I Don’t Know How To Do Nothing – Buck 65 via Email.

27 09 2009

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When I was sorting out my interviews for the festival, I thought I’d see if I could get one with Buck 65. He’s the headliner, but I thought “Hey, why not at least give it a try?” As I expected, I got word that he’d be too busy for an actual interview, but that if I wanted to email some questions he’d try and answer them. I did, thinking I’d get back a few sentences to use in my summary piece.

Instead, I got back a replyas long and in depth as anything I’d have sat down for.

Adrian Markle: By my count you’re nearing your twentieth release (including ep’s and side projects). That’s more than most career musicians do in their entire lives, and it’s been less than 15 years since your debut. You also have a full time(ish) job with the CBC. Talk to me about work ethic and what it means to you. After this long in the industry you don’t think you’ve earned the right to slow down a bit? Is there a reason you don’t?

DSC_0229Buck 65: I think there may be even more records than that! I had a super-prolific surge in the last year. Since I started the job at the CBC I released four albums (Dirtbike 1,2 and 3 and More Heart Than Brains) and wrote and recorded a fifth, which will be out early next year. Oh, there should be a DVD out next year too. We’re just putting the finishing touches on that now. I’ve never been the kind of person to “take it easy”. I never have spent time doing nothing. I sleep eight hours a night. Work at the CBC for about 6 hours a day. That leaves 10 hours out of the day to devote to Buck 65 stuff. No problem! I’ve tried to take time off before, but I can’t do it. I don’t know how to do nothing. I don’t understand the beach, for example. How do you go somewhere just to sit there?! I can’t do it!

AM: In keeping with never resting, you’ve just come out with your Bike For Three debut. What was it like working with someone you’ve never met? United Nations and The Sound of Animals Fighting have also recorded albums without being in the same place. Do you enjoy the freedom that allows, or do you miss having the person right there to bounce ideas off of?

B65: There’s something about working with a perfect stranger that creates an interesting creative situation. Joelle and I both agree it’s vital to Bike For Three. Wondering about something is what creativity is all about. It’s freedom, but in a box. I like that. It’s hard, but I like it.

AM: Do you know what you’re working on next?

B65: After the DVD and the next album, which I’m just finishing up, I’ll go to work on a new Bike For Three album. We already have two new songs done. I think I will also make another Dirtbike-style album to go along with the new album – release them on the same day. Maybe one for sale and one for free. I got a few other things here and there cooking. Collaborations and whatnot.

AM: You’ve had major label releases, but more and more regularly you’ve engaged in self-recording. Do you see yourself taking your experience and eventually doing what El-P does, recording half the time and producing the rest? Or do you think you’ll be staying in front of the mic and just producing your own work?

B65: I rarely get asked to produce for other people. When I do, it’s usually for films and not other musicians. I’d love to do more. Especially film stuff. I love making instrumental music. I always want to do more. I will rap forever though.

AM: You’ve got a good amount of experience in the festival scene. Do you prefer the big festival shows like at Coachella or Glastonbury where there are huge crowds that don’t always know you, or a smaller headlining show? What’s your favourite thing about playing a festival? Your least favourite? What’s your favourite show/venue that you’ve played?

B65: I like going to festivals as a fan. I like getting to see the other bands. But I think I’m probably more of a smallDSC_0238 venue kind of performer. I’m not good at dealing with drunken-ness (others, not my own) and festivals tend to be extra-drunken. Hard to pick a favourite show ever. I’ve had a few amazing festival experiences (despite what I just said). One Glastonbury experience really stands out. That same year I played a big one in France which I’ll never forget. A few summers ago I played a show in Albuquerque that was incredible… It’s hard. I’ve been performing half my life now. I’ve had lots of good nights and lots of crappy nights.

AM: Concept albums rarely sell. Neither does much music that you could accurately tack the prefix “prog” onto, yet you frequently go through the extra effort to put together releases that are more than just a collection of songs, most notably with SITUATION. What is it about that style of recording that keeps you coming back?

B65: Man, I don’t know. For the new album I’m just finishing now, I made a few rules for myself and one of them was “no concept!” It occurred to me the other day that people just want to relate to what they hear in songs. I’ve always been more interested in appealing to people’s imaginations or giving them something new to think about. That’s why I have to work a regular job now. Ha ha.

AM: One of most controversial points of your career was your Kerrang interview in ’04, which you’ve since said was a reaction to the reporter calling you a sell-out and a whore. Sell-out especially is a term thrown around a lot, despite its lack of clear meaning. What does it mean to you? Does money automatically come with compromise?

B65: I don’t think there’s any such thing as selling out anymore. Maybe ’04 was the last year when people still worried about “selling out”. That “journalist” had a problem with me being on a major label and having guitars in my songs. To me, selling out means giving up on art to do something just for the sake of making money. I’ve never done that. Even the idea of “writing singles” gives me the willies. But I’m a weirdo, I guess. I wouldn’t say that money and compromise go hand-in-hand. Maybe BIG money. But then again, look at Radiohead.

AM: You’ve been releasing more and more music for free online (dirty work, then dirtbike), like some other high profile artists recently have, though you also signed to a label for your last major release (situation). Which direction do you think things are heading? And if there’s a difference, where do you hope things are heading?

B65: People are trying to figure out where it’s heading right now. I have an idea and I think it will work. It’s big. It’s radical and it so simple, no one has thought of it. Maybe I’ll wait and just do it before I try to explain in publicly. But let’s just say that I believe that music has value and that I also really believe in the idea of the album. Some people have been saying that there’s going to be a strong return to the age of singles. I would hate that. Anyway, I’m not giving up.

Buck 65 plays tonight at 12:05 in Market Square, but be sure to get there early.

-Adrian Markle

Photography by Casey Bennett

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