The Buck 65 Amoeblog Interview

Posted by Billyjam, March 27, 2011 06:00am | Post a Comment

Canada's ever musically creative hip-hop artist Richard Terfry, who is best known by his stage name Buck 65 (the primary alias of the many that the artist employs), may be celebrating two decades of making music, but many of these 20 odd years were spent under the radar and beyond the glare of the mainstream where the prolific abstract hip-hop artist has been free to delve off into far off musical corners, away from the sometimes restrictive confines of what is often considered "hip-hop." Along the way the always innovative Buck 65 has built an impressive back-catalog of releases.

As well as being an extremely prolific recording artist, the ever active Buck 65 also hosts a radio show on Canada's national station, CBC. His current album, 20 Odd Years, released by Warnera few months ago, is perhaps the artist's most musically adventurous to date. This diverse, collaboration-heavy collection of songs ranges from unbridled b-boy flavor to lushly produced, ethereal-sounding productions. Since its release, the self-described "rap weirdo and international romantic" has been busy getting the word out via Twitter updates, interviews, and shows, including a series of dates at SXSW last week.

This week the Amoeblog caught up with the hella cool and always insightful & articulate MC and turntablist (and fan of Amoeba) to ask him about the last 20 odd years of his music career.

Amoeblog:  Your new album title, 20 Odd Years, is a reference to the two decades of time in your music career. From your perspective, how has that journey been?

Buck 65: My journey has been pretty great, all-in-all. Not everything has gone according to plan, but in Buck 65most cases, I think that's a good thing. You need to avoid a lot of pitfalls a traps to last 20 years. I think I may have wanted some things that I didn't get. But if I had've gotten them, they may have messed up my career. Know what I mean? Like, when I was younger, I probably would have been happy to be a flash-in-the-pan, big-thing-of-the-moment, flavor-of-the-month because that's exciting while it lasts. But I never caught on in that way. And it's a good thing because when that happens, you're usually discarded as quickly as you were embraced.

I've had lots of great moments that I'll remember as long as I live, but I had lots of down times, too. Some dark days. And I've had some bad luck with some of the people I've worked with. I regret that sometimes. But what can you do?

Amoeblog:  And do you plan on making music for the next 20 odd years? Or what else do you see yourself doing?

Buck 65: I made music for a long time before anyone noticed. And I'll probably end up making music no one cares about. I make music because I can't help it. So, I'll be doing this forever. I hope I never have to work a minimum wage job again, but who knows? I always wanted to be a pro baseball player, but at my age now, I think it's safe to say that dream is dead. It bums me out so much to say that.

Amoeblog: The new album also has many other different styles of music. Was it a conscious decision to have such a variety of sounds and was Warner supportive as a label?

Buck 65: Here's how it works for me: I get an idea for a song and I meditate on it for a long time. Months. Usually two, at least. And in that time I try to figure out what will be the right musical touches for the sentiment of the song. For example, the song "Paper Airplane" is about the early days of my relationship with my wife. It comes from a heartfelt place and there is a sadness associated with it, so I knew the music needed a gentle touch. So light drums, acoustic guitar and strings came to mind right away. Heavy reverb-y drums and distorted guitars would not have made any sense on a song like that. So rather than deciding, "I want to make a folk-y sounding song," I just let the song decide where it needs to go musically. I guess they call it 'following the muse' or whatever.  Warner has always been very supportive of whatever musical direction any given batch of material has taken. They've never interfered with me creatively at all. Thank goodness.

Amoeblog:  You have a few different ethereal-sounding female vocalists. Are they all Canadian artists? And what is it that attracts you to the blend of that smooth, dreamy type of female voice with your rap flow and production?

Buck 65: One of the singers -- Olivia Ruiz -- is from France. And in choosing vocalists, it works the exact same way I described making any other musical decision. It's just a matter of finding the right fit for the song. And luckily for me, I always had a talented friend I could go to who had the voice I was needing for any given song.

Amoeblog: I have a 7" single from All City in Dublin by you along with Ireland's DJ Flip under the name Dirk Thornton, which is one of your many aliases. Is the reason for these aliases contractual based or merely artistic, to give you more leeway as artist? And what other future alter egos might you have up your sleeve?

Buck 65: You hit the nail on the head. I like being able to wear different masks but I don't want to confuse anyone who listens to me. So I think it helps if I delineate things by using different names.

And for me, that extends to the overall sound (i.e. -- the production) and not just the subject matter. Flip produced the Dirk Thornton beats and I knew what we came up with together would be a bit different from the usual Buck 65 stuff, so I thought it best to give the project its own name.

Buck 65 "Zombie Delight" (2011 video from new album 20 Odd Years)

Amoeblog: With those rules whereby Canadian radio is required to play a certain percentage (20% or 30%?) of homegrown talent, what do you see as the advantages from both a radio programmer's and an artist's perspective?

Buck 65: It's actually 50% for my show. And when I started, it was something like 85%! The important thing is that I don't host the show as Buck 65. It's just me as Rich. And I don't program the music. So it's not so much "my show" per se. There are challenges in having to play so much Canadian stuff. But having said that, there's so much great Canadian music. And I think it's great that most of the music played on my show doesn't get support on radio otherwise. So it feels good knowing I'm really helping out people's careers.

Amoeblog: And would you say that it is thanks to this constant exposure to fellow Canadian artists that led you to including so many Canadian talents on your new album?

Buck 65: As I alluded to before, all the people I worked with on the album were already personal friends of mine. There is one exception -- a singer from Quebec named Marie-Pierre Arthur. She sings on a song called "Final Approach." She had the voice I was looking for on that song but I didn't know her personally and I became familiar with her by playing her on the radio, so I made some calls and tracked her down. We recorded the song and she had a baby later that day. I like to believe that that situation created some magic in that song. You can hear a lot of emotion in her voice.

  Buck 65 "Wicked and Weird" (from the 2003 album Talkin' Honky Blues)

Buck 65 "Dang!" (2008 video from the 2007 album Situation on Strange Famous)

Amoeblog: How were those shows at SXSW last week?

Buck 65: I performed with Jenn Grant. It was amazing. She is an unbelievable singer snd she took it to another level at the show. I also invited fellow Canadian rapper Shad to do a verse with me. That was fun. I asked Nick Thorburn to do "Gee Whiz" with me but he said he had stage fright and just watched from the crowd. My friend Marnie Herald sang all the other parts. She's my right-hand person for the live shows. We've done some recording together lately, too.

Amoeblog: As someone who listens to a lot of music, who are some of the new artists/releases you would recommend others track down?

Buck 65: Hmm. I mentioned Shad. He's an amazing rapper. The beats on his record are nice and he has a really good DJ. He's doing things right. Meaghan Smith is a great singer from Canada. We've done some work together and she's also done some really interesting things with Kid Koala. Look out for her. Those two come to mind right away. But most of the music I listen to is old stuff.

Amoeblog: Anything to add?

Buck 65: Plenty! First of all, whenever I go into Amoeba, I usually go looking for turntablist stuff. I'm such a junkie. It's just about all I listen to in terms of... I don't know... modern hip hop stuff. But when I talk to hip hop heads about what I'm listening to these days and I mention a bunch of DJs, they look at me like I have ten heads. I think it's too bad that the music has become so stratified.

Second, I figure this may be of interest to you or any DJ/scratch nerd-type -- on my song "Gee Whiz" a verse was written for the bridge part. And then individual samples for every word of the verse were found and cut in on turntables. I was kinda proud of that. I had heard DJs string sentences together, but as far as I know, this is the first case of a DJ verse like that. Have you heard that somewhere before?

And finally, just let me mention to anyone who might be interested that I'm very active on Twitter and I put a lot of thought into how I use it. And I post a lot of links to new songs on there -- my own stuff, so there are a lot of treats for anyone who chooses to follow me. I'm @buck65. Nice talking to you.

Relevant Tags

Interview (341), Hip-hop (217), Canada (15), Buck 65 (2), Meaghan Smith (1), Jenn Grant (1)