We had the good fortune of connecting with Buck AE Down and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Buck AE, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
We are living in one of the most intense income disparities between capital and labor in all of American history. The people who are paid by the hour in this country are working harder and harder for less and less. Therefore – if you are going to take some of the money that they busted their ass for – you better be giving them something good, At the bare minimum – something you worked on at least as hard as they did for the money they paid you.
Your work ethic should always be worthy of the efforts of the hardest working, lowest paid at the worst job customer. Art and music are some of the few luxuries most working-class folks can indulge themselves with. As an artist, your job is to make sure that your audience feels valued and respected, and the best way to do that is to make sure that the product you are putting out is your absolute best and as affordably priced as possible.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve never seriously entertained any other career path. I’ve been making art almost every day for nearly 50 years and i have absolutely no intention of stopping. I had my first big record deal when I was about 23 or so, and I have been a published writer since my teens. I’ve had my own boutique design firm for about 20 years.
What I’m most proud of is that almost all of the money I’ve made as an adult has been off of my art and that at 51, I’m probably just starting to do my best work. A lot of it is just plain stubbornness. At this point, I don’t know that I’m even employable outside of the arts.
I can’t imagine not working for myself at this point. I suppose I gave up a couple of decades of financial security for it, but I was a lot happier. Life is far too magical and short to waste any of it with people you don’t like doing stuff you don’t want to do. What’s been really interesting about this pandemic is that it really gave a lot of people some deep perspective on just how they were living their lives professionally, and I am a big supporter of people who walk away from demoralizing or dehumanizing jobs.
I guess if I had one important lesson I learned along the way, it’s never to give up on your stupid, stupid dreams. You’ll thank yourself on your deathbed for it later.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in Pasadena, one of the greatest cities in the entire country. We gave you Jackie Robinson, Van Halen, and Space Program. There are folks down the street from me RIGHT NOW manipulating robots on the surface of Mars at JPL, which is regarded in some circles as the actual center of the known universe.
If I was gonna show you around – we’d probably start at Millard Falls – a short hike up to a waterfall hidden in my neighborhood. Then we’d go down to Canterbury Records on Colorado Blvd, which is my favorite record store, where I’d spend way too much money and try to talk you into doing the same, We’d get some pho from Saigon Noodle, and then I’d drag you to Vroman’s Books, where once again – we’d spend a LOT of money on books and even more records. (Pro-tip: Vroman’s has a very small record selection but it’s one of the best curated I’ve ever seen. You can practically close your eyes and randomly grab any 3 records out of the bin – and they are almost 100% guaranteed to be bangers.
After that – we’d probably go back to my 100-year-old craftsman and have cocktails and listen to all the records we bought on my audiophile-grade turntable and then retire into the backyard for more cocktails while my 80 pound English Bulldog competes for your attention.
You could do worse with an afternoon.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My wife Suzanne, and my son Milo probably do more than anyone to prop up my mortal remains and make it possible for me to keep going, so any credit probably goes first and foremost to them.
Secondarily, I am very blessed with an incredible fan base and friend base who have kept me mercifully employed at the few things I actually do well.
In this phase of my career – I worked hard to seize the total means of production of my work, which comes with some limitations, however, allows me to be absolutely uncompromising in what I put out and when. The folks who follow and buy my work are my lifeblood, and I never take their attention for granted. I make it a point to make sure anything I put out to them is the product of my absolute best effort, and that they are always appreciated, and this moment is no exception.