Change for a Buck 65

Canadian hip-hop star gets new job new perspective

Hip hop isn’t the most consistently innovative or successful genre in Canada’s current musical landscape but if there’s one exception it’s Richard Tefrey better known as Buck 65. Buck’s 2005 album Secret House Against the World combined hip hop with elements of folk bluegrass country and spoken word earning him a reputation as one of Canada’s most interesting acts as well as some coverage south of the border. With all the attention and apparent success it certainly caught a lot of people off guard when he announced on his website’s blog that he was in the market for a second job.

“There’s this myth of the rock star that’s been perpetuated by the media and the record labels and even a lot of the artists themselves” Tefrey says “but there’s a link there that’s sort of invisible that a lot of people don’t consider which can be summed up in one word – publicist. My publicist set up this phone call which will turn into an article that people will read and when people pick it up they’ll see me on a page and think ‘that guy’s famous.’ If someone is in the press then we assume they’re successful and that money goes along with that. But that’s just a publicist doing their job.

“I’ve invited people to find some of those public websites to look into the sales figures and they’ll find out that my record barely sold anything.”

By announcing publicly that he needed a second job Tefrey was accomplishing two things. First it expedited the job search process – after being offered employment opportunities as a farmhand and a housepainter he settled on the slightly more appealing prospect of being an on-air host for CBC Radio 3. Secondly and more importantly it shed some light on some serious misconceptions about the financial well-being of Canadian artists.

“The value of music has been brought to an all-time low” he says. “Most people aren’t even buying music anymore. The reason why is because of these misconceptions. People think ‘well what’s 99 cents to this guy who based on what I’ve seen on MTV Cribs is probably living in a big house with a bunch of cars?’

“I know people whose records have gone gold and still live with their parents. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and be in the homes of musicians who were a lot more famous than me and sold a whole lot more records who are living in shitty apartments with five roommates.”

This is not the first time that a public comment from Tefrey has gotten a lot of attention. In 2004 he made some brash comments in an interview with Kerrang! magazine about what he felt was a lack of musicianship in hip hop and later had to apologize for them. Though he says the comments were taken out of context he was still taught a valuable lesson about airing thoughts like this in public.

“I’ve always been a great admirer of artists who are really outspoken and aren’t afraid to say things that are unpopular” he says. “There’s a part of me that resents the fact that some of these things (I’ve said) played themselves out the way they did. I just can’t get myself into the headspace of being a figure in the public eye – I feel like Joe Blow from down the street so I can’t get used to watching what I do and say at all times. It’s so unnatural.

“I don’t think I’ve ever said anything that I haven’t heard so many people say in private before but had the common sense not to say it publicly. It’s too bad that there are certain things that are too politically incorrect to say and thinking that I have to censor myself I regret that.”

Tefrey’s next great battle is with the marketing of his upcoming album Situation . The story that it’s a concept album about the year 1957 has spread like wildfire which makes him shudder though he tries to avoid being defensive.

“I started buying up all these books and realized that all this stuff had happened in 1957” he says “and I started getting idea after idea after idea. I started thinking about Elvis and the rock ’n’ roll boom Bettie Page the Cold War the beat generation all these interesting things that were happening that year. So I got inspired and wrote a bunch of songs and that’s it. I don’t want (the concept) to create the impression first I want the songs to create the impression.”

Tefrey is sure that most people wouldn’t even notice the thread that ties the album together if the label hadn’t decided to market it that way and that’s what he would’ve preferred. Still for an artist with so much weighing heavily on his mind Buck 65 is one artist worth hearing concept or not.