Musicscan: I was wondering if it is a weird feeling knowing that “Jet Black” is your first overseas release and therefore sort of a debut over here. What was your experience like while touring in Europe?
Gentleman Reg: It's a bit strange to be releasing my fourth record, but have this one be the first one that most of the world will hear. But it's also kind of logical. I mean my first and second records were me learning how to make records. The last two are more about the songs and with much more knowledge about the studio, and are ultimately just stronger albums. It's oddly fitting that this is my first international release, it's fitting. I’m ready for it now, I wasn't in the past. The two times I toured Europe in 2007 we're both amazing, eye opening, totally refreshing. There's a different appreciation for unknown bands I found. Playing solo in front of 500 people waiting to see Broken Social Scene, but I still felt welcome and like I was being listened to...it doesn't always go that way.
Musicscan: Did you approach this album any differently compared to your previous efforts?
Gentleman Reg: Yes, this was a studio album. The bulk of it is my drummer Greg Millson, a producer and myself. Then we built up the songs in the studio. There was also a lot of editing and digital things that I'd never experimented with in the past. It's really a collection of songs recorded over a year, as opposed to going into the studio with 12 songs and then recording those and then you have a record. This was more like, ok we have all these songs, now let's assemble the best album from them.
Musicscan: Please tell me a little bit about growing up in Guelph? Did you always want to play music? What were you interested in during high school?
Gentleman Reg: Guelph is a very fertile place. There's a lot of creativity there, and it's very progressive. It was also a very specific era. There were a lot of activists, punk rock shows, DIY culture, a cassette culture. There was really no reason to not start a band. Though to be honest I always was more interested in theatre and acting and music was something else I did, then at some point they crossed. It's also very strange because I used to have a crippling kind of shyness, I used to have to turn my back to people to be able to sing for them, now I look them in the eye.
Musicscan: What do you enjoy about living in Toronto, not necessarily limited to the music?
Gentleman Reg: It's a large multicultural city. Toronto has a really interesting scene and is often overlooked I find. There's a queer underground scene that's pretty great at the moment. If you want Indian food, you go to little India, there's a huge Chinatown etc. There are great cafes and amazing markets in the summer. And the bar scene and music scene just seem to be flourishing at the moment.
Musicscan: How would you describe the Toronto indie music scene at the moment? Has the scene, which you are very much part of, changed over the years, especially considering the tremendous success of artists/bands like Feist, Broken Social Scene, The Constantines, Stars or The Hidden Cameras, who – I believe – you were all a part of at one point in time?
Gentleman Reg: It's really interesting at the moment, there are constantly new bands to see...and it seems like people are really into live music at the moment, shows are always packed. The coolest thing with all those bands you mentioned are how they've all had success internationally over the last few years. You can't make a living on music only in Canada, we just don't have the population to support it, so you have to go elsewhere to have a full career, and luckily for a lot of bands it seems to be working. And it's nice that good music is making it out of Canada, so the rest of the world no longer just thinks of Canada and thinks of Alanis Morissette, or Celine Dion. Now they also think of Arcade Fire.
Musicscan: Do you think the indie scene, which is still made up primarily by straight people, has become more open and aware of gay artists? Do people relate differently to an openly gay artist? Does it ever happen that you are subject of overt discriminations while performing? If yes, how do you deal with that?
Gentleman Reg: I think it's more aware, only because people like Antony and Rufus and Final Fantasy are having more success. So it's like they don't have the choice if they want to hear progressive stuff. But yes, the scene I've always been a part of is incredibly straight, and often it's very frustrating being the only fag around. It does actually make you feel very much an outsider sometimes. The only time I was ever bothered by it from the audience was oddly in Europe once. It's was after the show and myself and Broken Social scene all went out for drinks, and this guy at the bar had just seen the show and started yelling at me from across the bar 'gay guy gay guy'...it was actually unbelievable. Fortunately, I was with like 15 people so I wasn't scared. And Kevin Drew eventually threw him out of the bar for me, because he just got worse and worse. Kevin is my hero!
Musicscan: Did you have certain musical or aesthetic goals for the band?
Gentleman Reg: Just to be amazing! My goals for the live show are more about the energy and being aware that you're on stage. And that doesn't necessarily mean be all flashy; it just means give people something to look at. I always do dress up for shows, though, it makes me feel more like a performer and less like my quiet self.
Musicscan: What are some of your most important musical influences and how are the reflected in the album?
Gentleman Reg: Female singers are generally my heroes. I'm obsessed with voices also, so anyone with a distinct voice from Sinead O’Connor to Nina Simone to Feist to Liz Phair to Björk. That's generally what I take from people are vocal things, and then I twist them up and make them my own.
Musicscan: What makes for the perfect song in your opinion? Have you ever achieved something like a perfect song in your opinion? How would you define a perfect song?
Gentleman Reg: No, I haven't written the perfect song. But I think I've come close. And I judge that by how people respond to things. So when a song does really well live I know it's striking a chord with people and therefore must be a good song. A perfect song? I'm not sure. I certainly hear a lot of songs that I wish I’d written, though. There's one on the new Metric record called “Stadium Love”, I wish I had written that.
Musicscan: What is the difference between art and entertainment in your opinion?
Gentleman Reg: Substance. If the entertainment leaves me feeling empty or nothing at all I generally don't think there's any art in it. And of course, lots of art makes me feel nothing also. So it's the depth, the intention, what was the creator’s goal? If they achieved it, I think they made art.
Musicscan: Do you ever read reviews or features about yourself? Do you think that also influences how you perceive your own work to a certain extent?
Gentleman Reg: I do read reviews. Luckily they're generally positive so it's great reading! I will say I try not to take it all too seriously, though, because if you think of that stuff while you're doing the creating it's very damaging and constricting. It's only once I'm done with the creative work and fully happy with it myself that I can accept criticism. For the most part, if there's anything critical I read, as long as it's well written, it doesn't bother me. It's the flippant, uninformed stuff that gets me. But generally that's just in blogs from 15 year old boys.
Musicscan: What can we expect from Gentleman Reg in the near future? Any tours, releases, collaborations planned?
Gentleman Reg: Lots of touring with our new album. It all starts end of April through Canada and the States. We've got some great opening slots with The Stills and A Camp. And that's just the beginning. Lots of videos to come out, we've already shot four. Lots of remixes to come out. And yes, collaborations, but right now they're secret!