One of the largest things about it is there's no music industry per se. No huge, monolithic record labels have their offices here [Seattle]. So when you play music, you're generally free to do what you want to do. That produces some interesting results."
--Reggie Watts
Photo by Todd Bradley

In contrast to their smooth, well-produced studio work, the band's live shows are legendarily intense and full of spontaneous musical tangents. Watts in particular always seems happy to warp things from their official versions, using custom tools to achieve unique effects. "The telephone mic is simply a handset from a 1950's phone that's been wired so I can plug it into effects pedals," explains Watts. "The real time vocal sampling is this looping pedal I use to create loops and sampling live. I really enjoy, and kind of insist on, having control over the effects on my voice. Some of it I leave up to the sound engineer, but any of the effected things I do I want to have control over. It's good for me to have that outlet on stage because I think of it as another instrument."

Reggie Watts by W. Churgin
Watts is often compared to classic soul singers like Al Green and Bill Withers, but his own take on his voice is a bit different.

"Of the comparisons I've heard, I can usually hear a little bit of it, here and there. One person, for some of the early recordings I used to do, pointed out that I sounded like Roland Orzabal from Tears For Fears, which I thought was kinda cool. I think there's some Al Jarreau in what I do. People may not pick up on that, or maybe it's just something I think about while I'm singing. I can hear what some of the comparisons are, there's bits and pieces of it intertwined. It's the human voice, so it's inevitably going to sound like someone else's voice."

"I like the way [Jarreau] used his voice. He treated it like an instrument," continues Watts. "I also draw some comparisons, at least in my mind, to Peter Murphy [Bauhaus] in the lower register in my voice. He's really inspired me with his cool, dark intensity. I really enjoy that. I think he has one of the most compelling male voices."

Another attribute that gets constant attention in Maktub's press is Reggie's hair - a classic back-in-the-day afro. When pressed about whether this ever gets on his nerves, he states, "It's one of those things where sometimes I wonder, 'What is the deal?' It's just hair (laughs). At the same time, I try to keep an open mind. People wouldn't comment on it if they didn't feel they needed to comment on it. If you feel you need to talk about the hair then cool. People are fascinated with it – What is it? How does it work? - like it's some kind of indescribable software. There's just this weird fascination with anybody that's ethnic by the white population pretty much across the board, as verified by Halloween and all the frat guys with their afro wigs." When it's suggested that maybe whitey thinks afros are imbued with magical powers, Watts replies, "Yeah, maybe (laughs). They think if they wear this it'll give them access to perceptions they'd never considered. I'm sure that's what they're thinking."

Reggie Watts by Todd Bradley
One thing that isn't old school about them is their focused, highly modern songwriting on Say What You Mean, which has all the earmarks of a radio friendly sleeper. Unlike their previous effort, Khronos, which featured a simmering cover of Led Zeppelin's "No Quarter," the new one is all originals.

"We thought about doing several covers, including one from the Jeff Buckley posthumous release called 'Everybody Wants You' because it sounded like such a Maktub tune. It's completely everything that we are. It's crazy," says Watts. "We used to do White Snake's 'Is This Love?' and we considered doing that. It was an ultra-band, man, the most ridiculous stage musicians ever. It's like the hair rock version of a Joni Mitchell all-star band. Awful (trails off)."

On their latest, Maktub once again dips into slow songs, setting them apart from so much modern music that's fixated on aggression and on fitting into three-minute time frames for radio and TV.

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