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Gay Times April 09 - Issue 367

Gentleman Reg

We have a cosy chat with Canadian folkster Gentleman Reg, picking apart his lyrics and love life whilst talking about his new album.

So you’re part of this incredible ‘Canadian Scene’ with too many bands to mention…
Yeah, it feels amazing to be part of Arts’n’Craft because they’re a really important label over here. The last few years there’s been this really interesting thing happen, the indie bands are breaking out of Canada, whereas in the past it was always our big pop singers. Our Bryan Adams! But now it’s more, what I would say the ‘true’ artists, more tasteful music. Arcade fire, Feist, having bigger audiences all over the world, so that’s really exciting ‘cos Canada’s an amazing country but its not very big, you can’t really sustain a career by just singing here.

In keeping with your song, who are your heroes?
When people take musicians or artists and take possession over them, that’s strange, right? You can have an attachment to it but it’s not yours and then if they change direction or style, people get too caught up in the ownership of other people’s art. So that’s what the song’s about, but I have many different heroes, myself I think, right now Anthony and the Johnsons, he’s pretty incredible and lots of my friends, Owen Pallet is kind of a hero, Final Fantasy and the boys of Broken Social Scene.

You’ve written a song with him, right?
Final Fantasy? Yeah he played on my last record and I sang on his first record, we’re good friends we’ll for sure collaborate again. If he ever has time. He never has time for me any more.

By the way, I love the track Rewind, how did you get involved with Katie Sketch?
Katie Sketch is a good friend, we toured with The Organ in Ontario a bunch, sort of near the end of their band and when they broke she moved Toronto and lived here now and we’d just get together and sing in my living room and try to write, and we didn’t end up writing anything we loved but we realised that we could sing really well together so when I was making the record it was a really natural thing to ask her to sing on it. Particularly Rewind, I wanted that to be a duet with Katie, I’m really glad that worked out.

And I love that it’s juxtaposed with one of your danciest songs, We’re in a thunderstorm. Did you have a clear idea of how the album was gonna shape up?
No I didn’t at all, I’ll be honest with you. It took a long time. There’s a bunch of songs that didn’t make the album and sequencing it, deciding what would make the album, that was probably the hardest thing to do. The dance track was something that I just recorded totally separate from this album. I was just working on dance music for fun with friends and it wasn’t until later that I decided to pluck that song out of what we were working on and throw it on the album. So it definitely stands out but I love that about it.

So do you have a stash of dance tracks you’ve made?
Yeah I do a little bit and I’m dying to do something concrete with them. There’s a few different electronic musicians here in Toronto that I’ve been collaborating with and unfortunately it’s so hard because of our schedules and stuff, but I’m dying to do that more full on. And already we’ve got a bunch of remixes from songs off the new album. That’s very exciting.

In the song Falling Back, there’s a reference to Joel, is that Joel from the Hidden Cameras?
Ha! It is! Wow, you paid attention.

Well, of course. What did you learn from your time in the Hidden Cameras?
Oh my, I learnt many things, I played in that band for a couple of years! I mean that song is specifically about – he set me up, actually with Owen. Owen and I used to date and he set us up, so that’s probably the most blatant autobiographical reference on the record. So I just gave it away there... I love that band, it was a party band. I loved being a part of a band that has 12 people in it, plays churches, art galleries, different venues and the energy in those shows is really exciting to be a part of. I sort of missed that cos I haven’t done it for a while

Would you do it again?
I don’t think id do it with the Hidden Cameras, but I’d do it with some other band. I mean that’s why I started getting into dance music, do something totally different, get away from my guitar.

Ok, I’m going to throw other lyric back at you: what convictions did you gain in your twenties? Actually, how old are you first?
I’m 33. So, Old. Convictions? I learnt all sorts of things. I only came into my sexuality in my twenties, so when I was a teenager and stuff I really wasn’t gay – I didn’t know that I was, I sort of had a second re-awakening in my twenties, in so many ways, like a second puberty. I don’t know these aren’t convictions, I feel like there’s so many I don’t know. A whole re-birth happened really.

Do you worry about getting old?
I don’t worry about it daily… I go to the gym, I drink green tea, I do things like that. But I mean, what am I going to do? sometimes I think about having a career, ‘oh I better get one soon!’ especially in pop music, but y’know, whatever….

So what was being in Shortbus like?
It was incredible, John Cameron Mitchell is probably the sweetest director I could ask for, as the first feature film I was every featured in, so many stories. There’s that huge orgy scene, in the salon and I had originally said – well I should say I knew John Cameron through the Hidden Cameras, cos he came to see us in New York. So that’s how we met and he’d put out this big email asking for ‘sextras’ for that scene so I immediately wrote back and said ‘of course I wanna be in your movie, I don’t care what I have to do and then after a little while he wrote me back saying ‘oh there’s this joke about an Albino, you have to be the albino in the movie, you’ll get some lines’. Of course I jumped on that ‘cos I got to keep my clothes on. And yeah, he was just so giving, he ended up putting one of my songs on the movie, the soundtrack, the dvd, it just kept going and going. It was an amazing experience. I actually get recognised more for Shortbus than anything else I’ve ever done, which is pretty hilarious because I’m in it for two minutes. It’s pretty amazing I’d love to do more film.

What would be your ideal film?
Maybe like John Waters or something. I got to meet him once, hoping he would ask me. He’s very nice, full of stories, well spoken and obviously eccentric. I met him ‘cos he was here for a film festival, him and John Cameron were doing a talk together and actually, I should tell you the funny thing about meeting him was that he actually came up to me and recognised me from Shortbus! So that was my little claim to fame, that John Waters approached me.

Jet Black is out now on Arts & Crafts
Words: Bob Henderson

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