have enough moments now that I think people watching it at home can tell that we’re honestly and sincerely having a good time. Because it’s definitely happening. It’s a real thing.
I can totally tell that you guys are having a good time. And honestly, I wasn’t sure how it would be as an audience member watching these shows without an audience. But it seems to be a lot more intimate, and is sort of more inviting in that way.
Yeah. 100%. I think it’s got a much more intimate vibe from the clips that I’ve seen. And obviously I’m biased because I’m also remembering what it was actually like to be in the room while we were making it. But I’ve been hearing from a lot of friends that have seen clips and stuff that they’ve been really digging it. People that I’m surprised are even watching it, like friends of mine. I’m like “Really? You’re watching it? That’s crazy.” At least clips and stuff like that. And they’re all saying “It looks like you’re having a great time.” So I think that it is translating and that’s really encouraging.
And I also think everything is running the way it was designed, which is cool. We haven’t really modified too much. It’s definitely settled in. People have figured out how to work within the system and how to still make it fun and comfortable but safe. So yeah. It’s cool that they designed it pretty well from the beginning.
Definitely. And now you’re someone who is always producing content at such an insanely fast rate. Did the quarantine and lockdown of it all allow you to produce content at an even faster rate this year than you normally would’ve? Or even more content than usual?
You know, it’s been a mixed bag. There have been times where I felt very inspired to make things for sure. But there’s been long stretches where I just haven’t felt like doing anything. And yeah. That’s kind of it. A week or two weeks will go by and I haven’t really done anything at all. But I have to be honestly inspired, or else it’s just not fun for me. I can definitely push myself to try, but it has to ignite pretty quickly after that. Otherwise there’s no point for me in doing something.
And going off of that, the last thing I want to ask is, creatively, what are some of the most important things that you’ve taken away from this year?
Well, you know don’t take your capabilities for granted. Always work to find solutions. It’s been an opportunity to kind of reformat how you go about your creative life and how you inspire yourself and how you continue to be motivated or put yourself into a situation where you can be motivated. Yeah, it’s a three dimensional equation. Instead of kind of working on a grid, you’ve got to work in a spherical grid. But it’s just nice to realize that there are many ways to arrive at a goal and to try those different ways to still arrive at the goal, instead of the ways that we’re familiar with.
So I think it’s been a good recalibration, reformatting time for myself and often a lot of people that I dig.