Exclusive Interview: On top of the world with Buck-O-Nine’s Jon Pebsworth, talks “Fundaymental” and keeping it DIY in a septet

Third-wave California ska-punk pioneers Buck-O-Nine have just released Fundaymental on Cleopatra Records. It’s their first album in 12 years and marks the band’s sixth studio album since their conception in ’91. Fundaymental has been years in the making with each of the seven members making ulterior individual contributions to bring these fourteen-tracks to life, where “do it yourself” finds new meaning when your rhythm section is spread across the country and the guy singing the songs lives 100 miles away.

Dying Scene caught up with that guy via telephone call from Dallas to L.A. His name is Jon Pebsworth, and like pretty much all the rest of the band members, he’s been there since the beginning. Jon says the main thing to take away from Fundaymental is “Come out to the show. Put your worries aside, and have fun for a night.” and Buck-O-Nine after all these years? “Let it go!” The secret is trust, and this singer says he has loads of that, as well as respect for each member of his septet. He keeps the process fun and easy, and collaborations are chilled and inclusive.

“People leave. Even our drummer Steve, he’s the original drummer. He left the band in I think like ’99 or something like that and then he came back about six or seven years ago. So, it’s basically the same group of guys minus the bass player that did all of the first three records, which is pretty cool. Our bass player who is in the band now, Andy, has been in the band for about nineteen years.” Fun fact: Andy Platfoot is also the creative talent behind Buck-O-Nine’s music videos of late… the more you know.

As for the art on Fundaymental, “Steve did the cover and then the back cover, and then Jonas, our guitar player did all the graphic design and put it all together.” Fundaymental was recorded, monitored and produced by trumpet player Tony Curry who utilized F.B.I. spy tactic technological wizardry to hack his band member’s computers and record demos remotely. “Like I said, everybody’s got their little job that they do.”

“Our drummer recorded all the drums in a proper studio and stuff like that. It was a really weird process, but it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of learning as we were going. We were kind of like, ‘This is so trippy. We’ve never even been in the same room together playing these songs – which on all the other records that we’ve done over the years, we were just in a rehearsal room somewhere in San Diego playing the songs together and working them out that way. This was different but it was the only option we had. We just really, really wanted to do it, so we made it happen.”

When you find something you love, you’ve got to let it shine… I mean, something to that effect… I know that’s not right. You’ve got to be a peacock, right? “I went through some work things a few years ago working at this company, and I was trying my best to be like, ‘I’m into it. It’s cool.’ You know? ‘Let’s do this!’ And finally, after a couple of years I was just like, ‘You know what? Fuck this! And fuck this place! And fuck this job! I’m fucking out of here, dude.’ You know? Like, ‘I’m gonna’ go back to what I do. This isn’t me.’ So, that’s really kind of what its about. It’s really kind of a message to yourself, you know? A lot of my songs are like that where it’s like a pep talk almost for yourself. It’s a healing and process where you are talking yourself back into being positive and cool, and not dealing with bullshit. You know? For the most part that’s what it’s kind of about, and the references like ‘going back to the bar’ and ‘hanging out hooligan style’ is just a part of getting away from that negative shit to me, because that shit’s cool and fun.”

Jon and I had a great chat. It was super fun talking about ska in the 90’s, and the components of a talented band who tries to keep it in the family. Jon gave me the ins-and-outs of the new album Fundaymental. (available here) I got to meet his dog Barney, and we even talked about Mike Park a little bit behind his back. Find these conversations and more below, you young dead scenesters. Have a great day!

 

Interview with Buck-O-Nine’s Jon Pebsworth
Conducted by: Forrest Cook

 

DS: Hey, What’s up John? How’s it going? Not too early?

Jon: Nah. It’s fine. I’m almost awake. It’s pretty good for a Thursday.

Cool, man. You wanna’ get going?

Jon: Yeah, let’s do it. For sure.

Buck-O-Nine is a septet, huh? That sounds so dirty. Ska is dirty. How do you ever get anything done?

Jon: I know! Total septet. That’s a good question. I have no idea. It amazes me sometimes. Everyone just kind of does there thing, you know? It’s amazing that it’s been basically the same seven dudes for almost thirty years now. It’s crazy.

You guys still hit the road a bit, but you aren’t really touring like crazy or anything these days. What’s going on with everyone? What is everybody up to outside of the band?

Jon: Well, most of the guys have kids and they have families and stuff, so you know, they are kind of back to regular guy jobs and stuff like that. So, you know, there’s a lot of normal stuff going on with most of the guys. We still get together as much as we can, and play shows, and go out for like three or four days here and there. That kind of stuff. We are going to Japan next month which is pretty cool. It’s what we like to call semi-retired life.

How were ya’ll able to record? I read that a lot of you guys don’t live anywhere near each other.

Jon: Yeah, it’s weird. Now-a-days we’re all spread out all over the country, and with the beauty of technology we are able to still kind of like formulate songs and do stuff together over the internet and over the phone and stuff like that. Our trumpet player Tony is a tech-support guy now so he has this software where he can log into other people’s computers remotely, which is pretty neat especially for me because I’m not very tech-savvy. He can log into my computer here at my house and set up a recording session on my computer and check mic levels and all that stuff just like in the studio. It’s like he’s there. I’m on the phone with him and he’s like, “How’s that sound?” And I’m like, “That sounds good just turn up the guitar a little bit.” He gets me all set up and tells me, “Call me back when you’re done,” and I record some vocal tracks here and then send it back to him and he can mix it in. Same goes for the rest of the guys. Bass player does the same thing, and the guitar player, then once we formulate a proper demo of the songs, everybody likes it, then we can get into the studio. Our drummer recorded all the drums in a proper studio and stuff like that. It was a really weird process, but it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of learning as we were going. We were kind of like, “This is so trippy. We’ve never even been in the same room together playing these songs which on all the other records that we’ve done over the years, you know, we were just in a rehearsal room somewhere in San Diego playing the songs together and working them out that way. This was different but it was the only option we had. We just really, really wanted to do it, so we made it happen. It took two years.

It was produced “in-house” by Tony. What are some of the pros and cons of having a member of the band produce the album?

Jon: Well, I would say the pros of it are that, and this is something we may not have been able to have done back in the early days of the band, but now since we have established such respect for each other, and such a rapport and friendship with each other over all these years, it’s actually better having him do it than a producer because when you have a producer, it’s cool but you have to kind of get to know the guy. You go through the little process of learning how to work with each other, and how to take criticism from them and that kind of stuff, whereas with Tony, we have been doing that stuff together for all these years where if he says, “Nah, I don’t like it. I think you can do better. Let’s try it again.” You’re like, “Alright, cool.” You know? I respect him so much that the criticism doesn’t make you feel weird because he’s my buddy. He’s got my back. I know he’s coming from a cool place, so it’s easier to digest and work with him. I think it’s better. I really don’t think there’s any cons by having him. I really don’t. I’d prefer to do it this way from now on, honestly.

Also, your bassist, Andy Platfoot is the guy who does your videos right? Same question… is it a similar positive situation?

Jon: That’s right. Yeah, totally. That’s what’s cool is that everyone kind of has their own little job, and Andy is just super talented at video-editing and stuff. He does all kinds of stuff, so when it’s in his hands we’re all like, “Yeah cool. Just do it up. Here’s the idea.” We all kind of agree on it. He knows what’s cool and what’s not cool, and what we like and what we don’t like. You know? It’s one of those things where if it was another video director it would probably be like, “This is gonna’ be a long process, dealing with this guy. He doesn’t know what we’re like and what we’re all about and he doesn’t know all the inside jokes and stuff like that so this is gonna take some time to work with this dude.” And you know… a lot of the videos came out ok over the years. With Andy it’s just like, “HE KNOWS!” So usually with the first draft everyone is like, “Oh shit. That’s cool. It looks good.” We change this and cut a couple tweaks here and there and usually we can get to a final cut pretty quick with him. We have a new one coming out tomorrow actually (Tuff Rude Boy) which is really neat because we never actually shot anything for the video per se. It’s all just footage he’s collected over the years. Backstage and different shows. He kind of just syncs it all up, and, I mean, it’s not meant to look like we’re actually playing that particular song but it’s pretty rad. It’s one of those, like… it’s all black and white and stuff. It’s kind of a collage of tour footage basically. It’s pretty cool. It’s gonna be fun.


Buck-O-Nine has been a band for over twenty-five years. You’ve only had two or three line-up changes. What’s the secret to that? Is it foot rubs?

Jon: Yeah, a lot of foot rubs. I don’t know. I think that we kind of run the band kind of like a friendship. I mean, it’s like if any one person is not ok with doing something. Whether it be a show or…you know? Oops sorry, my dog. Hey Barney get out of here… If anyone… say a show comes up and they can’t do it for whatever reason, you can say no at anytime for whatever reasons you have and that’s ok. No one’s going to give you shit or anything like that. I think that everybody just kind of feels comfortable and looks forward to doing this stuff and they know that if they can’t do something then its cool and they aren’t going to get shit from anybody. It’s just kind of a relaxed kind of band, and I think that’s the secret of the line-up staying the same. It’s fun. It’s easy, and it’s like satisfying, you know? It’s a cool thing to do. People leave. Even our drummer Steve, he’s the original drummer. He left the band in I think like ’99 or something like that and then he came back about six or seven years ago. So, it’s basically the same group of guys minus the bass player that did all of the first three records, which is pretty cool. Our bass player who is in the band now, Andy, has been in the band for about nineteen years. He started in like 2000.

Rad, man. So, no one’s uptight?

Jon: Yeah, definitely not.

Fundaymental is your first release since 2007. Why chu make us wait?

Jon: Good question. I don’t know. It’s funny because even with Sustain there was a gap between Libido and Sustain of like six or seven years. It’s just one of those things that’s just hard to get together and write twelve or fourteen songs. You know? With Fundaymental we have been talking about doing a new record for years and years ever since Steve came back five or six years ago. It just finally came to fruition when this record label Cleopatra, who is the label that we are putting out the record with tomorrow, they came to us and said they were doing this Halloween compilation. They had a bunch of bands that were going to contribute Halloween songs, and asked us if we wanted to do a song. They gave us a couple of bucks so we could get into the studio and do it, and we were like, ”Uhh, sure. That sounds great.” So, we had to figure out how we were going to do this. Steve lives in Colorado. Andy lives in Yosemite. I live in L.A. The other guys live in San Diego, and so we just kind of figured out a plan and wrote and recorded this song, and it was a lot of fun, and it was really cool to do. So, when we handed it to the label for the compilation they said, ”Hey we’re digging on this song. You guys have any ore songs? You wanna do a whole record? Whatsup?” So, we were like, “Yeah. We can do more of this.” So, that’s kind of how it started. That was the catalyst for it really.

I love Asian Man. Mike Park is one of my favorite idols who is also Asian. From what you just told me, I guess it wasn’t like a conscious decision not to go back to Asian Man?

Jon: No, not at all. We love Mike Park, you know? When we were doing that Sustain record he was like, “Yeah, I’ll put it out.” Because we went to him and we were like, “Hey,” you know? “Is there any way you’d be interested in putting out this record? We’re going to record it ourselves.” We funded the record ourselves with money that we had made by playing shows and stuff and Mike was like, Yeah, I’ll totally put it out,” and we were happy to do that, but it wasn’t like, “Ahh we gotta’ bail on Asian Man!” or anything like that. It was just these guys came along and it was helpful because we didn’t have any money ourselves this time around to record ourselves. Even though we recorded ourselves this time around we still had to go into studios and do different things and fly people around a little bit, and stuff like that. So, there were some expenses that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to manage ourselves with our own money. You know?

So, it was just kind of serendipitous? The Cleopatra deal?

Jon: Yeah.

Your band is 90’s as hell. You had a song on 90210. The 90’s are seen as like the big ska boom and then there’s like this great dissipation and so, do you think there’s a larger legacy to that? Do you think it was over-rated or was it over before it started? Did video kill the radio star or is the industry just doomed to fail? What’s your take on the ska boom of the 90’s?

Jon: Interesting way of putting it. Yeah, I mean my take is that it’s something that has been bubbling for a long time, you know? I mean ska music has been around since the 60’s. It saw its second resurgence in the late 70’s/early 80’s with the two-tone era. The Specials and Madness and stuff like that… We’re actually 80’s kids.

Well, I meant the band.

Jon: Totally. That two-tone stuff was just so good, and I listen to the two-tone bands to this day, practically every day. I think there were so many bands still kind of doing that but you just didn’t know about unless you were in the scene you know? It was an underground kind of thing, and it just got to the point where I think with where music was at that time in the early 90’s, you know? There was all this grunge and death and doom, and people being bummed out. I think that the third-wave bands offered this different kind of thing and it was fun and easy to listen to and positive, you know? So, I think it was a natural thing that needed to happen and I think it just kind of is going to always be that way. There is going to be music things that come and go, and ska and reggae music will always be there as an alternative to sad crazy stuff. I like all that music too, but ska music and reggae music are just my favorite go-to music. Whenever I’m in a bummed-out mood or anything like that, it’s just… you know? I listen to ska and reggae.

For sure. Do you still drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and fight?

Jon:
Not so much the “fight”. Never really fought so much. That was just kind of a fun part of the song, but definitely, yeah. We are still pretty heavy partyers… especially when we’re together. When we’re not together we party pretty hard. We have a little group text message thing we call “TID” which is “Till I Die” you know? That’s our Buck -O-Nine little slogan that we have with each other. I’m on that more than I talk to my wife. I mean, I’m texting with those guys, and it’s just bullshit, too, all nonsense too. It’s just like, “Dude, check out this picture of this cat.” You know? Or whatever. It’s just fun and hilarious shit and we can also do a little bit of business on there you know? So, it’ll be like, “Hey there’s this show on May 11. Is everyone available? Can we do this?” And everyone will chime in there. And it’s funny because everyone will be like, “Dude, drinking beers. Hanging out at the bar. Doing this. Fucking going to the beach. Having some beers.” Yeah. Pretty much nothing has changed as far as that’s concerned.

I’ve got to be honest with you though, you know? I love that song and that was big part of my partying days but I’m a part of the Napster generation and when I downloaded it, it said “Dropkick Murphy’s” on it.

Jon: I know. It’s so weird. We get that all the time. People are like, “Oh that’s cool you guys cover the Dropkick song.” Or “that Flogging Molly song” We get Flogging Molly a lot too on that song, and we’re like, “Yeah, well, we actually wrote that song. It was on our first album. You can go back and check.” And they’re like, “Oh really? No way!” As a matter of fact, we actually re-recorded it for Fun Day Mental. So, it’s like a recent version of it, which is pretty cool.

That’s rad. I’m looing forward to it when it comes out. I listened to “Tuff Rude Boy” and it sounds like you’re ready to kick some ass, man. I don’t know if what you told me earlier was a little untrue about the “not fighting” thing. What’s that song about?

Jon: Totally. I am. Well “Tuff Rude Boy” has a few different themes that kind of go throughout it, but I mean “Tuff Rude Boy” is a little bit of a nod to the past, you know? In a way where it’s kind of about how we’re all older dudes and I went through some work things a few years ago working at this company, and I was trying my best to be like, “I’m into it. It’s cool.” You know? “Let’s do this!” And finally, after a couple of years I was just like, “You know what? Fuck this! And fuck this place! And fuck this job! I’m fucking out of here, dude.” You know? Like, “I’m gonna’ go back to what I do. This isn’t me.” So, that’s really kind of what its about. It’s really kind of a message to yourself, you know? A lot of my songs are like that where it’s like a pep talk almost for yourself. It’s a healing and process where you are talking yourself back into being positive and cool, and not dealing with bullshit. You know? For the most part that’s what it’s kind of about, and the references like “going back to the bar” and “hanging out hooligan style” is just a part of getting away from that negative shit to me, because that shit’s cool and fun. Getting away from that negative stuff is what the song is about, really.

You touch on some pretty heavy topics in “Top of the World”. Would you mind elaborating on some of the influences for that song?

Jon: yeah, again that one is meant to be a positive message and a positive feeling and a way of looking at life. It’s like, hey there’s some crazy shit out there, and you can say that the world is totally fucked up. But it’s not totally fucked up. You can find your place. You can find your top of the world and you can find a positive environment to be in. You just have to look for it and look out for it and try not to let all the craziness effect you in a negative way, as best you can. That is really what that song is about to me. There is some heavy stuff in there, which is a little rare for us but I mean, you know, if you look back to some of the early songs there are some political references and stuff. Nothing that would really dictate like a complete and total political stance or view, or that is harsh, you know? It’s more about just kind of being aware of things and being able to manage your own life and keep your own life positive and moving forward, but acknowledging and knowing that there is this chaos all around you.

Does the rest of the album follow along those lines?

Jon: Yeah, I think that’s pretty much the sentiment of the record. There’s a couple of love songs which is semi-new for us. There’s not a lot of love songs throughout the Buck-O-Nine years. Not that there’s like “hate songs” or anything like that but, you know, “With You I Can” is about my wife, and the first song is “Paint the Night Red”. It’s also a love song about going out on adventures and stuff with your girl, and painting the night red. There’s some different tones in this one. The song “Yaya”, it’s called “Yaya”, and our trombone player sings that one. It’s about his granddaughter. So, you’ve got dudes in the band that are grandpas. So, there’s some cool stuff like that in there but I think the overall vibe of Buck-O-Nine and Fundaymental is a message of hope, and there’s a lot of references to music. The actual song “Fundaymental” is about musical healing. You know? What, like if our band comes to town, what we are basically talking about is, “Come out to the show. Put your worries aside, and have fun for a night.” Let it go.

What were your biggest musical inspirations for the record, and if you wouldn’t mind speaking for everyone else as well. Do you know what everyone is listening to and what they are all going for?

Jon: I definitely know what they are all going for. I would say that its such a fantastic mix of stuff. I know that Jonas listens to Manu Chao. I don’t know if you know Manu Chao, but that’s his favorite music. He’s a singer/songwriter. It’s a mixed bag. You’d have to listen to it. That’s Jonas’ thing. Jonas is also an incredibly good blues guitar player so he’s super invested in old blues and stuff like that. He has a blues band that he plays in in San Diego, which is really cool. They’re called Rat Motor, which is like my favorite band name I’ve ever heard in my life.

For sure.

Jon: Pretty fucking rad. I’m like, “Man! I wish I would have thought of that!” I always tell people band names are already taken. Bad Brains is taken, Rancid is taken and The Misfits is taken and those are the three best band names ever, and all of a sudden, here he comes with Rat Motor. Yeah! I love it. Dan and Tony, the horn players, all they listen to is reggae. Just reggae, reggae, reggae all day long. They are heavily invested in everything from Peter Tosh to all the way down the line of stuff that most people have never heard of. Great stuff. Then we all listen to punk rock whether it be new stuff or old stuff. If you really want the real answer to the question, I actually made a playlist on Spotify. If you go to the Buck-O-Nine Spotify page there’s a playlist that I made. I think its fifty songs, and its songs and bands that influenced Fun Day Mental. The first song is a Bad Brains song. Then it goes Suicide Machines, Slackers, and on and on from there.

I’m going to have to check that out. Would you mind telling me about the art?

Jon: Steve, our drummer designed all the art except for on the inside of the booklet there’s little hand-drawn kind of character cartoons done by this dude out in England who was I guess kind of a fan, who was like, “Hey, I’ve got these drawings I was hoping I could do for you guys. Check out some of my work.” This guy is like a ridiculously good illustrator. His detail is so finite that its almost like looking at a photograph. It’s crazy. He did all these drawing for each one of us, and I have blue eyes, for example. In the drawing, like my eyes are the exact color of my eyes. They’re blue, and the details of our whiskers and everything is just spot on. So, he did those characters and then Steve did the cover and then the back cover, and then Jonas, our guitar player did all the graphic design and put it all together. Like I said, everybody’s got their little job that they do.

Yeah, man. That’s cool. It sounds like it works really well. You’re part of this new documentary coming up, Pick it up: Ska in the 90s. Would you mind telling me a little about that?

Jon: They hit us up on Facebook. At this point it was probably about a year ago, I think, now. They said, “Hey, we’re putting together as documentary, would one of you guys wanna do an interview?” and we were like, “Yeah, of course. It sounds cool.” We set it up. They came here to my house, and when they got here, I was like tripping out. I was like, “Wow!” They have lights and multiple cameras and it looked just like a television set, the way they set it up. I was just like, “Man, you guys are serious,” and they were like, “Oh yeah, we’re serious. We’re talking to everybody.” Like, from the 90’s ska movement. I was like Wow, this is awesome. I didn’t even realize it was going to be like that at first, and then I just got excited because they were super knowledgeable. They knew every band, every album, the years that certain things happened and this and that. They were telling me stuff that I didn’t know. I was like, “I didn’t know that was ’95. Yeah, I guess so.” They were really, really cool dudes and had a lot going on. They went out and interviewed everybody from Hepcat, and Reel big Fish, and The Bosstones. Everybody. Fishbone. Whatever. I think the plan for it is that they are doing a couple of premieres. One of them being here in southern California at the Newport Beach Film Festival. I think it’s a week from tomorrow. A lot of the bands are going to be there and stuff like that. Me and my wife are gonna go. I haven’t seen it yet. All I’ve seen is just the trailer. You know?

Great! I just have one more question for you. What do you think of the new Specials album?

Jon: I really like it. When I first heard it, I was tripping out kind of on the first two songs. On the first two songs, I was like, “what the fuck is this?” I use Spotify for most of my musical listening and I was like, “Is this some funk band or what’s going on here?” I thought maybe they had mixed up the files or something. Then when the first song kicked in, I was like, “Ok, this is the Specials. This is fucking awesome.” So, from the third song on, I think it’s fantastic. Those first two songs aren’t really my cup of tea, so much, but yeah, I love the Specials. You can still tell its them, but you know there’s a time. I’m looking at my Specials poster right here in my office at home and just looking at those seven dudes, and remembering that those guys are just so fucking awesome. I wish they could have all just stayed together. Those seven dudes. There’s a chemistry that you create when you make these records and stuff and those seven dudes that I’m looking at right now. It’s the album cover of their first album, and what a chemistry they had. Of course, they did this album and then they did the second one, and then they just kind of dispersed and did different things, and they’ve never all seven of them come together ever again, even though bits and pieces have come together here and there. I think Lynval is the only guy, and Horace. I think the bass player and the guitar player are the only two dudes that have been consistently in the band all the way through. And the other dudes just kind of come and go, which is weird. But I think it’s great, you know? They’ve got Terry hall singing again. That’s cool. I loved it. I’d love to see the band with a full line-up, even though, the drummer, he passed away, but if they could get everybody else back in the fold. That would be really special.

The special Specials.

Jon: That would be a special Specials moment.

For sure, man. That’s everything I’ve got for ya’. Thanks so much.

Jon: Have a great day.


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