Luke Buda - Foundations of a Secret Surprise
Author: Rebecca Thomson (photography by Rebecca Thomson)
Luke Buda is the next in a batch of the capital city's talent pool of musicians to release a solo album.
Solo work has been his side project while a paid up member of Phoenix Foundation. Buda says it was the imminent arrival last year of son Moses (now four months old) that spurred him to complete his first full-length album. 'Secret Surprise' is being released on Arch Hill Records in March.
"When I heard Sarah was pregnant - well, we found out together - I had already started recording songs at home but I was going through a confidence low and that changed things."
"They say the partners of pregnant women do the nesting thing - like building a shed, and my nesting was to make a real go on the album. I wanted to get it finished before he was born."
Most of the album was recorded in Buda's Aro Valley home, the Phoenix Foundation practice rooms and Luke Benge's (The Inkling) lounge.
"That's where his piano is, so it made sense to record those bits there."
Lee Prebble, known for his work with groups such as The Black Seeds and Fly My Pretties, mixed and produced the album, and tied up any loose ends at The Surgery in Newtown.
"That was where we recorded drums and re-recorded most of the vocals," says Buda. "I left the EQs untouched too because I didn't trust myself with them - the plan was to go to Lee for that. We played stuff out of all sorts of amps around the studio, then I left him alone and he did his part, making sure everything would go together."
And although it's largely a solo effort, Buda typically collaborated with numerous Wellington musicians, who were only too happy to help out.
The album sees Craig Terris (Cassette), Sam Scott, Will Ricketts and Conrad Wedde (Phoenix Foundation), Luke Benge, Steve Gallagher, Mike Fabulous (Black Seeds), Rio Hemopo (formerly TrinityRoots), Tom Callow and Buda's partner Sarah Jane Parton.
He is happy with the finished product and also (when we speak) eagerly anticipating the artwork accompanying it. "There's been no compromise with this. Even with Phoenix there's a different aesthetic.
"I'm aware of being overly trendy. It's homage to an early '80s Christian rock record cover that Conrad from Phoenix bought. I'm very excited," he says, rubbing his hands with glee.
Girlfriend Parton has been working on the cover art, along with Louise Clifton who worked some of the artwork for Phoenix's 'Pegasus' album, and Paul Johnson.
'Secret Surprise' is a follow up to Luke Buda's 2002 self released seven-track EP 'C-Sides', which has itself been re-released on Slow Boat Records.
The Phoenix Foundation's second album was released just 10 months ago, but these days it seems it's par of the course for musicians to have sideline projects. Besides Buda says making music and recording by himself is one of his favourite past times.
"A bit of it is to do with the fact there are a lot of people in the band. It was a bit of a struggle and recording 'Pegasus' was a bit anguishing, so recording by yourself is a way to deal with that."
He also admits there are monetary benefits to taking on other projects. With six band members in Phoenix Foundation and a manager, "... what we receive in terms of royalty payments is less than the dole". Buda also does occasional shifts making coffee and selling tickets at Wellington's Paramount theatre, but music is where he would rather make a living.
Neither of his parents were particularly musical, but he tributes his mother for starting him on his musical journey.
Certainly the release of 'Secret Surprise' in Wellington is a far cry from his childhood in Poland.
"Apparently, the story goes, my mum wouldn't put me in front of the TV, instead, if she had something to do, she would put earphones on me. It was '80s socialist Poland, so there was lots of Polish rock and pop, and Dire Straits too - lots of Dire Straits."
Fast forward to New Zealand 1992, Buda turned 13 and his interest in music became more than a serious past time. His parents bought him his first electric guitar. He also became the proud owner of a Budokan practice amp, a red Squire Stratocaster, and the book How to Play the Electric Guitar. Eddie Van Halen featured in the book and Buda says because of that he was the only third former at Wellington High School who believed Van Halen was a cool band.
At this time, he also met Conrad Wedde and Sam Scott at Wellington High where they were all third formers (Year 9). With encouragement from legendary music teacher Fitz Walner they jammed.
"We liked music and we took it seriously."
After high school Buda started studying composition at Victoria University, but found he was "at odds" with the lecturers.
"At the time I couldn't believe what they were saying about pop music."
He did complete a foundation music course at Massey University in Wellington, but says that's the extent of his musical training.
"Though my mum did make me learn piano when I was five or six."
Lack of theoretical training seems to have done him no harm. He has a knowledge about and appreciation of music that is incredibly refreshing. He excitedly notes that the café we're at is playing Leonard Cohen and says he often tunes into music and forgets everything else around him.
"I really love music to the point where I find myself switching off to what people are saying. I just want to make music I really like."
With an already busy schedule filled with Phoenix Foundation and family commitments, 2006 is shaping up to be a busy year for Buda. His diary is filling fast, but somewhere he intends to fit in a tour of his solo album, "... with the Buda, or whatever it is, band".