Byline: Kylee Swenson
For anyone who plays in a live band, something will inevitably go wrong at one point or another. Someone will get electrocuted, a piece of gear will malfunction, the monitors will be janky and so on. But a professional band deals with the cards that it’s dealt, and Buck 65 (aka Rich Terfry) is certainly a trooper. Marching on for 12 years before getting a record deal, he’s proved that he can handle just about anything.
“There’s nothing I couldn’t live without,” Buck says. “I had to play a folk festival once when none of the rentals showed up, so I had to do the whole show with only a microphone – no music at all. And it was a smash!”
But Buck 65 is not your regular MC and turntablist. Influenced by polar opposites Woodie Guthrie and Afrika Bambaataa, Buck has cemented his own musical style. Be it redneck rap or country hip-hop, you’re as likely to see Buck MCing and scratching as to see him square-dancing along with a pedal-steel player. His latest album, This Right Here Is Buck 65 (V2, 2005), is all dusty roads and smoker’s voice with Texas-style rhyming – but Buck is from Canada.
Although he sometimes plays with a band, he also does shows completely on his own. “When I’m without the band – which is often, because it’s too expensive – I worry that the show may seem like a cop-out to people because of the backing tracks,” Buck admits. “So it’s important to me to really try to put on a show. I do that in a studied, theatrical way, in part. The other part lies in the hope that I can lose myself in the song, which isn’t always easy. I wish every show could be like performing in my bedroom, but it rarely is.”
With the band, Buck is backed by Charles Austin on guitar, Dale Murray on pedal steel and guitar, Mike Catano on drums, Andrew Glencross on keyboards and Graeme Campbell playing bass parts on a Moog synth. Alone, Buck uses a Sony MiniDisc player for backing tracks, a couple of turntables, a DJ mixer, and that’s about it. “Sometimes, I have an array of mics to use for different sounds,” Buck says. “I’ve messed around with a jaw harp and an Omnichord, and I’m trying to build enough confidence to get up there with a guitar.”
But less is sometimes more. “We actually did use a sampler, computer and this weird Waldorf effects unit,” Buck says. “We used to have a bass up there, too. Two of us used to DJ, as well. But we have scaled down to make things a little easier. I also find working with samples and sequences to be tricky. I’ve seen that wreck very badly. I’d rather not risk that. But this summer, I saw Blonde Redhead do it very effectively, and it was inspiring.”
As a six-piece, Buck and his band try to make the live-sound engineer’s job simple. “We’re very aware of who’s playing what and what frequency range they sit in,” Buck says. “That way, a monkey could do the sound, and it still will be relatively okay. We just tell the sound guy to leave things pretty flat and to lay off the effects. So far, we’re pretty no-frills. It’s quite different from the studio situation, which I think is interesting and healthy. I don’t want to be too reliant on the science fiction. We can play acoustic if need be, and that’s important.”
Buck and his band always take extra batteries, cables, strings and a soldering gun for gig emergencies. And as long as the monitors are good, the shows usually run smoothly, aside from the occasional rare happenstances. “One night, Dale’s volume pedal broke,” Buck remembers. “That’s not easy to fix and expensive to replace. Dale got flustered, and we’re all sensitive, so things were kind of tough. That happened at a big festival in Switzerland. I looked over at one point, and Dale was gone, not onstage at all. He was gone for three songs. It turned out that he was backstage trying to fix it with a shoelace. He came back out with only one shoe on.
“But, usually, the nature of our problems are more psychological than technical. We’ve all played in crappy clubs, sometimes with no monitors at all, for years and years. It’s good to pay dues like that. Once you’ve proven yourself in the gutter, you can handle just about everything.”
Numark Axis 9 DJ CD player Sony MZ-NF610 MiniDisc recorder Technics SL-1200MK2 turntable Vestax PMC-07 DJ mixer
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