VOICEMAIL INTERVIEW WITH CALVIN LEE REEDERFEBRUARY THIRTEENTH, INSIDE THE YEAR OF OUR COMMON RESTLESSNESS, TWO THOUSAND TWENTY-ONE.
“Quit it! Quit it! Don’t turn everything I say into a dollar sign.”
“Oooo the plea for sanity dollar, huge! Huge market! Look at our research!” - Bill Hicks, “Marketing and Advertising”
What if you just started a new job in a new state and they made you go to these weekly meetings with all the other new people there and this had been goin’ on for a few months and Friday was your last big meeting, except it wasn’t really a meeting, it was sort of one of those reflection type deals with warm snacks and jeans?
And you’re runnin’ late, real late for this thing and you’d been late a lot of other times and people got upset. You’re goin’ like mad to make it there, but this meeting is in a new building and when you get there it’s like a goddamn maze and it’s twenty minutes past the start time. Finally, you find someone to help you out and they lead you to a door and they say that you need to put on this Hawaiian lei, that everyone inside will be wearing leis and to go in and take a seat. You open the door and there is a table set up with the warm snacks and a massive plastic storage bin full of Coronas on ice. Bob Marley’s greatest hits are playing and the room is filled with Hawaiian decorations and it’s fuckin’ empty. You’re all alone in there. You open a Corona, set down, then take in the scene. That’s when the fear begins to come on hard.
This is what happened to me. It fractured something deep inside and I can’t really pin it down but something in that room got a hold of me good. I don’t rattle easy. Most of my whole life is spent doing things that would make the Pope leak but for some reason that room had just the right mix to make me nervous and puny. It was like a tarp of confusion, anxiety, and shame that got staked over me and the reign of routine terror was bringin’ that fucker down and it was sucked tight close to my skin. I didn’t know why I was afraid, or of what, but it was there and it was real.
I entered some kind of unknown right inside that all tan multipurpose room and over there the person I thought myself to be longer existed. Once inside, in under a minute, I was wearing some shit I wouldn’t wear, drinking a beer I didn’t like and listening to music I didn’t want to hear. What happened? Where did I go? Who put me here? Why?
The everyday can become infested with an unease that turns the usual surreal and makes you realize that you never really have a hold on anything. With this in our heads, let’s get into the work of Calvin Lee Reeder.
“…us ramblers will get the job done.”- Townes Van Zandt, “High, Low And In Between”
Calvin Lee Reeder’s two feature films “The Oregonian ” and “The Rambler” take on a lot at one time, but both follow with persistence a central protagonist who roams a ruff psychological landscape wavering between the known and unknown. In both films, Reeder takes the main characters down a path of dread and they encounter jacked up mythical characters along the way. The ride is heavy and wild, and there are often times when madness and comedy become one big haze.
In “The Oregonian ”an unnamed woman emerges from a car wreck with amnesia. She wanders the back roads and through a series of spiraling phantasmagoric encounters, she undergoes a primal transformation of self. There is an immersive spirit in Reeder’s films, and we share the trajectory of his lone wolf figures. It’s all a big surprise, and it’s all bad, and somehow as it keeps goin’ we don’t really adapt, but we instead lean in and put it on.
Reeder’s work traverses genres without obligation. He sets up a series of situations that are bizarre and unidentifiable and the work rides on rejecting the straight read and opting instead to pound out its own primal sense of internal logic. There is a part in “The Oregonian ” where the main character enters a trailer filled with guys lounging around guzzlin’ gasoline pina coladas. One guy’s got blood squirtin’ out his dick, there is a giant frog monster and somehow they got a TV channel on where the main character is floating next to a big pixelated number three. In the midst of all this, one guy is singing a song and playing a guitar. For the past few years, I have been trying and thinking about how to integrate “the song” into film, not just as background or a complement but as “the thing” that has substantial weight and feels alive. Reeder’s pina colada situation does just this, in a real good way. It’s an active scene, our attention is jostled, but the song has an essential presence. That’s hard to pull off, and he does it.
Back up at the top, Hicks points out that everyone is lookin’ to know what your angle is, especially if you’re part of some industry or institution. If you're coming at it in your own way, it might be harder for them to deal with, but sometimes things just aren’t so clear-cut. I think we can all take something from Reeders characters who decide to get inside what’s been haunting them. When we just relax into the strange and lose it with the lei. When we get squirrely and we start to wander and hit it all – high, low and in between.
This experiment in the interview was carried out entirely through voicemail. I left Calvin a prompt and he responded when he felt it. I did it this way because I wanted to poke a bit at the feeling of being restless and what it’s like to make something, maybe something you don’t quite have a hold of. I also wanted to meddle with “the message system” and see what would happen. I peppered his audio responses throughout my reading of his work. If you stuck with us, you probably possess some spirit of the ramblers Calvin Lee Reeder puts on screen. Peace to you.
...taking an unknown thing to an unknown place for a known purpose. But sometimes we're lost in an unknown place for no known purpose. Jerry Jeff Walker