Mitchel and James have a fun-filled chat about kickstarter, vinyl, shitty people, cool people, becoming an ordained minister, The Dallas Buyers Club, and some other projects before James provides his best lawn guy-lander accent.
Mitchel: First Off, thank you for coming to Florida! A lot of bands skip Florida so I’m stoked you made it down but fuck you for bringing the cold.
James: [Takes a sip of water] Ahh, I didn’t bring the cold, um… that was mother nature. No, it was nice yesterday and then it got cold at night and today it’s cold. Is this weird for Florida?
M: It is a little strange for Florida, I’m wearing – this is like my only jacket.
James: Yeah, it’s like when this happens in California and people start putting on stocking caps and heavy coats and like “what the fudge…”
M: Oh my god, I know. So, I also want to thank you for making some of the most amazing and hilarious, and inspirational music for the past 15 years dude.
James: Oh, Thank you very much 🙂
M: Seriously, thank you. And that comes from me and a ton of other people.
[at this point the Reggie guitarist asks if he can sit back here and sleep on the bench while we do this]
M: So, I’ve been searching the internet like crazy and I can’t find the fucking answer to this question so I have to ask you: Why did you name the band Reggie And The Full Effect?
J: I was trying to help a friend’s band in Kansas City come up with names and we were all having coffee and – I like using legal pads for everything – so on this legal pad I scribbled down “what about the name Common Denominator?” They were like “No.” And I was like “what about Reggie And The Full Effect?” and they’re like “No.” And I was like “How about Fluxuation?” And they were like “No.” And I was like “Well I’m going to use them!”
J: Reggie And The Full Effect comes from – I’ve always liked the name Reggie cause it was a girlfriend from high-schools Dad’s dog. And it was an Airedale Terrier and it was so much fun! It was like the craziest spaz dog and was like “Yeah, that’s what a ‘Reggie’ should be like cause it’s fucking awkwardly having spaz-attack all the time – too much energy, hyperactive, always humping ya…” I mean that’s my stage persona to a T so. [Laughs]
M: Alright so you put out a new album two months ago – No Country For Old Musicians – and you funded this through a successful Kickstarter campaign raising over $50,000. So Congratulations.
J: [Takes another sip of water] Thank you.
M: Now, one of the rewards was for you to officiate a wedding. I read that you married Mikey Way from My Chemical Romance and his fiancè back in 2007.
J: and Ray [Toro].
M: Oh yeah? Oh shit, I didn’t know that. What year was that?
J: 2007 [as well]
M: Ok, they both got married the same year. So how do you become an ordained minister and do you go by a moniker like Rev Reggie or Rev James D3E or some shit?
J: [laughs] No, my keyboard tech for MCR had his card and I was like “where’d you get that?” and he’s like “you go online.” So I went online and I found the Universal Life Church and sent them $20 – actually I sent them $40 because I also have my “Doctorate of the Universe Degree.”
M: [laughs] What the fuck is that?
J: I don’t know!
M: But you got one?
J: Yeah, it came in an award and we hung that up in my bunk on the bus. I started reading more about being an ordained minister and actually officiating weddings and stuff and got licensed in 48 states. Nevada and New York are the two states that you actually have to go in and fill out some stuff and pay a fee. Nevada – with Las Vegas I was like “What the fudge!?” This is where everybody goes to get married.” But It’s a business there and a business in New York too. Yeah, but I finally did my New York one and I did it the same day that they legalized homosexual marriage. So when I was at the courthouse filling out the paperwork, everybody was getting married! And it was like the best day to be at the courthouse. It was just the happiest day.
M: Ah, that’s awesome.
J: Yeah, it was crazy. I got to sign this Harry Potter size book with names that go back to like the 1800s and 1700s.
M: Holy shit.
J: Yeah, it was crazy!
M: Dude, there’s all kinds of crazy shit you can get online. Like you can pay for a ticket to heaven and pay for a ticket to hell.
J: I wouldn’t buy those. [laughs] Those I wouldn’t believe.
M: But I’m sure people buy that shit.
J: Oh yeah, of course! I’m sure it’s a good stocking stuffer like “here’s your ticket to hell!” I’m sure parents are like “that’s what I’m getting for little Billy – ticket to hell.” [laughs]
M: So, back to the Kickstarter – your most successful pledge in terms of pledges was for the limited edition vinyl package which was 367 pledges at $20 a piece. What do you think about the vinyl resurgence and people realizing that vinyl is an irreplaceable format?
J: I just hope that they realize that colored vinyl doesn’t sound as good as 180 weight gram black vinyl. People are like “Ahh I really want to colors.” I’m like “are you collecting it?” [they’re like] “No I just want to color…” You could own ten pieces of vinyl and technically that’s a collection. But after that many people did the vinyl [on Kickstarter] it was like “this isn’t very limited anymore.” I feel like I should have limited it to a certain amount but my dumb ass wasn’t even thinking in the long term. With all the other ones [pledges] who got vinyl it ended up – I had to press like 700. But the thing about it that makes it unique is that it is the Kickstarter vinyl. You know, that’s the vinyl made by them – like the person who pledged. Like “you made this vinyl happen – you paid for it to happen.”
M: And that’s a connection you can’t recreate.
J: Some kid in Canada was like “Fuck you, you’re so full of shit – this is the most non rare color.”
M: It was just black?
J: No, it was red.
M: Was it 180 gram?
J: No, I’m talking the Kickstarter vinyl. He got it and he was like “I feel like I got totally ripped off – I could have bought this at a fucking store…” No, dude. The red means you helped make the record.
M: Yeah, so “Thank You Dude – so much” You know, I’m sorry you’re upset but thank you for helping me do this. [laughs]
J: Yeah! I was like “i’m sorry that you’re bummed but the red is special because the red is what you made with me. Not what you went to a store and bought…
M: Exactly. Like “you helped me do this.”
J: I was like “if that’s not special enough then I’m sorry.” But you know, you can’t please everybody.
M: That’s true. That’s a good way to look at it. So, are you a vinyl collector yourself?
J: I have a pretty good one. My wife has – I have an eclectic collection – my wife has a huge hardcore collection.
M: Oh yeah?
J: Oh yeah. She was a Long Island hardcore kid.
M: Oh shit! [laughs]
J: So we’ve got 7 inches out the wazoo. And between all the bands I’ve played in and all the vinyl I’ve collected from my touring from like ’95 on… Our collection is pretty good. But I also collect like Neil Diamond and like Jimmy Buffet…
M: What would you say what of your favorite vinyls that you own is?
J: Portishead test press. For Dummy. I got in Australia for like $300. Yeah, it’s 180 [gram] double vinyl test press. It sounds incredible. And then a bunch of Beastie Boys 12 inch test presses.
J: Yeah, those are like lucky finds. You know, I just happen to be in Berlin at the time –
M: And they were selling one right then?
J: Yeah! – and they had one right there!
M: That’s awesome!
J: And it’s like “Sweet!” I got this Sure Shot 12 inch – the thing is it’s not labeled what it is. It just says Beastie Boys with like a stamp. And then when I finally got back to the states I played it and I was like “Yo! Fuckin-A! This is great!” [laughs]
M: [Laughs] That’s awesome man. What a find! So I read that you enjoy a lot of electronic music. What kind of bands are you into right now? Are there any albums that you’re stoked about coming out this year?
J: I really like the new band The Wonder Years and I met one of the guys in Philly and [he was] super nice and was like “I grew up listening to you!” and I was like “Aww thanks! That’s awesome.” I dunno – it was like the weird bond of brotherhood of musicians when you’re like…
M: Yeah! You’re looked up to man! For sure – you are!
J: [laughs] Which to me is so weird cause I’m just not that person.
M: Well, it’s because you’re so humble.
J: I guess, I dunno.
M: I think you are man, fuck.
J: But I wanna hear the new TBS [Taking Back Sunday] record real bad.
M: Yeah! Me too.
J: I’m real interested to hear what Matt Pryor has for our project because we don’t play with each other –
M: The Matt Pryor & James Dewees project?
J: Yeah – because I know what the music sounds like but I send him the music and he puts vocals over it and the last time I was blown away.
M: I like the three song EP you put out.
J: Yeah! When he sent me the vocals back I was like “Dude! This is the way you need to sing!”
M: You played drums on that right?
J: Yeah. I mean, we [my wife & I] try to get out and go to shows but between my wife’s work schedule and my schedule it’s like [makes face] … the last show I got to go to was Brand New in December and it was great. It was a lot of fun.
M: Oh gosh. Was it at Starland [Ballroom] or Paramount?
J: I went to Long Island – The Paramount show.
M: I saw Glassjaw there at the end of November.
J: Did you see them with that metal band!? That little kid’s metal band??
M: No, but I looked them up dude! Holy shit!
J: How fucking amazing is that?
M: I looked them up like playing in the street or some shit and I gotta make it there and fucking, I got there late. [They are called Unlocking The Truth – Check them out here: http://www.unlockingthetruthband.com/videos.html]
J: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that shit’s amazing.
M: Cause my sister lives in Huntington so it’s right fucking there – anyways. Alright, so what were you into when you wrote No Country?
J: I don’t know – just like these songs that come into my head. Like, I can’t help when I wake up in the morning I let my dogs out and I make coffee and I sit at the computer with the little tiny Akai keyboard and just start goin. And that’s what happens.
M: Cool. Yeah, that’s awesome you can do that [laughs].
J: It’s weird because I don’t know when to do anything else. Like, my wife and I will be watching a movie or something and I’ll be like “hold on!” And actually that’s how “Gimme Back My Leg” came up was – I was sitting there and we were watching something and I was like “can you give me like ten minutes” and I went downstairs to our little studio and came up with the keyboard line and the drum part of the song. Then came back upstairs and my wife was like “that’s cool.” And I was like “Are you being serious? Do you really think it’s cool? Or are you being sarcastic because I made you pause the movie?” And she was like “Oh, as soon as you left the room, I turned it back on.”
M: [laughs] She didn’t even wait for you.
M: Speaking of No Country, where did the album cover inspiration come from?
J: That’s one of my best friend’s from high schools’ son. And we worked together at Pizza Hut, at this place called Winstead’s… hung out at his house everyday after school for like 5 years cause his parents weren’t home so we could smoke. [Laughs] And he sends me the wildest shit that him and his two sons do for the holidays and it’s just amazing. And when he sent me that, I already had the album artwork done with the cover of the movie with my face superimposed and all:
M: Yeah? So there was a different cover?
J: Well there was the Kickstarter cover that is on the merch that looks like the movie cover for No Country For Old Musicians. And we he sent me that photo I was like “Get the fuck outta here.” I was like “what is Carson doing? Little Mr. T?” And he was like “Yeah.” He’s four years old now. He was three years old when that was taken.
M: [Laughs] And they put fucking a beard on him and shit?
J: Yeah, yeah! And he loves it! I went by their house when I got copies of it and took Carson a copy of it so he could have it.
M: I bet he was stoked.
J: Oh God, yeah, I mean everybody in Liberty Missouri is like “Carson… there he is!”
M: He’s fucking famous now!
J: Yeah, yeah!
M: That’s awesome man. The album fucking rules by the way.
J: Thank you very much.
M: Yeah, great job. I think one of the most hilarious parts is the eagle screech throughout the song “Guerrera.”
J: Oh, right right.
M: And then at the end you’re like “Anybody seen my bird? Oh.”
J: Well I was wondering – in my mind – I was wondering when people are doing that shit (people who have hawks and eagles and stuff that are wandering around the dessert or whatever they’re doing) what happens when they don’t come back?
M: Or what if a different bird comes back or some shit?
J: Yeah, and then they’re like “I had a bird when I started today.” [laughs] “Is it dead? Where’s my bird?” And then you’re in the desert so who do you really talk to about it?
M: Yeah, you just yell; fall to your knees and you’re like “Whhyy!” Shit. Also, “We Make A Breakfast” is fucking hilarious dude. How did you come up with that?
J: I was in the studio with MCR and I was living with Frankie and just one morning I was in the kitchen and it was one of those open up the fridge – I do this a lot that’s how a lot of Reggie songs happen is like “everyday life” –
M: In the kitchen?
J: In the kitchen, folding laundry, things where it’s everything life things where you open up the fridge –
M: Where you don’t have to think a lot, cause like your brain automatically forces you into thinking something creative?
J: Yeah, and it associates music and it’s like “I got bacon, you’ve got eggs…” Hey, this could be a song. So I get the computer out and start making up the corny Muppet music behind it and it’s like “alright sweet.”
M: Uh huh, like a show tune. It’s a fucking show tune! [laughs]
J: And you got a like this, you know, a little bit of grease [laughs].
M: Yeah [laughs]. So the thing with Reggie albums has always been these hilarious skits like hip hop albums commonly do and are there any rules when recording your Reggie albums or is just like a free for all?
J: I just don’t want to offend anybody, you know? I’m not into that. I’m not really into hurting people’s feelings. Especially on purpose. Or even on accident. I think everyone should always be self aware, especially as an adult, to know better than… You know, I’m not doing music to hurt people’s feelings.
M: Yeah, you’re doing it for fun.
J: Yeah, the only message I have is “go have a good time and take care of one another and look out for your fellow human beings and if shit’s going bad for you, just hang in there.” And that’s kinda the only rule. Just no negativity. I mean there’s enough negativity in the real world and dealing with that on an everyday basis for everybody is kinda like “Why would you want to do music that just makes you more angry.
M: Yeah, I feel the same way. Like I write, and all of the fucking reviews I do and everything, I don’t put anything negative – so many people sit on the other side of the computer screen and write all this bullshit…
J: Well cause that’s what sells and that’s what people want to read.
M: Well fuck that. I want to write fun…
J: Did you read the Reggie Vice.com article?
M: Oh yeah! I saw that shit today. What a fucking idiot!
J: The very first sentence is “Well I’ve never even really listened to this band.”
M: Yeah, I read like two more sentences after that and scrolled down to the bottom and was like “fuck this.”
J: Yeah, I was like “are you fucking kidding? Why would you even write this?”
M: Yeah, it’s a waste to read.
J: But that’s what people want though thanks to reality TV…
M: Well it depends on your audience.
J: Well that’s the thing, Reggie’s audience…
M: [I point at the plastic water bottle James is crunching]
J: Oh sorry! [laughs] Reggie’s audience is always people that want to have fun, people that are a little bit weird like me so they get the jokes or they’re kinda there to escape a little bit. And there’s that whole other spectrum of independent music that’s you know, very serious – which I like a lot of it and I think there’s so many talented people but at the same time, you gotta be able to take it with a grain of salt and be able to laugh at yourself you know…
M: Yeah. That’s what makes things special is if you don’t take yourself too seriously – I think a relaxed 90% is (this is a Mark Levy quote) way better than a vein bulging 100%.
J: Yeah, and you know but that’s some people’s opinion and other people are like perfectionists and all that.
M: Well, off of that, it sounded like you had a blast making No Country.
J: Oh yeah! Of course.
M: And it’s such a fun record. So other than “just have fun” do you have words of advice for musicians just stressing out about recording a new album?
J: Yeah, never force it. Cause it’ll sound forced. And with music sometimes it comes right away and sometimes it doesn’t. Music is math so there’s a formula for everything. When writing songs and performing songs, you know – Rome wasn’t built in a day and your band’s not going to be huge in a day (and if your band does get huge in a day – good luck).
M: [laughs] Yeah cause your head’s gonna fucking spin.
J: Yeah, your head’s gonna spin and it’s gonna turn you into an asshole. Cause that’s what happens. When there’s millions and millions of dollars involved and business that just has to keep going and money’s getting thrown hand over fist and all this shit’s happening and your job is to go on stage and you pay these people to handle this for you it like “why mess with the stress.”
M: Yeah. So, on No Country you had some guests: Adam Lazarra from Taking Back Sunday, Ray & Frank from My Chemical Romance, Matt Pryor (of course), Allison Weiss…
J: Yeah [laughs] all of the people that usually were there plus a couple extras.
M: So Frank Iero from My Chem played Bass at Riot Fest with you.
M: Any plans to bring him out on tour?
J: Yeah, well he was gonna be the bass player but he had some stuff come up so he couldn’t do it so we had our friend Zach come in and fill in who plays in the band The Architects. And they’re good friends. Frank’s label put out the Architect’s record. They’re from Kansas City and I’ve known them since they were in a band called The Gadgets.
M: So It was an easy [transition] …
J: Yeah, yeah. It was just trying to keep it fun – friends – you know if you’re gonna be in a band that long…
M: Yeah. It sounds like the motto of Reggie is “just fun.”
J: Yeah, lighthearted, we’ll get there when we get there and if it breaks – Hey, it breaks!
M: Cool. Yeah man. That’s respectable for sure. So you play drums for Leathermouth, you play keyboards for My Chemical Romance, keys for The Get Up Kids, Bass on some of No Country?
J: Yeah, yeah, I did a lot of the bass.
M: Cool. So what are you going to conquer next? Are there any instruments that you’re interested in learning?
J: I don’t know what it’s called but I’ve been fascinated with it and I’m trying to get my wife to get me one – it’s like the guitar you play with the mallets. I don’t know what it is – a dulcimer or something like that. But you see like these really fucking amazing looking musicians with like turtlenecks and Christmas sweaters year around with amazing hair and they have these little felt kinda mallet things and they sit this thing on an angle…
M: Like percussion guitar?
J: I don’t know. I want to learn!
[A dulcimer? – (guy that just walked into the room)]
J: That’s what I thought! It’s called a dulcimer.
M: Alright, confirmed. It’s a dulcimer. [It’s actually bowed dulcimer – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowed_dulcimer]
J: I don’t think it’d maybe be on an album. I think it’s more something for me to do at my house to make my dog’s heads kinda turn sideways like “wait a minute, is this song about us again?” [laughs]
M: So you started playing drums at a really young age. What was your first drum kit?
J: Muppets! [laughs] When I was like 4.
M: No shit! [laughs] What was your first real one?
J: My mom and dad, when I was like 12, took me to some dude’s basement from an ad in the paper and bought me a four piece Tama Artstar. And it was half of this dude’s kit. He had an eight piece, I bought 4 of them.
M: Oh shit, so it was probably like a double bass kit?
J: Yeah, it was hot shit.
M: Bill Johnson plays drums on No Country and he’s touring with you now and he played on the last album too. Being a drummer yourself, did you write any of the drum parts or play on any of the tracks?
J: Oh yeah. All of the stuff’s written before hand. Corey comes in and plays guitar. All the drums were written, Billy just came in and did the actual performance.
M: Tell me a little bit about your alter-egos your have that your frequently feature on your albums. Specifically Fluxuation and Common Denominator. Introduce the world to them and you may use their respective voices if you want.
J: Well Fluxuation is a non gender specific dance music group from the UK. All the songs are written about girls but technically they’re written about boys or not.
M: [laughs] So it’s a question?
J: Yeah. Fluxuation is a big question mark. I was in Duran Durans fan club when I was a little kid and I love new wave and any kind of Brit pop stuff and I just wanted to sing with the accent to see what it was like. Think of me doing it as corny as possible and then the songs kept coming out so funny that it was like “oh, now you have to do another one.” So I was trying to come up with these songs and they’re like me just saying the dumbest shit about being in the mood for you… The other thing is all the words rhyming. So it’s like “Hey, what’s happen-ing, is rap a thing, or maybe not.” [lyrics from Mood 4 luv]. [laughs] And then Common Denominator was done as an accident. Another guy in a band I was in was writing a song for some girl and it took him like 16 hours. And he was in my basement for 16 hours. And I was talking to this dude with Mojo Records before the Get Up Kids signed to vagrant. And I was like “man, I could write a song in ten minutes. Full song, whatever.” So I went downstairs and I don’t know why, but the first thing that came out of my mouth was “Hello Americans! This is Klaus from Common Denominator.” And it just began and Dwarf Invasion started making it all over. Even when Coalesce would tour, I had these cassette tapes of Reggie and Common Denominator and people were like “this is fucking hilarious, what is this?” This is Reggie And The Full Effect! “This is great! you gotta play this live.” And the first time we did it was like “how can I make the show different than anything else? Oh, costume changes!”
M: [laughs] So you had a wardrobe?
J: Yeah, so on the very first tour I would change into this Mozart outfit and then put on this viking outfit and go out and do Common Denominator. And I just stuck with it where it’s part of the Reggie shows, the costume changes.
M: Yeah, it’s shit like that that sets you apart. So here’s the part where I ask you questions that people are going to discuss in seedy bars around the country.
J: Right on.
M: Do you watch TV at all? Netflix?
J: Yeah, all of it.
M: How about House of Cards, have you seen that show?
J: Uh huh, I’ve seen about 5 episodes.
M: Yeah? Season 2 comes out on Valentines Day – fucking stoked about that. How about documentaries? Have you seen A Band Called Death?
J: Yeah, amazing. I feel like I’ve met that dudes son – who’s doing the band again.
M: Holy shit. Dude, I fucking cried so hard during that. I want to see them. I think that’d be awesome to see live. How about movies? Have you seen the new Coen brothers movie – Inside Llewyn Davis? It’s really fucking cool.
J: I haven’t seen that. I just saw Dallas Buyers Club.
M: Oh, that was one of my fav – that was my favorite movie last year. By far. 100%.
J: Fucking – Dude, from being in MCR there’s always this funny thing about MCR and Jared Leto cause Jared’s Jared… I was watching it with my wife and we were like “Damn. Say what you will about his music but that mother fucker can act!” Like, he’s such a good actor. And Matthew McConaughey’s amazing in it!
M: Yeah [laughs]. [Jared’s] so fucking good. And that’s Matthew McConaughey’s best movie in my opinion. How about eating habits? Anything specific? Are you vegan, vegetarian, lactose intolerant, allergic to anything? Any of that shit?
J: Everything I’m eating I probably shouldn’t be eating. And at 37 I could be a little healthier but at the same time I’m burning so many calories on stage. And it’s winter time in New York so…
M: [laughs] So you need to bulk up for the winter?
J: Yeah [laughs] like a bear. Well I also like to cook and I like to bake. When I’m home all day sitting there with the computer i’m like “Ok, I’m going to make stew today and pretzel bread.” And that’s a very hearty meal. And then the next day it’s like “I’m going to bake a ham.” [laughs] And that’s very hearty like salt, super salty like mashed potatoes, carrots, and ham! And my wife will come home from work, and she’s skinny Minnie, and she’s be like “I’ll have carrots and a little bit of potatoes and a sliver of the ham.” [and I’m like] “No you gotta have this ham! Shit’s delicious!” And then I’ll watch her just give it to the dogs.
M: I picture you like Landfill from Beerfest passed out in front of the fridge fucking just eating ham… So you moved back to Kansas for the Get Up Kids reunion tour and shortly after that you moved back to Long Island?
J: Yeah, we were only there for 8 months. It just made more sense then trying to fly back and forth and do all that. I talked my wife into coming with me – to move you know? And was like “you should try something besides Long Island, just to see if you like it.”
M: So what brought you back to ‘LAWN GUYLAND‘ and I want you to answer this in your best Lawn Guylander accent. [laughs]
J: [laughs] What the fuck is there do to in Kansas?! (Everybody in my wife’s family is like Valley Stream [NY] and Ozone Park/Queens [NY] and are like “Why ya goin there? What are you doin there?? What do they got there, they don’t got here?? In fact: They got everything here that they don’t got there. So Why-The-Fuck would you go there? You’re outta ya mind.”
M: [Hysterical Laughs] Oh god.
J: Like “You need Kansas like you need a FUCKING hole in your head!”
M: Dude, thank you so much for that! Are there any other projects that you’re working on that you wanna plug?
M: You’re doing them [the remixes]?
J: Yeah, yeah. And two new videos.
M: Awesome man. That’s all the time I’m going to take from you. Thank you James Dewees.
J: No problem! Thank you.
M: You’re welcome. Be sure to check the new album by the hilarious and talented Reggie And The Full Effect entitled No Country For Old Musicians. Catch them on tour with Dads (who are fucking great) and Pentimento through February 22*, 2014.
J: Yeah the lineup is amazing. Pentimento’s awesome. Dad’s are great…
M: Yeah, I’m stoked about Pentimento too. You can read a transcribed version of this interview on www.ShowsIGoTo.com Cheers.
J: How you like the Galaxy [4S]?
M: Dude, I fucking love this phone…
Interview by Mitchel Foster.