Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Buford O'Sullivan Interview and New Vinyl Single/Digital EP!

The great Buford O'Sullivan, currently the trombonist for the Easy Stars All-Stars, has been busy moonlighting and just released a new vinyl single (which includes a password that allows you to digitally download the tracks on the single, plus an EP's worth of additional new cuts) on Megalith Records, titled LRTR. (For some background on Mr. O'Sullivan, read this.) The Duff Guide to Ska had the good fortune to catch up with Buford for a quick interview just before he headed off for a summer tour with the Easy Stars All-Stars to Europe and beyond...

The Duff Guide to Ska: What does "L.R.T.R." stand for? And what is the significance of the battleship on the cover artwork?

Buford O'Sullivan: It means "Love Rules The Road," which is the original lyric in the song of the same name, changed over a couple of revisions. I still like the letters. The cover art has images from the different songs that you have to pick out when you listen.

DGTS: Was there a theme or concept behind the songs you wrote for "L.R.T.R."? What was going on in your head and/or life?

BOS: I wanted to write some spooky music with a New York setting. They are songs I was working on over the period of a couple of years--I guess they caught the mood I was in. Ominous, scary. Kind of dark.

DGTS: Why did you and Megalith opt to do a three-track single and a digital EP?

BOS: The three-track single is to offer something unique for sale, and the digital is to include the whole thing. Even if you don't have a turntable, you can buy the single, have something cool to own, hold, put on a shelf, or play it if you can, and the card inside gets you all of the music for your iPod, phone, computer, whatever you've got. I've always preferred the packaging for vinyl anyway, even for a seven inch single, the artwork is bigger than a CD's. CDs are disposable. Jewel cases suck. Even those little booklets you get when you buy a CD box set are useless with two point font and small pictures. You should get something for your money.

DGTS: Are you planning to do some NYC area gigs in support of this new release? (The Easy Stars All-Stars have such a busy touring schedule this summer---Italy, Israel, the UK, Canada, and parts of the US--do you have any free time to devote to your own project?)

BOS: I have tried to get gigs together, but Easy Star is really busy, so I am going to sell LRTR on the road with them. I've been playing some music with Dan Jesselsohn and Ben Rogerson, maybe a live gig will materialize with these guys. I play gigs with Courtney Lee Adams Jr., which is a bit of a different scene than the ska, quite refreshing.

DGTS: It's been a long time since your last proper Buford O'Sullivan release ("The Sexy Eye" in 2000 on 7 Wonders of the World Music)--what took so long for this new batch of tracks to see the light of day?

BOS: Sometimes the flow is a gusher, sometimes it is a trickle. I write a lot of music and a lot of it ends up in the spare parts file. When I began assembling these songs with Victor Rice, these are the ones he liked, and so I just went with his lead. There were others that didn't make the cut. He was the producer, and so I trusted him, rather than follow my ego when it tells me that everything I do is GENIUS! No, sorry to say that the ego is often wrong, the ego leads me astray. It was Victor's job to tell me true, so I just went with his pick. I think the difference between this project and Sexy Eye, is that back then I just made them myself without a producer. The ego won back then.

DGTS: As a songwriter, what are your thoughts about music file-sharing? Should recorded music have a monetary value attached to it (is it even possible to re-establish that kind of economic model)--or is it now essentially a way to promote bands and gigs?

BOS: Tough call. File-sharing is like mix-tapes. It spreads the word. But it also causes chaos, not only with the big companies, but with the smaller ones too. Easy Star has a tough time with it, because even though Dub Side of the Moon is a pretty big success, most of the people who have it got it illegally. The company would be much bigger if there was no file-sharing, and maybe my treatment on that gig would be better if the money was bigger with them--maybe I'd get paid more. Live shows are now a much more important source of income, so that is good for me. As for my solo work, you know, I just want to get the songs out there for people to enjoy. I'm not going to get rich off of LRTR, but I do want people to hear it because I put a lot of effort into it, with a lot of input from other people, the musicians on the project: Eddie Ocampo, Ticklah, Agent Jay Nugent, Paul Gebhardt, and Victor. So rather than have it sit on my shelf, I want it on people's iPods, so... I don't know, maybe it will end up on a Torrent. At least, when you buy it at a show, you get the art, the single, you know, something you can't download.

DGTS: You are also a published author (your screenplay is great!). Have you been writing anything new lately? What do you tend to read when you are traveling with ESAS? What are you reading now?

Right now, I am reading a few different books. I'm reading "Hell's Angels" by Hunter S. Thompson. I'm reading a collection of sci-fi short stories. Not doing so much fiction writing these days. You think music is having a hard time in the digital age, publishing is really having a tough time. We'll see if I get the inspiration.

DGTS: There are a lot of bands on the ska scene right now creating some extraordinary music--which seems like it should augur another "wave" in the genre's popularity--but I'm not seeing big crowds at the shows or hearing about big album sales. Can we ever expect there to be anything coming even remotely close to what happened in the mid-90s or has too much changed in the music industry, pop culture, and how we consume music?

BOS: You know, things come and go. It was a fresh scene in the nineties. Now, the big bands have done it well, and so as a 'next big thing' I dunno, maybe that wave has had it's day of big time fame. Maybe it will take a specific hit by a specific band to bring the sound back to the mainstream. BUT I just saw The Specials with Terry Hall, and it was jam-packed, the band is making millions (I have an inside source that tells me this is so), and they deserve it. I run into Ranking Roger and Pauline Black on the road a lot with Easy Star, and they are still playing shows, so ska is still alive. Bucket still has The Toasters in the van, going all over the place. Jeff Baker still has pretty slamming shows at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. The Bluebeats are still playing all the time. Slackers sell out shows wherever they go. Even The Scofflaws, Richard Brooks and John Souldo, are still at it on Long Island. I guess what we had has never gone completely away (not to disagree with The Bosstones too much).

Thanks for doing the interview, Buford!


Kames Jelly said...

Great Interview Steve. I'm gonna order the single soon.

Also, he couldnt be more right about those slammin shows at the Knitting Factory...haha

Steve from Moon said...

Thanks, KJ! Even though the crowds haven't always been there, the bills have been really good. Lots of great ska, skinhead reggae, rocksteady, etc. going on in NYC right now.

Kames Jelly said...

Speaking of which hopefully we run into each other on 4th of July if you're going to Brooklyn for the Brooklyn Music Festival.

Steve from Moon said...


Sorry, I'm out of town this weekend, so I'm going to miss everything going on...

See ya soon.