Buck 65's orchestral manoeuvres

Buck 65 returns to Halifax to make big sounds with Symphony Nova Scotia.

Buck 65 is feeling a little scared at the moment. On the phone from his home in Toronto, the Mount Uniacke native is on a brief tour stop before returning to Halifax to perform with Symphony Nova Scotia on April 18. The gig is part of the symphony’s popular Maritime Pop series.

“It’s totally insane,” he says of the show. “You don’t play with the symphony everyday.” He’s just received demo mp3s of his songs being performed by the symphony and is understandably knocked out by the sound. “Just to hear my stuff taken to these places, it’s really hard to describe the way it’s made me feel.”

His feelings are understandable. Although this isn’t the first time performing with a symphony (he played with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 2003) it’s still a major step outside his comfort zone. Buck 65 (AKA Richard Terfry) usually hits the stage with a confidence 15 years of live performances affords a musician. But this time is different. On Friday night Terfry will be backed by dozens of musicians, creating a sound unlike anything he’s experienced while onstage, but he still has to be the focus of the audience’s attention.

“It’s big and it’s just little me up there,” he says. “The biggest challenge for me is to just not get too overwhelmed.” With all his touring commitments surrounding the gig, Terfry only has two days to prepare. “We’ve got one shot at this thing---it’s not like I can take a couple nights to get used to it.”

Certain to be the highlight of the evening is an original piece of music the CBC commissioned SNS conductor Dinuk Wijeratne to compose specifically for Terfry. Norman Adams, the symphony’s principle cellist, was the person who originally pitched the idea, arguing that of all the pop musicians Symphony Nova Scotia has played with he felt Buck 65’s music best lent itself to experimentation. “My idea was that the orchestra could play a more collaborative role with the guest artist,” Adams says. “By creating a brand-new piece it makes that possible.” Terfry was thrilled with the idea. “It’s something that I wasn’t even expecting as a possibility,” he says, noting he didn’t think the situation would lend itself to this level of experimentation.

In Wijeratne’s piece, Adams and Terfry perform a double concerto (a double solo on cello and turntables respectively) with the rest of the symphony backing them. The two seem perfectly matched for the performance---both are open to musical genres outside their realms of comfort and expertise and express a love of working with other musicians. “I’ve even argued that I’d be willing to collaborate with an artist that I hated because I think it would be a great creative exercise,” says Terfry.

Adams says CBC’s support of the show (the gig will be broadcast over CBC Radio) and its financial support in commissioning the concerto is a testament to the quality and artistic merit of Terfry’s music and the expectations of the show. “It’s a big deal to get commissioned by the CBC,” he says. “It shows they have a special interest in the project and really want the work heard by the nation on radio.”

While Terfry is certainly aware of the significance of the gig and the amount of work he has ahead of him, he also has ulterior motives for getting back to town early. His girlfriend, who can be heard in the background listening to 1980s cult band Erasure (“She’s the only person I know who’s really into Erasure,” he jokes), and her parents will be accompanying him back to his hometown.

Also on his mind are a handful of upcoming projects, including his collaboration with Belgian-Vietnamese video-artist and musician Joëlle Phuong Minh Lê as Bike For Three and the next Buck 65---Terfry says he has over five hours of material written.

But the project he’s most excited about is the possibility of collaborating with Roland Gift, former lead singer of ’80s pop-group Fine Young Cannibals. Terfry has been a fan since he was a teenager, and more recently has been working a version of the band’s 1985 hit “Johnny Come Home” into hisset. “Even more so today, the song justkills me.”

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