Buck 65 conducted by Hugo Lunny  

Buck 65 Interview

January 2003

These are the transcripts of an interview with Buck 65. The interview was conducted by Hugo Lunny on January 23rd, 2003. Buck 65 is a well known "avant-guarde" Hip Hop artist from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Affiliated with everyone from Biz Markie to Anticon artists, Buck 65's material is eclectic and interesting to say the least. He recently released his first album on a major label entitled 'Square.'

MVRemix: Tell us a little about your background and your name...

Buck 65: My name is Rich and I was born in '72, which was a while ago - but it was a good year. Probably for any record digger digging for breaks, it's the best year. As a general rule of thumb, you look for records of '72 and you pretty much can't go wrong. But, that aside, I was born in Halifax, in an insane asylum...No I wasn't, but I grew up in a really small town of only a few hundred people, that's a key thing. So I grew up not having much to do. For most of my childhood I worked on digging a hole to China. Just in this area that I called "the pit" behind my house.

MVRemix: How successful was it?

Buck 65: I didn't get too far, I just kept hitting big seams of rock and it ended up being pretty crooked. Then there was climbing trees and just playing in a ditch. I discovered music at a pretty young age and had some key influential people in my life who kind of set me down my path. In particular, there was this man named Fud. Fud Green. In my town, being in a small town and in a rural place, people's idea of fun differs to what it is in other places. So, the main leisure activities among adults, well, people of all ages; 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 year old, 27 year old kids. Children of God, children of God are in their twenties. They liked the Bingo, they liked to go to the auction on the weekend, but most importantly they liked square dancing and stuff like that. The Ho-down or whatever they would call it, and Fud was the guy that did all of those things. He was the square-dance caller, which is a lot like rapping which will be important later for obvious reasons. He was like the guy who would call the Bingo. If there was any job in town that required a man being on a microphone it was him. Everyone looked up to Fud in this town because he was the only thing we had close to a local celebrity in there. There's something quite compelling about the guy calling the square dance. He's got the whole room in the palm of his hand; he's calling the shots. He had a pretty cool style and was popular with the ladies and stuff, so I of course really looked up to him and admired him. I wanted him to "show me the ropes" and what he knew, his techniques and secrets and stuff. He was a little bit of a struggling kind of cowboy-poet on the side. Anyway, his favourite possession in the world was his car; a 1965 Buick Riviera Grand Sport. GS. He always talked about the car and as we kind of developed in our friendship he noticed that a lot of the same words he used to describe the car, he was using to describe me and my style. So, we're talking about words like "reliable," "smooth," "hard working" with the delicate balance between "power" and "finesse." So it became a joke. I'd be practicing and doing my thing and he'd say "Just like a '65 Buick. Ol' '65 Buick, look at him work" you know? It stuck and he just began to refer to me as '65 Buick. So, the first time I was going to be a featured part of one of the square-dance shows (at this point it was a monthly thing, all the budget would allow). We kind of put out this thing in the local newsletter, it was called the "Hans Journal," just one page thing people would get in the mail. I grew up in Hans County, Nova Scotia. It said "Performing next Saturday: Fud Green with Buck 65." Instead of '65 Buick, they just got it wrong. Rather than go around and tell everyone it's supposed to be this or this I said, "Screw it!" and went with it. That was supposed to be a question with a quick and easy answer, but...

MVRemix: So basically you didn't want to go around being known as '65 Buick?

Buck 65: I just couldn't be bothered at that point to go around and, we're talking about hundreds of people that I would have had to set the record straight with. Dozens at least. I went with it, I mean I thought it sounds "cool" enough and '65 Buick; that's a fine car. A fine automobile! But I thought it would be a little embarrassing being named after a car or whatever, I thought "Hey that works out..." I wasn't too picky about it. I still have a place in my heart for the roots of where I came from and for that car. But every car that Buick made in '65 is worth checking out.

MVRemix: Do you have one?

Buck 65: I don't, and I want one. I've actually been looking a lot on the Internet in the past couple of weeks. There's a lot of dealers down in Florida and Louisiana, down south. They cater to that sort of thing, restoring old cars, and I've been pricing some. I know my dad is actually a fan. He had a '63 Riviera and he wants another one someday so, I'm not really thinking of myself first. I'm thinking of my dad. I'm gonna try and get one in the next few years if all goes well as a surprise for him. Go pick it up, drive it around the coast and maybe just spring it on him. Or something like that, but I'll enjoy it vicariously.

MVRemix: On a slightly different note, your old stuff is being released through Warner. How do the versions differ from their originals?

Buck 65: In just very subtle ways. Artwork; I kind of re-packaged everything in the form of the series that I called the "Language Arts." I thought that because this is kind of a continuing thing, we'll give it a kind of uniformed look. Also, it was re-mastered but other than that they're exactly the same.

MVRemix: Will any of your older material, as in much older material be released? Or will that remain where it is?

Buck 65: Well, I used the record "Weirdo Magnet" - originally and in its current format as a bit of an outlet for some of the older material. The album basically amounts to highlights of the early years. There's material that I did in high school on there and things from the eighties or whatever. But as far as some of the other records that came before "Language Arts" or "Game Tight," "Chin Music"...some of the other singles and so on. For that matter the Sebutones records, I'd kind of like something done with that. However, I kind of like the idea of having obscurities. These things out there that exist, maybe people know they exist and there's talk of their existence. But they don't know where to find them. They really have to dig hard and deep to find them. I've always enjoyed that sort of pursuit myself as a music collector. That's a real fun challenge, really rewarding. I'm kind of happy to keep some of them in obscurity. Just for the sake of the challenge. I did a couple of 7 inch singles which is an item that people fetishize over. This is really stupid, but I have a box at home filled with one of these 7 inches. It was done on clear red vinyl; extra reason to fetishize. I'd just sit there with this box like [comedically evil chuckle] "Hehehe, I've got this box. What would someone do for this?" But meanwhile I just put it back in the closet and just look at it. It's pretty dumb. Nevertheless, it's there. Maybe someday, someone will come along and burn it or ask me for it or something. I don't know, but, nevertheless there's a few things floating. Maybe like a couple hundred copies of so - I like that. I have a few records in my collection that I have in my collection that I had to look for for years. I, in the end, had to spend a lot of money for them because there's only a couple hundred copies of them. To me that's just so much more rewarding, especially if you're a fan than having it re-issued and you buy it for ten bucks anywhere.

MVRemix: Are you still able to release stuff on Metaforensics (Buck's record label)?

Buck 65: Um, well, there's a lot of details of my contract that I don't understand. I just leave the understanding of that to other people. I think I understand that that is possible and I noted that one thing we'd discussed was maybe keeping the label alive and using it as a thing to maybe release records by other people. I think as it stands, the Sebutones stuff is still on Metaforensics. The focus...lately I've just been so busy with all this other crap that I haven't had time to kind of look into these possibilities but its been in the back of my mind for a long time. For that matter, over Christmas I called up Sixtoo who I had this side project with (The Sebutones) and I said "Rob, lets schedule some time. Put some time aside and work on a new Sebutones record," and he said "Uh, I'll think about it." Haha, he doesn't have time for me anymore. He just got signed as well, to Ninja Tune I think which is good for him. So he's happy and I'm happy he's happy, but he has outgrown me now I think. Haha.

MVRemix: With regards to that, is there any Sebutones material which has been recorded but has yet to surface?

Buck 65: When I was getting "Weirdo Magnet" ready for its sort of re-release I thought "Let me kind of re-structure this album, do it again." Its original version was really scrappy and the sound quality was really terrible. So, I was just digging through all my boxes of kind of lost stuff or whatever and I found a lost Sebutones song there which I put on "Weirdo Magnet" and there are a couple of original things we did. Like an album called "Psoriasis." There are only a few hundred copies of that, I don't think many have heard the record but I still really love it. Our first 12 inch, "Sebutone Deaf" which was pressed in limited numbers; I still get asked all the time if that's gonna get re-issued. Now that was done on another label, run by another group of people so I don't even know where that stands or if anyone else has any intention of doing something with it but I would love to have some of that stuff see the light of day again. Really all of the Sebutones material. Even "50/50 Where It Counts," which I guess is the only record we did which a few people knew about. That's one of my pieces of work that I'm most proud of. That record really kind of got ruined; it went nowhere. I'd like to see that record in particular done justice at some point and I'd love to see it on vinyl as well. Thats kind of been like a priority for me in the last while. There are a few odd things here and there that I can remember we did that I don't even know where the master would be of it now. Lots of stuff that was only ever half finished. Lots of stuff written, which is kind of sad, but then again I did find a couple of verses that were intended for Sebutones songs that I put into that "Weirdo Magnet" album. "Weird Magnet" is kind of the garbage can of the collection I guess.

MVRemix: So tell me a little bit about Rich and Baseball.

Buck 65: I was eight years old, and in the house where I grew up we had a rec-room in the basement with sort of this yellow-orange Shag carpeting. I remember my Mom sitting on the couch. The sun was low, and the sky coming through the window in the basement door. You could sort of see that beam of sunlight coming through with all the dust in it and she said "Do you want to play Baseball this summer?" I said "No way Jose!" because I thought that hanging out with my friends, riding my bike, being a goof and playing in the dirt was way too important to me and I thought "I can't miss the time I'd spend playing with my friends playing this game." I'd never played it before or anything like that. I said "No" - I had no interest. But, later that afternoon I was approached by all my friends saying "Yeah, you gonna play Baseball?" so I found out that all they were going to play. So I ran back to my Mom and said "Yeah, make sure you sign me up!" It was a matter of weeks later, we had a team assembled for our first practice and it was just like with Frosty the Snowman, when they put that hat on his head. When I put that glove on something magical happened. I was good at it right away, having never really played before.

Something felt really right about it, so I went home that night after that first practice and wept. I thought "What does this mean?" It was really overwhelming, this feeling of something's happening to me. I'd gotten bit by a radioactive spider or something. Right then and there it was over. I had this kind of cosmic tap on my shoulder saying "You've found it! You've found it earlier than we all expected! [us Gods] But this is what you were put on earth to do!" I felt that way right from the start and I still feel that way. It still kills me that I know what I'm supposed to be doing and I'm not doing it. But, first year in the league I won the "Most Improved Player" award, then the next year I won the "Most Valuable Player" award and it continued to improve really quickly. I was really serious about it, I thought that this was what I wanted to do as a career and there's no "If's," "Ands" or "But's" about it.

But, here I was kind of stranded in Nova Scotia. No-one at that point gave a rats ass about Baseball. Scouts would kind of scour Central America and the States. Not much us at that point. Now, of course, it's a vastly different story. Baseball in Nova Scotia is a well formed organization unfortunately for me. But, there was a Baseball school that took place every year in the valley in Nova Scotia, in a town called Kenfolk. They would bring up some instructors from the US and even some scouts to see what was what. I thought "This is it!" I have to go there and light that sucker on fire. Except for the first couple of years that I went I had little injuries that held me back from performing to my peak potential, as I saw it anyway.

The one year I finally went when I was healthy, there was no stopping me. I was really focused, more so than I've ever been at any other time in my life. So, I just went at it as hard as I possibly could and at the end of the week this guy who worked for the Yankee's. He approached me and asked me if I was interested in going and playing college Baseball and maybe making a career out of this. I just said "Of course." I didn't even get excited about it. It was kind of like - "It's about time you asked!" It was part of the plan as far as I was concerned. But I was sixteen years old and I had a year of High School left to go. So he said "You're gonna finish High School, then you're gonna come play for me." Because in addition to working for the Yankee's organization, he was the manager of a college team in Ohio.

Halfway through my last year of High School, I got a telephone call from a friend saying "Stan took a heart attack..." [Stan was my scout] Then I hurt my knee really badly and a few other factors happened, basically it de-railed that entire plan. At the same time, these weird things started to happen for me for music in my life. It as taking on this completely different direction, but, it has been hard on the head because I miss it so bad. Every year I've been like "Jesus, I've got to be playing Baseball this summer." But something's always taking me away. I still think about it all the time. I finally did play competitively last summer again for the first time in years.

Realistically I'm probably too old now, but I'm not a very realistic person. I can't really let go of that dream at all because it was there in me solid since I was eight. I've been reading a lot of Jean Paul Sart and he says that there's a lot of significance to the eighth year of your life. I don't know fully what he based that on but he believes that that's the year where what happens in your life...a lot of your influences from that time will stay with you for the rest of your life. In that year a lot of people find their interests that they'll carry with them throughout their life or whatever and I can't help but agree with that because it certainly happened to me. I just believe it's ingrained in me somehow, I'm sure it'll never go away. I'm still very passionate about it, I still keep in shape. I just can't stand to see my skills slide, if that happened I just think I wouldn't be able to live with myself so I still exercise - even if it's just by myself, that's how it is.

That's how it was the whole time growing up. Me, in the back yard throwing a ball against the foundation of my house. I'm still kind of doing the same thing. I was throwing rolled up socks around the hotel room before you got here, turning some double plays, haha. People still ask once in a while "If you could choose magically between music and Baseball..." What would be a simple, simple answer for me would be "Baseball."

MVRemix: You went on a bit about reality and how Baseball would kind of be a fantasy at the moment. Now, a thing which I read that you're very passionate about are David Lynch films.

Buck 65: Yeah. See that box there under the CD's [Buck points to a box beneath a pile of CD's atop the Hotel's bedside table] - that's my collection of the short films of David Lynch. I just bought it.

MVRemix: David Lynch. My passion is screenwriting, that's what I want to end up doing. Now I like some of his stuff, but explain to me what the hell the premise of "Mulholland Drive" was all about.

Buck 65: Well, there are some fundamental things which I guess would be required of being an audience to any David Lynch work. It's not your perogative to choose to understand that, you can just say "I don't want to do it." And decide that you're gonna hate it. But, with that film, and certainly with "Lost Highway" and "Eraserhead," you've got to basically let go of everything. An important fact about his background is that before he got involved in film he was an abstract impressionist painter and I think he definitely applies some of the same kind of thought to film. He just wants to create some sort of atmosphere or mood. I don't think he's concerned with a story or with rules or whatever else. I know that dreaming is a big thing for his creative process. I've heard him describe a few times that he likes to go into this state where he sort of will sit in a quiet place, relax, close his eyes and allow himself to drift towards sleep but not quite get there. You're kind of in that inbetween place where you can still kind of think in a semi-lucid way. You think about what you want to think about but then your mind kind of begins to do these strange, strange things. I really enjoy that myself. I don't necessarily always use it to write. That's where he's coming from. He'll just sort of see these things. In dreams for example, things will just take a left turn that makes no sense really and I think there's a lot of that at work in all his films. But with "Mulholland Drive," one thing to think about if you ever choose to go back is it's a film about film, actors and the industry. One theory that I think is valid is that there is a film within the film. I mean often if you hear interviews with the guy, he's like "Don't go looking for a purpose" - there probably isn't one there. I understand how that's kind of unsettling for people. There are lots, the majority of people who'll figure that's rubbish and don't want to waste their time with that or whatever. But I'm fine with that, if you take a look at a film like "Gummo" that Harmony Kareem did. He said "A lot of times when people make a film, they kind of start with this one great scene that they have in mind and they just kind of build a film around it" but in the end, that's still kind of the pivitol scene. That's kind of the big moment and lots of films have these interesting moments with kind of a space and fill inbetween. It's like "Screw that! I'll just make a bunch of interesting scenes without any of the stuff inbetween." Frankly, when I hear that I think "Yeah, what's wrong with that?" People who inspire me with their creative approach to art. People like David Lynch or Harmony Kareem or for that matter, Vivienne Westwood, the fashion designer. John Galliano, it's like "Screw convention, who says it has to be this way? Lets allow ourselves to dream...go a little further" and I'm all for that. I think it's pretty obvious on my records that I'm kind of challenging convention.

MVRemix: Is being on a major label such as Warner, a better or worse thing than going at it independently - why?

Buck 65: Believe me, I weigh all available options and potential choices of direction before I got into this. I put ten years of independent work under my belt before that. It got to the point where I certainly felt that it was for the better. Ask me again in a year and we'll see. But the independent route, even though on paper it seems like a great and wonderful idea. It's riddled with pitfalls. Independent distribution in North America is a mess. That, coupled with a few other things was really beginning to frustrate me. All I've ever wanted to do is make a record, then let people know that this record has been made and if anyone's interested - for it to be a simple matter for them to go get it. That's all, all I want! I'm not interested in money...photographs being taken, all that business. I just want to make a record and make it easily available to people. Here [Warner] was like the best opportunity to do that. It was really as simple as that for me. It may be over-simplifying it a little, but Warner came to me rather than me going to them and just saying "What can we do to help out with this good thing you've got going here?" Then I'm like "Well, this, this and this..." I got a really good contract, because I have a really good lawyer. No compromise at all. I think a lot of people were probably a little worried like "Oh shit, now he's on a major label. Here it goes...straight down the tubes." Then "Square" [Buck's latest record] comes out and it's weirder than ever. That's the first thing I see on so many reviews "What the hell is Warner thinking??? Look at this record, what the hell is it?" That makes me feel really good for myself and for Warner and everyone else who was having expectations about such a thing. Lately we've been talking about things like what I want to do with my website and other creative ideas. I'm free to do my thing and they just allow me to do it, but not only that but to do it right. Whereas in the past it was kind of like "Yeah, I should really try to do something to market this record in some small way. Maybe buy an ad somewhere." You scrape and just have a tiny budget. Now whatever idea I have I can just get it done without worrying.

MVRemix: Will there be any singles/video's released from 'Square'?

Buck 65: Yep, yep. Both are in the works right now. There's a single again in the form of a seven inch which I think is being pressed as we speak. That should materialize in a couple of weeks and a video for the A-side of that single which is this piece which we've been referring to as "Phil." In the first segment, I guess if you will, of "Square" it has this odd time signature built around an acoustic guitar. "Twenty some years is a long walk even if it's not in a straight line." That's gonna function as a single.

MVRemix: What's the situation with your living in France? I'd heard that you'd properly moved there, and I'd heard that you'd just spent time there. What is the exact situation?

Buck 65: I was living there for half a year and then I had to come back to Canada for a couple of reasons. 1. Legally; without the proper paperwork, visa's and all that stuff. You can only properly live there for half a year at a time. So there's that as a factor and then b) I just have tonnes to do right now. I'm basically touring right through May. I thought that it wouldn't make much sense me paying rent in a place that I'm not going to be in at all. Maybe a few days out of the next several months. So I gave up my apartment, but it's my intention - and I've already spoken to people...the woman who owns my apartment...about getting it back. I only have to choose whether I do that in the spring. Or, I'm thinking really seriously about staying in Canada for the summer to play Baseball. But, it's my intention to go back. I really love it there a lot. For now I'm just drifting, haha.

MVRemix: Do you have any plans to produce for any outside acts?

Buck 65: Well, I'm certainly not opposed to the idea. The offer hasn't been raised much. I just got offered to produce a song for Prince Poetry from Organized Konfusion. So that will potentially be a first step towards that. I'm definitely interested in it, it's just no one ever asks. Although granted, making music is often a super-personal thing for me. So sometimes I find it really difficult to work with others. I find I really need to relate to a person on a personal and kind of emotional level for it to work and for the result to be something I feel good about.

But I think it's a little easier to do that when it's a matter of just producing for someone else. Maybe they'll do something with it that I didn't intend, but I can live with that a little more than trying to make my writing work. It's more of an issue with me with writing than it would be with producing.

I'm all for it, I just haven't had much interest yet.

MVRemix: Aside from the release of 'Square,' and the fact that you're touring is there anything musically that you're working on at the moment that has yet...

Buck 65: [interrupting] Oh yeah. I've got the next album done, its been done for a little while. I shouldn't say, "Done" done. It hasn't been mastered and the artwork worked out or anything like that but the music, the songs are recorded and then towards another album on top of that I have ten songs written that I've written since Christmas. And, right in the Summer time before I left for France I recorded an album with DJ Signify from the 1200 Hobo's and Sage Francis. The three of us got together. So as usual, I'm sitting on a ton of material.

The record with Signify and Sage Francis is called "Sleep No More" and we're just looking for a label. I'm hoping to get that out really soon. We were talking to Warp in the UK. They were interested, but, in the end it didn't work out and they made some comments that I think were really devastating to DJ Signify. So he's just kind of shopping that around right now.

My next record is called "The Talking Honkey Blues" and I'm hoping to have that out by the summer. Then we're also (when I say we I basically mean myself and all the people around me, be it label people, management or whatever else) talking of releasing two records this year. One, releasing it properly out into the stores and then setting up this thing. We haven't though it all the way through, but, kind of releasing a record piece by piece over the course of the months over the internet for free. After the end of a certain amount of time, suddenly there will be an album. We're still trying to figure that out, but maybe after it's all out there take that material and put it onto a CD.

I really built most of what I have now in many ways through the Internet. Met lots of people and friends, people who're interested in what I'm trying to do. So, it's a real important tool for me. I really want to feed that. Over the last year I've been kind of letting new songs just slip out there that I don't intend to release on record. Just to keep some new music floating.

Long story short. I'm thinking of releasing two records at the same time, just in different forms. This "Talking Honkey Blues" record, like I said, maybe with these 10, I'll record a couple more and just release it bit by bit over the internet. I was thinking about setting up this thing and putting out a song a month for anyone that wants to sign up for it or something like that.

MVRemix: If there's anything you'd like to say to your fans or potential fans that are going to be reading this, what would it be?

Buck 65: The main thing that I always want to get across to people is...if you've managed to keep your head out of your ass thus far in your life. Good job! Just make sure to keep checking from time to time that it hasn't slipped up inside there. Haha, because it has a way of happening.

A good way that you could check on that or prevent that sort of thing from happening would be to go out and check out some Johnny Cash records. Or some Carter Family records, or some Sonics, maybe some Bubble Puppy. Haha, or go dig up "The Heart Of The Congo's" album by The Congo's. Or listen to the Ethiopians or something like that.

What I'm getting at is enriching yourself musically, if that's your bag. Or with whatever else your interests may be. It's just no matter what; it's healthy and good.

So if you like to rent movies; why don't you explore the "Nouvelle Vague." Or if you like to eat three square meals a day, why don't you go try Ethiopian food if you haven't already. That seems obvious to a lot of people but I mean I know my sisters for example buy those hit compilation albums and eat at MacDonalds and that's about it.

I think that if people share the things they're passionate about and interested in as opposed to hording them, that people have a habit of doing sometimes, it's gonna make the world a better and more lubricated place.

So, share.

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