Hello. This is Buddy. I hope all is well. Alright, I’m going to have to come clean – this is the first proper blog I’ve put together. It’s something I probably should have gotten down with more actively a while back, and I’ve only ever messed with Myspace blogs really. So it’s fair to say my blogsmarts are hella weak.
Well, I’m going to try and sort that out – I won’t be relentless and post up my every waking (and sleeping) thought, and I’m still unsure of what a Twitter is, so I’ll get my self limitations on right now. Saying that, I reserve the right to change this at any point. Deal!
I thought I’d set it off with this interview that I had with DEAD Magazine over in Germany, around the end of December or so. They’ve had features with Prolyphic & Reanimator, Subtle and B. Dolan in the past, and if you check the site you’ll see how to get it all and whatnot. The interview here is the raw uncut, and I blew the word count the hell up – I know interviews aren’t everyone’s favourite things to do but I’m into them, and it’s cool to have the chance to talk in depth and the person here had put in some time with research and all that. But as you will plainly see here, I go on, and on and on and on… Let it flow, and ya don’t stop…
Word to Lana Michele Moorer.
Well, here it is – thanks for reading, if you do, and always give me a shout if you want or need to. This one should be in the next mag and I think I’ve got a track on the compilation too – but I’ll make some noise with that in mind as and when it happens. Cheers! – Buddy
– You’ve been affiliated with quite a few projects, labels, etc., sometimes more loosely, sometimes as more of a signed artist / collaborator (Banquet, Bully, Lex, Warp,…). To me it seems like Buddy Peace as an artist is quite a nomad, though respected in many homes and places. Where are you at right now? Did you find a constant home for your music?
It’s been a crazy ride so far, and I’ve spent a lot of years just feeling pretty blown away by some of the offers I’ve had (and taken up). I definitely feel very lucky and fortunate that things have gone how they have, because I’m not someone who goes around to a lot of labels shopping my demos and mixes, so far that reason I am hugely thankful that what I have done has ended up in the hands and ears of people I probably would have aimed it at in the first place. I get what you mean though, I must seem like quite a nomadic hobo type character… I guess I’m neutral by nature as well – if I’m approached by a label or artist that I admire or just straight up enjoy the work of, I’ll consider it an honour to work with or for them, and just get on with the task in hand. Say for the Warp involvement – that was a real surprise but when it happened (when me and ‘ZILLA’ were approached for the Warp Megamix and the live shows afterwards), I just went a bit nuts with excitement for a day or so, and then calmed the hell down and just got on with it. The people I’ve worked with are really the people I listen to a lot anyway, and when I’m listening to the music I’m usually always thinking of what I could do with it or if I’ve heard a lyric or phrase relevant to it, and just kind of listen with the constant haze of musical memories around me. I think it’s my nature really to listen as someone looking for samples or with more of a DJ ear, but with a natural enjoyment of the music of course! Not just like a sample spotting robot. Although I kind of am that way too really. So if I do get approached for a project or collaboration I can come with something already there whether I know it or not. I don’t just expect it all to happen but I ready myself quickly and I’m usually able to get on it pretty speedily.
As for a constant home, I’ve had a couple of releases on the almighty 2600 Recordings, based down here in the UK (the boogie down Norwich Bronx to be exact), which is a really fresh indie label who move in hip hop circles but with a much broader range than just that. They released my ‘Wolf Diesel Mountain’ mix and the box-set version, and I was on a compilation they put out a while back too.
Right now I’m sorting out details for an album release on Strange Famous Records, the empire founded by Sage Francis and close alumni, which is home to the man himself as well as B. Dolan, Prolyphic & Reanimator, Dan Le Sac & Scroobius Pip and more (Buck 65’s ‘Situation’ was released there too). It’s really exciting, as I’ve been a huge fan of all things Sage since around 1999/2000 or so, so this is pretty mindblowing. I’ll make some noise when things are in motion but that’s what’s up for now! I can’t believe it. Still tripping.
– Looking at your list of releases, be it remixes, production, scratches or the mix-cds you’ve become quite famous for, you seem to be very patient with your work: Your mixes as well as your production work are mostly highlighted by their enormous amount of details. So on the one side you must be working on quite a few projects at one time, on the other side each of those projects will require a whole lot of concentration and energy. How do you keep focused?
Well thanks loads for the comments, that’s really cool. I’m glad the details and everything come through. When you’re working on projects it’s hard to know what will come out to who and at what point – everyone has different timings and hears or absorbs things at different rates, so it’s cool that the work can be heard like that. It is really hard prioritizing, definitely. I’ve become better at managing my time that I used to be, and that’s got a lot to do with my setup – I used to labour so hard with my MPC and recording the sequences and everything, and I had this really hardcore time-eating approach. It was a really interesting way of working but looking back it seems mental how much time it took. I haven’t given that up though! I’ve always had a lot of patience though (from the days of tape recorders and mixtapes all those years ago) – I don’t get bored easily and I’ll edit for hours and hours, or spend as long as it takes getting things right. Sometimes it really does border on OCD but I can’t let something go until I’m satisfied that I’ve made it all, can account for it and seen it all happen along the way. I will always make time for that kind of thing and I really don’t believe in cutting corners – the process is in many ways more important to me, like the edits, the planning, the gathering of sounds, all that mess. Obviously it’s nice when you can see the finished product but I just love the method and things like the mini learning processes that you go through when you’re making something. It never ends.
My processes are linked with what I mentioned earlier, with the kind of musical fog around me all the time – it has words, samples, noises, everything, and depending on what I’m going to do I’ll have a certain amount that I can bring right away. Well, hopefully! I make notes all the time too, and get ideas written down however I can. Sometimes a title is all it takes, or even a phrase said in a certain way – anything can get ideas going… So whatever happens with these ideas, I’ll make sure they are around me all the time and then whatever comes along, hopefully I’ll be able to get on it and use some of what I have.
In terms of how I order things, again it depends on what I’m doing. If it’s a mix, I’ll probably have that going on in the background. If it’s cuts for a track, I’ll try and get it done quickly because it’s probably for someone else (I can afford a more leisurely pace when it’s my own music!) and there might be additional arrangements or something… I will usually try and make anything I’m guesting on or anything that’s time dependent the priority though, as long as I have the time to. With my own stuff, it’s harder to kick my own ass and get it done quicker but it all ties in – if I can spend more time on my own stuff I might be learning something new, or experimenting more and I can then bring that to the guest projects. If that makes sense. So it all works together like.
– The collage seems to be kind of your favorite way to approach a song / mix – how did this come to you? What would you say is the theme of your career as a musician, what keeps your work cohesive?
As some sort of timeline, the DJing came way before anything. I made my first mixtape in 1993, and I’d have trouble in explaining to you just how sloppy it was. Good lord… You want to know what name I gave myself? DJ Chronic. I know, I know. I was young, come on! Anyway since then, and a lot of years before in fact, I’d been listening to a lot of music, all kinds. Mainly heavy metal (a whole bunch of Alice In Chains and Soundgarden) but a lot of hip hop, and loads of jungle/drum and bass. So when I started DJing it became more real to me just how much you could do with two turntables and what you could mix with what, and the collage appreciation started sometime then. Also it was around that time when my brother played me this mixtape by DJ Riz, which was just incredible – just layers and layers of all eras of hip hop and even some Chris Isaac in there dammit. It was wonderful. A door was very much blown open then. That has stayed with me ever since, and it was a big part of what I wanted to do back then. Just hearing the kinds of things you could do on a tape… There was so much else but the journey gradually led me to people like DJ Faust, who put out that ‘Man Or Myth’ album on Bomb – another collage based trip with almost too many amazing ideas. I think from there I was changed for good. Since then (around the mid to late 90’s) I’ve been really into people like DJ Signify, Buck 65, Mr Dibbs and the 1200 Hobos. As well as QBert and Mixmaster Mike (and original Piklz), I think they are the most influential team of DJ’s I’ve heard, because at the time it all hit me simultaneously. There was an order I heard the releases too, I remember it; Mr Dibbs ‘Turntable Scientifics’, Buck 65 ‘Vertex’, DJ Signify ‘Mixed Messages’ and Jel & Mr Dibbs ‘Presage’. It was a crazy time, and on top of that I’d just started listening to loads of the fresh new Anticon music and a lot of the West Coast stuff, People Under The Stairs, Aceyalone, people like that. I’d always been into that side of things from the days of Freestyle Fellowship, so it all made a lot of sense to me. But relating to your question (I almost forgot!), what I really enjoyed about this music and the art involved was the sheer range of musical influences involved. Some of these records had just about everything in there – it was (and is) a beautiful music discovery and it had a huge effect on me. I always knew that you could get away with just about anything in music but hearing this kind of hip hop, with such a control on the level creativity as well huge range of influences just turned a corner for me. That was it! And then gradually a lot of these artists collaborated with folks from bands and music I loved at the same time, like Prefuse 73, Tortoise, or took on elements of what I was getting into like the Stars Of The Lid drone-core sound, or Boards Of Canada aesthetic with the focus on sound quality and detail within the music. So much going on, and that was all in the course of like three years or so as well. This was around the time I started messing with computers and making mixes which involved more than just a mixer output to a tape deck – when I got my first multi-track recorder software, bam, that was it. I started making short mixes with ideas I’d always had that I couldn’t have done in one take on a cassette, and ideas just poured out, mixes got longer, and I was always listening to tons of different music so the inspiration was always there. I started involving the MPC in there more and realizing what I could do with that opened up a lot of doors. Gradually this evolved into proper production (well, when I say ‘proper’ I just mean ‘not mixes’ – I taught myself a fair bit but I didn’t know it all), and I was making tracks with a kind of mixtape approach. I think you can say that that’s where it began really – it was just a harmonious link because it was all going on at the same time, the DJing and the beatmaking. And that’s pretty much how that collage approach really took hold. It was a chance to use all this material that I loved and could flip in new and different ways.
What I consider as cohesiveness in my own work is a tightness and quality control that I always try to keep an eye on. I’m very fussy about edits, timing (with cuts really) and I’ve always got this list in my head of things I can and can’t do. It’s pretty strange, if you asked me what it contained then I probably couldn’t tell you right away but it’s something that goes on as I’m working on projects. A respect for the artform has taught me a lot about the ethics and codes of conduct with sample based music, and I do pay a lot of attention to it all – there are a lot of lessons to be learned and I do take heed, especially when they are from artists I respect and admire. I like to bring in sounds and ideas that I would like to hear myself. I guess I should leave it up to you and anyone reading this to decide what sets me apart but personally, I just try to keep things inventive and as invigorating as I can. I hope I can and do, but that’s what I aim for.
– So, since your remixes for i.e. Subtle, Sage Francis, etc. popped up all over the internet, you’re beginning to be recognized as a Beat- / Song-Producer, too. Though most of your mixes have required those skills as well as your repertoire as a DJ… Do you feel like this helps you to be recognized more adequately?
I think it all lives happily together really. A lot of producers have DJ backgrounds and vice versa, it’s usually a natural progression. As for recognition, well it’s good to have that area involved because if people have seen me DJ and then they see that there’s a release or remix from me, I guess a lot of the leg work is done! They probably have a good idea of what I’m about from what they might have heard me playing. So it’s a nice foundation – I can kind of speak with my hands to a certain extent. And as I’m not the best at self-promotion, that kind of thing can help a lot! I like being able to cover a fair amount of ground like that, like I know how to operate a sampler and I know how to mix, so it generates an element of confidence, but I also fully understand the intricacies of both disciplines and the importance of them. They are very different arts but linked by a lot, and can be incorporated well. I can’t guarantee that how I DJ is necessarily representative of what my tracks involve, as a lot of what I make is not aimed at dancefloors really (I love spoken word and that doesn’t go down great usually!), but I do try and keep it all consistent.
– What would you regard as the main attribute of a Buddy Peace production?
This sort of ties in nicely to what I said earlier I think – definitely a level of tightness and quality control. I spend a long time on edits and programming, and hopefully that comes through (although I want the whole production to flow well as one). I think I’m most fussy over my drum programming and edits, and I love to spend a really long time over that. It’s something that I always look out for in hip hop, and I really make an effort to make some ill patterns whenever possible. I take influences from all over the place though, whether it’s indie rock or jazz or anything with percussion – there are truly no limits whatsoever. Sometimes I do really intensive stuff but I’ve learnt over the years to keep it a little more restrained (especially with vocal tracks), and I try to break that out when it’s needed instead of all over the place. I just like to have a solid drum foundation on there. I’m very influenced by folk and country music too, as well as Indonesian and African music, so if I can adapt that to a production I’m happy. They’re some of the main attributes – that and some nice scratch sentences.
– What are your future projects as a Producer / DJ?
There are a good few people I’m working with and want to work with, and I really want to get going on more music by myself too. It’s hard to say where things will go as I’ve had too many surprises recently to predict anything, but I have a bunch of ideas and projects coming up and soon to drop so noise will be made. I’ve been spending more time on the production side though so it will more than likely involve that more heavily, but we’ll see. Too much going on. It’s great!
– You have (re)produced a whole set for a Buck65 live show. How did that happen? Since this seemed to be a one night only affair, will it ever surface as a proper recording?
This was bonkers, I couldn’t believe it. As I said earlier, I’ve been a huge fan since Vertex (I wish I could say it was even earlier but the UK didn’t get too much pre-’99 Buck) and I’ve been a heavy listener ever since. I was approached to do the ‘Situation’ megamix around Autumn 2007, for the Strange Famous release later in the year. It went down well with the crew and I think Buck was really into it – this was something that, even if I hadn’t been asked I probably would have done at some point anyway! – but I latched onto the lyrics, ideas and production of the album straight away and after a few listens I started on piecing together the immense patchwork of material. Buck’s catalogue is large. He asked me in 2008 if I’d be interested in working on some back and forth productions, which resulted in a really good process of him sending me a beat, me taking it apart and rebuilding it with extras as and when, and sending it back. We got through about seven or so in this fashion, and these would eventually appear on his ‘Dirtbike’ album trilogy. One of these was the first intro, and I made two more intros from scratch. It was a really ace way of working because the beats that he was sending me were just too dope, I was listening to them anyway as finished beats, but it was really good to have this one element as my sample source. I could expand on it, make the most of what was there, whatever – I had total freedom. I took advantage of this and made some pretty bugged out tracks for him but it all worked really nice and it pushed me a lot. As with the megamix, for someone like Buck I wanted to make something super sick. About a month before the Knitting Factory show, the Anticon anniversary show which Buck had a set at, he asked me if I’d be into hooking up a set for him – he mentioned some tracks that would definitely be in there (‘The Centaur’ was one by default), but I could direct it how I wanted. I started freaking out a little bit, I just figured, shit, I’d need about year for this! But as always, I had a cup of coffee and settled down a bit, calmed down. It was just so much fun – I had ideas of what tracks to use and what kind of sounds I wanted to involve, and then what rhythms and links would be involved too. Like on ‘Roses And Bluejays’ I though it would sound ill with a dubby sound, so I programmed it like that, and for ‘Centaur’ I knew that this would be something of a set piece so I went crazy on that. As it was an Anticon show as well, there would be heads there from the old days of Buck, so I dropped a little re-edit of ‘Pen Thief’ with hefty drums in there, and I remade an old track of his called ‘Pack Animal’ – the instrumental doesn’t exist so I just remade it. That was the case of a few of these – I didn’t want to keep hassling him for instrumentals so mostly I carved up the whole tracks or programmed my own versions from other samples or original sample sources, and used some of my own instruments. I really hope it comes out in one way or another soon – I don’t know just how many recordings were made on the night but the only videos I’ve seen have been camcorders with pretty rugged sound (but it was crazy to watch). It’s pretty much in his hands really! I can fully understand why he wouldn’t re-do it in a studio – it really was a one-off, but as for the instrumental set – who knows… I’d check with him first though, if I wanted to do anything with it. I’m am still completely honoured though, really, I never even considered this happening back in the early days. I still feel totally star-struck. I’m only human.
– The remixes as well as a lot of talk about your mix-cds gave you quite a name on the internet – Is there still a way for you to really push your music, anyone’s music outside the net? Does this kind of fame feel “real” to you?
I’ve never really considered the fame aspect to be totally honest with you. I’m pretty shy by nature and that’s something that I actually think helps with my music and mixes – I can say a lot with them that I couldn’t necessarily in person. I wouldn’t make a good emcee. Also, as I said way up there earlier I’m not the best at the promo aspect because I generally try not to talk about projects or things I’m working on until I know for a fact that they’re almost done or finalized – not like a superstition or anything but I like to have a handle on what’s going on, I like to be in some control. There are obvious downfalls, like when I forget what I’ve done or what I’ve been working on – it’s pretty stupid, it happens. What really did a lot for me though in terms of confidence and as a real personal revelation was back in the early part of this decade when I sent out a bunch of mix CDs to people on the Sage Francis forum (back in the ‘Non Prophets’ forum days – historical shit right there). I think Sage had mentioned something about one of my mixes and I got some really nice emails about getting hold of them. I sent some out and the reaction was awesome, I was really happy with it. I made some lifelong friends too, including Controller 7 who is just an awesome person and producer, and another of them being Anonjondoe who I’d like to strongly bigup at this point. Watch out for him, for real… I also met the Litterthugz crew around that time too! Haha. They’re ace. From then on a lot of things led to others and I met a lot of good people, and gained a ridiculous amount of inspiration, and a realization that there were people out there who were thinking in similar ways to me.
This was definitely a time that gave me so much enthusiasm and inspiration – I was so swept away by the amount of talent that I was seeing and the fact that I knew these people too just floored me. But there was something so different, and I think that had a lot to do with the fact that the people I met were just amazing people. Artists too, a lot of them, but first off just great, friendly people. They weren’t caught up in the idea of fame, or getting over or stepping on you. I’ve heard about that kind of thing and seen it first hand from working in the record shop (be it people who run labels or music making friends) so I try to keep myself away from all that mess. It does NOT have to be that way – not thatI never really thought that it necessarily had to be like that but to meet such people where those traits didn’t even come into it was such an uplifting experience. This was very important to me. I was lucky to have met such a refreshing group of people and to me this was an amazing bonus which came with sending my music out there. I think any kinds of fame I might have stemmed from there, but like I said it’s never really been something I’ve actively pursued – I want people to hear what I do and I’ve had an element of people kind of discovering what I’ve done rather than me pushing it on them, which I like. I hate having things pushed on me and I don’t have it in me to push my own music on people, but I won’t lie or play it down – I hope that makes sense! If people ask what it’s about, I’ll say but I won’t relentlessly hammer it on people – I’ll tell people about what I’m doing but in my own way.
As for whether ‘fame’ feels real to me, the thoughts in my mind which take over any sense of that are more involved with the project in hand or my own experiments to honest with you. It’s fantastic to have listeners and people who like what I do, but the fame element scares me a little bit! I just keep on doing what I do. As long as I can do that, any fame that comes is a bonus.
– Do you play live?
I do, but I’ve consciously focused on having a break from that for a while, since a couple of years ago. I’ve played a few shows with the MPC (with my friend sasQwax, pka Waxfactor) but most of my playing live has involved DJing. I’ve been playing out properly since around 1995 or so, just doing parties and little shows here and there (and a four deck set with my brother which was dope – he’s DJ Budd). Things took off in a more serious way around 2001, when I played as support DJ for Themselves and Alias in London. From then on I got to play at a lot of Anticon-related shows, and sometime in 2003 a friend of mine was working for Lex Records, and he used to play my mixes in the Warp offices. The boss at Lex, Tom Brown, was into what I was doing and I got to play at some Lex shows around then, which gradually led on to the Warp hookup, which led on to more shows with ‘ZILLA’, which were way more intense. They involved lots of cue points and all kinds of music we’d either made or had to recreate there and then, and we both learnt a lot from those shows I think. It was a really cool way of doing it – it was like a club-based way of presenting a mix and we covered a lot of ground, which we refined on a show by show basis (we had to create the set over the phone as we lived a fair way away from each other). We played at the Dedbeat festival in the UK for a few nights which was crazy large, and on the solo tip I got to play out in Barcelona with DJ 2D2, Prefuse 73’s pal and DJ. That opened me up to a whole new world, and the people out there are just straight up amazing. I don’t know what the scene’s like out there these days – this was back in 2004 – but back then it was just phenomenal. 2D2 was bringing a huge amount of energy to the area and I don’t think many people were doing that with hip hop. We did a few shows and a massive one in Valencia which was in this outside amphitheatre. It was incredible, proper 4-deck action. Since then I’ve been able to play in New York at clubs and a radio station and then a lot of UK based events and nights, with more of the supporting act DJ approach. Over the past couple of years though I really have toned it down. There are a lot of reasons but mainly, I just wasn’t really getting the same feeling from it. Sometimes it is so insanely great and it feels perfect, but sometimes you can have nights where you question why the fuck you’re doing this at all. Maybe it’s just me! I don’t know. I’m not talking about the big nights, more the little regular ones. It can be really good but I found that if there wasn’t a good crowd, I’d end up having to defend what I was playing – I mean, sometimes even playing classic hip hop, it felt pointless having to justify why I was playing De La Soul or Tribe – and this started happening more and more until I lost my patience and decided to just keep it at home for a while, and actively try and work on other things. I’ve never tried to compete with other DJs, and I don’t battle – I couldn’t go through all that stuff, but I do respect it – but I’m at a point where I don’t want to go through that justification process at a hip hop night. I’d rather play indie rock or folk records at home. It’s a long story though, and there are a lot of other considerations too – seriously, it’s been a pretty confusing mental ride for me and lots of weighing things up against other things – but right now I’m really amped about being able to make music where I am, and I have a lot of ideas which, whether they occur live or not, are just inspiring me and keeping me very happy. I still love playing live, I don’t want to seem grumpy, and I do keep myself sharp (I practice as much as I always have), but at this point I’m just keeping it a bit more selfish! Haha. You have to sometimes.
– If the internet would shut down tonight, what would be the first thing you do the next morning?
Well that’s a really good one… I’d take a long walk and find a high hill somewhere where I could watch the chaos unravel. If disaster films have taught me anything it’s that the world would destroy itself if something like that happened so it’d be a pretty sick lightshow. Planes and missiles and the whole deal. That’s the science fiction option. I think in reality I’d be pretty baffled for a while but as the confusion wore off I’d cancel my standing order with the internet company, by hand written letter of course, and probably start speaking to people a lot more. Or a lot less. I don’t know. Let’s try it!