Bucky Pope will always have an established place in the Madison music scene as part of the 80s hardcore movement that birthed his band, the Tar Babies, and took them to SST Records (home of Black Flag, the Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, etc…) and national acclaim. After the breakup of that group (and before their *ersatz* reunion as the Bar Tabbies in the early 2000s) , Bucky Pope took time off music, but has now returned with a new band, Negative Example. Their new self-titled release just came out in July and I asked Bucky a few questions about his history, his new band, and their upcoming Madison shows.
MAXIMUM INK: What inspired you to pick up your instrument and play in the first place? Can we get a little bit of what got you into wanting to be in a band?
BUCKY POPE: I signed up for General Music 1 as an elective in 7th grade. It turned out to be a guitar class. Music had already been really powerful for me so dug in to it right away. I learned how to figure out songs off records pretty quickly. I got *Highway to Hell* for Christmas the next year and figured out the whole thing in a few hours. The first time I played with other people was kind of magical. You aren’t talking but you’re psychically and physically linked. I played Beatles songs with another guitarist and a drummer towards the end seventh grade. By the summer after 8th grade I had a band that played side one of *2112* by Rush. That was our entire repertoire. I moved to Madison that year and the year after that I was playing side one of *Group Sex* by the Circle Jerks with the Bloody Mattresses, my first band. Punk rock empowered me to write my own songs, without the pressure of coming with something as profound as “Temples of Syrinx” and “Beatin’ Around the Bush”.
MI: So, what’s Negative Example song people should listen to to “get” the band?
BP: “Quipster” is the first song on the album. It swings. There is some dissonance in the chord progression but the groove distracts you from it. Like sugar and the medicine. The dissonance is good for you.
A lot of times a lyric gets started with a line that on its own doesn’t mean much. “Quipster” started with, “I just want to pick at this”. By the time I got to “The weight of your world is weighing me down”, I could say it was a song about the drama fatigue you get from friends who spend more time complaining about problems than trying to fix them. But I didn’t know that till it was finished. It was called “Quipster” before it had lyrics.
MI Your music has changed over the years from aggressive hardcore to more funk and jazz influences? What do you attribute that to?
BP: Thirty-three years ago I was a skater who played guitar. There was a punk scene that had literally no barriers to entry. Attitude was more important than musical chops. There were amazing hardcore bands and there were amazingly horrible hardcore bands. There was a freedom in that but hardcore punk was so stylistically limited that you had to grow out of it. Bands like the Minutemen, Meat Puppets, and Saccharine Trust led the way. I started getting back in touch with the Stones and Stevie Wonder as well and I started challenging myself a bit more as a guitar player and song maker upper.
MI: Who are the other guys in the band right now and can you give us a little background on them?
BP: Dave Adler and Greg Rullman both play with The Gomers. They’re both professional musicians of a much higher caliber than myself. We can hardly play shows in the summer because they’re both booked five or six nights a week. Calvin Thorne plays bass. He had only played classical before we hooked up, though I noticed a lot of Rush and Metallica in his collection when I was at his house. Tim Sullivan is the newest player. He was the guitarist of Drug Induced Nightmare, and fronts an excellent Neil Young tribute band called Shaky.
MI: Are there certain themes you find yourself continuously writing about over time? Subjects that you’ve repeatedly returned to over the course of the years?
BP: Relationships. Not necessarily romantic ones. Interpersonal relationships. I wrote several songs about Robin Davies, the bassist from my first band, the Tar Babies. I’m a super sensitive person. If I hit a snag in a relationship, I dwell on it and mull over it till it makes me nuts. My frustration with Robin gave me fuel for lyrics. He’s still one of my best friends though. That’s just one example. The name Negative Example is inspired by the themes we address: mental illness, accidental death, racism, resignation, homelessness, crime. Look for our new EP about getting old and superficiality. Seriously.
MI: When’s your next live show?
BP: We will be playing live on the air on The Real Jaguar Show on WORT 89.9 FM somewhere between 2pm and 4:30pm on Friday, August 14. We play live at the Frequency that night with Nester and Jeremy Jacobsen. Nester is quirky and experimental rock. Jeremy Jacobsen is a talented multi instrumentalist who used to be a one man band, The Lonesome Organist. Jeremy will be using just two hands for this performance.
And you can see Negative Example live at The Frequency August 14th. Doors at 9:30, Negative Example plays around midnight. You can hear their entire release, *Negative Examples* at https://negativeexample.bandcamp.com/(3991) Page Views Negative Example Online:
• Website • Facebook
CD: Negative Examples