BUCK 65 - Interview
It's springtime, and coincidentally enough, the weather is spring like. Which is therefore perfect timing to meet the one who had the huge honor of appearing with Man Overboard among the very best LPs of last year in hiphopsection's annual poll , and who happens to be the man behind a real hiphop gem , namely Vertex.
Mr Richard Tefry does everything himself: beats, scratches, mcing, mix and mastering, but he also answers interviews in parcs, including the parc of Bercy, where we find ourselves in order to share our views on a world in constant evolution that hasn't showed the last of its surprises yet. One of those surprises being, for example, Buck moving to France for a few months. Two reasons to this: first of all, a personal one, so that he can be with Miss Buck, who will have to spend some time in Paris for her studies. But also for professional reasons, as it might bring him something more stimulating artistically compared to staying in Halifax all day (with all due respect to Halifax). This is where we learn that it is his new label (no need asking, we don't have the name yet) that took the decision for him. "It's the label that will pay for everything. It should help me develop artistically. I'll be here to work, make concerts, write, maybe even buy a bike or something like that", he admits joyfully.
When we ask him what he's been up to the last couple of years, which corresponds to the last interview made for hiphopsection, he unravels a mystery that we didn't dare ask about, fearing the consequences. " I age faster than the average man, and if we spoke 2 years ago, this means that I've probably aged 10 years since. I am now 18." All those who claim he is too old can now stop talking. He also says he's acquired a certain maturity, and he doesn't necessarily believe what he used to say in his lyrics earlier in his career. "I concentrate on other things, on details rather than on the global aspect of life". Not only has he taken time to mature, but also to perfect his new LP, Square, to be released shortly.
He admits that the formula hasn't changed : always that priority to build the album like a mixtape, careful with the transitions between each track, and attentive to the unity of his project.
With the fluidity of it all, you don't even realize all the different switch ups that appear in the album, and I think I've discovered many new influences. Since last time we spoke, I've become a great fan of Tom Waits, and I know I'm losing all credibility there, but also bands like Simon and Garfunkel, that type of things.
There's a track about Kiss on his next album.
To make up for this, he's perfected his writing, and coming up with songs is now simpler for him, he doesn't need to grind them out:
I used to spend lots of time thinking of concepts and ideas. I used different personalities, which I do a lot less now. Inspiration comes way easier.
He then modestly talks about the climate surrounding the recording of Man Overboard, without ever mentioning anything openly, making us understand that it was emotionally a difficult time in his life, but also personally, for material reasons linked to money. Since we've now become very close friends, we even learn that his girlfriends were'nt especially the nicest people he's ever met.
I'm a way happier person now. Some people say that better things come out when you're depressed, but I'm not one of those people. And all those who listened to Square really liked it a lot, including Dj Signify, which means much more than any other input. For him, Square is his favorite, and he really liked Vertex and Man Overboard.
Plus, for once, Buck let someone else add a beat to his album. Dj Signify co produces a few tracks :
I've always been against having someone else on my album. But his beats really sound like something I could've done, and I didn't have any problem working with him.
But it's somewhat of an exception. He's still very attached to that aspect of his work, just like a Vincent Gallo for example (Buck's example).
I feel that always relying on someone else is very stressful.
And let's not forget that it's one of those things that differentiate Buck from the masses, a marketing argument and that might as well be source for pride. And when we look at the results, we avoid giving him any advice.
Follows a passionate discussion about producing methods and the gear he uses. I'll pass the details, but in short, we learn that he uses an SP1200, that forces him to fight with himself to use best as he can the 10 seconds of sampling imparted: "it forces me to be more creative, it brings me a certain challenge and also a distinctive sound", a 4 track that is still working thanks to some kind of miracle, turntables that are incredibly common and a Shure SM58 mic. Probably influenced by Sixtoo, he is now getting closely interested in what technology allows. He discovered the joys of high end mics during a studio session, but also, and that's a real new thing, live instruments:
I still prefer samples, that give that human touch that synth will never have, and it's also the very soul of hip hop, but a few touches of live instruments here and there can be good.
He is not yet ready to go digital - one step at a time - and still prefers to record on cassette:
But I'll be investing in new gear soon. A very good pre amp, a compressor, a very good mic, maybe a Neumann or an AKG, and also a new sampler, probably the new E Mu". But this doesn't mean he intends to get rid of his SP"No, I'll be keeping the SP, I just want my music to sound better. But this is Sixtoo's fault. For him, even if the music is horrible, he'll love it as long as it"s recorded well. But me for example, my favourite LP right now is the Edan (Primitive Plus), even though you have the impression that he recorded it under his bed or something, but I love it. But I also think that if I really want to go further in my career, my music needs to be good on all levels, including how it sounds. If I do not make any artistic compromises, it should be ok. Vertex was made with virtually nothing. My voice wasn't even compressed. It's just my mic plugged directly in my 4 track. At times I really want to make another album like that, buy the same 4 track and make an album in the same conditions.
I do realize I told you I'd leave out the details. Oh well.
Following those technical details, we start talking about samples. Burnt out samples to be exact. For someone who wrote a track where he proudly states that he only uses obscure and unknown samples, it' doesn't look very serious:
... plus, on that particular track, the drums aren't obscure at all (laughs). Actually it's not that my samples are that obscure, it's just that I look in places where others don't. I sample records that are very very bad, and I wouldn't recommend them to anyone. I do try to use Canadian breaks, and I even trade for records, which makes me nervous at times. But I'm not a collector, I don't try to find all original copies of what's on 'original breaks and beats', I'm just on the look out for anything that hasn't been used before, and that sounds good.
Despite what some people think following the "Sleep Apnoea vs Cypress Hill" case, he will never use a sample he has already heard. " I'm really afraid someone will use a sample from Vertex and make a huge hit with it. There's for example a sample from "Absolute Elsewhere" on the last track of Vertex:
... from dawn to sunrise, sunrise to dawn. Lots of people have been taking interest in that record lately, and I'm afraid someone like Jay Z makes a bigger hit than what I've been able to achieve. (more laughs).
And when we mention Pierre Henry, he suddenly stops laughing:
I'm not sure I'd do it today. I thought that no one would find out, after all, there were only 100 copies made of Vertex at first. It's a little embarrassing today, and I'm sure that many think that it was' nt too hard to just put 2 mn from that song (and now we all laugh again, that's just the kind of mood we're in).
He concludes this small moment of sharing covered by some type of monologue by the fact that he simply hopes auditors will be able to escape a little through Square, that they will see it as a global project, just like his previous work, even though it sounds a little more rock oriented and with less conceptual concepts. We had some good laughs, but it's now time to get back to the concert room and to leave the birds where they are, the conversation will continue off tape.
That's how I learn that the sample from "The Centaur" is taken from the movie Carrie, which is made off the book Carrie, that a student decided to write a thesis on that same centaur, picking the fact that Carrie is lonely, nobody understands her and left out, just like the Centaur. He talks about his passion for Cinema in general and David Lynch in particular, about how he only does very few featurings with other mcs, even with his Halifax friends, and that he'll seldom send one of his beats for someone else to use it. We avoid the Anticon subject, merely analysing what wasn't said, but everything is ok, don't worry. He regrets that the 1200 Hobos have become this huge sect for all the friends of friends of cousins of who knows who, even though a return to original sources has begun. He talks about Jel playing his SP1200 live "he looks like a real drummer, it's amazing. He'll just shut his eyes and play"", he admits that Dose One is completely crazy (but I'm pretty sure this is a compliment), and not only worries about the image that North Americans have in France, but also about being able to watch baseball games here. He follows the Ted Williams way of life, who happens to be his role model. He's more vegetarian than anything else, doesn't drink, but contrary to someone like Sage Francis, who pushes extremism as far as extremism can go, he isn't political about it and keeps it to himself (too late. Sorry).
The tape recorder is up and running again, but in a less conventional way. Buck's promo day is about to end, he was treated like a star from the beginning, with photo shoots with a very conceptualised pigeon launch, with many interviews, and finally we agree that asking questions is ok, but not always, and sometimes it's good to just let the tape roll. I give him 15 minutes to talk about whatever he wants, how he wants and in the order he wants, which he seems to enjoy maliciously. He uses those additional 15 minutes of celebrity to start one long and surreal typically Buckesque story, which can unfortunately not be transcribed. 15 minutes to talk.
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