Starting out as a DJ back in 1993, Buddy Peace has naturally progressed into the realms of beat making and production. Known for his attention to detail and his ‘collage like’ offerings, Buddy continues to push musical boundaries. This week were able to ask Buddy a few questions about some tracks that have inspired him through out the years, and also delve into his creative process when it comes to production and DJing.
On your Youtube Channel you have a series of Finger Drumming videos called the ‘Bag Lunch’ Sessions. Each episode sees you finger drumming in a different location including a schoolyard, train and even a rooftop. Can you give a bit of insight into what inspired this series and the eclectic locations?
I really wanted to make some battery powered pad-tapping performances where I wasn’t bound by plugs and mains outlets, just me outside with a battery powered sampler and a recorder. They weren’t all rigidly rehearsed, mostly I just familiarised myself fully with my pad arrangement and got a rough idea ready, and then just powered through. They were made around some of the coldest times of year too and the will of myself and that of the cameraman didn’t hold out to laborious sessions, so I made them as quick as I could. I just wanted to have something interesting in each session, just different and pleasant or somewhere I passed by a lot in London. The train one was fun, and the rooftop one was cool because of the time of day. You can get some lush sunsets round London sometimes.
You stated in a previous interview “Some ideas I have start rattling in my brain and I can’t work on anything else until they’re finished, I get proper tunnel vision on things like that.” Are you able to explain this and how it relates to your creative process?
It’s a process that still retains control over me to this very day… Sometimes I have ideas that grab me by the collar and won’t let me go, and I’m basically a slave to them until I’ve seen them through – not all the time, but usually with the bigger ones that’s how it goes down! I’m a little better these days with time division though actually. I had to spread my efforts around a bit more efficiently to get certain things done, but yeah I do get that locked on tunnel vision thing happening a lot!
You have also been asked if you could have a scotch with any musician dead or alive it would be Jason Molina? What about his music or as a person inspired you? Do you have any songs from him that you would recommend to people who have not listened to his music before?
Ahh… That’s a musician choice which, in retrospect, I wish I had made differently. I said that before he died, and as far as I’m aware his death was very much connected to alcohol. That was devastating, I guess you can only know so much about certain artists but I definitely didn’t know that his private life travelled that path. I was lucky enough to see him play solo before he passed, and it was pure magic. I knew his music so well before then, but what hit me was the way that literally on the first second of him singing his first note, the entire venue – which at that point in the show was full on noisy and chatty – completely fell silent. His voice quite literally shut the whole place up with such quickness and it gave me chills. He and one of his bands (‘Magnolia Electric Co’) made one of my favourite songs ever, which is called ‘Farewell Transmission’. Again, something that just hits you from the very first chord as soon as the track starts. I’m getting goosebumps thinking of it, I have to play it now! So yeah – check that and the whole album, as well as the album ‘Didn’t It Rain’ (by his band ‘Songs:Ohia’), and his solo ‘Pyramid Electric Co’. All gorgeous, all haunting as all hell, and just wonderful bittersweet, soulful, end of the day perfection.
We all have songs that shape us musically as we move through life. Are you able to give some insight into the relevance of these two songs and this album for you personally?
Yeah that’s my trio of childhood right there! Wow. Basically my first 5 years distilled into three track titles. ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ triggers a very exact memory in me as a toddler, sitting playing with cars sitting by the radio. I’m right there as soon as I even think of it, it’s like memory synaesthesia or something. ‘The Show’ was one of the first rap records I full on fell in love with. My brother bought it and we rocked that 45 for all it was worth. As for Dire Straits, that was a firm fixture in the car stereo on many road trips for me as a kid. As far as Adult Orientated Rock music goes, I’m sure that still has power in it to melt me into tearful mess as a full grown man. Ah I can’t front, I still like them!
You’ve worked with many great emcees in your career so far from Sage Francis, Buck 65 to B.Dolan. What for you is the most inspiring thing about collaborating with others when creating music?
It can cut through a lot of the voices you have in your own head when you make stuff solo, which is a good thing indeed. I don’t mean necessarily negative voices either – just those judgmental ones and some that want you stay on that familiar road. When you work with someone else, especially in the same room, you have so many intangible benefits and conscious/subconscious cues happening that all add to the end result (I mean, if you get on, of course!). I think I’ll always enjoy the process of working by myself first if I’m truly honest, but I love the differences and the enjoyment of working with others – it really is a refreshing process and gets you out of your own head.
You have previously said that it all started with DJing for you. Tell us about who ‘DJ Chronic’ is and your first mixtape in 1993?
Haha, good lord. DJ Chronic was the ever so awesome name I gave myself in my very first year of DJing with a Technics hi-fi turntable with pitch control and a Soundlab DLP-3. I was reading a ton of hip hop mags and listening to non-stop rap radio and was crazy inspired by it all and so I gave myself that name after all that weed I wasn’t smoking and started drawing graffiti ganja leaves on everything. My graf was okay actually back then but yeah, that name was shortlived (probably lasted like 6 months) although I did keep scratching and mixing.
What was the first equipment you used for Djing and production. What set up do you have now?
That janky mixture of turntables I mentioned above, as well as I think a Kam mixer, which had one of those shitty built in samplers. You’d sample in and boom, an instant low-grade low-bit barely audible sample at your fingertips. It was fun sampling gunshots though, I had a time with that. My first sampler was a Yamaha SU10, which is dope for loops and things but not a lot else. I did make a lot on it though. It was all Akais after that. I now use mostly laptop but I still have a gang of controllers and pad-based toys around me, loads of Novation goodies, that kind of stuff.
What advice would you give to a person who woke up this morning and decided that they want to become a hip hop beat maker like you?
It helps to have a core love for it, which won’t be shaken by either fame or setbacks. Some people can blow up quickly, some people can take a while, but it’s the same with most areas of music and creative arts – if you’re in it for that fame then you’re missing the most interesting parts. It sounds simple but love for what you do, and of course skill and practice, will take you a long way. You’re also off to a good start if you know music – music in general, as much as possible from all areas. I think in my day things were a little more walled off than today, and it was harder to widen your musical perspectives as you couldn’t look anything up on the internet which was a far off sci-fi idea for many of us. There really aren’t any excuses to broaden your interests these days which is awesome. Get inspired by it, it’s amazing.
The word ‘collage’ has often been used to describe your productions and mixes. Are you able to give a bit of insight into this and how a mixtape by DJ Riz played a role in this development?
That Riz mix triggered all of that in me for sure! Goddamn, that tape. That thing was insane. I was into the Steinski stuff from years ago, which I heard on old radio shows and my brother got me into old jungle which I always recognised samples and breaks from, and I just loved the idea of taking chunks of music and contextualising them into whatever form you like. I wanted to start doing that soon as possible, and Riz was a huge inspiration scratching-wise. I love hearing it now and knowing what’s going on – back in ’93 I was just having my wig pushed back by an avalanche of 80’s and 90’s rap and wasn’t sure what were the tracks and what were the mix parts (I did know some of it though at that point from radio tapes and such). Later on I got into DJ Shadow, Skratch Piklz and all them, Beat Junkies, Madlib, Mr Dibbs, DJ Signify, and stuff like that. Lots of DJ stuff but mainly around drum heavy and psyche bits and pieces. I think that’s why I fuck with Gaslamp Killer and the Low End Theory squadron these days. I love all of that stuff so much!
How did you find out about Melodics?
I met some wonderful people through Novation, and was invited to perform a demo for their Launchpad Pro, and Sam from Melodics got in touch with them who got in touch with me, and that was basically it! Sam showed me what it was about and talked me through it, and I was all in. It’s such a great idea and to be honest, a long overdue one! There are a lot of pad-pushers around and with so many innovations in controller technology and interface improvements, it’s an area that’s really growing and developing in such an exciting way. I’m really glad Melodics are here!
You are releasing your Melodics lesson called ‘Disco Frost’ What can Melodics users expect to learn from these lessons?
That one was a steady uptempo jam which is a goodie for just hitting certain pads simultaneously which can be trickier than it looks. It’s not a complex one by any means, but I use mainly separated chops and not whole chunks of beats or samples that often and that’s what this is really. I have a ton up my sleeve though, you’ll hear those soon!
How has finger drumming changed the game for both producers and DJ’s? How do you incorporate it into your work?
It’s kind of what I said above really, the changes in technology mean that you can chop beats very quickly, and you’ve probably already got your controller there ready and waiting for you, so right there you have so many barriers to creativity broken down instantly. From there you can just jam and bat ideas around with those chops, and it’s a cool way to get that rhythm in your hands. Also with DJing meaning different to things to people now, you can use pad controllers to control a DJ set which can be a set in Ableton, so again, you can incorporate all that stuff into a set so easy. I like to do just that actually – recently I’ve really been enjoying making sets using vocals and drums and just layering things up in Ableton, with parts in there to allow me to rock some pad-drums live. It’s so satisfying and while I’ll always love turntable DJing, after doing that for around 20 years or so this way is a really interesting change up for me. I’ll always want some kind of turntable element and I don’t want to change forever or anything, but having a new take on it all is mad exciting.
I understand you have been spending a lot of time in South East Asia and have visited all sorts of locations and places like Bangkok and ‘Noble Remix’ – What has been the most inspiring part of your travels so far and what was your reason for visiting this part of the world?
I can’t believe there was a signpost for ‘Noble Remix’. So dope. My girlfriend is over there a lot and we try and roll as a unit for the most part, so we end up hitting parts all over the place there and digging all over the place. I’m a big fan Zudrangma Records / Studio Lam and everyone involved, they’re a great crew who really put in work for that side of the world and I played at Studio Lam back in 2015 which was fantastic. It’s just madness, such a busy and frenetic place but with such dope musical heritage. They have some beautiful music in their past and right now in the present and I’m always so heavily inspired whenever I leave there, just tons of ideas floating around my head. I discovered Khruangbin in early 2015 too who use a lot of cue points from Thai music, and I’m a huge huge fan of them.
You are stranded on a desert island for a year and can only bring three records with you. Which ones would they be?
Stars Of The Lid: ‘The Tired Sounds Of…’
Public Enemy: ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions…’
Curtis Mayfield: ‘Curtis Live!’