“I was a big fan of John's music for many years,” comedian and musician Reggie Watts says by phone from Montana, where, as it happens, he is grocery shopping with his mother, “and I always thought he was this exotic dude living in Austria or someplace, pumping out minimal techno and other electronic music.”
L.A.-based Watts, who became famous for his highly acclaimed absurdist humor, which often incorporates his singing and beatboxing, is talking about musician and DJ/producer John Tejada, with whom he is collaborating on a new project that the two have dubbed Wajatta. “Then, when I met him,” at a club night when Tejada was performing, “it was all of a sudden, 'Oh, he lives in L.A.? That's crazy!'”
“Wajatta” is a portmanteau — or what in the music world might be described as a mashup — of Watts and Tejada, “which somehow doesn't seem so obvious to everyone,” Tejada quips.
Well known as an in-demand remixer for electronic-pop crossover acts such as The Postal Service and Télépopmusik — and well regarded for his richly detailed, emotive albums on noted German electronic music label Kompakt and others — Tejada spoke to L.A. Weekly by phone from his home studio in Sherman Oaks, where he is mastering Wajatta's full-length debut. (His latest album for Kompakt, Dead Start Program, comes out Feb. 9.)
“We have a lot of mutual friends, but we'd never quite met that way. He just said hello that night [at the club] and we started talking,” says Tejada, who was in fact born in Vienna but grew up in L.A. “We didn't start making music right away, but eventually it was brought up, and then immediately we made three songs, and three more, and three more and three more.
“We've been kind of silently doing this for about a year, until finally Reggie said, 'Enough's enough, let's at least get one song out there.' And it was perfect timing, because now I feel like we have 12 really solid tracks, 12 keepers.”
“Runnin',” an uptempo, Chicago house–inflected dance track, was released digitally on Dec. 1 as the lead single from Wajatta's forthcoming album, titled Casual High Technology. The full-length likely will appear this spring, in multiple formats, on the Burbank label Comedy Dynamics. “I think April is a possibility,” Tejada says. A limited 7-inch featuring “Runnin'” with an instrumental mix on the B-side will be released as well.
Wajatta's debut concert is on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at Zebulon, the performance space in Frogtown (formally, Elysian Valley). They'll follow that on Feb. 10 at MojaMoja, a benefit event at Avalon Hollywood presented by KCRW. (MojaMoja also will feature performances by psychedelic Afro-Latin funk band Jungle Fire, alternative R&B duo Steoples and indie-pop multi-instrumentalist Elise Trouw).
“It'll be based enough on what we do, but then it'll be different,” Tejada says of Wajatta's live show. “When I play live, I like songs that have no beginning or end, because otherwise that puts me in a weird box. I feel that Reggie in some ways does that naturally, so I think it'll just be a fun time. I think it'd be weird if every time you saw us it would be by the book. And that way we can also react to the vibe of the crowd, or the space.”
Asked about his studio setup, Tejada says, “Well, we do this combination of Ableton and Logic. Both have their kind of positives for stacking and doing capturing. And I've got my collection of stuff, but honestly these days I'm happier with kind of less.
“I've got a few modular synths, a couple other neat mono synths, a couple neat poly synths, digital and analog. And I have some things to try that just spark your imagination, like the new Moog DFAMs are pretty fun at the moment, because they just spit out magic.
“But, generally, I have kind of a small setup. [That way] there's not a half-hour of confusion why something doesn't work, and that's important to both of us,” he says.
Describing the pair's creative process, Tejada says, “I want it to sound like both of us, and I want it to sound like Reggie and the stacking and looping that he's so well known for, and I wanted to kind of help take that slightly to a more produced level. Likewise, Reggie helps me strip myself back a bit, and then it all just kind of melds together really nicely.”
He adds, “I'm familiar with how Reggie works, and I'm familiar with some of the gear he uses, so I try to set things up [in the studio] so they work in a similar, comfortable kind of way so we can both get our ideas down without having to stop too much for technical setup or things not working. For the most part it works out pretty well.”
Watts says, “What's great is that I like to create quickly, and John just kind of does that naturally on his own. That on-the-fly creativity and speed works, at least personally for me, how I've always found it to work.”
“I get excited to work on the songs, and I've been learning a lot from Reggie in the process,” Tejada says. “Nothing is forced. It can just be whatever it wants to be, and I think that we plan to keep doing it just for fun. We were doing this for a year just for fun without realizing that we should progress the plan.”
“I think the first thing [listeners will] notice is that it's a good blend of our two styles,” Watts says. “I think we're doing a really great record that has a lot of stuff that you can dance to, and some atmospheric stuff, and it's just something different. It's synthetic but also has the organicism that I like to do.
“I always want to make music,” Watts says, “but what I'm excited about [is] to put out a track that I'm involved with and see people dance to it, in the clubs or wherever, that is particularly satisfying for me, that kind of music, and this is our version of that.”