Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Richard Buckner interview

| January 31, 2007

Richard Buckner
Visually Stunned


For as relatively anonymous as he is in the rock landscape, Richard Buckner’s life has been filled with feature-story tumult. He has moved all over the country, been divorced twice (once soon after recording an album with one of his wives), based work on a century-old Faulkner-esque manuscript, and dropped from a major label. But the events of January 8th, 2007 are new to him. A mysterious odor has blanketed New York City, and is approaching his Brooklyn home.

Appearing: February 23 at Schubas in Chicago.

“You know, Brooklyn is the world’s largest oil spill,” he sighs. “I live on the world’s largest . . . it’s true — I heard it on NPR a little while ago. Anything else doesn’t really matter anymore. It’s weird when you live in a town where you think, ‘Should I go see if the car is gassed up, in case I need to get out of here real quick?’

“I gotta get out of here.”

In reality Buckner is O.K. and the cloud will be traced back to New Jersey (where else?). But he’s still excited, albeit unsettled, because he’s about to begin a winter tour behind last fall’s Meadow (Merge), even while he’s knee-deep in a soundtrack project. Maybe.

“Since about last May I’ve been working on just random music with no goal in sight,” he chortles. “I guess the insinuation of an assignment just sort of gave me a fire under my ass and I’ve gotten all this work done. So hopefully the word will come through and I’ll spend the next couple months working on music for that before the tour starts.”

The “word,” is the go-ahead on the music for Dream Boy, a film by writer/director James Bolton whose script Buckner has had for five years. “Every now and again a soundtrack thing comes along and I’m like,” as he affects an amusingly frustrated pause, “‘Uh, what would I do here? Huh?’ It’s so weird. When I read this script for some reason, I even jotted down ideas in the original version I got, little ideas for music. I don’t know why. The visuals? The reading? I don’t know. And I ended up loving the story and loving the script.”

It didn’t hurt Buckner had “buckets full” of stray pieces on the backburner, or that he had kind of been in this situation before, that is, working off someone else’s project without any concrete visual clues. In 2000 he released The Hill (Overcoat), a one-track, 18-poem retelling of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, a 1915 book telling an Illinois town’s seedy stories from its graveyard’s residents. If only he meant to do it in the first place.

Because the sessions for what would eventually become 2002’s Impasse were going nowhere, Buckner sent Sebadoh’s Jason Loewenstein and Son Volt’s Eric Heywood home and locked himself in his own studio. “I made The Hill as a kind of creative distraction to help me write again so I could make the next record. It wasn’t supposed to be a record, it was supposed to be a creative thing to help me jar myself out of whatever freakdom I was in where I couldn’t write my own music. It’s like that with this, too. It’s these songs I never would have come up with and they’re kind of different than the stuff I’ve written before, too, which is great. I’m having a good time and I really enjoy a good handicap when I’m working. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with a good one, and this one was given to me.”

While there’s a theme of “best laid plans” running through his career — he also contends Meadow sounds nothing like it was intended to — his fooling in the studio for both The Hill and Dream Boy have inspired him to pursue another book-related project.

“There’s been a thing I’ve wanted to do for awhile with a couple different stories what I did with The Hill,” he lays out, “but in a different way. ‘Cause with The Hill, the handicap with that was I took the poems exactly as they were and didn’t change anything. There’s these stories that I’ve read that I’d love to kind of reinterpret, put some music to, and not use the actual words. Use the story in a six or seven song chunk and do an album of like three different stories in six or seven song chunks. I was thinking of doing that anyway, so if the soundtrack thing doesn’t work out some of these songs can be plugged into that kind of situation once I go through it all. Or God, I don’t know, there are ones now that maybe could be a real song.”

Steve Forstneger

To learn more of Richard Buckner’s brush with the silver screen, grab the February issue of Illinois Entertainer, available throughout Chicagoland.

Category: Features, Monthly

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