James Reich is the epitome of the 21st-century Renaissance man. Best known for being half of top-notch local post-punk band Venus Bogardus, Reich recently became a published novelist (I, Judas comes out in October) and is an adjunct literature professor at Santa Fe University of Art and Design. Reich also hosts the bimonthly No Wave/New Wave event at The Matador, a night of obscure punk and post-punk tunes handpicked to blow minds—not bad for an unassuming Brit living in the weirdness that is our fair city.
As Venus Bogardus recently emerged from a year-long hiatus, I thought it would be fun to subject Reich to a little word association.
Punk: Punk is liberation. More than other musical forms, it is open to experimental artists from other disciplines. People often underestimate how intelligent and thoughtful punk is. Lyrics and writing-wise, you have to be very self-reliant, and punk fosters that DIY spirit.
No Wave/New Wave: If my No Wave/New Wave nights are about anything, it’s about the continuity between the obscure, noisy origins of post-punk and its FM-radio-friendly conclusion. I want to help make people aware of some good bands that aren’t so mainstream. Plus, I needed the money and was willing to stay up late.
DJs: I don’t get DJ culture or the concept that we’re supposed to be excited about so-and-so ‘playing’ as if they’ve created something on an instrument. DJing is basically editing your record collection and putting it in proper sequence. I’m wary of the idea of DJs taking credit for other people’s music. If I play something at No Wave/New Wave and people like it, they like that specific record, not me or anything I did. It’s not that DJing and DJs aren’t fun; I just don’t believe in putting them on a pedestal.
Venus Bogardus: We hadn’t had a break in five years, and I think that anyone—any musician—that doesn’t think art and music is hard is lying to themselves. We have a completely new set of songs we’re still polishing, but because we don’t have a permanent drummer, it’s almost like we’re relearning to play. We’re using a drum machine for now, and honestly, I’m a little nervous about it, although we used a drum machine for our very first shows, so we do know what we’re doing.
Writing: My foremost ambition has always been writing, but I certainly don’t want to denigrate the idea of the band. Hannah [Levbarg] and I are both writers, so our music tends to be more lyrically dense in a way that most rock music isn’t. Ultimately, my writing and my band run parallel, and one informs the other.
Santa Fe’s music scene: The strength of our visual arts scene can give people misconceptions about the size and strength of our music [scene]. I don’t think it’s cruel to say Santa Fe doesn’t have an enormous or eclectic scene. The demographics don’t support the concept of an influential or widely varied go-to destination for music and musicians. It’s relatively easy for Santa Fe bands to travel, but I suppose there’s a gravity to playing the familiar—reliable friends, promoters that aren’t ruthless or venues you know.
There’s some great music here, but [Santa Fe musicians] can’t take it personally if every single show isn’t packed.
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