Buck 65 Interview

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Rich Terfry is one of the most innovative and prolific figures in the Canadian music scene. Under the stage name Buck 65 he has released 17 successful albums. His musical tastes vary from roots Blues and Folk to Alternative Rock and Hip Hop. It’s hard to pinpoint a generic label but without a doubt his music is funky and abstract with music videos to match this eccentric combination. You can catch Rich hosting his show “Radio 2 Drive” on CBC Radio but we’ve got him on OCR right now!

OCR: Your taste in music is eclectic. Your favourites range from Afrika Bambaataa to Leonard Cohen. How were you exposed or introduced to such a large catalogue of musical diversity?

RT: My greatest musical education came during the years I volunteered at a campus radio station in Halifax. I hosted a weekly show for about 11 years. The station had two large vinyl libraries. One was all-Canadian. The other was everything else. It took almost the full 11 years, but in my free time I managed to listen to every record in both libraries, beginning to end. I was motivated by the search for cool stuff to sample. But along the way, I discovered many of my favorite musicians and lots of strange and wonderful things.

OCR:Your music tends to fuse Hip Hop and the Blues. What are the fundamental similarities that draw you to these genres?

RT: The early days of hip hop resembled the blues quite closely, I thought. The subject matter was pretty much the same – hard times. But the most exciting link to me is the talking blues. Hip hop just seems like a continuation of that to me. It’s almost weird that it’s talked about so seldom. It only makes sense to me. I was inspired to tap a little deeper into that on the Talkin’ Honky Blues album after reading Where Dead Voices Gather by Nick Tosches. It’s a pretty great book.

OCR: In 1996 you released three albums and once again released multiple albums in 2001. In these cases, what pushed you to produce more than a single release? Was it challenging to produce such a large amount of original material or did it happen organically?

RT: I did it in 2008 with the Dirtbike albums too (they’re on my SoundCloud page). I’m not sure where the drive to do that comes from. If I have time, I work on music. It’s as simple as that. I guess I just have more time on my hands some years than others. Looks like 2013 could be another year of heavy output. I’m finishing a new album now and started another new one last week. And I also plan to make Dirtbike 4 this year. If I have ideas, I have to run after them as fast as I can. That’s all there is to it.

OCR: The song “Zombie Delight” from your 2011 album “20 Odd Years” is accompanied with a music video of a Zombie take over. What is your favourite Zombie-based movie?

RT: I’ve seen a lot of them. My ex-wife was really into them. I pretty much made the song to make her happy. I’d have to say that my favorite is the original – Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero. 1968. That’s a great film.

OCR: Thriller was the first music video that incorporated choreographed Zombie dance moves. In your opinion, what makes the undead such great dancers?

RT: Ha ha. I don’t know. I’m guessing that if I managed to crawl out of my grave and be back among the living again, I’d be compelled to dance too! You’d have an all-new appreciation for life, I’m sure!

OCR: Word is that you are a huge film enthusiast. What do you consider the greatest cinematic masterpiece? What draws you to the medium? Have you ever considered venturing into a directorial debut?

RT: For my money, the highest artistic achievement in film is The Passion of Joan of Arc by Dreyer. 1928. That movie is a miracle. I’m not quite sure what it is that draws me to film. Like all people, I love good stories. I’m a very visual person. I like to see pretty and interesting images. Film pretty much fuses all the art forms.

I don’t know what it is about film, but it opens people to things they’re not usually open to with other mediums. There’s always conflict in a film. There’s often darkness. That’s compelling stuff. But people often don’t want that from music. People will go to see a dark movie in droves, but very few want dark music. I don’t know why. It’s fascinating to me.

I’d love to make a film one day. I directed on my music videos and enjoyed that experience. But right now, I’m focused on music and writing a book. If it happens, it won’t be for a while.

OCR: From personal experience, I have always felt that people either excel in math and sciences while the opposite spectrum excels in liberal arts and literature… with very little shades of grey. You however write amazingly creative songs and have a university background in biology. Do you feel like these two areas of knowledge are fluid or do you have to shut down one side of your brain to achieve the other?

RT: That’s a great question. I think most people feel they have to choose one side or another. Or maybe, somehow, the choice is made for them. But I think it was always blurred for me. Nothing has made me believe in miracles more than science. All the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen come from science. For me, art and science can and do occupy the same space. I think mathematics is beautiful. I think that’s expressed in the artwork for my album Square. And sometimes I tend to analyze art in a clinical, almost scientific way. It’s all the same thing to me, I guess.

OCR: You have travelled to Paris, London, New York, and across Canada. From your own experiences, how do the music scenes differ from each other? Do you find some cities are more diverse in musical taste than others?

RT: The biggest difference I see is how big a roll marketing plays in different places. There seems to be less need for it in a place like France. I hate to say it, but I think people have a better ability to make up their own minds about things there. It’s in how people are raised, I guess. But you see it reflected in the charts there. Often films and music that isn’t successful anywhere else in the world is big in France. Environment plays a big roll. It’s complex stuff. There are some cities in the US where I can play for 1,000 people and others where I’d be lucky to draw 20.

Paris is the only place I know of where it’s common to refer to a musician as an “important artist”. You don’t see that word – important – used often elsewhere. Music is the biggest cultural export for the UK. So it’s serious business there. But it’s also very vulnerable to fashion. The competition is stiffer there than anywhere else, perhaps. New York is it’s own universe. You can find an audience for just about anything there. But to really break through to a larger audience is almost impossible. Canada differs a lot from coast to coast. But Canadians seem to listen differently. We seemed to be really geared toward “the song”. We like what’s trendy and popular as much as anyone else. But we seem to have a bit of extra appreciation for a well crafted song. It’s in our DNA, I think.

OCR: Hosting “Radio 2 Drive” on CBC Radio, you encourage and feature a multitude of up-and-coming musicians. Do you feel like the typical music climate in Canada diminishes the opportunities for new talent to be heard?

RT: There’s just not enough infrastructure to support all the talent in Canada. It seems like we have one of everything and have agreed that’s enough. We have Exclaim! magazine, so why would we need another music magazine? That kind of thing. If our economy was stronger, we’d have more competition and that would benefit us all. But that’s not the case and it probably won’t change any time soon. In fact, it might only get worse.

OCR: You have an interesting position as both a musician and a radio host. Do you think CRTC regulations serve new Canadian talents well? What kind of changes would you suggest to make the Canadian music industry more accessible to struggling artists and create a more defined Canadian music landscape?

RT: It’s almost impossible for struggling artists. Now more than ever. I don’t think we can or should rely on the system to try to get ahead. Some say the internet has levelled the playing field. That might be true in theory, but not in practice. Things may have been a bit easier when I was getting started in the late 90s and early 2000s, but I got where I am now by getting out in the world and working my butt off. I sent myself to Australia twice before I ever signed a record deal or anything. I’ve been to Russia. I’ve been to China twice. I’ve played small towns in France and Switzerland… I think it could be said that I “made it” and I’ve never had any radio play. If I can make it with my weirdo music, I think anyone can. So I don’t like to hear too much bellyachin’. Hard work pays off, no matter what. It would be nice if the Canadian music industry had more money to work with, but that’s probably not ever going to happen.

OCR: Who is your current faviourite up-and-coming musician or band we should know about?

RT: I’ll be keeping my eye on The Matinee and Wool on Wolves as far as Canadian bands go. People seem pretty excited about Haim. A Swedish duo called Two Trees is kinda interesting. I can see them doing well in Canada. I like Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. People will be talking about a band called Chvrches a lot, I bet…

OCR: Can we expect any new projects from Buck 65 in the New Year?

RT: I have an album coming out in April. I’ve begun working on a new Bike For Three! album with my friend Joelle. I mentioned that I’m writing a book. But that won’t be out until 2014. Who knows what else? I have a few more ideas cooking. But I don’t want to overwhelm anyone.

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