by Andria Lisle
Chris Herrington already caught up with Jay Reatard earlier this week — so I thought I'd do a run-down of Reatard's most recent album and promotional artwork, just in time for tonight's show with British punk legend T.V. Smith. Rather than analyze his colorful, yet stark (and occasionally gruesome) photographic choices myself, I decided to go directly to the source — Reatard, who spent a half-hour of his sojourn in Nashville on Thursday on his cell phone, happily dissecting his public persona.
2006's Blood Visions, released on In the Red Records:
Matthew Melton, a Memphis kid, took that. We took it at MCA. He came very unprepared. It was large format, and because he was broke, he only brought two pieces of film. He didn’t need more than that, because we didn’t have access to a shower after we used the stolen raspberry syrup from Young Ave Deli, where I worked at the time. We cut the top off, and I had to get a girl to dump the whole thing over me.
We used the first photograph — the second one is just too gory, although I think Matt's gonna have it up in an art show in San Francisco next week. Afterwards, I needed to shower, and he told me there was some sort of mop sink that I could get to. I was walking around in bloody underwear, and I got lost. I bumped into a very large gay guy who squealed like a pig when he saw me. He got really scared — "What are you doing?" He thought it was blood. Yeah, that was a fun picture to take...
Singles 06-07, also released on In the Red:
Dan Ball took that. We shot it at his house. There was really no concept behind it other than I wanted to do an art photograph. Dan’s photos all have a similar quality — when you want that [look], that’s where you go. It turned out how I wanted it to.
Matador Singles '08, released on Matador Records last October:
By the time I was done trying to record six singles in six months, I was feeling a little bit buried or drowned and almost completely sick of the whole process. What do you put on a singles collection cover? The only way we could incorporate all six covers was to put 'em all in the picture somehow. They weren’t all manufactured yet, so Stephen [Pope, Reatard's bassist] and I went to Kinko's and made dummy covers. We went to Goner Records and got 200 of their worst records. Don Perry came over, and about ten minutes later, we had a photo. He works pretty quick — I think I showed him a piece of paper with a crudely drawn picture of a stick figure of how I wanted it to be framed. I put 'em side by side when he was done, and they were pretty close.
I saw myself as this sort of bloated Jim Morrison casualty. On the back cover, Stephen is taking a pharmaceutical overdose and vomiting records. Everybody dies. I guess it was a subtle way of saying that I’m sick of these singles. At that point, I had a lot of other stuff going on, and getting it all done seemed overly ambitious, but somehow I figured it out. The singles covers themselves are all Don's stuff. I just went onto his Flickr site and noticed that this guy photographs stuff besides Barbaras shows. I started digging around, and he had hundreds of cool photos of Memphis, mostly of areas I frequent quite often. Some pictures emotionally resonated more than others. Like during one summer, I'd break into the Sears building two or three times a week and run around inside and cause problems, wasted, so that's why I used that picture.
2008 promotional photo, shot for Matador Records: I don’t know the photograper’s name on that one. [Note: It was Andy Eisberg.] I was kinda just walking around [NYC] getting really bored. I told the photographer to fuck off, and I went in a Puerto Rican barbershop and sat down. I told this guy who usually gets $7 a haircut to cut my hair. He said, "I don’t cut white people's hair." I said you’ll get $30, because I knew Matador's publicist would pay it out of the budget they had for the day. Basically, I was just bored and trying to tease the photographer.
Watch Me Fall, slated to be released on Matador on August 18:
Reuben Cox is the photographer on this. He’s either engaged or married to one of the people who work at Beggars [Group, partial owner of Matador Records]. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on the photo itself. The concept was gonna cost $1500, mostly to build the set, because I wanted the scene from The Shining. [The original photo] was not actually a movie still. They weren’t happy with the promo stills, so they recreated the maze in a warehouse somewhere and shot the still. So mine was supposed to be a reproduction of a reproduction which is pretty watered down, but coming from someone who covered Beatles songs thinking they were Mummies songs... I’m pretty misguided when it comes to that. I had serious writer's block at the time. I was irritable, and so I thought, what's something more irritable than someone trying to kill his family and trying to type a book at the same time... We shot the photo at some sort of college about half-an-hour outside of NYC. I think Reuben works in the art department there, which helped cut expenses.