"It's a record about self-destruction," he told me. Garage punk Jay Reatard lived hard and everybody knew it. But his death at age 29 still shocks, and, in my case, saddens in a way I would have never expected--but probably should've. He died in his sleep. No official word yet on the cause. You have to imagine, though, that his reckless lifestyle played a significant role.
A mere seven months ago we were doing a phoner to advance Reatard's upcoming tour and excellent, albeit dark, new album, Watch Me Fall. I recall the conversation vividly and tonight might even force myself to replay the tape. The Memphis musician born Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr. spoke in a candid manner rarely heard these days by established rockers--even ones coming from punkdom. At the time, I relished his honestly, especially in regard to the nihilistic bent of his lyrics. He laughed. And so did I. Now, a strange guilt overcomes me as I play his music while revisiting our interview, which ran June 10, 2009, on Metromix sites nationwide.
I really dig the new single "Ain't Gonna Save Me" It's super catchy with an interesting lyric about despair that has a rather mysterious chorus. What exactly is it that "ain't gonna save" the singer?
I suppose [laughs] I was watching a bunch of episodes of the show "Intervention" on
A&Eand thinking about all the people I know who are fucking bent on self-destruction. And how people can put as much effort as they want into trying to talk someone down or whatever but, fuck, nine out of 10 times, when people get on the ledge, they jump. It's just about that, man. You can't talk people down once they're there.
So, the song is about the futility of trying to help someone once they've decided they've had too much?
Yeah, I mean, you got to talk to someone before they decide to make the final plunge. That is kind of what the whole record ["Watch Me Fall"] is about: This place in my life where, like, no one really wants to talk to you about what's going on until it's too late. And then they want to overcompensate and be very, very into wanting to help. But, y'know, once you go past that point, there's no turning back.
We both laughed that uncomfortable laugh that people share when something real and terrible surfaces in conversation.
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The "Watch Me Fall" cover photo shows you looking like Jack Nicholson's character in "The Shining," when he's chasing his wife and kid through the maze--trying to kill them. Are you a big fan of the film?
Yeah, yeah, for sure, man. I took like [laughs] 10 hits of acid and watched that film by accident--and fried my brain. I think that
movieresonates with me a lot.
It has to do with the songs I was writing, and, y'know, it's a record about self-destruction, basically. What's more self-destructive than fucking going off the deep end and trying to kill your family because you have writer's block? That's kind of how I felt at some points with this record. Things just weren't coming to me. I was irritable. I was fucking sitting in my room. Exchange a typewriter for a guitar and Jack Nicholson's character was me. [Laughs]