Composer David Earl Buddin Can Totally Relate to Lindsay Lohan
In 2012, the Voice doled out honors to David Earl Buddin, tabbing him New York's Best Composer for very good reason: he's a beer-swillin', chain-smokin', gloriously prolific pioneer of electronic music and ringleader of the honky tonkin' trio of high rolling drunkards, American Liberty League.
Tim Dahl Definitely not LiLo: David Earl Buddin with Karlheinz Stockhausen's muse, Kathinka Pasveer (r) and (from left) Dominica Michalowska and Virginie Batista
As soon as Buddin relocated to Brooklyn in 1999, he immediately fell into cahoots with a band of likeminded misfits including old college pal Tim Dahl (of jazz-mongering noiseniks Child Abuse and American Liberty League's synth splatterer) and from there valuable alliances would ultimately form.
BJ Rubin, mastermind of lounge-weirdo act Puttin' on the Ritz, serves as Buddin's manager, putting out his intrepid music via his Pukepos and Dick Move labels. And the composer appears regularly on Rubin's ingeniously wacked TV show, improvising terrorist Weasel Walter released the electronics sprawl Canticles via his ugEXPLODE label and Buddin's newest venture is experimental trio Nebadon with Talibam! drummer Kevin Shea and vocalist Dominika Michalowska.
But that's not all that's going on in Buddin's world. He's Music Director at Grace United Methodist Church in Park Slope, he plays piano twice a week for the elderly at a senior center on the Upper East Side and is an unlikely pop culture junkie who reads the NY Post and Page Six religiously. Buddin even relates to Lindsay Lohan, pines for a LiLo collaboration and thinks Jay-Z is "charming."
We sat down with Buddin for beers at Sharlene's in Prospect Heights after Sunday church services. Along for the ride was Rubin; an insane array of topics were covered.
Dick Move Presents: Nebadon & David Earl Buddin with Stephanie Leke
Plus Alice Cohen, BJ Rubin, Mike Dobbins and Frankie Cosmos. Friday night, at La Sala at Cantina Royal (58 North 3rd St.). 8pm.
So, how about the show this Friday at La Sala?
Dave Buddin: (to Rubin) Do you have the flyer?
BJ Rubin: I gave Brad one.
Buddin: No, for me! I don't know what we're doin.' (Looks at flyer). Alright. Okay. What are you doing, BJ Rubin?!
Rubin: Screening the new episode of my TV show.
Buddin: What am I doin'?
Rubin: You're playing the theme song. Actually, no, you don't play the theme song in this one.
Buddin: And what happened to that?!
Rubin: Nandor [Nevai] is singing...
Buddin: Nandor is singing my music?!
How did you meet BJ?
Buddin: BJ Rubin I met at Dominika's dinner party when BJ Rubin came in and obnoxiously acted like--after he helped himself out to about four plates of food--he had somewhere important to be. He's gotta keep up appearances. He hogged out and pigged out and left.
Rubin: That's not quite how I remember it (laughing).
Buddin: That's how I remember it and that's how Dominika remembers it, too. So, I got other people to back me up. Surely, he can at least promote music and do some kind of show business work.
That was a great video for American Liberty League's "On The Street Where We Live."
Rubin: Dominika directed; I produced it...
Buddin: ...and I just showed up. I don't know who was doin' what. Is that our first video?
Buddin: I guess I thought about workin' on the BJ Rubin show. The video seemed like just a logical extension of what we already done on the BJ Rubin show. And I don't watch television. The only time I watch television is at the bar. Or at the pizza parlor...
Rubin: ...which is the same as...
Buddin: ...which is basically the bar.
What about Nebadon?
Buddin: Nebadon is Dominika, Kevin Shea and good ol' Dave Earl Buddin. Dominika is our speaker, Kevin plays percussion and I modulate that sound with a filter or a ring modulator. I write the music and also it usually involves electronic music--and sometimes not--and it's played as a backdrop, or I think an underpinning would be a better word for the whole enterprise.
How much will you be involved in the performance?
Buddin: In the performance, I'm just busy running the filters and the modulations for voice and the percussion and the electronic music is played back through a CD. The whole thing is superimposed on that. The electronic music is composed in three layers--a slow moving layer and two fast moving layers. The spoken part is the slowest moving layer and then the middle movement part is the percussion played by Kevin Shea. So it's three big layers--it's a layer of electronic music which is sort of moving at a most rapid pace and in itself it's moving along at three different layers of speed. Then the percussion is moving along at a slightly slower rate and it's also moving along at two layers that are moving along at separate speeds. And then the slowest moving layer is the spoken word from Dominika, which the finished product is almost an hour where her speech is just scattered around every minute or so. It's immolated together to form this composite time structure.
Is Nebadon your major focus right now?
Buddin: It's what we're in the middle of doin' right now and what happens to be the most urgent thing to get finished, to polish and refine so that I can move on to other things. We rehearse once a week for three hours. We're considering replacing the metal plates with cymbals. But I don't know if we will or not.
Buddin: Kevin was talking about how heavy that would be to carry around. He'd strain himself.
And there's the other show with the vocalist performing your Canticles Paradise is Opened for Electronics and Soprano. UgEXPLODE put out the Electronics part and BJ released the vocal part.
Buddin: Yeah, Stephanie Leke (is the vocalist). She's already recorded the whole cycle of six (Canticles) and she's only doing the first and the last of the cycle of Canticles (at La Sala on Friday). The whole cycle is fifty minutes.
Rubin: It'll be thirty minutes (total) of Dave's music. I thought fifty minutes would be too much for the one night...
Buddin: ...maybe a little too much. Leave'em wantin' more. I rather not sit and listen to fifty minutes, in all honesty. But I've listened to it a thousand times--anything gets old.
So, what were you like growing up in South Carolina? An outcast?
Buddin: Sometimes it woulda been nice to have been an outcast. It was just a big community--church and school and we had a band called the UI's. We played at the pool party--that was our biggest show. I think we had thirty or forty people at that. We'd also pull together our money and rent the American Legion Hall and play there to mixed results.
Black Flag would play places like that.
Buddin: Yeah. I guess we were a band of the times.
Have you always been involved in the church?
Buddin: That's why I learned music--at the Methodist church--all my life. I learned how to play music from the Methodist hymnal. That's a big book and the older one--the one before this one--was even bigger. So, that kept me occupied and I didn't have anything else to do. And then I had a big yard to take care of so that took up a lot of time--raking leaves and hoeing and maintaining the shrubbery and all that. Shit, I mean that's hard work and no one can relate to that in New York City, I don't think.
Did you actually grow up on a swamp?
Buddin: Well, yeah, it's not really owned a swamp but there's a swamp there, yes.
What did you do after high school?
Buddin: Went to the University of South Carolina. Go Gamecocks! I had a great time, great time. You wanna have a party for four years? Then sign up at University of South Carolina.
Were you studying music there?
Buddin: Yeah. Counterpoint, harmony, voice reading. They forced me to sing in chorus and had to study an instrument so I studied piano and secondary instrument I took viola for a year. That didn't go anywhere. I pawned that viola, actually--50 bucks. And I never told my sister, who bought it for me, that I pawned it. I was like "Hey, I don't know where that is or what happened to it. Some animal must have gotten in here and taken it."
Did you pursue music outside of college? Were you in bands?
Buddin: No, I don't think I was. I did composition and theory. I wrote and had to perform (in school) but I don't think I was in a band. We'd get together and play every now and then--birthday parties and things--but no serious band. Because of Hootie and the Blowfish at the time! They had taken over the whole music scene of Columbia and South Carolina. They played every night of the week. That's why Hootie and the Blowfish went on to fame and fortune is because they worked hard--harder than any band I know. It was steady--every night of the week they were playing somewhere.
Did you know Hootie?
Buddin: No, I did not know them. But they went on to greater things, I guess, and inexplicably, that was the favorite band of Boston, Massachusetts the year I went up to Massachusetts for graduate school. They were in love with Hootie and the Blowfish. I was like "Why's this band following me?" Everywhere I go, Hootie and the Blowfish is the talk of the town.
Did you wonder why they were so successful?
Buddin: Yeah, well, the material made me wonder but the work ethic was what the explanation was.
What were you listening to at that time?
Buddin: Always Charles Ives since I was a small child and Stockhausen, as far as recent music. And the of course, Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, (Pierre) Boulez. I now had the University of South Carolina music library so I had all these scores to dig around in. I can find Source Magazine--it was like this experimental music magazine and they'd have Alvin Lucier, LaMonte Young and all that crowd. That was totally new, by the way. I'd never heard any of any of Alvin Lucier's music until I got to USC.
Did you have friends in school with similar musical interests and taste?
Buddin: I was kind of on my own with that (laughing). That's what I played, too. I played those--Stockhausen and Ives--that's what I specialized in as a piano player at that time. I still play some of that stuff--I played "Natural Durations" of Stockhausen. I still keep up with performing when it's called for and I still practice. Mostly, I'll go through a fugue or a prelude from the well-tempered clavier--a daily inspirational guide, I guess. But a performance of the "Natural Durations" of Stockhausen is forthcoming.
You studied with Charles Wuorinen. How did that come about?
Buddin: Oh, well I knew Time's Encomium and the Concerto for Tuba. He wrote the book on serial composition so he struck me as a good teacher, and he was. He's a very, very good teacher and a very smart man and contrary to how he acts as personality, he's very self-deprecating at times. You'd never know it but the man is not that arrogant. He knows that he doesn't know everything, which is a sign that maybe he's not an idiot. Charles Wuorinen is a very smart man and has himself in perspective more than you think at the first blush. We can all learn a lot from him.
How much did you learn from him?
Buddin: Lots, lots. How to revise and revise and edit and revise and re-write, to the point you know that you never really have anything finished. But you get it to stop in place and you say "This will just have to be good enough because you got to move on." You never really finish a piece; you can always improve on almost anything. And J.S. Bach will be the only composer I know of that much of his work just couldn't be improved on. Certainly anything that I scrawl down can be written again and again and made better. But J.S. Bach could be the only exception I can think of and maybe some of the Renaissance and pre-Renaissance composers. Maybe 95% of Western music can be all re-written and improved (laughing).