I N T E R V I E W
Naughty Beethoven: A Q&A with Luke Buda
with Ian Duggan
Luke Buda is releasing his latest solo album – BUDA – on 15 October, and with it comes an eleven date tour of the country. We caught up with Luke to find out why it has been such a long wait since 2008s ‘Vesuvius’, his collaboration with novelist and poet Damien Wilkins, whether there is any lingering influence of his early years in Poland, and more!
HUP: This is your first solo album since 2008s ‘Vesuvius’. Why so long between drinks?
Luke: Just got very busy with The Phoenix Foundation after [the 2010 album] ‘Buffalo’ came out. We did lots of touring in Europe and the UK off the back of that album. Then we wanted to carry on going hard so there was no time really for other stuff. Then we all felt a like we needed a break after 'Give Up Your Dreams', which is why it was five years between that and 'Friend Ship'. But naturally I was still making music so the solo album slowly materialised. I actually thought it was going to be finished and out BEFORE Friend Ship.
HUP: What do you think are the differences between a Luke Buda penned solo song versus one that ends up on a Phoenix Foundation album?
Luke: Ah shit, I dunno really. It’s just about the process right? I am not sure if it is up to me to try to define the sounds. But definitely it is nice to have some time to just chip away at some music without having to deal with anyone else’s opinions and ideas! Even though in The Phoenix Foundation it is that very mix of opinions and ideas that makes the music.
HUP: You are a multi-instrumentalist, but as a keyboards player, I’m most interested in the keys you play. What do you use, and what is it about that one that suits your needs?
Luke: Well in my studio I have a Rhodes, a Roland Juno 60 and a Prophet 600. But live I just use MainStage and software synths, because the vintage keyboards are huge, heavy and easily broken on tour. The choice of MainStage is purely down to the fact that Ableton seemed to crash my ancient laptop.
HUP: Three of the tracks are co-written by novelist and poet Damien Wilkins. How did that collaboration come about, and what role does he play in the collaboration?
Luke: He wrote the lyrics! When I played on his 2014 album ‘The Lines Are Open’, I was whingeing about how hard I find lyrics to write and he said he’d write some for me if I wanted. It took me a long time to give that a go, probably just out of fear of the new / unknown. In the end it was desperation that made me ask him and I am glad I did. Basically I couldn’t get any lyrics going for the track that ended up being ‘Here Comes The Wind’ at all. It was mostly recorded. Because it was originally made for an older version of the opening of the movie ‘This Town’. I sent him the track and the next day he sent back the lyrics. It usually takes me a few years to “finish” a song, so I was mightily impressed and thus I sent him two more.
HUP: One of the songs for which he has writing credit is one of the teasers, ‘Here Comes the Wind’, which I’m particularly enjoying. With lyrics like “about the planet and its future direction”, is this a particular concern of yours – or is this part of Wilkins’ influence?
Luke: I didn’t try to influence the lyrical content in any way. But I certainly agree with his concerns.
HUP: The other teaser to date, ‘Candy’, was co-written by yourself and the other Phoenix Foundation originals, Samuel Scott and Conrad Wedde. Was this one that didn’t quite make the last album?
Luke: Well actually this one also originated as a track for the movie ‘This Town’. It was a sincere attempt at a fully sweet pop number. An interesting exercise in trying to turn off my “child of the ‘90s” cynical killjoy instincts.
HUP: You spent the first few years of your life in Poland. Do you think this has had any lasting influence on your music? Perhaps not just the influence of music you were exposed to there, but by missing out on the releases of, say, Patea Maori Club’s 1984 hit "Poi E" or Dave Dobbyn and Herbs’ anthem "Slice of Heaven" in 1986?
Luke: I think it’s had as much of an influence on my music as most people’s musical listening from before they were 8 years old has on them… Apparently I listened to a lot of Dire Straits, Genesis and Phil Collins, which obviously shines through in my own musical expressionz.
HUP: One thing that seemingly wasn’t stunted by your formative years outside of New Zealand was a love of Cricket. How did this develop?
Luke: Man, people seem so amused by the idea that you can like art AND sport. Full disclosure is that Cricket is a recent thing for me. At high school I wasn’t into sports at all, although in some ways I think the lack of a jock culture at Wellington High School is also why I don’t have an ingrained animosity toward sports. I got into watching Rugby in 1999, not a great time to get into it from a NZ point of view, but hey! I got into cricket in 2019. Mostly I like having old mates over to watch a game and drink beers and shoot the shit about something that is ultimately utterly meaningless. And I dunno… I guess I enjoy lying on the couch in a semi-conscious state watching a ball roll around a field, so?
HUP: A huge array of musicians contributed to the recording of ‘Buda’. Following the album release you are on tour. What should we expect there? Will you have a full band together, or are you doing it all alone?
Luke: Yes I have an awesome band. Anita Clarke (who is Motte) on violin, keys and vocals. Jacqui Nyman (who is also playing in Bret McKenzie’s band) on bass and Olivia Campion (of Yumi Zouma and countless others) on drums. Expect us to play ALL the songs from Buda as that is what we are excited about, and maybe a couple of songs from the oooooooold albums.
Visit Luke's Bandcamp, Spotify, Instagram, and Facebook pages, and check out the 'BUDA' tour dates below: