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Interview: Richard Buckner

September 18, 2009

Richard Buckner will be playing at The Mill in Iowa City tomorrow – Friday, September 17th.   Norbert Sarsfield – from KRUI’s Yew Piney Mountain – had an opportunity to do a brief interview with Buckner.  Discussion below.

It’s great to have you make a return visit to Iowa City. What is your current touring situation? Are you doing solo shows or band shows?

Thanks for having me back.  I’ll be doing a solo show.

I’ve seen you put on incredible shows, both solo and in a band context; how do you approach the different kinds of shows, and do you prefer doing one over the other?

I approach the shows with whatever instruments are working at the time. This time I’m only  bringing three or four guitars and an amp.  I like bringing other musicians too, whenever it’s possible, but it also takes a toll (money, privacy…).

Earlier this year Merge digitally re-released 3 of your albums that had gone out-of-print: Bloomed, The Hill, and Impasse. They’re all great records (The Hill in particular is one of my favorites) and it’s hard to believe they actually went out of print in the first place. How does it feel to finally have these available again? Are there any plans to do CD re-releases of these titles? Are there any plans to re-release your other out-of-print stuff, in particular Devotion & Doubt?

Click for the rest of the interview…

I didn’t really know what to do with the out-of-print records when I first got them back from my old label.  I thought maybe I’d just sit on them for awhile until I got a bright idea, but it was really easy to just put them out digitally with Merge.  Devotion and Doubt and Since are available digitally, but not through Merge.  We might put out the Merge re-releases on cd one these days, but no plans yet.

Your last official full-length release was Meadow, released in 2006. I’ve read that you’re planning on a 2010 release on Merge. Can you talk a little bit about what we can expect on that release?

I’m working on arrangements now and I’ll begin re-recording everything in my studio when I get back from this tour in October.  I’d like to put it out about this time next year.

A few years back you recorded a track, “Windham,” for the CD Help Me To Sing, which was a companion to the documentary film Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp. Can you talk a little bit about Sacred Harp / shape note singing and your interest in it?

I already had a couple of Smithsonian compilations of sacred harp recordings when I was contacted to record one of the songs.  It was a very interesting adventure in homespun music theory.  I learned a lot from the experience.  I stayed as strict as I could to retain the original arrangement (4 or 5 harmonies and a slightly crooked time signature).

A few years back you also recorded the film score for the movie Dreamboy. How was the process of recording a film score different than other recording project you’ve done?

I had received the script about five years earlier, hoping that the project would go ahead.  I started working on the music before filming began, just going from impressions or ideas that I got from reading the script.  I had just finished my last record Meadow and usually don’t feel like jumping into another project right away, but the mostly instrumental approach to the recording process really drew me in.  In the end, I only needed to record a few extra things after filming was done.  Most of it, I believe, was shot with certain music in mind that I’d already sent the director.  With me, handicaps that come along with an assignment motivate things to happen that might’ve normally stayed unexplored.

You’ve moved around quite a bit and lived in a number of different places. Do you find that a change in scenery has an impact on your writing? How has living in Brooklyn for the past several years affected your writing?

I left Brooklyn a few years ago for upstate NY.  I started the film score in a small room in Brooklyn, then finished it a few hours north of the city.  I moved into an old Grange Hall with high ceilings in, basically, one big room.  I got to get out louder things like my Leslie speaker which really opened up the tracks with all the space.  As far as writing goes, change of environment is always eye-opening in various ways, but it always comes back to an internal hobby.

I heard a rumor that at one point you considered enrolling in the writing program here at the University of Iowa; any truth to those rumors? Any plans to release any non-musical writing projects (short stories, poems, etc.)?

I have considered it a few times.  Some other scam always comes up, though.  And, honestly, I don’t spend enough time on writing as a writer (as opposed to music-related) to make me worth anything to a program.  I’m working on a bunch of stories now that haven’t found a style or voice yet.

What have you been listening to lately; what’s been inspiring you? Turn us on to something we might not have heard before.

I like stuff on the VHF label.

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