Returning to Australia for a short tour this September, including a stop off at the Sydney Fringe Festival, we chat with Toronto's Buck 65. We chat about the tour, his upcoming EP, working with Sufjan Stevens, Marie-Pierre Arthur and Hawksley Workman and living in France!
Hi Buck! Thank for taking the time to speak with us at the AU review! In 2002, you moved to France. What a choice! I love it over there. But I understand you're living back in Canada now, in Toronto? When did you head back home?
I only settled back in Toronto permanently about two years ago. But I was back and forth between Canada and France for a while there. And back in 2005 (I think it was) I had an apartment in New York and one in Paris. That was pretty amazing. It made me happy just to be able to say that.
Where abouts in Paris would we have found you?
I moved around the city a few times while I was there. Mostly I lived in the St. Germain neighborhood. Left bank. Quite nice
Can you talk a bit about living there, as an artist? I know quite a lot move to places like France and Berlin to fuel their creative fires - what was the reason you moved there?
I first moved there as a career move. I figured Europe would be a stronger market for my music than North America. I think that proved to be true. I only planned on staying a year, originally. But then I met a girl. So I stayed a lot longer. The French really roll out the red carpet for any kind of artist. And it's a great place to play because the venues are subsidized by the government, so they're all really nice.
I think the main reason living in Paris was good for me as a creative person was because I was never fully comfortable there. I was always on my toes. I couldn't get away with being lazy. My brain was working very hard all the time. I think discomfort and agony is very healthy.
I was first introduced to your music when Heck and Situation were released, and the immediate influence I heard was that of the French hip hop scene, rather than Canadian / North American. But maybe this was just me? And maybe that's just how you'd always sounded? I'm not too familiar with your earliest works.
Hmm. That's very interesting. Well, I wrote most of Heck and 100% of Situation while living in Paris. And Situation was inspired by Situationism, which is a pretty European concept, I suppose. So I guess it makes sense. The album before that was called Secret House Against The World and that one's probably even more French. There are a handful of bi-lingual songs on it and half of it was recorded in Paris (the other half was recorded with Tortoise in Chicago).
Do you feel the French (or, perhaps Montreal) hip hop scene has influenced your music?
Maybe a little tiny bit. Not much at all, to be honest. There's lots I appreciate about French hip hop, but I wouldn't say it's been much of an influence.
Speaking of the Montreal scene - on your latest EP, you worked with Marie-Pierre Arthur on “Final Approach”. How did this collaboration happen?
This was the first time I worked with another musician who wasn't already a personal friend of mine. I just approached her as a fan. I heard her music and made some phone calls and tracked down her manager's contact info. I just love her voice. Even when I don't understand everything she's saying, she conveys so much emotion. It's a gift. She's got something Chrissie Hynde has, I think. She had a baby the day after she recorded her vocals for me. We were all pretty nervous.
You seem pretty pleased with the track! Do sometimes your own tracks surprise you when they're in their final form?
Once in a while I am quite surprised! I don't know why! I guess it often has more to do with the great performances of the other musicians I'm working with. I'm blown away by the generosity sometimes. I really love the song "Final Approach", but mostly it's Marie-Pierre's voice that gives me the thrill. She's amazing.
Your latest EP is 20 Odd Years Vol. 3 – Albuquerque, which you'll be launching in Toronto on August 8th. After 20 years, is it still a thrill to get new material out on the market?
It is! I don't think that will ever get old. And the great thing about doing it the way I'm doing it this year is that a lot of the music is still very new when it comes out. I'm still working on new material as the EPs are being released. So in some cases, songs were only finished a month before being released. That's exciting. Usually you have to wait the better part of a year and you're already tired of the stuff by the time it's released.
How does the great man himself prepare for such an event? An album launch I mean... or is the same as any other night?
It's different this time because there are so many collaborations with the new stuff. So I'm working with others. That means more preparation and rehearsal. Not only do I need to learn the songs with another singer, but I need to be thinking about what our stage dynamic is going to be. I get a bit of help from a friend who's an actor and does some theater. He'll watch us rehearse and then say, "OK, you two should get together and watch "The Thin Man" tomorrow. Take notes!"
And this will be followed by your tour down under, which will include a stop at the Sydney Fringe Festival!
Indeed! It will be my fourth time visiting Australia!
I understand that you've always had quite an affinity for Australia - why is that?
I think mostly it's just a "vibes" thing. There are certain places I've been that I loved right away and others that I hated right away. I usually can't explain it. But I've had some amazing support in Australia for a long time. In fact, I was getting love in Australia before I got it in my own country!
Finding success in Australia before your own country! That must be a surprising experience, to say the least... but must have made you realise that the sky was the limit?
Well, it's certainly encouraging. I never imagined anyone would be interested in anything I was doing. I still have a hard time grasping that. I never imagined that music would be my career.
What material can we expect in your sets for the September tour?
Well, by September, the fourth EP will be out. So there will be a lot of material from 20 Odd Years in the set. Also, since Situation, I released four other albums: Dirtbike 1-3 and the Bike For Three! album. So there will be some material from those albums in the set. Plus a bunch of oldies. I'll have my friend Valery Gore with me. She'll be singing and playing some keys. She has learned the new songs but some of the old ones too. So it will be a whole new show and maybe a bit of vaudeville...
Let's go back to 20 Odd Years for a moment - it's certainly an interesting way to release new music. What brought on the decision to stagger the release of your new material?
Mostly it was just because there's so much new material. Too much to dump on people all at once. But I also wanted to spend the whole year celebrating my 20th year in the business.
Is all the material for the future EPs completed, or are you doing it as you go?
I'm still finishing some stuff up. In fact, I finished a couple of new songs just this week and started a few others.
I understand that you recently recorded four tracks with Hawksley Workman, can you talk about that experience?
I've known Hawksley for years now and I've always known that he has a fascination with pop music. He studies it - examines it very closely. So I thought it would be an interesting challenge for both of us if we tried to make some pop songs together. I never thought about radio or mass appeal when making a song before. So I called Hawksley and issued the challenge. He got very excited. So we wrapped up some studio time just last week (middle of July) and now we're in the post-production phase. I think we've accomplished our goal and it's terrifying.
Is the resulting material something that will appear on a Buck EP, a Hawksley album or something completely different entirely?
I haven't decided 100% yet, but I think one or two of the songs may show up on the EPs. It might freak people out though, because it's very different from anything I've done before. It was a very interesting creative challenge and we laughed a lot during the process. But now we have this baby monster! What if one of these crazy songs became a hit?! My life could be over...
Speaking of something completely different - you worked last year with Dark was the Night, remixing Blood by Sufjan, creating, in my opinion, the standout track on the 2 disc set - along with Serengeti. How did this come about? Had you worked with Serengeti before?
Apparently, Sufjan was on tour and was listening to the radio on the bus and an interview with me came on! He had never heard of me before, but was interested in what I had to say. He became a fan and got it touch! Pretty amazing. I was pinching myself a little bit. I hadn't worked with Serengeti before, but since then, we've done a few more things. I really like his style. He's a bit of a weirdo.
I know quite a few people who have discovered you through this track - have you found this at all? The album was a massive success down here.
Oh, that's good to know. I have certainly heard from a lot of people who liked the track. I was hoping I might find some new ears with that one.
I've noticed that you have recently been tweeting celebrity birthdays! Who do you share yours with?
Vivaldi, Shemp Howard, Bobby Womack, Gunnar Hansen, Chris Squire from Yes, the rapper Grand Puba, Evan Dando, Patsy Kensit and El-P! And a lot of Australian footballers, I noticed.
And finally, when shall we expect the Zombie Apocalypse? I reference, of course, a track off the new EP: "Zombie Delight".
Ah! August 10th! Be ready! All hell is going to break loose.
Thanks for your time Buck! I can't wait to see you down in Sydney for the Fringe Festival.
Be sure to come say hello!