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LAist Interview: Buddyhead's Travis Keller
Buddyhead has been an LA institution of sorts since it launched in 1998 by Travis Keller and Aaron North. After two years they got into the record label business and have put out releases by The Icarus Line, Your Enemies Friends, Shat, Radio Vago, modwheelmood, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Gayrilla Biscuits, 400 Blows and many more.
Throughout the years they have been most notorious for their now-defunct-but-soon-to-hopefully-be-resurrected gossip page and pranks. They would frequently give out phone numbers of band members from Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach and the like, and have been sued by Courtney Love, Fred Durst, Moby and Axl Rose among others.
Perhaps their best prank was when they broke into Fred Durst's office at Interscope Records in the wake of the Woodstock 99 debacle. They stole his red caps, took pictures with it in front of his gold records, auctioned the caps on eBay and donated the money to a rape victims charity.
And did I mention their "Homophobia is Gay" tees and hoodies?
Keller can now be seen around town DJing at various bars in the area. He just finished a stint at Bar Lubitsch in West Hollywood on Tuesday nights where these pictures were taken. Every Thursday nights he will be at Bar Chloe spinning with Ian Rogers of Top Spin Media, and on July 9 and July 16 he will be at the Tropicana Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel with Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Catching from Eagles of Death Metal and Buddyhead's Troy Boy. If you like Jesus and Mary Chain, Tones on Tail, Pulp, Blur, Oasis, Guns 'n Roses, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, etc., you will make like zombies to groove and dance out.
After the jump is my interview via e-mail with Travis Keller. Boys and girls alike should go up to him and give him a deep tongue kiss for me.
What was the motivation for starting Buddyhead?
We were really young and bored, yet excited about everything happening around us. We didn't really plan to start Buddyhead, it just kind of happened and we went with it. If we would have meant to start this, I'm pretty sure we would have put more thought into the name of it. Maybe a bit more into the plan as well. I don't know if it translates or makes sense but Buddyhead just happened...
How did the record label come about?
Somewhat the same way the site did - accidentally. Aaron's band at the time, The Icarus Line, had an extra song laying around, and we were putting on a Valentine's day show at The Smell in Downtown LA (which was actually the first show ever booked there). So we pressed the song on a one sided pink seven inch. The first 214 people that entered the show got a copy of the seven inch for free. Get it? 2/14. After that, a few friends of ours that were in bands asked us to release their records. Next thing we know, we have a "record label" and we're signing bands.
This year we've slimmed things down, or streamlined them I guess, and stopped being a label in the traditional sense. Considering the current state of the "music industry" and how people don't buy CDs anymore we've decided to just focus on Aaron's music (which at the moment is called Jubilee) and my photography. And Jubilee uses all my photos for artwork so it somehow makes sense.
From the time we wake up til the time we go to sleep we're working on our art or something that relates to it. And we barely sleep. Jubilee has been lucky enough to be the first band involved with the Topspin software which is backed by the guy who invented pro tools. Basically it allows bands and artists to sell their own music, video and photography on their own site, for whatever price they choice, without a middleman and it boasts a digital subscription fan club. It's a whole lot more than that and it has been the reason we've been able to keep the lights on over here at Buddyhead.
What are some of the roadblocks in getting an album released?
There aren't too many roadblocks in getting an album released aside from getting the money to do so. There are way more roadblocks in getting people to actually care about music and buy the album once you do release it.
What do you perceive is the reputation of Buddyhead?
That would depend and vary greatly on who you ask. I don't really care what people perceive what we do as to be honest.
Buddyhead has been known for playing pranks from publishing cell phone numbers of various people in the music industry and releasing prank calls on comps being among the tamer things. Any regrets?
I regret not taking the several multi-million dollar offers we got during the "internet boom". Having money would be cool. I don't regret anything we've said or done. It was all in good fun. Plus, that's what you're supposed to do when you're young isn't it?
Where do you see Buddyhead going in the next five years?
We're going to release the second single from Jubilee in a few weeks, it's called "In With The Out Crowd". After that we will most likely put out their debut full length (in this country) this summer. We're also planning on putting out several books of my photography and possibly even a few books that archive some of the sites content.
We're also in the process of "relaunching" the site and going back to doing monthly issues like we did in the old days. I'm pretty excited that we have a "staff" again and they're people we are really creative, motivated and prolific. It's nice to be pleasantly surprised by people turning in really rad articles or videos. After the site somewhat just being me for the past few years, it's a nice change to have some outside input and help from others. It feels like the old days of Buddyhead except instead of being 20-something and pissed off at the world, we are 30-something and life isn't all that bad. Buddyhead with positive mental attitude but we still wanna entertain and make ourselves laugh.
How do you assess the current music scene in LA?
I'm not much for scenes. But there is lots of really cool art and music being made here in Los Angeles right now. We're doing our best to shine a light on the stuff we like, make fun of some of the stuff that's goofy to us as well as focus on our own art at the same time.... it's a balancing act.
Why did you want to start DJing around town?
When I first moved to LA my friend Scott told me I could "get paid to play records in bars" and I'd "get chicks doing it too". He was right. Plus, I can't ever find places I like to go out to cuz the music always sucks. Who do I gotta pay to hear some rock n' roll out in this town? So I guess it's creating a place I'd like to hang out as well. Not to mention how rad making people listen to what you want to really loud through a PA is. Basically it's fun, they pay you and you can get your friends drunk for free.
How has DJing at these various places adjust your judgments on what people want?
I don't think it has. We just play what we wanna hear usually a little bit too loud. I'm not a very good DJ.
What's the proudest thing you have done while associated with Buddyhead?
That's like asking a father which kid is his favorite...
Uhhhh duh. Best current rock band, how can you not appreciate their attitude? Plus Noel shits hits.
Will you DJ my gay wedding?
Not unless you're into Oasis.