Q&A with Ricky Reed

If you think you don't know who Ricky Reed is, chances are you're probably wrong. In addition to being a part of the popular party act Wallpaper., Reed is the man behind Jason DeRulo smashes "Talk Dirty To Me" and "Wiggle." He's also an extremely chill dude with excellent taste: while talking with GoGoMix, Reed dropped some knowledge about auto-tune, his influences, some of his favorite hip hop albums, and a few more of his favorite things!

-Adam Downer

GGM: You have a hand in a ton of projects right now. You have your single with Lunch Money Lewis, “BILLS.” It’s got this really soulful vibe, which is a step away from your hits with Jason Derulo, and then you have an alternative sort of album coming out with Twenty One Pilots. Why is keeping that sort of diversity important to you?

RR: It’s interesting. I kinda grew up playing rock music, playing in bands and shit, and I guess with these decisions as far as what I work on, I never think of it in terms of “career decision” or something like that. I gravitate towards the shit that I like. My mom was playing me Parliament Funkadelic and Earth Wind and Fire and Tower of Power when I was little, so I love soul music. Then I got hip to Bomba Stereo, a Colombian band at Lollapalooza, so we took that on. It’s just playing what feels right to me.

GGM: A lot of people might know you from your hits with Jason Derulo ("Wiggle," "Talk Dirty"), and now Jason has you back on his next album. Did you go back into the studio looking to recreate the success you had with him, or is a different sort of flavor on the next album?

RR: You’re kinda screwed if you go into it thinking “I gotta get in there and repeat the success.” It’s crucial to get in the studio and just, whatever you’re feeling that day, whether that be a happy, sad, party state-of-mind, go with that. We were on tour together. Wallpaper. did three weeks with Derulo and we were working on songs. In the beginning, I was thinking a lot, sort of getting into that trap. As it went on, I started losing my mind a bit. Things were beginning to unravel, as they do on tours. You’re not as clean, you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re drinking like crazy, and once we got to the point where the madness started setting in, that’s when we started coming up with ideas for a new sound.

GGM: How is all your success influencing your work with Wallpaper.?

RR: To be honest, it’s freeing me even more from the idea that I have to do some kind of “thing,” you know? I don’t feel stressed like “I need to make a big song for myself!” or “I have to write hits!” If anything, success with other people has made me go “I can make a Brian Eno album. I can do anything!” (laughs). That’s liberating, and the music I’m making for Wallpaper. is the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

GGM: Your answer gives me a clue as to what I think you’re going to say about this next question: Wikipedia says you heavily use auto-tune to satirize lack of feeling in pop music. Is that a description you agree with?

RR: Fuck! Every time I do an interview, someone says “I read this in your bio…” and I’m like “God!” They’re from bios, like, seven years ago. So, I’m sorry, what is the question related to this outdated bio?

GGM: Well you’ve sort of answered it! You seem to disagree with that description, that it doesn’t fit you.

RR: Yeah, definitely. That was the way things started. I was using auto-tune before it was a household word, before T-Pain and Autotune the News. I was in school thinking “man, I can crank up this auto-tune. It reminds me of a Vocoder sound, like Zapp, but also very robotic.” The only thing that had auto-tune at that point was Cher’s “Believe.” I was like, “I’m gonna take over the world with this!” And then the first time I heard that E-40 song “U and That Booty” featuring T-Pain, I was like, “son of a bitch, here it comes…” (laughs) But yeah, needless to say, I don’t use it anymore, and I’m in a different headspace.

GGM: Who are some other artists you’re eager to work with?

RR: Ooo, I am eager to work with a bunch of folks right now. Definitely on the dream list is The Queen Bey and her husband. I’ve always wanted to work with Timberlake, Kanye. I’m a huge fan of Kanye. There’s definitely a lot of legacy artists that I feel make real art that’s challenging and can be scary. Kendrick’s another one. I really like him.

GGM: Have you heard To Pimp a Butterfly?

RR: Oh yeah, dude. It’s crazy. It’s so, so, so good.

GGM: You mentioned Kanye. A lot of people have different opinions on what the best era of Kanye is, what his best album is. I was wondering if you had an opinion on that.

RR: My favorite Kanye album is Dark Twisted Fantasy. To me, that’s a perfect album. It’s funny, because a lot of people geek on 808s and Heartbreak, and I could give a shit about that. For whatever reason, I don’t connect with that, but everything since then has made me really fall in love with his work. He’s a living legend.

GGM: What are some of your favorite pop songs that are out right now?

RR: That’s a good question… Let’s have a look. I’m a sucker for old school funk shit, so I was really pumped on Mark Ronson and Bruno’s song, as well as the record. I knew what they were doing as far as the lyrical moves, like all these references to classic funk stuff. When it first came out, I was like “Man, this might be too throwback-y, maybe too derivative,” but then on New Year’s Eve, I probably played it like twelve times, so it is what it is. It’s just great. As far as other pop things, I like outsiders. I like when outsiders creep into pop. That makes me happy. I thought Hozier’s thing was/is great. I love Sam Smith. It’s a really, really exciting time for pop music.

GGM: Can you identify a favorite album of all time?

RR: Probably Thriller. Thriller is kinda my producer bible, so to speak. It’s important to me. It’s the thing I learned on.

GGM: Favorite movies?

RR: Well, when I was little, I would’ve said Jurassic Park. I saw that ten times in the theater when it came out. That would be one. At this point, I’m a big Darren Aronofsky fan. The Wrestler and Black Swan were really important to me. I thought Interstellar was fuckin’ unbelievable. I really loved that.

GGM: Favorite TV shows?

RR: The Returned, the original French version. If you haven’t seen it yet, just trust a guy, and do it. The British Office too. And Game of Thrones for sure.  

GGM: Favorite Books?

RR: I like Cormac McCarthy a lot. The Road is obvious, but my favorite.

GGM: Is there a restaurant you’ve discovered that you’ll visit next time you’re in that city?

RR: Oh man, that’s a good one. There’s so many. Can we narrow it down?

GGM: How about New York?

RR: I love ABC Cocina. La Esquina is my spot in New York. I love that Belgian fry place, Pommes Frites.

GGM: That spot just burned down yesterday!

RR: Oh my god, really? Oh no! Fuck! That’s terrible, that was my spot.

GGM: Is there something you got by virtue of being a celebrity that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise?

RR: Hmmm… I’m trying to think of like a joke, like a “break the rules attitude” but I can’t make it work. I think honestly, I like gifts from fans, like fan art or letters. That’s the most valuable thing I can be given.

GGM: How about something you kinda splurged on when you started making money?

RR: Well I bought myself a Prius, which is so nerdy, but I was in a beat-up car for a long time, then a year and a half biking everywhere. But I’m not that dude who balls out. I also haven’t gotten that big check yet. Still workin’ on it!

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