There’s something elusive about Canada’s eclectic hip-hop hero Buck 65. He lives a double life: CBC radio host Rich Terfry by day and performer Buck 65 by night. He’s a man who straddles the edge of many worlds, collecting tidbits of each and reassembling them into a sound that is undeniably idiosyncratic.
His latest work, 20 Odd Years, is a commemoration of just over twenty years in the business, as well as a celebration of all things weird.
“There’s the double meaning, based on the fact that the past twenty years have been very strange, fraught with misadventure, danger and surrealism,” Terfry said.
“It’s a reflection of where I’m at now, where the 20 years have brought me. It only occurred to me that it had been twenty years after most of the songs had been written. One day I was just out for a walk and thought, ‘Holy cow! My first record came out twenty years ago.’”
Buck 65 is instantly recognizable for his gifted storytelling, building narratives based on his strange adventures. “Let’s just be a little bit conservative and say that about 95 per cent of what I write is based on real experience.” Still, Terfry admits a fondness for exercises in intuition and fiction. “Sometimes I think things are born just by the way that the music will trigger someone’s imagination.”
Those who have been fortunate enough to submerge themselves in a Buck 65 record will agree on one thing: his music is rich in texture and complexity. He was eager to chat about his song writing process, and admitted that he survives off constant adaptation and attention to detail.
“I’ll almost always start with the music, and the music will often be guided by my mood. I’ll start building words around it. If I’m stuck, then I’ll go back through my notebooks,” Terfry explained. “I always have this log for ideas for words, I’m a very words oriented person.”
For Terfry, the final stages of recording are just as fundamental as recording the skeleton of the song. “There is a very important finishing touch, which is how to find the ideal musical compliments to drive this idea home as strong as I can, whether it’s through the choice of instrumentation or addition of a voice”.
“When it comes to that point, I don’t limit myself in any way. I don’t say ‘I’m a hip-hop guy so it needs to sound like that.’” His boundary dissolving lust for experimentation abides in jazz, blues, folk, amongst countless other styles, and can be summed up in what seems to be a personal mantra: “Everything under the sun is on limits.”
With almost a year since the release of 20 Odd Years, Buck 65 is eager to hit the road. “The older stuff will be presented in a new way.” He continued, “I’m not gonna do like some crazy Lauryn Hill or Bob Dylan set where everyone is like ‘what is this?’
“The whole craft of being on stage and performing is something I put a lot of thought in to. I really try to conduct myself as a professional and think of people’s expectations.” Accordingly, Buck 65 guarantees to leave his Hamilton audience slack-jawed.
“I’m thinking of just leaving it all behind in Hamilton. Just letting it rip and just hitting as hard as I possibly can.”
Buck 65 is performing Friday Feb. 3rd at the Casbah