Exclusive Interview: Jeff Bujak
Sensible Reason sat down with Jeff Bujak at the Rock N Roll Resort to talk about the benefits of working solo, Normal Instruments, and his future releases.
So your setup is very unique – how did you get to the point where you are not only working alone but also focusing your entire set around a piano?
The initial reason was money, but then it came into being fun because when I was 23 I started touring on the road as a back up keyboardist with different bands across the country. It was awesome at the time, but I started getting the itch of, you know, dividing the money. We were doing really well on the road, but it was the realization that I can’t do this forever; I can’t sustain this. I’ve always been a piano player since I was five, so I had this idea that I would kinda just run beats on a laptop and play piano to it. You know I could play early night bars – I really didn’t know where I was gonna go with it. My second show ever was opening for The Breakfast in Syracuse, and then like my ninth show ever was opening for Lotus because being on the road I made all these connections with agents, clubs, and promoters and just cast ‘em all in. Called a bunch of people and was like “Hey, man mind if I come in there and rage it? I’m just one person.” I’d get paid $150 or whatever and for a band that sucks, but for me it was gas, cell phone bill, it was great. So right then I was like, if I did this two or three times a week I think I can do this. So little by little I started buying all the little gadgets, and then as people were giving opinions, you know there was a lot of “you should get a drummer” and “you should really be in a band,” and I was kind of like yea I’ve been in a band, I get it, It’s a lot of fun, but I don’t want to do that anymore. This is what I want to do now. I don’t want to talk to anyone while I’m playing I just want to play. So it just melted into what it is today I guess, just combining gadgets and sitting at home and playing with them. And as I’m getting more and more shows, I have the obligation to make my shows different and to get more stuff and to keep investing into my own company.
So what are you favorite gadgets that you use on stage?
Kaossilator Pro is the one that I use a lot. It’s so fun that I want to get a second one. But, of course I have my fender rode’s and I have my piano and everything so I keep everything still piano based, but those touch pads are so fun.
Now that you’ve been able to get more recent experience of touring with a full band with Normal Instruments, what do you think are benefits and drawbacks of musically working alone vs. working with others?
Mike Carter from Indobox shot me an email about a year ago, and he said he had an idea for a band and I immediately said “No. I don’t have any time to practice. This is what I do, I’m solo and I don’t want to work with anyone else.” And he’s like “No. I want to do improv. I don’t want to practice. I don’t want to write songs. I just want to get on stage with 3 other musicians and just play.” So he got Jules Jenson of HiGHER ORGANiX and Matt Beckket of Cosmic Dust Bunnies. We all kind of just got together booked one show and jammed for a few hours before the show to see what it would sound like. From then we’ve never practiced or written any songs. And it’s just booking a show, and we all just show up there, you know we have a manager that handles it and we’ll just be like “Oh hey nice to see you.” You know we see each other on the road with our other bands, and then all of a sudden we get these shows, and then that run, we did a run of 2 weeks in January. That was different, you know because it was like touring with a band again. And again as much as I love it, I’m kind of over it. That band mentality of just having to live by other peoples parameters. I have control issues beyond belief, and I know what I want to do and I know where I want to go and that’s what I’m gonna do. But the good thing is that it’s improv, that’s the advantage of Normal Instruments, that it doesn’t take any time. But you know, the disadvantages are losing a lot of freedom from my solo show where I don’t have to talk to anyone I can do what I want. But with this I kind of show, I have to pay attention and see what everybody’s doing, and that kind of takes me out of my zone. I like to just close my eyes and get into it, and just fall into the music. I also believe that if you shut off one of your senses your other ones heighten that’s why it’s a lot easier if I close my eyes I can feel the keys more. Normal Instruments is wicked fun though, it’s so so fun.
What’s the plan for Normal Instruments? I understand that all members are busy with other projects but your tour has gotten some very positive feedback from fans so far.
There’s no plan. What was really cool about January is that we were able to do two weeks because all of our bands had off. The easy part was that we had time off. But now, Jules is in like four bands, and Matts in three bands, and I’ve got my solo thing. It’s really hard to find time for all of us to say our bands need to stop for a night while we make money and they don’t. It’s very difficult that way. So there’s never really a plan, it’s kind of like “Hey what are you doing this weekend?” or “Hey, we got an offer for this.” So no plans at all, but I know we’re gonna play again.
Just up in the air, basically for when you guys are free again?
Yup, that’s exactly it.
There was a lot of positive feedback for the short run you guys did. Even selling out some of the shows.
Yea we sold out 6 of the 8 shows. Because the fans of all of our bands plus fans of Normal Instruments, it quadruples our fanbase. Now fans of Cosmic Dust Bunnies know about me, fans of HiGHER ORGANiX know about me. It’s cross marketing that is the end product of it.
It’s been about a month since your last release “Something Different Part 2,” what can we expect from part 3?
Different, haha, something different. I’m trying to make each one a little different from the last. Part 1 was just kind of electronica that I’ve been trying, you know my typical sound. So I have the two studio songs, the two remixes, and two live tracks. And then the last one I put out, Part 2, is a little more melodic if not a lot more melodic. It’s more song written, more piano based, more airy, more loose, spacey. More big chord progressions. I’m doing a lot of like even non-dance stuff you know, more prog stuff. So the next one, I have ideas of what I wanna do, but I don’t even start recording these until like two weeks before they release. I go into the studio and bang ‘em out in like three or four days, mix ‘em down, and release ‘em. It’s gonna come down to the next couple weeks of deciding on it. I think I’m gonna do something real wicked piano oriented but extremely dark.
Getting some minor chords in there?
Oh yea, tons. D minor, the most depressing of chords hahaha. But it’s definitely just an idea right now, I might get to that day and change decide I want to drop like 150bpm, just straight dance tracks. I’m changing my opinions all the time with music, I’m always hearing new bands, and going back to old music. And since I’m solo, I’m able to do whatever the hell I want to do.
So what’s been influencing you lately?
Uhh Kill The Noise. I’ve been checking out a lot of this fusion dubstep, you know a lot of the new stuff is very non-melodic, it’s very noise driven. I think the grittier, the dirtier, the heavier is better for me right now. But, I don’t even know if it’s an influence, it might just be something I like to listen to, and then when I get into the studio I just play piano. I’m not sure what influences me, I might walk into a grocery store and shazaam a song I hear and then go home and listen to it, and then I’ll kind of create it in my own style. I listen to even Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, Deadmau5, but I also listen to TOOL and a lot of really heavy and progressive stuff like Meshuggah. I feel like dark music is more emotional. Happy, cool music is good, but I like to sink dark into it, deep into it. Maybe it comes with the package of playing a set at 4am. That’s the vibe I’ve really been digging lately.
If you could sit in for a set with any band in the world who would it be and why?
Well I would first start out by saying that I don’t usually like sit ins because of the whole trying to figure out what everyone’s doing and what everyone’s thinking. But, if I could sit in and it would be flawless and I wouldn’t have to worry about what’s going on, I would say TOOL. If I could imagine the four of those guys and then me on piano behind it, I don’t know I might actually go home and record piano over a Tool track after this.
What festivals can we expect to see you at this summer?
Right now I’m doing a lot of smaller festivals like Uphoria, The Come Up. A lot of two night, three night festivals. I’m gonna try not to do more than one festival a weekend so I can actually stay there and actually hang out and not rush to the next place.
What acts are you most excited about at the Rock n Roll Resort?
BioDiesel, Sphongle, Cosmic Dust Bunnies, Blue Boy Productions, the line up is stacked. Occasionally I’ll get away from my table and catch a band, but at the same time I realize I can be networking with someone. I kind of take both sides, I know it’s a business, but I have to get this happy medium.