From busking the streets of San Francisco to the frozen frontiers of Canada, and from the dusty hot summer plains of Austin, TX, to the sidewalks of Brooklyn, NY, Buckner has made a habit of picking up stakes, moving on and jettisoning baggage with each of his six intensely personal releases.
The latest move, from Austin to Brooklyn, comes before the release this October 12 of Dents & Shells, and just as Buckner (who appears at the Evening Muse Saturday) begins work on his next batch of songs.
"Austin was great, but it's good to get a change of environment and, I don't know, influences," he says, almost a word for word characterization from our conversation two years ago when he left Canada for Austin. "I knew New York would have that, and it's been great already."
Of course, the physical move is only part of the story -- the psychic one is where the real baggage is. With that in mind, Buckner switched labels for his new record (from Chicago's Overcoat to North Carolina's Merge), booking agents for his tours, and got a new music administrator. Citing Thomas Jefferson's quote about the need for a revolution every 20 years, Buckner decided to confront the issue.
"No matter what your relationship with a label, there comes a point where you get kind of used to each other -- it's like any relationship," he says, without dissing Overcoat. "(Now) I've got a bunch of excited people working for me, so it's kind of exciting again like it was a few years ago when I started."
The move to Austin provided Buckner with the catalyst he was looking for after a "real dry period writing." The dry spell ended almost upon his arrival; he wrote Dents & Shells' 10 songs in a one-month burst of creativity. That was a stark contrast to his last record, Impasse, which had taken two years and included the scrapping of a near-finished studio version that cost $15,000.
"I really think of Impasse as a cold, unemotional record," says Buckner, who was breaking up with his second wife at the time, the only other person to appear -- however briefly on drums -- on the release. "I did it all myself in a basement in Canada during 40-below weather. I think the environment definitely had an effect on the sound."
His new environment included, among others, drummer King Coffey of the infamous Butthole Surfers and bassist Andrew Duplantis of the Meat Puppets (the Mach II version), with whom Buckner formed the AA Nightmares. They've never toured, but their sets developed a reputation for delivering ear-shattering decibels.
But Dents & Shells is not a great departure from the eloquent and searching nature of his previous releases. Aided greatly by the presence of pedal steel player Gary Newcomb, another Austinite, the new record lands somewhere between his beautifully adorned masterwork, 1998's Since, and the starker Impasse. Buckner also cited the Waterboys' mostly acoustic Fisherman's Blues (1988) as a source of inspiration.
"When I was making the record, I thought, "let's just make a basic guitar, bass, drums thing,' because there wasn't anything loud going on," he says. "I haven't used pedal steel in a couple records, so it was nice to use it on a record again."
It's been over two years since he wrote the songs and the final mix was wrapped up in May. But Buckner has, as we may have mentioned, moved on. Like a lot of musicians, he's reluctant to listen to a new record until enough time has passed -- in his case up to two years. Living with a record rattling around inside your brain for two years can do that.
"It's a mindfuck -- you write it and when you're in the studio it's such a gamble, you don't know whether it's going to work or not," he says. "It does consume you. Especially the closer you get to the end of the project, it's such a strong desire to say, "Please, fuckin' let me finish so I can start writing the next record,' or just think of something else."
Like moving on. In the end, that's what starting over is all about.
Richard Buckner appears at the Evening Muse Saturday. The openers -- Kevn Kinney and Lindsey Horne -- hit the stage beginning at 8pm. Tickets are $13.