An Interview: Jeff Bujak
After a show in Syracuse, I found myself assisting Jeff Bujak in the "load out" process of taking his equiptment out of the venue and packing it all tightly into his vehicle. Following that interesting task, we had a conversation...
J-man: Who are you listening to currently?
Bujak: Currently, I’m trying to find a new band. I’m kind of stuck in the middle of twenty different bands. Actually, regional bands. Bands like; Indobox and Jimkata, are just regional rock stars . I love watching bands build. I love watching the marketing sense of different bands. But, those two bands in particular are really good. They’re really climbing the charts, they’re excellent guys, very good, and I look for bands that know business etiquette. They return e-mails, “please” and “thank you”. There are so many managers and bands that forget “please” and “thank you” when they leave a club. Those little things; “please” and “thank you”, to the opener, have respect for the opener. Those guys really have it. So actually I look at more than just the music. But, the band’s environment and atmosphere that they portray at their shows; whether it’s positive. I love bands that do as much as they can on stage at all times. When I see a band, they can be any genre, honestly… A lot of people say “Oh, I listen to every genre…” But I listen to literally, every genre. I try to soak up, what people might like about that music, especially with country. I’m not really big into country, but I listen to it sometimes to try to find out why people like it. I understand, it’s a catchy music that’s not pop music, that’s not complicated. I guess I’m more into complicated music, so when I see and band on stage and everyone is giving it their all and none of them are standing around or clicking buttons, too much. They’re actually playing true instruments… I just love seeing that.
J-man: That actually relates to my next question; What are your thoughts on the laptop movement?
Bujak: It’s allowing a lot of people to explore a genre of music that really hasn’t been around. I mean, In the 80’s when synthesizers were first being introduced, there was a movement of synthy/new wave music. It was almost looked at as a phase. It came in and then 90’s rock just shunned it out and it was gone. Now, we’re seeing a resurgence of electronic music, and even that kind of 80’s style. With laptops, it’s just allowing people to do it that much easier. Which comes at a cost, because you don’t really have to have a lot of education in music anymore to put out good sounding music, man; using samples. There are no classes for laptops yet. Everyone is trying to find the next thing and to be able to use all of these programs, it allows you to create music that hasn’t been created before, using samples and mixing past music to make this new genre of music that we’re all still playing with.
But me personally, I started playing piano when I was five, I took twelve years of theory and I’m thirty now. So I’ve been playing for twenty five years and I still feel like I can definitely get better. There is always more areas that I want to jump into with jazz and classical study. But then, I’ve put all of this time and effort into that… and it’s hard to see someone on a laptop making a living faster than I do. Nothing against that. Nothing what so ever; but it’s hard as a musician to watch that. To say wow, “What have I been doing, when I could have just picked up a laptop a year ago, and be famous?” But I’m trying to create organic electronic music, which is very tough… But I am having fun.
J-man: Are you a pure “Solo” musician, or do you collaborate with anyone? As well do you have any other projects?
Bujak: My whole music career started with a band call “Somebody’s Closet”. I moved to Arizona in 2001, right after 9/11 actually. I joined a band called “Somebody’s Closet”; they were looking for a bassist and I played keyboards. They were like “Until we get a bassist, can you cover with your left hand?” So I started learning it, and I sat there at my house for twelve hours a day just running my left hand and saying “I could actually do this. We don‘t need a bassist.” And I learned these songs and two years later, I had built myself as a bassist and a piano player in the band. That’s kind of where that started going. Then, growing up I always did these electronic pieces that everybody hears not, but a lot more… Not exactly the same but, in my basement I would do that. I never thought of a way that I could do it live. So anyways, flash back to “Somebody’s Closet”, and I started doing this left hand bass. I was like, “I could actually make my solo pieces come alive sometime.” So that was always in the back of my thought. I knew I would want to do a solo act eventually.
Somebody's Closet Live at Savannah's on March 24, 2005.
Then I toured around the country with “Somebody’s Closet” for six years, made some bucks, did my thing. Then the band started to lose a couple of members and a couple of members had families. I knew that the band wasn’t going to be all that we thought it was going to be… World famous and everything (Laughs). So I said, “I’m going to make this cost effective touring machine.” Now with all of my contacts, because I took over booking for “Somebody’s Closet”, I managed the band, I did a lot for the band except for songwriting. That was mostly everybody else’s thing. I did the business side of it and I learned the business aspect of music and made a lot of contacts. So I started cashing in those contacts and “Hey, I got this little solo thing going on. Let me show it to you.” It was hard to digest at first, but I was still working on my sound, and I am still working on my sound.
Bujak: But out of playing in a band or playing solo, I completely prefer playing solo. There is no doubt… I am a selfish player. So it’s hard and sometimes I can’t play with bands. But, no I don’t play with any bands right now.
J-man: What makes you different from other solo musicians on the scene right now? What differentiates your sound, from the sound of others in regards to your “Intelligent Dance Music”?
Bujak: I have always thought of music as… Ok, I get bored of music that doesn’t change very often. I love a whirling changing song. Even a show for a band, like Umphrey’s McGee is just very intense with the way their progressive song writing is. It just moves like a wheel, that’s the way I see it. It just keeps progressing. That’s what I look for in music and I feel like with solo musicians, the looping aspect comes into it. So, this progressive thought of keeping changing, is very difficult for solo musicians using loops because; There are a lot of things you can do, But also it’s very limited. I started out looping in the very beginning and I gave it… I didn’t give it up, but I stopped looping the piano sounds and stuff because I wanted to just play it live. I wanted to learn the bass lines while I play. I wanted to do it all live…
J-man: … I think that helps with the organic sound.
Bujak: Yeah, It’s mostly live and all of the synthesized stuff is looped. I have a looper so, pretty much I try to take the organic part of it and I don’t loop any of it. So that I can do a different bass line all of the time. Like, I can run a completely different bass line and at the same time; I can completely change key if I want. I can do anything as I am controlling the bass and that. A lot of loopers, it’s very difficult. You can do it but a lot of loopers work in layers and phrases, and can’t go to far with it. I, since I don’t loop, since I preset all of my beats beforehand , it makes it a lot easier for me to make my music more my music more progressive.
J-man: Looks like you have a “cherry” spot at Rock the Resort, what are your thoughts on that set?
Bujak: Rock the Resort, I was late on submitting to the festival. I wanted on it, and I thought about it and finally asked my manager to submit it for me and they got back to us saying, “Sorry, we’re booked.” But thankfully to John, and the whole “Paper Chaser” crew. They allowed me to not only come to their festival but they gave me a two and a half hour set; late night. Which, I can not thank them enough. I didn’t go to this past Rock the Resort, but I heard a lot of good things about it. I’m really excited. But Dude, they just hooked me up and it’s great. I’m trying to give it back, I’m trying to promote festival because it looks like it’s going to be great.
J-man: The line-up is really solid. What are your plans for the summer?
J-man: So, are you focusing on festivals specifically because of the larger crowds?
Bujak: I am able to set an atmosphere. In a club it’s very difficult to put people in a very open minded state, because you’re still downtown, you still have to go to your car afterwards and drive home. Reality always sets in. At festivals you’re just away from everything, so I feel like music hits you in a different way, at festivals.
J-man: It’s wide open space…
Bujak: Definitely. The amount of stuff you can do… Like, you can either sit in your tent, or you can see a bunch of different music. It’s just, at your free will, there’s no going to work. It’s wide open. So I really like to put on an atmospheric event. Lots of lights. I make it count and I love my performances at festivals. I’m just able to do so much than at a club, and it’s more accepted. And the people are already there, man. You just have to play and they come see it. Most people at a festival will give every music a chance, by walking by.
J-man: Overall you’d say the festival scene is a pretty positive environment?
Bujak: Yes. I love the festival scene. I get the best feedback after shows… Yeah, I just love rockin’ out til sun up. When I’m packing up and the sun is coming up; I know I just played a good set.
J-man: What is your goal with what you are doing? What’s the plan?
Bujak: The plan is to see how far I can push this thing. I love playing solo, so the options for me are a little bit more than for a band. I have a big bigger budget, There are less people to feed, I can tour at a lower cost and invest more into equipment. So, any new idea that I get and I see other musicians… I get a lot of inspiration for other musician’s toys they use on stage. I say “I’d like to try that, and I buy it, see how I like it. If I dig it, I keep it and learn it. Eventually I’m going to be surrounded by toys and crazy shit.
J-man: Do you go into this putting all of your eggs into one basket or do you have a backup plan?
Bujak: (Smiling) No, this is it.
J-man: How does that feel? Do you feel confident?
Bujak: Yeah, I haven’t had a full time job or anything since I was twenty one. I have been on the road since I was twenty one.
Bujak: Odds and ends… I’ve gardened, I’ve bussed at a couple of restaurants when I could, I tried to get by like that. But now it’s strictly music. I am still squeaking by, but I have a wife who is very supportive. We have been together eleven years. She knows that music, sometimes; comes before anything else. She understands that sometimes that’s going to happen and I have to make choices for the family… And I make the choices wisely, but she is always behind it. She is always, always behind it. Every choice I’ve made, and I’ve made a lot of hard choices in regards to money and signing a record deal, those kind of things. Those are big decisions and she’s always behind me. So that helps; having a significant other that is definitely behind you… Plus my parents are always behind me. So, I’ve got a good team behind me. Even when I started playing piano especially, my parents really pushed me and I stopped playing for a couple of years. I picked it back up, but they were always behind me even back then… But they didn’t know that I was going to try to make a career out of it.
J-man: (Laughs) Excellent. I don’t normally do this, but I just received a Facebook alert in response to my status…
Bujak: Oh, go ahead and do what you have to do…
J-man: No, this involves you…
Bujak: Oh, nice!
J-man: I posted that I was coming out to your show tonight and a friend of mine by the name of Seanpatrick commented on my status saying, “… That’s what I call and evening. Bujak is just straight nasty.”
J-man: What do you say to that? When you hear people talking about your music in that regard…
J-man: … Saying your music is “Straight naaasty”…?
Bujak: (Smiling) I never let a compliment go unnoticed. I get a lot of compliments and I love that and I know how to take them and I know how to show appreciation back. The words that people have chosen to… Some of the words like; “gnarly”, “nasty” and “dirty”…
J-man: Does that sum up your sound (Laughs)?
Bujak: I love to cringe my face when I play. I don’t if it’s pain or what it is, but it’s…
Bujak: Yeah, Dude! Maybe that’s considered dirty…
Bujak: I don’t know what it is, man. But, something…
J-man: It could be your nasty-ass beats…
Bujak: Yeah, Dude! I love that… I want that. I do want people thinking my music is positive and uplifting sometimes, but I love to take my music on an emotional rollercoaster. Lately, I have been on the darker side of things. I’m a huge prog-rock fan; Tool. Even going back to bands I still listen to; there is always Tool in my player. They’re very dirty. As well as some dubstep, Eoto, stuff like that. Just the dirtier… And actually, Eoto; I have done a lot of shows with them and they’ve influenced a lot of my sound.
Bujak: Yeah, they’ve taught me to go in to areas of the unknown; the darker, darker areas.
J-man: I see…
Bujak: Yeah, I definitely see myself going there, so… I love the word “nasty!” That’s good. I think I’m doing my job if someone says my music is “nasty.”
J-man: That gentleman is actually the guy who told me to check out your music.
Bujak: Oh, really!?! Rock on! Awesome.
J-man: I appreciate you doing this. Thank you very much.
Bujak: Of course!
Interview & Photos By The J-man.
Jeff Bujak Live at Aunt Dona and Uncle Dan's Tavern on March 20, 2010.