Buck 65: Interview
Bring on the Major Leagues

After the recent success of his new album Talkin' Honky Blues, Buck 65,
a.k.a. Rich Tefry, takes a
moment during his busy Canadian leg of his tour to speak about his new album,
his love for baseball
, and the fear of cheese. Here's
a look at Buck 65, a man so talented that after one meeting with him, your own
life becomes a little ‘Rich'er.

Tiny Mix Tapes:
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music?

Buck 65: Well, I grew up in a really small town
where there's a post office and that's about it. It was a dirt road that I grew
up on and it was basically surrounded by folk music. It was kind of in the air,
I don't know where I learned it (music)
, but I
remember running around the woods with my friends singing these folks song as a
kid. There weren't a whole lot of kids my age
, and
there certainly wasn't any hip-hop music around. I just grew up playing in the
dirt and trees, riding my bike and playing baseball. Take all of those things
into consideration that says a lot about my music as well. I do like to talk
about my childhood and where I come from a lot
, and
obviously I'm making what you loosely define as hip-hop music
, but folk music and country music is a big influence,
and I just try to be really honest about who I am and where I come from
.
And I make no bones about the fact that I'm not a kid
anymore. I'm in my 30s
, and I'm a white guy, all that
kind of stuff. Hip-hop music in particular hasn't been the friendliest place for
people over 30. It's largely teenage music in a kind of way but I certainly take
that on as a challenge to try to do what I can to refine it a little bit or
allow it to age and mature. So that's where I'm at.


Tiny Mix Tapes:
Taking that into consideration, how the feedback been about your new album Talkin' Honky Blues?

Buck 65:
It's been almost entirely
really positive. The reviews are really good. I didn't know what to expect and
I'm certainly happy that they've been good
, but I know
that the album has surprised some people because it is different from my old
albums. Like it or not, there's people out there that expect me or hope that I
would make the same album over and over again for the rest of my life. I can
understand that because I know that I want The White Stripes and Portishead and
some other bands like that I like to keep making the same album over and over
again as well. I just have to keep challenging myself and keep moving forward. I
really want to take my effort seriously as a musician, not just as a hip-hop
artist. So I've been thinking a lot lately about theory and educating myself on
classical music, melody
, and writing songs and music.
I'm aware that I may lose some people along the way. I get a little bit of
strange reactions from some people
, but all in all
it's been really positive.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

And based on that difference, how different were
the recording sessions for this album?

Buck 65:
They were very different
because about everything I had done in the past I had done in my bedroom by
myself. This album was recorded in a studio, nothing to
o
incredibly fancy but passed as a proper studio. With other people around, I
worked with some other guys that built this album a little bit more from the
ground up with member of my band. Like I said, I wrote a lot of this music for
the first time instead of relying on sampling and borrowing other people
's
ideas. I worked on it for a year. The max in the past was two weeks for the most
I'd ever worked on an album before
, and there's a lot
of attention to detail on the album, which is key. It was also mastered at one
of the best mastering facility in the world so sonically, it sounds
incredible. It sounds very wide and heavy. I don't think it really qualified as
lo-fi anymore
, whatsoever; so that's a big difference, too.

"People
are willing to accept something that doesn't follow the obvious formula.
"


Tiny Mix Tapes:

And do you think the move to Warner music was a
big influence on that?

Buck 65: Well I certainly wouldn't have
been able to afford to go to the top mastering facility in the world without a
few extra bucks to go around
, but all in all as far as
the creative process goes, nothing changed.  Any differences you may see were
completely just motivated by me getting older and sinking myself deeper in folk
music and stuff like that.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

Regarding the re-releases of your older material
on Warner, how has been the response regarding those?

Buck 65:
Really good because I mean…


Tiny Mix Tapes:

Are you catching new fans that you might have
missed in the first round?

Buck 65:
I think I am.  And those albums
were always really hard to get in the past and had very limited manufacturing
and distribution. It
's satisfying to me to see new
life breathed into those albums and the response is good. I know a lot of people
are excited about the fact that they are made available again and all that good
kind of stuff. We've been able to sell them at a really good price and having
repacked them, the whole language arts series, having a nice uniform look and
everything makes a nice satisfying look. The response has been really good and
that's a lot of work that I'm really proud of
, so I'm
glad to get the change to get it out there a little bit more.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

Regarding those older albums, which one do your look back on and say ‘this is
my favourite' of mine?  My ultimate Buck 65 album at my peak?

Buck 65:
I do think that the new album is my crowning achievement so
far just because I pushed myself so much further
, but
my sentimental favourite has always been Vertex. I really love all my
records, even the one's that came before the Language Arts series. A lot
of people despise their old work
, but I love it all.

Vertex just captured some kind of energy, which is a great thing if a
record can do that. It's really difficult to do. You just got to get lucky with
that I suppose. That's an album that I worked on under frantic circumstances. I
just kind of burned on a straight 48 hours mission and that's a big part of what
I was able to do with that record. So yeah, it's my baby in a lot of ways.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

A lot of people think of that one as one of your
crowning achievements as well?

Buck 65:
Yeah
, I'm starting to hear the word like ‘classic' in
relations to that record, which is great. I think that when that album came out,
not many people had heard anything quite like that before and since then I've
really established kind of what I do as ‘my thing'. I even see influences of it
on other things here and there, which is kind of interesting. All of that is
real flattering for sure.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

Switching albums, Square seemed to be your
transition into the limelight.  What do you think made Square so accessible
compared to your previous work?

Buck 65:
I don't know because I think
Square
was just as weird or weirder then anything else, like the four
fifteen minute pieces and whatever else. I can't explain it really
, but I think it rode off of a lot of momentum from Man Overboard because
Man Overboard did so well critically and a lot of people were curious
about me and what I might do next and they gravitated towards the record. Man,
that's a weird record so I don't even really know.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

Square was nominated for a Juno (Canadian Grammy),
how do you feel about that?

Buck 65: I
was really surprised. I didn't expect anything like that or do I have any
expectation for anything like that with any of my stuff I do. I can't explain it
, but I'm certainly proud of the work and I can easily talk myself into believing
that it really deserves it. It's nice to be recognized. Admittedly, it's a
challenging record
; it's different from the other
stuff out there so it makes me feel good in an ‘outside looking in'
kind
of way to see that people are willing to try out something different right now
and take some chances. To me, it restores your faith in humanity a little bit.
People are willing to accept something that doesn't follow the obvious formula.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

I got to catch your live show at the NAC.  The
concept of the live band really blew me away.  Is this a permanent move to the
live band concept?

Buck 65:
Yes and no. I still haven't built it to the point where I can afford to have the
live band on all the time. I'd like to get to the point where I can afford
having them around whenever I like
, but like many
other singer-songwriter type, sometimes they play solo and sometimes they play
with a band
, and that's how it will be for me,
too. I love playing on my own as well and makes for a different experience and a
different show altogether. Some nights I'll do a set by myself or with the band
,
and it's nice to have them there and it brings in a whole new dynamic to what
I'm doing. It's interesting, great
, and fun to me to
reinterpret songs and do a different version of them and so on. It's always a
really cool feeling
, too. What interesting is even
people who are familiar with the material see it interpreted in a new way and
see a band pull it off. I got some pretty great musicians in my band. I found
with my personal experience is that with hip-hop, when you get yourself in a
live band situation, it tends to be pretty cheesy at some times, but my band is
not cheesy
; in fact, my band
hates cheese. In fact, there's one guy in my band who's afraid of cheese
(laugh). Has never eaten cheese (laugh). So I've got some guys that are really
tapped into what I like and my aesthetics and like the dark side. It's nice.

"Sometimes
I feel like I'd give anything to get out and play catch with somebody
."


Tiny Mix Tapes:

What's your favourite song to perform live?

Buck 65:
There is a lot to choose from. 
I guess I have to say to this point that I've got to go back to “Pants on Fire”
from Man Overboard because that song caught on and a lot of people know
that song.  There was a video for it, which helped it get out there but there's
a chorus that you can sing along to and invariably almost every night we perform
that song, it turns into a sing-along.  It's nice to see that response from the
crowd and it illicit a strong response because you get that level of
participation without even asking for it and that's a real satisfying feeling.


Tiny Mix Tapes:
Very
crowd pleasing when you perform it
.

Buck 65:
Yeah, which is nice but it's
also a strongly emotionally driven song so it kind of draws out a good
performance out of me as well. I have fun with it.


Tiny Mix Tapes:
Are you still living in France?

Buck 65:
Technically, I don't live
anywhere. I still more in France then anywhere else in the world but right now,
I have no fixed address. I'm just kind of on the road permanently.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

Living in France, How much of an influence did
that have on your writing and your songs?

Buck 65:
It had a big affect on me like
it would anyone in my position. I lived in the same place for 30 years, uprooted
myself and planted myself in a place drastically different from where I come
from so change gives people ideas and inspired them, or freaks them out
;

anyways, it gives you something. Paris in particular is such a beautiful and
inspiring place that again, it would do it to anyone. Look at the legacy that
it's left. Artists have been flocking to Paris as long as there's been art. It's
been a big influence but also gave me new perspectives on where I come from,
too
, and is inspiring in its own, almost ironic way. I
wrote most of the new record in Paris but a lot of time was spent reminiscing
about my old hometown.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

Are you involved in any current side projects with
anyone?  Are you collaborating for the future?

Buck 65:
Yeah, I've got a handful of
things in the works. There's a hip-hop group from the UK, Bristol, called
Aspects, and I'm about to do some recording with them and there down with
Portishead, at Portishead's studio that I'm going into to do the work. I
recently recorded an album with DJ Signify and Sage Francis that will be out
soon on the Lex label. There's talk of all sorts of things and a whole bunch of
stuff in the works
, but until its done or confirmed, I
shouldn't say too much
. But what's exciting to me is
that I'm looking at doing some collaborative work outside the realm of hip-hop
that I think could be really, really interesting. Something to watch out for. 


Tiny Mix Tapes:

I wasn't gonna ask you about this but, baseball,
you miss it?

Buck 65: Yeah, I miss it bad. Last year when I
was recording the album, I was in one place for a long time so I actually got to
play. But this year, being in Europe most of the time and travelling so much,
it's become impossible, so I just haven't played in a long time. It's even hard
to follow what's going on in the major leagues when you're always travelling in
Europe in particular.  You don't get any coverage on television or anything like
that, so the best you can do is get the International Herald Tribute which has a
few box scores sometimes or go to the major league baseball website and get your
updates. But you're not getting any highlights so you check the standings. It's
heartbreaking. Not only do I miss following what's going on but just to play
.
Sometimes I feel like I'd give anything to get out and play
catch with somebody
.


Tiny Mix Tapes:
Is your baseball passion converting to your music
passion?

Buck 65:
Baseball inspires my music a
lot and it's always entered in it in one way or another. If you look at the new
album, the first song on there is called
"Leftfielder."
There's a song on there called
"463,"
which is about a double play, second baseman to short to first base. There's
reference to just different things all over the place. Actually, I can tie in
something in regard to your last question, I did a song recently with a producer
in L.A. called OD, who's best known for putting together the Beneath The
Surface
compilation a few years ago with a lot of the Project Blowed type
people. So I made a contribution to his new album, which is out on Mush and it
was selected as the single from the album and the song on there is about living
in Paris and missing baseball. It's another baseball song.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

Who's your favourite baseball player?

Buck 65:
Ted Williams. When I was a kid
as far as active players because he was retired before I was born, I grew up
idolizing Gary Carter who was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame recently.


Tiny Mix Tapes:
Were you an Expos fan?

Buck 65:
Yeah I was. Being a kid in
Canada, you just can't help it. But Ted Williams is my idol.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

I heard The Hockey Song you did, was it recorded
live or is it an actual studio song?

Buck 65: I was never recorded. It was
just done live on television during the NHL awards. I wrote it at the end of the
season but I had to hold out finishing it until the Stanley Cup was decided and
then the awards were just a few days later. And then I had to make changes the
day of the awards after getting the thing nick-picked over by people from the
NHL, the TV stations and all that stuff. It was pretty much done by the seat of
my pants the day of and done live with no opportunities to mess up. I pretty
much nailed it and was a lot of fun to do.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

Are you passionate about hockey as well?

Buck 65:
I'm generally a big sports fan
and I pretty much follow anything. I'm not as big into hockey as I an baseball.
When I was a kid I actually liked hockey before I liked baseball. I was really
passionate as a kid and I thought I wanted to go out as a hockey player like a
lot of Canadian kids. I follow it as closely about as closely as I follow
everything else. Just as a sports fan.

Tiny Mix Tapes:
I hear you're also a fan of David Lynch films. Can
you elaborate?

Buck 65:
He's one of the few artists out
there that can basically do no wrong in my eyes. He's the money in the bank, if
you will. His vision and his sense of humour and the things he seems to be
attracted to just line up perfectly with all my interests as well. I was just
instantly drawn to him upon my first exposure and I have all his films in my
collection and he inspires a lot of my music. I had a real interesting
opportunity lately where I was given permission to do a performance in London
where I did a live score to the Eraserhead film. That was one of the most
challenging things I'd ever done but really satisfying and rewarding. It went
off without a hitch and it was so much fun and I wanted to be as true to the
spirit of the original film as possible and do something that David Lynch
wouldn't hate. He's another guy that I would love to meet and talk to, ask
questions someday. Haven't met him yet. I've tried to send him some music and I
don't know if it's gotten into his hands or not. He's one of my number one
influences for sure.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

If you could make your ultimate mix tape, what
would be the first song you would choose?

Buck 65: Like what would be the opening
track?..
.


Tiny Mix Tapes:

Opening track on “I'm listening to this mixtape to
inspire me”?

Buck 65: It would probably be a song and it can
be any song from an album The N.S.V.I.P.s by Lee Hazelwood because it
starts with him telling a story. It's a nice kin
d of
spoken word intro that set a tone and then he goes into these spooky, weird
little blues songs. That album I listen to almost everyday. It's just one of my
favourites. It just sets the tone nicely. Lately, when I've been making mixtapes
or doing mixes on radio
, I'll often start with a
selection from that album. And like I said, honestly, pick anything from that
album and it would pretty much do the trick. It's a pretty obscure album; good
luck finding it. But it's a good one.