One-Man Band Series, #10: Bud McMuffin

One-Man Band Series, #10: Bud McMuffin

In the tenth edition of the One-Man Band Series, James G. Carlson reflects on the series to this point and brings the spotlight onto Bud McMuffin, aka Tiko Bret, from France.

- James G. Carlson
Photo by Lucie Sundermeijer

posted October 28, 2010

When I first began my One-Man Band Series a little over a year ago I discovered a lot of different independent artists scattered all over Europe who were heavily involved in the movement. Having never been to Europe it was a chance to learn more about places I had longed for years to visit, and suddenly it was recognizable as the Europe held so dear to the expatriate literary gents of long ago, like Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound. In Switzerland I found blues trash and primitive rock'n'roll one-man bands, as well as the Voodoo Rhythm record label. In Italy I came across a number of highly original and diverse artists, while in Germany and England there were a small handful of tremendously talented singer/songwriters to be looked into further. There was also a sizable cluster of one-man bands in France that caught my attention almost immediately, including Thee Asthmatic Avenger, Sheriff Perkins, Birds Are Alive, King Automatic, and Bud McMuffin. All have proved great at what they do time and again, to be sure, but this particular piece will be centered solely on Mr. Tiko Bret (a.k.a. Bud McMuffin) and his one-man band project.

Initially I was exposed to Bud McMuffin's songs when I received a split piece of vinyl on France's Kizmiaz Records. The record featured two songs by King Automatic and two songs by Bud McMuffin. At the very moment that Bud's first song ended I knew I wanted to bring him aboard my series, as I instantly appreciated his sound as belonging to the primitive rock'n'roll, soul punk, neo-blues and power-country styles that I had grown so fond of during my first months of researching and writing on one-man bands. At the end of the day, in the interests of keeping it simple, I suppose I would refer to his sound as "garage-a-billy," even though it fails to completely detail the list of moving components which ultimately make up the machine that is Bud McMuffin's sound. He didn't just incorporate the above styles into his signature sound, though; he did it very well -- very well, indeed -- with light distortion on his acoustic guitar, clever note patterns, chords, tight foot drumming, and slightly dirty and well-executed vocals.

Recently I received a press pack in the mail from Bud, including his latest full-length album "In Niort We Trust Wild Sessions" and a self-titled EP, both on Juvenile Delinquent Records. Formats differed between the two releases, the former twenty songs on CD, the latter three songs on 7" vinyl. All told, the new 7" vinyl is made up of three of the better songs on the CD - "Far Away," "Shiny Buddy" and "New Look," though the CD offers so much more, with a considerable amount of variety, energy, sweat, blood and talent, going from song one to song twenty far too quickly...so quickly in fact that I often find myself starting it all over again straight away.

With three Bud McMuffin releases in my possession, in addition to a song or two on international one-man band compilations that found their way to me throughout the months, I was ready to put together some interview material and begin this article, which is the tenth installment of the One-Man Band Series, following Uruguay's Amazing One Man Band and preceding England's Honkeyfinger. Number ten; a significant number as far as I'm concerned, since it has been a long, rewarding road from the first piece in the series with Reverend Beat-Man all the way up to the ninth. So far I have met a lot of wonderful people and worked with my share of remarkably creative and talented singer/songwriters. And I hope upon hope that the road stretches on from number ten all the way to that soft orange sherbet-colored horizon at dusk, where the world just seems to stop altogether and drop off into infinity, like ancient flat Earth misconceptions, and where I just may find myself on the shoulder of some strange, desolate highway, unable to go any further, satisfied with fifty or so installments in the series. Maybe more.

McMuffin songs are catchy compositions rarely going over the three-minute mark, sometimes feral and frantic, sometimes gaining in momentum throughout, and at other times less dirty and slightly tamer, but always with his mark of originality and musical creativity. Like quite a few other solo artists Bud employs the use of a looping device with which he is able to form layers of sound, sometimes laying down a base of notes over which he can sing and play root chords, sometimes laying down the chords and then playing clever note progressions over them. Now, there are those music purists that may bemoan the use of such a device to enhance one's sound, and though I personally find it rather suits Bud's particular sound, I do not always accept the use of high technology devices such as looping units. That is to say, they must be used well, improving the quality of the composition rather than making it overly busy and confused, like a musical traffic jam, if you will, utterly mad and disagreeable in every possible way.

All of that aside, I would like to focus on Bud's instrumentation and singing voice. His guitar is a basic acoustic model six string, though he adds a bit of distortion to it. His drum setup isn't hooked up to anything special; it's just the kit and his busy feet. As far as his vocal delivery, I would describe it sort of like a punk rock Elvis Presley on uppers and with a slight case of laryngitis. Of course, that description hardly does his vocals justice, but for lack of a better one...there you have it.

Only two weeks ago, give or take, I had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Bud McMuffin. And I have provided the content from that interview here for you in its entirety.

As is usually the case at the start of my interviews I would like to begin in an introductory fashion, so as to give the readers of this piece a better understanding of Bud McMuffin, not just as a musician and singer/songwriter but also an individual, a human being of this mad world in which we live.

Hi folks. Hi James.

In fact, early Bud McMuffin was more a character. He was born of the desire to make American roots music, like blues, country, and folk. I gave him a satirical name, a sort of cliche. As my first step as a one-man band my shows were in a way more funny than today, something between parody and real roots music. 'Cause you know, when you want to play country music in France, everybody says, "Wow, that's lame," so you have to find an excuse! haha! So, my excuse at the beginning was to make this music in a joking style. But now I prefer to mix all my influences and write songs without the parody way. Today, Bud McMuffin is really me! A guy who loves many kinds of music and tries to play it good.

You are certainly one of the presences in the international one-man band community that stands out amidst many of the others. Why exactly did you choose the one-man band route over the full band approach to writing and performing music?

'Cause I love one-man bands! And maybe 'cause I'm asocial. No, I love playing in bands, but I love also to have my own project, 'cause you know, alone you can make what you want, you have no limit. One day, if I want to write a sad song with strings, I could, and I will not have a drummer who says, "Hey! Where are the drums? I hate strings. I want it loud." Or a track with synth, about which the singer says, "I hate new wave! Rock'n'roll!" Haha! True story.

With a sound that can only be described as straight forward rock'n'roll with a bit of punk thrown into it -- almost what I would call "garage-a-billy," if such a thing exists -- I am compelled to ask: What influenced you to develop the sound that you are currently contributing to the underground music scene in general and the one-man band community in specific?

As I said, first intention was to make American roots music, so I would say all the early blues scene, specially Mississippi Fred McDowell, R.L. Burnside, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and early folk and country like Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and many others.

And now I try to mix this roots music with my other influences, which are rock'n'roll, rockabilly, swing, garage, soul, jazz, exotica, and so forth. By extension I could say all music played between the 1920's and 1960's but in a 2000's way.

And finally, my first listening relationship with a one-man band was a record of Hasil Adkins. Listening to Doo Rag was a big influence too. Listening to primitive one-man or two-man bands made me want to have my own one-man band.

Over the course of the past year, while I've been writing on my One-Man Band Series, I have worked with quite a few artists from Europe, where the one-man band movement seems to be in full swing. I have also noticed that many of the artists from the non-English speaking parts of Europe tend to sing in English rather than their native languages, though some use both, changing it up from song to song. Why did you choose to sing in English?

'Cause that's the language of much of my favorite music. Maybe one day I'll sing in French, but I really prefer singing in English. I don't know, blues or country in French? Haha, I think it doesn't work.

For your first release you did a split piece of vinyl with King Automatic, another notable presence in today's one-man band movement, two songs each, on Nantes' Kizmiaz label. That's a hell of a debut recording. Your most recent recordings, however, are a 7" and a full-length CD on Juvenile Delinquent Records. Can you talk a little about what went into these new recordings, as well as why you chose a new label to release them, and why the 7" and CD were release simultaneously?

Yes, for a debut record, split with King Automatic was really cool! Thanks to Kizmiaz who offered me this. But I'm not really a fan of my first record. My songs are not really good. My sound is lame compared to that of King Automatic, which is really awesome.

Juvenile Delinquent Records released the two new recordings 'cause Kizmiaz has many recordings to release before mine, and who knows, maybe 'cause they didn't want to. I had about thirty songs ready to be released, but Juvenile Delinquent could not afford to release an LP, so we chose a 7" and a full-length CD. The CD is like a compilation, three recording sessions, nineteen tracks, two live songs, and a remix by my buddy Téa-San. From this CD I chose with Juvenile Delinquent three tracks to release as a 7".

Presently you are on a tour that will take you through both France and Italy to many different venues. As far as past gigs and tours are concerned, what have been some of your most memorable moments?

Probably my first Italy tour. I went with a friend of mine. He had gastroenteritis! At the first gig I played in a nightclub. By the way, they thought that I was playing the night before. We left the club very late and my friend was exhausted. We slept in an apartment without heat. It was in the middle of winter. He was so sick that I don't think anyone could go in the toilet until months after that!

Another memorable moment was the night we played with the Cowpunx from Hell Tour in Thouars, France. That tour was great. There were six one-man bands -- Sheriff Perkins, Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger, Wasted Pido, Anthony "Wild" Turkish, Dog Loose, and me. That night we all slept with other guys, eleven in total, on the floor above the club in a small room! Before going to sleep, the bartenders gave us lots of booze. We drank a lot! At 4 a.m. we all took our instruments and tried to play the Deliverance theme, but we were too drunk for that. We needed maybe one hour to find one chord! Fortunately there were no neighbors around the club.

In fact, all gigs, all venues, all people I met were awesome, and I hope it'll continue.

What are some of your favorite bands and/or singer/songwriters these days?

Since months now I listen again and again to Thee Oh Sees and Delaney Davidson (I listened his music recently and it's really cool). I still listen to Tom Waits and Holly Golightly, and always will.

Have you been involved in any other musical projects over the years, one-man band or otherwise?

Yes, I play in a rock'n'roll band named Psyckmobylettes. We talk about mopeds. We still do some gigs, but rarely. I play in a pop-punk band called Carolus Magnum, but it's only a project at this time. I play in the punk rock band Robust Rocks, kind of hooligan parody since we are supporters of the worst football team ever. I've always dreamed of making a '60s soul band. I'll soon sing some old French songs, pre-war oldies, lost treasures. And I work on a project to play some Bud McMuffin songs with a band, but in a different way...something between Tom Waits and Billy Childish, I guess.

Lastly, if there is anything I failed to cover, or if there's anything you would like to express or discuss, please feel free to do so now. The floor is all yours, Mr. McMuffin.

I would thank you James for the interest you have in one-man bands and in music in general. You're doing great job!

See y'all.