Insight Interview: Bucky

We caught up with London-based producer Bucky in time for the release of his much-awaited new EP with Russian artist L Own. Read our exclusive interview here…

Hey Bucky, thanks so much for agreeing to an interview. Are you still London-based? Do you tend to travel a lot, or are you firmly rooted here?

No worries man, I am still in London for the minute but I do have plans to do a bit of traveling to New Zealand later this year. So we will see what happens. I’m a bit high maintenance when I do travel as I have to bring my laptop to make bits and I find myself babying my computer and worrying about someone giving it the five finger discount rather than enjoying myself. I’m a bit of a melt like that, I’m very much a stay at home kinda person.

Can you recall your first real exposure to music? 

Yeh man I think when I was growing up I did the usual bootleg cassette rips from the radio. We used to get the coach to school and we had this driver ‘Dick’ which is short for Richard (not calling the man a dick for those not from the UK!). All I remember is that he had massive jug ears but he was such a sound old boy, everyday a different person would give him a cassette with tunes to play for the drive to school. I’d always be nervous because I didn’t want to be seen drawing shit tunes! It was quite funny really because they were on tape and we’d have to shout to Dick at the front of the bus and we were like ‘not this one Dick fast forward fast forward’ and he would always do it for us. I remember dropping M-Beat – Incredible and some Shaggy tunes and another one I remember is Reel 2 Reel – Jazz It Up that my mate got off some ‘Now 96’ tape he had. What’s funny is that they still make those ‘Now’ CD’s but they are still called Now 90 or whatever even if its 2017. Makes no sense to me. I always thought being a coach driver would be so calm, they put up with a lot but they seem to understand people are off to do something fun so just join in. I’ve been to the football to away-games and also remember back in the day going to The Sanctuary [rave venue] in Milton Keynes on the coach and the driver would let people bill up on the coach when ‘we hit the motorway’. I reckon I could do that job man, its sounds funny but I think it’s a good job at the end of the day. After all everyone thanks the driver when you get there, at least that’s the old way of doing things.

I also had a great music teacher back when I was a kid. She would split you into groups and give you free range on all the musical instruments. We were far too naughty to listen and I think she knew how to channel this. But that class was so much fun I can’t tell you. After banging on the kettle drum and messing about with the triangle for a bit you would perform your song at the end of the lesson to the rest of the class. I would always do silly raps and lyrics over the top, back in those days I’d do anything for a laugh. I was a bit of a class clown and wanted the attention, you wouldn’t think that of me now because I’m quite reserved and like to keep to myself. I’d never do that now! But back in those days I was a tearaway, quite minor probably by today’s standards but I got sent out of class more times than you can shake a stick at trying to be funny, I think thats what messed my G.C.S.E’s up (that and the Championship Manager games!).

How and when did you first begin writing and creating music?

I remember first trying some dance creation game on the Playstation back in the day but the stuff I did was really dry and complete dog’s mess if I’m very honest. Then I remember I bought the tutorial for Reason 3 because I really wanted to learn before I dropped all my money on the software. I just couldn’t figure it out in my head, it all just seemed overwhelming and complicated. Back in the day the access to learning with that kinda stuff was so limited compared to today, there was no YouTube tutorials to flick through, no YouTube even. I sort of dropped it and started to DJ jungle and drum and bass for a few years. I’ve got hundreds of vinyl records still, tons of Moving Shadow all the way up to liquid. It taught me a lot, I really developed my ear mixing-wise and learned about bars and drops and structure. I got really good with those Mark 5’s man, still got them. But I always knew I wanted to make my own stuff, so It wasn’t until someone actually sat down with me in like ’06 I think and showed me how to use it that I was like ‘wow I can actually do this’. I also took some piano lessons because it’s my favourite instrument. That’s what I’d say to anyone starting out – try a demo of all the standard Logic, Ableton, Fruity Loops or whatever and see which one you can make something that resembles a tune with after 2 hours. You will find your brain naturally gets on with one of them, then it’s just a case of just making stuff over and over and over. There’s really nothing else to it. Forget expensive courses, there’s no magic bullet, it’s just time and energy – the more you put in, the more you get out and you pick things up as you go. What really is difficult is making the time and energy to sit and do it. But for real it takes years. The truth is that you only ever feel as good as the last tune you made, well at least for me anyway.

Have you ever played live? Would you like to in future? Any upcoming shows?

I get asked this a lot but I’ve not done any to be honest, I would definitely be open to it, but I’m just concentrating on improving my craft atm. I love the journey of a mix. I usually just pass whatever tunes I think can be played out to Jake (Vacant) and hope that he drops them in. I went to Russia with him a few years back and it was so much fun, the audience and the appetite for the music was mad. I’d love to dust off the gun fingers and go again. I really owe Jake a bit of a debt to be honest, he has done me such a solid by promoting me on his SoundCloud and for bringing me along to his shows. You would have thought that all the success he’s had would have gone to his head, but really he is as down to earth as they come and as safe as.

What have been your biggest influences?

Over the years I’ve loved so many genres and styles, I could go on all day. But thinking back there are three artists that when I first heard them I was so stunned I could not believe what I was hearing: Omni Trio, The Streets and Burial.

When I first heard Omni Trio I was playing Metroid Prime on the Game Cube and ‘Thru the Vibe’ came on because my mate had just bought the 1993-2003 compilation from HMV. What I really loved was the contrast between the soft melodies and the harder aggressive breaks. I could not get enough. Back then drum and bass was getting overly techy or tech-step as it was known. If you think of music as a painting, if you have a black dark angry bass and black angry drums it just becomes too much black, you need some white to understand what’s dark and what’s not. You need the contrast. I think there was an era when producers wanted to make it as hard and dark as possible but it almost has the opposite effect for me it’s like you’re trying to be dark and moody but it comes off like a Freddy Krueger halloween costume. The whole tech step DnB thing was a bit of a death of the scene at the time in my opinion. Going to raves became having a screw face and lurking next to the bass bins with the very real possibility you could get stabbed or bottled, you could feel it brewing in the air. Plus there was ‘too many men too many many men’ at the raves and it became more about the MCs than the tunes. In my opinion an MC has to facilitate the journey and the good feeling in the room. MC Conrad and LTJ Bukem is a good example of this balance done right. I think many of them at the time were doing way too much ‘charlie’ and chatting too much over all the music and not letting it breath. I think I’ve said this before but if you listen to early Dreamscape tape packs or Helter Skelter from like 96′ it’s just people in a room smiling and enjoying the tunes. It’s about the music, no one’s looking at their phones, taking selfies, sharking or causing trouble. If you ask me the reason that the more recent Burial releases have been like old-skool hardcore sounds is to capture a bit of this precious time and vibe in the scene that was and has now been lost.

With The Streets I think it captured how I felt being a young person at the time. Not to get too political but before 2003-2004 England in particular was more English before the massive euro influx, which I’m not saying is bad but that’s just how it is. There’s no other way to describe it and I think Mike Skinner put the nail in the head on that era. Being from England before was about having to wear smart shoes to get into Yate’s, 8 cans of Fosters for a fiver at the off-licence, sovereign rings, Weatherspoons beer and burger deals, Asda breakfasts, being disappointed by the national football team (although that’s not changed), having the best 1.2 nova you could get with OZ wheels man and lurking about the place. Lads then were less worried about going to the gym and self image (I am pretty sure there were no gyms apart from boxing ones), it was more about getting a squirt of the old Lynx Africa and slapping on a bit of your dad’s Brute aftershave and having a go. I miss that era in a way, I’m not really feeling the whole social media, Facebook tip that people seem to be on but everything changes I guess. I think this country has really changed in a big way and maybe I’m getting old and raking over what has been but I think I try to make stuff that tips the hat to the past to some degree.

As for Burial there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said already, so I won’t.

Do you think producing electronic music requires technical or creative skill? Or both?

I think that as a producer there are a lot of hats you need to wear to be able to produce something decent. It’s a bit like a triangle with three major points. One being soul and vibes, one being mixing and mastering, and the last being theory and technique. For me personally I’d rather make something that was a bit rough around the edges but had a great vibe than something super polished. A lot of more commercial tunes are full of the tricks but when you break the actual vibe of the tune down it’s quite dry. That been said it’s very hard to write ‘clean’ tunes – it’s pretty hard to get the mix perfect and sound right, so props to those guys. With future garage I think you can hide a mix a bit with the crackles and the lo-fi vibes of it, which sounds good to me as the imperfection is more human in my opinion. I’d like to think I am quite strong in the vibes department but I’m always learning and trying to level up the other two elements as much as I can. I think everyone should start by making something simple that you’re feeling and worry about the rest later, I always say if it doesn’t add anything to the tune it takes away. To me music is as much about the stuff you leave out and the silences between the notes that gives it its form as anything else.

Some of your music has taken a more soulful turn as of late. Was that a conscious decision or do you tend to produce whatever you’re feeling at any particular moment

Yeh man, I’m one of those producers that make what I feel. If I’m not feeling it, it’s hard for me to finish it. It’s a ticking time-bomb with music, because in the process of making something you listen to it so many times you can get lost. When you stop feeling it, even if you felt it strongly before, it’s like someone turned the lights off and you have to try and finish the tune basically blind. I think this is also the reason why I can’t listen to my own music, I’ve heard it too many times and it gets on my nerves and makes me cringe. When you get to the stage of a release I have no idea what it is anymore. It’s a strange feeling, it’s like you lost the map. But as I say I feel that other people’s music is for you and your music is for others. That’s what is beautiful about it I guess. I can hear all of my own faults and things I couldn’t quite pull off the way I wanted, whereas the listener hears something completely different. With my last album I tried to tell a story about the 9-5 struggle I have been thru over the last few years. It’s not for everyone I know – but for some, they really get it. I didn’t wanna just make garage tunes all the way through. I think it’s good to depart from the same genre and try a few others – and then you can see where you are leaking, production-wise. Plus there are plenty of the garage beats on this new EP for those who are so inclined!

Any other genres you’d like to explore in future?

Yeh recently I’ve dipped my toe into a bit of house and I’m a big UK hip hop fan as well so I’d like to do more hip hop. Hip hop is quite friendly to me I think because I’m very much a sample-based producer rather than synthesisers and ‘electronic sound’. I’d like to explore it a bit more. Maybe I’m spreading myself a bit thin but I like to enjoy what I’m doing and push myself as an artist.

Do you have any thoughts on the future of underground musical styles such as future garage? Do you think the scene will evolve further?

I never really liked the name ‘future garage’ because its not the future, but I understand that it has to be different from where garage kicked off. Every scene seems to fizzle and dissolve into other things. I think wave and trap will take over maybe, but really I don’t know. I guess the future is not ours to see. I know that personally I’ll just continue to make stuff I feel whichever way the wind blows.

Your latest EP is a collab with Russian producer L Own. As a non-producer I’m quite curious – do collabs tend to happen organically as you speak with other producers, or do you have particular producers in mind that you’d like to work with?

I remember I met L Own in a club in Moscow, it’s always a surprise when people you never would have expected have heard your music. I think it evolved because L Own cared a lot, he is super passionate about music and wanted to work with me. I rarely go chasing after collabs because it’s long. I heard his sound and thought that it could work well work and I think in the end it has. I’ve tried and failed in the past to get collabs with vocalists and it never works out and it’s a bit long so I stepped back from it in a way and allow people in if they wanna work with me. Otherwise I’m just doing my own bits.

Can we expect any more Bucky collabs in future? Any other specific artists you’d like to work with?

No other collabs are in the pipeline man. I guess I’d like to eventually do something with Jake (Vacant). We keep talking about something but every time I go over his house we end up brocking out to to the latest Sorrow tune at full blast or playing Resident Evil on his VR, then we go to KFC and then I go home. Thats pretty much standard everytime, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think the main problem for me is that Jake uses Logic and I use Ableton so for me making music with Logic is like playing football just with my left foot, I just can’t do it mate.

Do you have a favourite track / song of all time? Favourite artist?

Sigh man, don’t do that to me. I can’t answer it because music is about different moods, vibes, memories, periods of life etc etc. My favourite Vacant track is Hollow tho. So take that as one as an answer.

It’s been said that a life in music can be a hard one. Would you agree with that?

Yeh man I agree. Technology and the internet have both opened things up for people to join in, but also at the cost of how hard it is to make a living doing what you love. I remember back in the day you would buy a CD from HMV or whatever and if there was 3 tunes on there you really liked you had done well. You had to make it count. Now you can get any tune individually and a lot of the time for free if you’re like that. Even if you don’t download it you can hear it on YouTube for nothing. I dunno man tho, If I could get the same feeling making chairs to sell on eBay as making music I would do it man. I’d def make more money from it. In reality I’ve spent far more money than I’ve ever made from this, but nothing else gives me the same feeling. I can’t really describe it, when you’re making a tune and you’re with the music you feel like you don’t even exist and you’re in this different world for a time. I know that sounds nuts but that is how it is for me. There is nothing else like it I have ever experienced, everything else just feels like I’m wasting my time.

The level of sacrifice you have to make to do this is large, I’ve parred jobs, relationships, promotions and other commitments all to do something that effectively you know you can’t easily survive doing. You gotta be madly obsessed man really, because so much needs to go into it. But I feel I need to do it or i’m just not happy. I say to everyone that your time and energy is the biggest thing you have so don’t waste it. You can literally get good at anything if you consistently focus on something. I firmly believe that. All the guys in the scene who are high level they are pretty much all 24/7 on this, no one just cracks open Logic on day dot and smashes it. Those guys are working hard and putting the ticks in. If you’re a normal worker it is hard to keep up the pace with those who are working on music full time so in reality it’s really tough.

The biggest thing that screws you is the full time job, it screws up your time and energy and that’s all you really have. Some people are happy doing that and going to some bistro coffee shop in Clapham at the weekend and that’s fair play, more power to them, but that’s not me. Work always wants as much as possible from you for as little as possible in return and if you’re honest you want the same from it. It’s this little dance you gotta play. Everyone wants to get to heaven, but no one wants to die first.

I think the penny dropped for me last year when my Nan died and I went to the old people’s home she had been staying in. Through the crack in one of the doors I saw this other elderly lady in the foetal position lying there properly frail, devoid of energy and for all intents and purposes a spent human, no chance for any change. I remember thinking how ironic it was that it starts and ends in the same position. Sounds dark but the image is burnt into my brain. I’m not trying to be the next best thing or anything, but I want to know I’ve tried my best. Screw regrets man – I don’t need that in my mirror.

Any other Bucky projects on the horizon that you’d like to tell us about?

Irrelevent did a really inspiring long play EP recently called Vague Memories. It made me think of doing something that flows from one track into another the same way. I thought it was really mature and loved the autonomic sound. I have toyed with making another story-lead thing and also just standard EPs. I did a beat recently for a or other comes to UK hip hop artist so maybe that will surface. But not sure at the moment. Ive made 3-4 other new tracks as well, I dunno tho man at the moment I’m just doing what I can and hoping that some idea for how I can group things together comes to me. I am also working on a sample pack.

And finally – are there any tracks / artists that you’d like people to know about?

Not forgoing the EP above I think that I’d watch out for: Eikona (he’s a great lad as well), Tru.ant (underrated producer from Poland, high level percs on his beats), Enfluence (Cali hip hop), Aesthetic Kid, think his EP is dropping soon (track Devilz is next level) and a man after my own heart with his piano music from Bristol Rovers – Kori. Lastly I have to drop in Jordan Noon (Hollow) who is doing next level music videos, I think that visuals adds another dimension to music so watch for his bits too.

Thank you so much Bucky – very best of luck with the new EP!

Thank you Bro, Much Love x

Bucky’s latest EP ‘Be There’ with L Own will be released here on 1 July 2017.