Thursday 15 September 2016

The Buck Stops Here!!! - An Interview with Bucky Brown from THE RIPPLE EFFECT/RIPPLE MUSIC

Today's guest is not part of a band or even a recording artist as such .Though he does play a prominent role within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community. If writing reviews for The Ripple Effect or his involvement with Ripple Music. Plus he's recently taken over the mantle of Head-Honcho at the awesome site that is The Doom Charts where he collaborates all the scores from the Doom Charts Contributors for the monthly list.

I've been friends with Bucky Brown for a few years now and we've worked together in the past on The Sludgelord and our involvement with TheDoom Charts.

I wanted to find out more about Bucky's musical journey began and he kindly agreed to do this interview. Bucky is a fearless and dedicated supported of everything that is HEAVY within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community. You only need to look at his BandCamp purchases. Over 1400 items purchased and still counting...

So sit back and enjoy this great interview with Bucky.

Hi Bucky. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.

Things are just getting started. It’s Sunday morning over here, having a cup of coffee enjoying some downtime while the kids are still asleep. Work begins as soon as they come downstairs. We’re heading up to the lake later today to do some boating with friends. So it’s definitely better than tomorrow is slated to be.

How did you get started reviewing with the entire blogging scene. Can you give a brief overview where you started and where you're currently writing today.

First and foremost, it all started with me just being a reader and a fan of all the cool blogs and zines on the internet. I was a late bloomer in terms of internet activity, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without those of you who had taken the initiative to start up a blog or zine to promote and review all this awesome underground music. Blogs such as The Soda Shop, The Ripple Effect, The Sludgelord, The Obelisk were among some of my favorites.

I would say the writing all started with the discovery of bandcamp. The fact that you’re given the ability to write some mini-reviews on the albums you purchase and add to your collection was just appealing and fun. I started writing blurbs, during the beginning stages of the platform and I started gaining followers and getting notices that fellow fans were purchasing albums based on my feed.

I later got a request from Grip of Delusion Radio who asked if I would be one of their exclusive album reviewers for the radio show’s short lived blog. I took on the role and began writing reviews for grumpy old Gary “Delusion” which was an honor. From there, I was asked to become a writer for several blogs in the heavy underground scene including The Sludgelord, and The Ripple Effect, where I reside today in terms of blogging. Oh ya, I guess the Doom Charts count as well. I’ve been editing and publishing the posts on the Doom Charts pretty regularly lately.

Obviously you had a brief few months writing for The Sludgelord when I was involved. Did that get you noticed by a bigger platform. Did you enjoy your time writing for The Sludgelord.

As far as getting me noticed by a bigger platform, I do not know? The Sludgelord to me was as big as it gets for quality album discoveries, great exposure for “good” bands. I was extremely honored to be a writer for the Sludgelord while it lasted, and to this day feel that some of my stronger reviews were while writing for the blog. I was in a different zone back then I think.

You're now writing for The Ripple Effect. How did you hook up with those guys.

I hooked up with those clowns similarly to how I hooked up with Grip of Delusion and Sludgelord. First off, I was a huge fan of the label and a regular customer (still am). I can’t remember if I actually asked to join after them soliciting for writers or if Todd reached out and asked. Either way, the opportunity arose and I felt The Ripple Effect was right down my alley and I fit right in over there.

Do you have any involvement with the fine folks over at Ripple Music.

Other than spending all my lunch money on every single one of their releases and over at their distribution sister store Heavy Ripples, in fact, yes I am officially part of the team. Todd has been consulting with me for quite some time before I got the official “position” at Ripple. In technical terms Todd told me he was putting me responsible for A&R for the label, along with Bill Goodman (The Evil Engineer) who had been dealing with Ripple behind the scenes for a while (Got Mothership and Zed on board I believe).

To be honest, at the time I had to look up what A&R meant (Arts and Repertoire). In reality, the label is basically a non-profit outfit and we all work with each other out of the goodness of our hearts and powered by our passion to spread the gospel of the almighty riff. I don’t carry a business card, I don’t get paid (an album two, here and there) and I don’t sit in an office like the A&R folks at the major labels back in the heyday (See show on HBO Vinyl) Anyway, I have become an integral middle man in scouting new bands for the label and leave the business end up to Todd and Pope.

Have you suggested bands to Pope and Todd who have eventually been signed to Ripple Music. If so, can you tell us which bands you had a part in getting signed to the label.

To piggy-back on the last question I have been suggesting and helping get several bands recently signed to the label. Not to take full credit, as Todd is a master at communication and does the heavy lifting in actually contractually signing the bands. My first big band find who joined up was Bonehawk. That one was actually probably the fastest to become a reality also. I think Todd can agree, I sent him the link to their self-titled album on bandcamp with a big recommendation as to them being Ripple worthy and to listen up. He was on the horn with the band that night working out a deal, and the rest is history.

As you probably noticed, Ripple has been going kind of crazy this year signing all kinds of bands. Others I was directly responsible for suggesting recently have been Salem’s Bend, Plainride, Aver (from Australia), many of the Second Coming of Heavy Split series bands including Red Mesa, The Trikes (upcoming). Todd confides in me to give a blessing on other bands he’s been looking at. There has got to be a general agreement with the group before a serious commitment is initiated. That goes for the bands more than anything. It’s a super fun endeavour and one I feel very lucky to be a part of.

Have any of those band personally thanked you for getting them signed to the label.

Of course, some more actively than others. I’ve never really met any of the new signings in person, but we normally keep in touch on Facebook or email and like the rest of the community, everyone has been genuine, professional and polite. That is bands that we’ve actually taken the next step and pursued to sign, as well as the many that are in the running and we are currently keeping our eyes and ears on. We don’t sign every band that comes along. There have been many that may have had some cool tunes, but the attitudes did not fit. Ripple looks for determined, professional, and humble personalities as an integral part of the bands we sign.

You have a wide range of musical tastes across different genres. What are your favourite genres of music and why do they appeal to you. I'll even let you discuss your preference for Country Music.

Ya I really only listen to Country Western on my own time. This whole doom, stoner and sludge thing is just a fa├žade. Only kidding. I would definitely agree my tastes are relatively wide. I was raised in a small town with only a country radio station. I can recite word for word many old school country songs from the 80’s and 90’s and that had a lasting impact. I wouldn’t say that the mainstream country is for me, as it is total garbage nowadays. Currently I listen to mostly hard rock and roll, the kind of stuff Ripple Music puts out. I have a very soft spot for alternative country, Americana type stuff like The Drive-By Truckers, Lucero, and some of the stuff like that. I’ll listen to anything as long as it has a solid groove, melody, guitar lick, lyric, or beat to it.

Which band, artist, album or genre did you first become a fan of. How did your love-affair with music began.

I have always had a love for music despite my parents not really being totally into music. My dad has pretty good taste to be honest, yet back in the day there wasn’t the access we have today. My first love had to be The Eagles as a child. Me and my brothers and dad would cram into his old 72’ Ford flat bed and hit the dirt roads on a regular basis with the Hotel California tape on repeat. My mom played a lot of oldies, which have stuck with me as memories, and she loved Heart, which is definitely an applicable sound to what I listen to nowadays.

Entering into middle school and high school when I first heard Tom Petty my musical interest was invigorated. Into the Great Wide Open hit a nerve with me and my musical addiction slowly began taking fold. From there I slowly began to enjoy the heavier stuff. At that time heavy was Metallica, AC/DC, then Megadeth, then Slayer, then, well it didn’t get much heavier than Slayer for me. I went through all the fads of metalcore, nu metal and during those down times, I was content and found the positives to enjoy. It wasn’t until the internet really started allowing for full albums to be heard cheaply and easily and I found out about blogs and such, when the real obsession began.

Some people know might know you for your extensive BandCamp Collection. Over 1410 purchases and fucking counting. Damn. How have you managed to build such a huge collection.

Same way a crack whore manages to lose all their teeth and winds up in the gutter on the wrong side of the tracks of course. Ya, I don’t know, I guess partly how I got there is I just listen to a lot of music. I also am fortunate enough to have a great job which affords me extra money to blow on music. It’s funny to think of myself as a guy with a big collection people know about. Do people really know me for that?

Are you on BandCamp all the time or do you just purchase items for a band/artist you actually like.

I’m camped out there in a trailer with full hook-ups are you kidding me? Just like all the online media these days, I login check the feed, see links recommended by others on Facebook, other blogs/reviews and go check them out. The ease to which you can sample, purchase, download, and share using bandcamp is what makes it so amazing. I rarely have time, nor do I actually go digging through the vaults searching for albums.

Rather, I have chosen a choice group of fans to follow, am situated within the right sector of the heavy underground scene, where the music really just comes to me. I decide which ones are worthy of further sharing, purchasing, and/or reviewing. I use the bandcamp mobile app to listen to music and how I listen to ~75% of my stuff. I have an unlimited data plan which allows this to be convenient on my phone.

For all the albums I have in my collection, I rarely actually download them, I just use the unlimited streaming via the app to listen. I’ve found that with the amount of material available there is really little need to have so much material stored on my hard drive and time is precious. Downloading and sorting a library of your own takes time. I’ve been there and done that.

Which physical media do you prefer – Cassette, CD or Vinyl.

Vinyl for sure. I’ll buy cassettes and CDs rarely and exclusively on bandcamp if the price is equivalent to paying for the digital only. They don’t even get opened, as I’ll just listen to the digital version. Who has a tape player anymore? I guess I actually do, but I collect them occasionally more out of support for the band.

I know you have quite an extensive Vinyl Collection. When did you start buying vinyl. And what was the first vinyl you bought.

I actually only started collecting vinyl a few years ago. Early 2014 I think is when I bought my first vinyl record. It was sometime after I had already amassed an extensive bandcamp collection and the vinyl purchase options started popping up. I believe the first one I bought was an album from a band called Ometaiwhich the price was relatively cheap on bandcamp, still is, and I was really digging the tunes. From there it was all downhill, or uphill depending on how you look at it. I’ve lost count on how many I have but its somewhere in the mid 500’s. Mostly all new and limited stuff.

My parents never owned a record player that I can remember, nobody in my home-town listened to records, so I was always one of those digital boys until I got infected with the vinyl addiction. A lot just has to do with my obsession to support and keep the spirit alive.

Do you have particular favourite album on vinyl you like to listen to all the time. Or are you the type of collector who buys them but never plays them.

I listen to all of them. I buy almost exclusively online and at shows, as there really aren’t any good record shops in my town. When the mail comes and there is vinyl (quite frequently) I open and listen to as soon as practical. As far as a favorite or one that gets played a lot, there are several. I can’t quite say one stands out from the crowd. I listen to some of the softer or more family oriented stuff quite often as my wife isn’t too much a fan of the heavy stuff and the kids and her are always around.

I listen to The Drive-By Truckers and Lucero a lot at home while cooking dinner. One of my favorite records has to be my white copy of Spirits of the Dead – Rumours of a Presence. It’s got a silver foil embossed cover and the feel and vibe of the album to spin on vinyl is just amazing. Another favorite is my hot pink copy of Brimstone Coven’s self-titled album released by STB Records in a limited numbered format. It’s a 45rpm record and is just stunning in all aspects.

You are heavily involved with The Doom Charts. You've been there since the start whilst I've been in and out of the last couple of years. Though I'm back for good now. Anyway, you've been collating that recently. Do you like doing the monthly doom charts or does it take it's toll on you.

We’re glad to have you back Steve. Your input means a lot and has a big impact on the scene. The Doom Charts is super fun. It seems they’ve become very liked within the community and people actually look forward to them each and every month.

Has is it surprised you how well liked the Doom Charts have become and well respected by the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community in general.

It’s quite fascinating and pleasing to see how popular the Doom Charts have gotten. Since Lucas, the founder has taken a break, I have jumped in to help keep the charts active and developed my own spreadsheet which scores and sorts the albums in a consistent way. I’m sort of a math geek so that aspect of it is kind of fun. Then it’s just a matter of getting input from the group, filling the reviews for the top 25 albums that month and organizing it into the actual blog to publish.

I’ve been having fun with it actually, and the OCD part of my personality is kept busy with the simple things like formatting each entry, getting the bandcamp links and artwork. It’s a little bit of busy work, but I think I am good at that. Compared to my day job, its quite stress free and a good way to ease the pain.

If you could change anything about The Doom Charts. What would it be and why. Obviously you know my bug-bear is the scoring system. But that's a discussion for another day.

Well as discussed above, since I’ve been receiving the lists to score, I’ve got no beef with the scoring system. Perhaps you weren’t aware, but I’d say maybe 6-7 months of the total since the inception have been scored with my spreadsheet. The other months I honestly do not know how they were scored. From what I was told, I thought it was a very non-representative way to tally them up, but that is for another discussion.

At this stage I don’t know if I would change anything. Perhaps allow more folks to send in lists. We’ve got a rather large group of contributors and less than half of them consistently send in their lists, which makes the list that much less representative of the whole. That would probably be my only suggestion for change. Get a consistent format to submit the lists and have the contributors step up more. But I understand that we are all busy and nobody is getting paid for this. So it’s hard to demand much.

You're highly respected within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal community. What things do you like being involved with the community. Are there certain aspects you don't like when promoting bands across the entire scenes.

Well thanks for the kind words, and it is fun to be regarded with such respect if that is indeed true. What I like is that everyone seems to be so kind and it feels like a big happy family. It’s kind of a phenomenon of sorts and the internet has allowed us to weed out our day to day physical barriers and keep in touch with people all over the globe who we may never meet in person, yet it feels like we all know each other better than a lot of folks we actually know physically.

As far as dislikes, I don’t really have many. I guess when you run across a snobby fan or band that thinks their stuff doesn’t stink. That’s annoying, but that’s annoying in general. I guess my biggest beef is that the music we rave about is so under listened to in society and the people we are surrounded with day to day can care less and you cannot talk about stuff that is passionate to you with them in a day to day conversation as they just have no idea the kind of amazing rock is out there. They’d just assume let Sirius radio or the mainstream media tell them what is good.

What have been your favourite albums of 2016 so far.

Every year for the past 5 years or so seems to keep getting better. This year there are tons of albums I really love. Off the top of my head some of my favorites that had an immediate impact have been the new Limestone Whale, Bright Curse, Brimstone Coven, Gozu, BUS (Twin Earth), Lord Vapour, etc… The new Witchcraft album – Nucleus is outstanding. It took a while to grow, but what a piece of work.

I also have to mention the new Mudcrutch album. As a die-hard Tom Petty fan, I can’t get over how great the new record his original band put out. If you like Petty, you are doing a disservice by not getting that album. I could go on and on. There have been a ton of small name bands I’ve grabbed digitally on bandcamp without physical releases that have impressed me as well. Just go to my bandcamp page and check the roster. I don’t buy it if I don’t think it’s got something special.

What albums did I miss Steve? You know, you are pretty highly respected in the community as well for your taste in music.

OOTS - Nice try dude. You'll have to wait for my end of year list coming in December 2016.

Well Bucky. Thanks for doing this interview. Great catching up. Do you have any final words of wisdom you would like to share with us all.

Thank you for doing this Steve, is was my pleasure. It’s always great to talk about music with you. This is the first online interview I have really ever participated in. Hope I didn’t ramble on too much.

As far as wisdom, I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer that one. I’d say just have fun whether you’re in a band making music, a super fan listening and going to shows, a writer or reviewer, or a newcomer to the heavy underground scene. If it feels like you’re working too hard and getting stressed out then take a break and just listen to more heavy psychedelic blues.

Oh ya, don’t pigeon-hole yourself into one style or genre of music as there is just too much good stuff in all corners of the music world all at our fingertips. GET YOURSELF A BANDCAMP ACCOUNT, and if you want to know what I think about your band send me your link on bandcamp or a code (I do like codes). Take care Steve and keep up the good work.

Haha, hopefully we can meet in person someday.

Words by Steve Howe and Bucky Brown

Thanks to Bucky for taking the time out in doing this interview.

Ripple Music Links