Interview : Gentleman Reg

8 Feb

Since the releases of Jet Black and Heavy Head, to popular and critical acclaim last year, Toronto’s Gentleman Reg has solidified himself as a musical force, opening for acts like Tegan and Sara, La Roux and Stars, garnering attention and respect by his audiences, fans and peers.  However, regardless of hype, reviews or his circle of friends, Reg has remained humbled and grounded, pursuing music solely for his love of creation and his love of the art.

“I’ve always been around music, and around really talented people and had really talented friends . . . and I just love it,” he began.  “I always have to do whatever it takes to get by.  I’m not always a self-sufficient musician and even though I’ve been doing it forever, money is always something [that’s not always] at my level, so that’s always a humbling thing.”

“You can get lots of press and lots of opportunities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re making a good living or anything like that,” he continued.  “In terms of hanging out, it’s just that’s my life.  I’m always watching bands, I get inspired by my friends and other bands . . . it’s just what I like to do.  I’m always at shows.”

Since the explosion of Toronto’s music scene in the mid-2000s, the city has finally gained the long-overdue recognition for its contributions to Canada’s musical identity, housing some of the nation’s greatest exports and indie icons.  However, unlike other North American cities, Toronto’s music community remains just that – a community – serving to nurture and support its artists as opposed to maintaining a competitive and defeatist system.

“[The Toronto music scene] is very concentrated,” explained Reg.  “There’s a lot of bands here, there’s a lot of industry here, there’s a lot of venues and audiences, so I mean . . . there’s just so much incentive to perform.  There’s always a venue, and there’s always a demand, and I think that’s a huge part of it for sure.”

Taking advantage of Toronto’s countless venues, Reg will begin his highly anticipated month-long Heavy Head Residency at the Drake Underground this week, appearing every Wednesday night in February with special guests that include Hooded Fang, Kite Hill, By Divine Right, The Balconies and many others.

“It’s just a great room for what we want to do – that was the major thing,” he shared.  “[There are] so many venues in Toronto [that] getting a venue for a weekly residency was kind of tricky, so . . . we just settled on that one.  It’s a bit of a weird venue overall, but I do like the Underground . . . and I think they do interesting things down there.  Hopefully people come.”

Since announcing the month long engagement, further buzz has been generated around the artist and his work since the residency is in celebration of Jet Black’s one year anniversary.  However, regardless of positive reviews and abundant press, Reg maintains that hype and publicity are quite fleeting.

“I don’t know, you can’t take it too seriously,” he explained. “I try not to read everything – especially comments and blogs.  The Internet – it’s created such a funny culture in that you can comment on anything, and as a reader, you have no idea who’s making these comments or who they are, and it can be really destructive and hurtful – and I know people that cannot handle it.”

“I just try not to listen to it too much because you can’t really think about that stuff when you’re creating,” he continued.  “You obviously have to take some stuff to heart, but . . . [you have to] be true to yourself.”

Despite the publicity generated by critical acclaim, Reg revealed that many musicians continue to struggle despite increased publicity and recognition.  “It’s a weird thing in that we got a lot of attention, but I almost don’t really sell that well, so it’s kind of like this weird thing for how much press I get,” he shared.  “You know, we don’t sell nearly as much as I would expect to or as much as other people think we do, and I think that’s happening to a lot of bands right now.”

Reg explained that following a conversation with Sara Quinn (of Tegan and Sara), that many bands constantly face the difficulties of competing with free illegal downloads.

“The industry’s in a funny place where record labels kind of know that people aren’t buying CDs that much, but they still make them,” he elaborated.  “So it’s this weird thing where it’s like, they know it’s not working but they’re still doing it. . . . I guess we can all hope that it’s going to come around and people are going to realize that if they love a band, they actually have to support them.  It really makes a difference if someone doesn’t buy the record or they don’t buy merch or if they don’t come to the shows.”

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he concluded. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully it comes around.  Ultimately, there’s always the live shows.”

Posted by : Anne T Donahue

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