Hand down your pants hip hop

Whether going by the name of Uncle Climax, Jesus Murphy or Buck 65, Richard Terfry is known for his weird version of hip hop with its emphasis on the instrumental

Growing up in Mount Uniake, N.S., Buck 65 had limited exposure to music and had to climb a tree in his yard to hear the local radio station’s hip hop program.
Growing up in Mount Uniake, N.S., Buck 65 had limited exposure to music and had to climb a tree in his yard to hear the local radio station’s hip hop program.

1. Who are you?

I am Buck 65, the Warren Oates of rap.

2. You are currently on a summer tour, so what are your tour essentials and why?

I travel light. Baby wipes are a must. I don’t need much else. Dental floss. I can get by on just about nothing.

3. How are you feeling about playing this year’s Wolfe Island Music Festival?

It’s my first time playing Wolfe Island, so I don’t know what to expect. But I like the sound of the name. And I’m always excited to have a chance to play with Jenn Grant. When we get together, fires burn.

4. You grew up in a small town, Mount Uniacke, N.S., where you have said none of your friends were into the hip hop scene. How did you fall in love with music?

I became interested in hip hop when it was just getting started, back around 1980. I would have been eight years old. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Like a lot of eight year olds, my mind was wide open, ready to be occupied by something that I could obsess over—something I could use to begin to define myself. And that happened to be a brand new music genre.

Completely new genres don’t come along very often, so it’s very exciting when they do. And this one was very much geared toward young people and came with a message of “this is for everyone; anyone can do it; you can do it too!” So, I went crazy. Zero to 60 in half a second. From oblivion to complete obsession in a snap of the fingers.

5. You are not only a talented musician but you create all the different aspects of your music yourself. Is it important to you to have that creative control over all aspects of your work?

Actually, I don’t think I’m talented at all. I just have a lot of ideas. And for that reason, it’s not only important, but completely necessary for me to have control over every aspect of the music. But it can also be fun to experiment with surrendering control once in a while.

6. You began your career back in the 1990s and have been playing ever since, which inevitably means you have played in some interesting places. What is the best and strangest place you have ever had a show?

I played for one guy in Kingston a few days after September 11th. I played in a museum in Australia for the opening of an Andy Warhol exhibit. I played in a basement with Vincent Gallo in Buffalo. I’ve had all kinds of amazing adventures.

Most of the strangest and best nights of my life have been nights I was playing music in some corner of the world. I’ve really lived.

I’m rich.

7. How would you describe your music?

I would describe my music as sub-realist. I’d describe it as a hand down the front of your pants. I’d describe it as Mt. Uniacke music. I’d describe it as a moustache drawn on the Mona Lisa. I don’t know. I think I would have a much easier time describing individual songs. It’s hard to throw a net over the whole thing.

8. You’ve become known for your stage names, which have ranged from Uncle Climax, Jesus Murphy to Stinkin’ Rich. What inspires these pseudonyms?

I guess they were just attempts at justifying or making excuses for various creative dalliances. Uncle Climax was the name given to my inner pervert, I guess. He still rears his head once in a while, but doesn’t want to draw too much attention to himself these days.

9. Your newest record, 20 Odd Years, brought you back to Halifax where you created the record from the ground up with some old friends. What was that experience like?

It had been a while since I did that. I took my hands off the wheel for a few years. I needed to go back. I allowed myself to be very uncomfortable for a few years. It hurt (in a good way). So it was good to be able to relax a little.

10. You made this year’s long list of nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize, how does that feel?

I was on the jury for the Polaris a year ago, so I know how it works. Having had that experience, I can tell you that it doesn’t really mean anything. The work I’m most proud of was never recognized in any way.

It’s up to me to decide what is a failure and what isn’t, not someone else. It was never up to me to hire a publicist,which is to say that I’m not motivated by going out and looking for approval.

11. For all those who are coming to your show, is it true that hugs and kisses are free?

Hugs and kisses are always free. The way I see it, I give people everything I have on stage. I make myself very vulnerable. It’s very personal. And I think it’s very generous when any performer does that.

So, the least that can happen after the show is some kind of meaningful exchange of human contact or affection so that it’s not an entirely one-sided affair. I always hope to get back a little of what I put out there.

Buck 65 plays the main stage at Wolfe Island Music Festival at 9 p.m. on Aug. 6.

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