This Here is Rich Terfry: Forty One Odd Years (and a few days more)
March 8, 2013 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Happy belated birthday to Jesus Murphy, Haslam, DJ Critical, Uncle Climax (NSFW audio), Stinkin' Rich (NSFW audio), Dirk Thornton, Buck 65, or as his mom called him, Richard Terfry. Born in the year of the rat, and he's a Pisces, which makes him a rat fish, but by trade, he's a turntablist/ MC/ producer/ broadcaster. Generally he makes some form of hip-hop (some NSFW lyrics), though as of late, he's been broadening his style, as heard in his cover of Leonard Cohen's Who By Fire (previously) and Paper Airplane (official "lyric" video). In tribute to his 41st birthday, there's a lot more music inside.

Born in 1972 in the farming community of Mount Uniacke, Nova Scotia, Rich Terfry's musical background starts in hard rock and heavy metal, when he was a "a child soldier in the Kiss Army," and a fan of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. At age 16, he was scouted by the New York Yankees, but his dream of being a major league baseball player ended early with a shoulder injury.

In the 1980s, he heard hip-hop on the radio (or maybe from his babysitter's roller-rink DJ boyfriend), and his path was set. He headed to Halifax in 1989, ahead of the local hip-hop boom of the early 1990s. In 1990, he recorded his first track, which Terfry confesses wasn't very good at all (the audio link is dead, but this is a live link). Nonetheless, it got play on college radio, where Terfry DJ'd as Jesus Murphy for more than a decade.

Rich Terfry's first official recording was under the name Haslam, and he had two tracks on a Phunky Lobster cassette in 1993. He released a few more tracks in the following years, using a number of different stage names, including both Uncle Climax and Stinkin' Rich on the '97 cassette Cock Dynamiks (which is now online via Bandcamp), and his first solo Buck 65 album, Language Arts, that same year (re-released in 2001; Grooveshark stream). That year or the next, a 120-minute cassette opus titled Vertex was released, and a year or two later, a shortened version was put on CD (YT Playlist; Discogs entry), and followed a few years later by Man Overboard (Grooveshark), and Synesthesia, which was originally mis-pressed without track breaks.

In 2002, Terfry signed to Warner Music Canada, seeing a number of his original albums getting remastered and re-released (and untitled tracks given names), including old material going back to 1988 and features more rapper bombast than later releases, under the title Weirdo Magnet (YT playlist), which keeps with the style of many past releases and doesn't include track titles. In 2002, Warner also released the new concept album, Square (MySpace stream). The whole album consisted of four long segments, each containing a few songs, and much of it instrumental. The next year saw the release of Talkin' Honkey Blues (YT playlist), which consisted of "a continual thematic series of songs revolving around a single river."

Those first six Buck 65 albums were part of what the Language Arts series (with Weirdo Magnet retroactively listed as Language Arts #1), spanning from minor to major labels. The seventh installation, Strong Arm, was released as a free mixtape online that has since disappeared from Buck's site, but it's on YouTube in 3 parts: 1, 2, and 3.

That interesting lean towards country/rural themes that continued into This Right Here is Buck 65 (YT Playlist), in which old songs are recast as "honky-tonk parables," replacing the original samples with actual instruments. He went even farther backwoods with Porch, a tour CDr that paired Terfry with even more pared down instrumentation, consisting of guitar, banjo, dobro, and mandolin, depending on the track.

Secret House Against the World (Grooveshark) continued the path beyond hip-hop, with some odd turn-offs into turntablism, though on the whole, there's a lot more folk, blues, and jazz than hip-hop beats, and where such beats are present, they sound more like Tricky's Maxinquaye-era trip-hop. But hip-hop wasn't gone for good, as Terfry teamed up with DJ Signify and Scratch Bastid for the next album, Situation, a concept album/ode to 1957 (Grooveshark stream).

Originally it was a casual collaboration without intention, where Scratch Bastid (Paul Murphy) made beats and sent them to Terfry to rap over. Those tracks were passed around their friends, eventually making it to Warner, who liked it enough to want it to be a proper album. There was a serious problem with the songs in their current form: Bastid made his beats from loads of uncleared samples. So the album was re-recorded with studio musicians, and the original demos faded from view, until Scratch Bastid was kind enough to share them.

Before the release of Situation, Terfry posted on (and his message spread elsewhere) that while he wouldn't stop making music, he didn't see music as a viable full-time job, that making money off of records is "hopeless now," and touring was fun, but a rough life. He even mentioned giving his music away and no longer making physical releases. He wrote "It’s just a thought. But if anyone wants to give me a job (I’ll consider just about anything), get in touch." Situation was released on a number of formats, so he hadn't foresworn physical releases just yet, but in 2008, he took a full-time job on CBC Radio 2, as part of the stations's shift from a strong classical music focus to more pop sensibilities. He's still there, more than four years later, and the show he hosts, Drive, features more pop/indie rock and folk than anything else. For a taste of the artists, here's a YouTube playlist of 58 live performances on Drive. Terfry, "known to the kids as Buck 65," shared his "fave books" as part of the CBC Book Club.

But that day job didn't mean an end to Buck 65. True to his word, Terfry released some non-physical music, for free: three huge albums worth of music, about 70 tracks, written and produced in 3 months. Tell him a country and your email address, and the music (plus a PDF booklet) is yours. Or, stream and/or download them directly from Soundcloud: Dirtbike 1, Dirtbike 2 and Dirtbike 3.

In that same year, Terfy collaborated with Symphony Nova Scotia, as you can hear in this YouTube playlist, or in a slightly different breakdown on Grooveshark. There is a nice bit of chatter between the songs, with both Terfry and conductor/director Dinuk Wijeratne, who composed a piece (Hymnpeace Remixed) that Terfry improvised with live.

After two decades of making music, Buck 65 returned with 20 Odd Years, first as 4 EPs, then as an album (MySpace stream), featuring a diverse number of guest artists alongside the diverse sounds. There are also a number of videos to accompany the album, both music videos and odd clips with Terfry talking on collaborations.

And speaking of collaborations, Terfry has done a number over the years, from limited work with DJ Flip as Dirk Thornton (stream tracks on MySpace), to the much more electronic project Bike for Three! with Belgian producer Joelle Le aka Greetings from Tuskan (Bandcamp) and their single album More Heart than Brains (Bandcamp stream).

If this is too damned wordy but you made it this far, Tom Hull has his notes on the broad Buck 65 overview through 2003 by covering the Warner Music Canada (re)issues, and Robert Christgau (a serious Buck 65 fan since hearing the first 6 minutes of the fourth quadrant of Square) hits Man Overboard to present, including comments on Buck 65's two free downloads and the Dirtbike mixtapes. There's also Terfry's own discography, which includes links to his personal reflections on selected works (no longer on his own site, but has some snapshots).

Bonus links
posted by filthy light thief (19 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
posted by mazola at 11:22 PM on March 8, 2013

Awesome post. I've had the pleasure of seeing him live a half-dozen times and it's always a great show. In about 2003, some friends and I went to seem him perform at the Bling Pig in Ann Arbor. Before the show, we were watching the opening act from the back of the bar and Buck came and sat with us and drank a beer and told stories about being on the road. Incredibly nice and down-to-earth guy, and never afraid to take a risk.
posted by bbuda at 12:10 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

good for him, still going.
posted by proneSMK at 1:19 AM on March 9, 2013

I like Rich Terfry. I listen to him every day on the drive home from work. (That's a heck of a post! Thanks!)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 4:21 AM on March 9, 2013

I can't wait to follow all these links. I wish I could take a sick day today.
posted by Kale Slayer at 4:27 AM on March 9, 2013

And I call myself a fan because I know most of the words to Wicked & Weird. Amazing post, and he deserves it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:00 AM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wow. Just wow. What a post. I don't listen to Buck 65 as much as I ought to, but I start every road trip with Willie Nelson's "On the road again" and Buck 65's "Wicked and Weird".

Terfry's got this really endearing earnestness. He's a traveler.
posted by notsnot at 7:50 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

This whole huge post and no mention of the Sebutones? For shame!

Also: I went to high school with Skratch Bastid (spelled with a k, like the Piklz). My awful band at the time was kind enough to let him open for us once. You're welcome, Paul!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:42 AM on March 9, 2013

Sys Rq, thanks for the reminder and the link, and for the correction on Skratch's name.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:48 AM on March 9, 2013

Some of my favorites:

Riverbed #4
Pants of Fire
The Floor (trigger warning for domestic violence?)
posted by neuromodulator at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2013

Time before last I saw him in Glasgow he described what he does as "five-star karaoke", which is typical of the old self-deprecating charm. Time before that, in Edinburgh, I happened to go past the venue a couple of hours after the show and he was still outside, yacking with the fans.

A gent and a scholar and if he can't make a living with all that talent there's not much better confirmation that the music industry is broken. Although I do prefer the regular hiphop to the folkier, C&W stuff.
posted by imperium at 12:06 PM on March 9, 2013

His shows vary greatly. I've seen him with a single turn-table at Coachella, and other times he plays with a full band, though he might be doing less of that these days. But he is a really humble guy. I'd like to hear his radio show, but it seems to be online for Canadians only, and I haven't seen any archived video of past shows, because I'd like to hear what he does for radio banter/ presentation.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:22 PM on March 9, 2013

too bad his cbc show isn't streamable outside canada...i like it. i imagine some of the selections are more mainstream than he'd prefer, but it's still a pleasant backing to the later stage of a working day.
posted by ecourbanist at 1:24 PM on March 9, 2013

I'd like to hear what he does for radio banter/ presentation

He's actually quite easy to listen to; he seems real and natural and comes across as completely un-phony and likeable and I've been a listener for years. That said, I've started turning the dial elsewhere lately. I don't know if he has any control over his playlist, but it's become a completely boring, weirdly incestuous, endless rotation of the same 10 or 20 Canadian bands...Mathew or Jill (married to CBC's other cool guy, Grant Lawrence) Barber, some combination of Luke Doucet and/or Melissa McClelland, Kathleen Edwards, Jenn Grant, Serena *shudder* Ryder, etc, etc...

It's a shame because he has such an awesome platform to introduce new/indie Canadian bands but it's always the same Power 20 interspersed with the odd Motown or Bowie song and the inevitable, shouty Mumford/Lumineers thing that everyone seems to be doing.

But I guess the indie angle is Grant Lawrence's gig on Radio3.
posted by chococat at 4:11 PM on March 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Zombie Delight has the silliest lyrics ever, which is why the whole family can't get enough of the song. And the remarkably beautiful but completely senseless BCC. I wish I could find Cop Shades for you...
posted by ashbury at 7:07 PM on March 9, 2013

Surprised to not see the Anticon Presents: Music For The Advancement Of Hip Hop CD from 1999 on here.
His track Untitled was revolutionary and remains one of his high-water marks. Along with his single The Centaur, 1999 was a sweet spot he'd never quite recapture, IMHO.
posted by Theta States at 8:23 AM on March 11, 2013

Late to the party, but wanted to say thanks for all the links. I used to know Rich - we were on the board of CKDU together - and he's such a genuine and talented guy. I'm so pleased for his success.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:28 PM on March 11, 2013

His track Untitled was revolutionary

The problem with finding out more about any of his old track is that most were untitled. Example: Metaforensics version of Vertex (see release notes), Man Overboard LP on Anticon, and Synesthesia on Endemik Music. Even on Square, he only called the joined tracks Square One through Square Four, and that came out on Warner Canada.

Many discographies provide tracklists after the fact, but if you pick up some of his old albums, there's a good chance there will be no tracklist.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:43 PM on March 11, 2013

This got me hooked at a young age:
Wildlife pt3
posted by proneSMK at 2:48 AM on March 21, 2013

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