Interview with Buck 65
by Troy Neilson
September 10, 2003 (Transcribed Dec. 3rd, 2003)
If you'd prefer to read the article, go here
Buck 65 Interview:
Troy: Congrats on your big year...
Buck 65: It's been a weird one.
Troy: I could imagine. Have you gotten accustomed to the limelight, or do you still feel like a smalltown hick?
Buck 65: Oh yeah, I haven't been able to shrug that one off yet. I'm still wearing that cape. Even when I find myself in some strange situations I still am able to shelter myself a bit and be able to not follow the press too much.
Troy: Definitely that sort of relates to your music as well because when I listen to Talkin Honky Blues and it sounds different from your previous works. It's less hip-hop and more country, if I dare say.
Buck 65: Yeah, definitely.
Troy: I'm on your mailing list, so I get your emails and in your last mail out, you appealed to your fans to give you feedback on how they would classify your music. I'm wondering if you've seen any of that feedback?
Buck 65: Um, no I haven't been able to take a look at that yet. I'm curious, but I also wanted to give it a bit of time for people to hear the new record. I also asked people to try to help me select a second single.
Troy: So then, how would you classify your music, or can you?
Buck 65: The original title of the album was a little more unwieldy. Originally it was gonna be called 'The Talkin Honky Dirt Road Break Beat Blues'. To me, the idea behind that was to kind of sum up....
at this point, Buck 65's cell phone cuts out and I wait five minutes for his return call
Buck 65: Troy! How much of what I just said, did you hear?
Troy: Uh... not much. You mentioned the long version of the title and then the phone went dead.
Buck 65: Oh my god! How embarrassing, I talked for like 5 minutes.
Troy: Sorry. I don't know if it was my end or your end.
Buck 65: So, ... as far as that stuff goes... you know... I guess I can probably be a little bit more concise about it now. Basically, to put it in perspective, when I was a little tiny kid I was surrounded by folk music and country music. I have memories of just running around in the woods with my friends singing folk songs. Once I discovered hip-hop music in the early eighties, that was kinda it for me for a long time. But the more I got involved with the music, especially from a production standpoint, and even more so with sampling, it forces you to start listening to different forms of music. Over time my appreciation for those other forms of music grew and grew. I was also very curious about where hip-hop came from when you trace it way back. A lot of people look at James Brown, a lot of people look at what was going on in Jamaica before that with the toasting and such. You can go back further and further back to look at the origins of that lyrical approach, and in that pursuit, I found this form called the talking blues. Early examples of that go back even before the turn of the century. When you listen to that music, it's almost exactly the same as hip-hop - there are guys definitely rapping. But, having explored this kind of music, I found I was able to relate to a lot of it a lot more than today's hip-hop. I liked it a lot better and found it to be more honest and emotional. So recently, I've taken a lot of inspiration from that, the folk music, the blues and all that stuff.
Troy: Do you think that maybe as a kid you listened to folk and country until you got to that rebelling stage, and maybe found hip-hop as the rebelling music? And now you're sort of going back to your roots?
Buck 65: I don't know. I guess you could sort of look at it that way. I don't even know entirely how rebellious it was for me, because when I first got interested in hip-hop music in the very early eighties, the music wasn't very hard ass. It was kinda party music in the early days. When you're a young person, you're looking for some different stuff and it has certainly come full circle. My curiosity from the music has brought me back all the way around, which to me is pretty fascinating. My music has a place in there somewhere and don't even know where it's going next. The point is that for as strange as my music may sound to your average young hip-hop head, for me it's just exploring the traditions of it as deep as I can possibly go.
Troy: Now, you do a lot of storytelling. Sometimes I listen to it and wonder if it's based on something you've read, is there any fact in it or is it fiction?
Buck 65: With all the stories that I tell, whether they be in the form of songs or telling stories at shows, it's all pretty much based on real people and real experiences.
Troy: So is there really a Sarah?
Buck 65: Ah, well, yes, that one. Let me just kind of take back what I just said. There's a bit of irony in that one. That one actually is fictional, but it was just a topic that I wanted to pursue a bit. It was one of the rare cases where I was writing to a specific piece of music because I almost always start with lyrics first. So, I was listening to the music and tried to pin down what the emotion made me feel like.
Troy: Well, you certainly seem to nail it.
Buck 65: So, I just kind of went with that feeling. Also, when I was writing it, the last Johnny Cash record had just come out. I was listening to the song on there called 'Give my love to Rose' which was so personal and talked specifically using this woman's name, and was so emotional that I decided I wanted to try to do something similar. The ironic part is that I've recently started seeing a girl named Sarah. So when I perform that song and she's around, I get very uncomfortable.
Troy: I could imagine.
Buck 65: I find she looks at me funny.
Troy: Well hopefully it's not a foretold story.
Buck 65: Yeah, a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don't reckon it will be.
Troy: There have been some comparisons between yourself and to a degree, Johnny Cash, because you both sort of have your dark sides. With that in mind, has his passing affected you? Do you think it'll change anything about the music you make? I know it's a hard question to ask...
Buck 65: When I got the news, I don't mind admitting to you that I cried a bit. He's something I felt close to and attached a lot of importance. I always really admired the guy. The last year has been so sad with the last record and his wife dying and stuff. I'm kinda glad that in some small way I was able to give him a nod and pay tribute to him on the new album. I mention him by name on the single (Wicked & Weird) and it's kinda strange timing that the album comes out a couple days after he passed away. I hope no one sees that and thinks it's exploitative because I wrote those lyrics a year ago before I even knew he was sick.
Troy: Anyone who does any looking will know that's not the case. On the topic of Wicked & Weird, congrats on the video.
Buck 65: Yeah, that's bananas.
Troy: Yeah, it fits the title perfectly.
Buck 65: Yeah, I think so.
Troy: Who came up with the concept for the video?
Buck 65: That was the director, who was Shawn Michael Terrell. There were several directors interested in doing the video and I based my decision on all their prior work. So I'd seen the work this guy had done in the past, and I was very impressed by it. I basically handed over complete trust to his vision and this is what he came up with. Granted, there are some things in there that I can't really explain myself. He's a pretty interesting guy. I can tell you this much, it was a lot of fun.
Troy: You can tell from the video, that it must have been fun. In the video, what does your hat say? I couldn't read it.
Buck 65: The hat... hmmm... it says something about a.... I think I still have the hat somewhere. The t-shirt I'm wearing is something promoting a liquor store and the hat is for a burrito stand or something like that.
Troy: Why do you think mesh hats went out of style for awhile? They're so much cooler on a hot day, especially if you're playing baseball or something.
Buck 65: There's a practical aspect to it. That's why baseball players wear them and why they're popular with skaters as well, because of the ventilation. So, a lot of things that come out of skate culture, people look at it as what's cool, so a lot of those things get picked up on and exploited. It's always a bit of a shame when that happens, but I've always been trying to keep my head cool that way for as long as I can remember.
Troy: I noticed that Ted Williams is one of your influences listed on your website. Obviously, he's from before your time, so I was wondering if you were a Red Sox fan?
Buck 65: I was never a huge Red Sox fan, although you can't help but rout for them because they're such underdogs. When I was a kid studying baseball, the same way I now study hip-hop music, I didn't have to look far before I realized he's widely regarded as the greatest hitter who ever was. So I picked up his books, read them and felt like I learned a lot from the guy. It's funny you should mention him so shortly after Johnny Cash because he's the only other person I can think of who's passing affected me so much, in terms of people I don't know personally. I cried when he died last year too. Right after that I found out he had a home in New Brunswick. My whole life, he'd been living a matter of hours away and I didn't know that. So, I'd say he's been a huge influence on my life based on his books, what he had to say, and even just the way he conducted his life. In a lot of ways, I've modeled myself after that guy.
Troy: What was your favorite team if it wasn't the Red Sox?
Buck 65: When I was a very young kid of course, being Canadian, I just couldn't help but rout for the Expos. I was a big Gary Carter fan, so it was nice to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. I've always been enamored and caught up in the romantic notion of the Yankees, just because they're so storied and because that's the team that scouted me when I was sixteen.
Troy: What position did you play when you were scouted?
Buck 65: Shortstop.
Troy: Oh, cause I saw you pitching in the video on your promo sampler cd.
Buck 65: Yeah, my coaches always made me pitch because I could throw hard. So that day I was out just playing with that guy, and I wanted to see how fast I could throw. The ball I was throwing had a built-in radar gun - you can get them in Radioshack. So, I wanted to prove to this guy that I could throw 90 mph.
Troy: Could you?
Buck 65: Yeah, yeah. I heated one up. Right off the bat, I threw one 88 mph and shortly after that I got one up around 91 mph.
Troy: So, then I'm guessing you probably struck out 4 in an inning before?
Buck 65: Four? I don't know if I've ever struck out 4, that would take some special set of circumstances.
Troy: I guess I wondered cause I struck out 4 a couple times, but I only played bush league, so it'd make it easier.
Buck 65: Oh wow! That's awesome!
Troy: Getting back on the topic of your story-telling. We had a big drive, which we had to snow blow and it took 2 hours. So, I was wondering if your Dad actually used a flamethrower?
Buck 65: Yeah, he did...
Troy: Are they legal?
Buck 65: Probably not, but being way out in the woods like that, it's not like anyone would ever notice. Luckily for us, we had an RCMP officer who lived down the street from us who we were real good friends with. So, he'd help us out and turn a blind eye once in a while. My Dad was kind of obsessed with the idea of snow removal. He had a bad back, so he was always trying to figure out a better way. So one day he experimented by just dumping a lot of gasoline onto the driveway and lighting it on fire. Then that sparked the idea of a flamethrower, so he shopped around a bit and was able to find one. You can clear an average driveway in about 30 seconds. People think it's strange, but I think the idea might catch on.
Troy: I know my Dad would probably love it.
Buck 65: Yeah, it's a great way. I don't know why anyone didn't think of it sooner. My Dad's a genius for that one.
Troy: Definitely. But when I think about it, I have to wonder that it might cause more ice, which would be even worst.
Buck 65: Right. Well, there's a few steps to doing the whole program effectively. Obviously, you want to avoid ice for sure.
Troy: Yeah, like add sand onto it or something. One of my other favorite songs on your album is the 463 song. Would it make any sense to call it 866 instead?
Buck 65: It would in a lot of ways. That would certainly be relevant that's the exchange for Mount Uniacke. The wisdom behind 463 is that it's a double play in baseball that goes from the second baseman to the shortstop to the first baseman, which to me is just one of the most beautiful things to watch. It's like ballet, especially if you watch a slow-motion replay on television. It's just really a beautiful thing.
Troy: I was trying to figure it out, but the baseball reference never occurred to me. I should have figured.
Buck 65: It's just scorekeeping, is all that is. And of course, it's just another of the innumerable references to baseball.
Troy: I guess 463 is the exchange for Dartmouth (in Halifax), so I thought maybe...
Buck 65: Oh no, I didn't even think of that one myself. That's a good one.
Troy: Ok, now for some more standard questions. What was the biggest change from being an independent to being with Warner on a major label? If you could narrow it down to one thing.
Buck 65: I think just how smoothly everything runs. When you're independent and dealing with all the pitfalls, there's no money. It just feels like pulling teeth to get anything done, but now things just run really smooth. Nothing's changed with the creative process. They don't interfere with that at all and I'm kinda free to do what I want.
Troy: But, in effect, by them (Warner) making it smoother, it'll affect your creative process because you have time to focus on the music.
Buck 65: Exactly. I had to deal with a lot of business and administration myself when I was independent, but now I can just focus on writing songs. So, that's certainly a welcomed relief.
Troy: Who's idea was it for the Buck-a-Month club?
Buck 65: That was the idea of a whole bunch of people.
Troy: I think it's a great idea.
Buck 65: There were two lines of thought. One, when we finished the album, we still had a ton of leftover material that we wanted to do something with and didn't want to sit on it. But also, I've gotta give credit to the label for just looking to the future. They realize that the Internet is obviously an important tool and that the industry is changing. So, the idea of giving away some music for free on the Internet is just...
Buck 65: Yeah, a really smart idea. I really gotta hand it to Warner for going for that idea.
Troy: Did Jorun contribute any beats to this album?
Buck 65: Yeah, 3 of them. 'Leftfielder', the first song on the album. 'Protest' and '50 Gallon Drum.' Originally, he gave me 5 beats to work with, so not all of them made it on the album, but some of that stuff will appear in the Buck-a-Month promotion.
Troy: Well, it's good to see ya still working together. What do you expect the second single to be? I've heard maybe 'Protest.'
Buck 65: Well, 'Protest' gets a lot of votes and that would be nice to have Jo involved on that level, but there's a lot of debate right now. I've even asked people through the website to tell me what they think it should be. I recently worked out a new version of '463' with the band that kicks an incredible amount of ass. So, I'm thinking about recording that version and maybe use that. I don't know.
Troy: I'd have to say '463' and the Sarah song are my favorites, so...
Buck 65: Yeah, 'Protest' has received votes; the tired out Sarah one has received votes; 463 and the song 'Sore' have been contenders. So, I'm not sure. I'm really having a hard time deciding on my own, so that's why I'm looking for other people's input.
Troy: Well, it's good that you're open to other people's opinions.
Buck 65: Yeah, I like using the tool of the website and mailing list to involve the people who are interested in what I do as much as possible.
Troy: Yeah, it definitely makes it feel more personal, which is great.
Buck 65: Yeah.
Troy: So, how's your French coming along?
Buck 65: It's coming along pretty well. I think I can understand quite well. My own speaking French still has a ways to go, but it's improving. I'm certainly hungry to learn, so hopefully before long, I'll be approaching fluency.
Troy: Finally, I was wondering what happened when you ran into Biz Markie in Seattle? (In the past, Biz stole one of Buck 65's breaks claiming it as his own)
Buck 65: I saw him in a record store and at first I thought, aw Biz. The first thing I thought was that weird incident with the John Travolta record. So I thought to myself, 'Screw it. I'm not talking to that guy.' So then a few minutes later we literally bumped into each other and couldn't really avoid it. So, I said 'hey Biz' and he said 'do you work here?'. He totally had no idea who I was, so I felt like I'd been totally kicked in the ass again. So that sucked.
Troy: Anything you'd like to add?
Buck 65: I would just like to encourage anyone reading who takes an interest or checks out my new album, that if they like it, to play it for their parents. I think we could probably turn some people from the older generation on to it. I have a funny feeling that it might go over okay and I need all the help I can get, so spread the word for me.
Troy: Okay, it was nice talking to ya.
Buck 65: Yeah, you too Troy.
Troy: Thanks for the interview.
Buck 65: Okay, I'll see you later.
Troy: Good luck with the tour.
Buck 65: Okay, thanks man. bye.
For more information on Buck 65, check out www.buck65.com
Trizoys Album Reviews > Home