Bucky SinisterBucky audio
Species: How long have you been in San Francisco now?
This is an excerpt of a Bucky Sinister interview that will appear in Species Magazine #1
S: Could you talk about Bill Hicks a little bit?
BS: Oh yeah. Bill Hicks -- if I could be anyone other than me… If I could look back at anyone's body of work and say that was me it would probably come down to either Bill Hicks or Richard Pryor. Obviously Richard's experience is so much different than mine whereas Bill Hicks, I had some of his thoughts but couldn't formulate them until I heard him do so. Bill Hicks was coming from a place closer to where I came from. I may never be as good as I think Bill Hicks was. What he did up to the age of 32, before he died, I may never surpass. I think that Richard Pryor made some of the most brilliant recordings ever made even though there very far out of my experience. That he can make me relate to his experiences is part of his genius. With Bill Hicks, however, I was right there. I know people like the people Bill was talking about. I know exactly what he was doing. His technique was amazing. He had this loose feeling on stage where he was just flowing with his stuff. He had it all memorized and done before hand but he made it sound new every time he performed. He will go between saying something that's really heavy and being really goofy and funny. It's so hard to walk the line he did. It's so hard to make the points he made without coming off heavy-handed or preachy or just dumb. He bordered on dumb a lot but he got over it and made it funny. He would talk about Rush Limbaugh and Nancy Reagan having sex -- which is kind of dumb -- but he'd take it so far it was hilarious. That's where he was brilliant.
S: The writing you do lends itself to performance and the oral tradition. This is the area of hip hop, story telling, improvisation. This is a different path than trying to get into the literary canon. More Mark Twain, Hemingway and John Fante than James and Proust.
BS: Oh yeah absolutely. I know what you're talking about. A lot of it comes from preacher training too. I got comfortable performing early. The first time I was put on stage I was twelve and I liked it right away. I was kind of scared until I got up there and then the first time I heard my voice over the PA system that was it for me. I was home. This was it. This was a thing I could do better than all my friends. I wasn't the best basketball or baseball player, I wasn't the best guy at Stratego or Risk. I wasn't the best at any of the things I liked to do when I was twelve except when it came to speaking. Everything else I was average or below average -- especially at sports -- but with speaking I knew I was better at this than all my friends. That fueled me and gave me a real sense of identity. Most of public speaking is self-confidence and the reason people think it's hard is a cultural thing. People are told that it's hard like they're told math is hard. If you get told something all your life you end up believing it. I was always told that I would love speaking and guess what? I did. A lot of this also came out of story telling. I used to know a lot of old hicks that we used to hunt with, real country folk, and they would tell stories at night around the camp fire before we went out hunting. Real honest camp fire stories about getting lost in the woods and stuff like that. It was hilarious and my favorite part about going hunting. My early influences go from there. I preferred to hear people as opposed to reading something. Writing is one thing, performing is another. It's like a symbiotic need I have. I need to perform. I also need to write. Luckily if I do it right I can make one thing serve the other.
S: What are some of the tricks that preachers use to get people to pay attention to what they're saying?
BS: If you're in a drama or a speech class they'll tell you to stare at this imaginary line on the back wall and to look out over everyone. I always thought that this technique was horseshit. If you do preacher training you look people in the eye. This is really hard to do in night clubs where the lights are set up so you can't see anyone but places where I can see everyone I look people in the eye. You go around the room and you look everyone in the eye. If you can't bear to do that you pick out two or three people and you look them in the eye repeatedly. This has a really powerful impact on people. They feel really, really vulnerable. If you're doing something in couplets of four lines you can end the second or forth line with the same person and they'll really think you're talking to them -- which you really are but at the same time you're talking to everyone. But you can make three or four people think you're talking directly to them. As you get better at it, and the better preachers are this way, you can make everyone think you're speaking directly to them. A lot of it is the eye contact. It's really scary sometimes because you'll also feel something back, when you look right at somebody and they look right at you. When you look at someone for the first time and they're looking at you for the first time as well it's a little awkward. In public it's the kind of thing that makes you look away but you can't really. When you get that from 30 people it can get a little overwhelming. It's really powerful. A lot of people duck behind paper. I've ducked behind paper before. The stuff is really emotional and you'll feel it. That's the main thing with preachers that they don't teach you in speech classes. The other thing is you've got to make your stuff real personal if you want to make it appeal to everybody. If you try to make it universal it won't ever come out that way. If you say something that you think nobody ever thought you can find out that yeah, that's what everybody thinks.
S: Do you think that writing that comes from this kind of understanding is more real or more vital than academic or overly literary writing?
BS: I don't know. The way I was talking about is more connective definitely. In religion you're always trying to connect with people. That's the primary purpose. Connect and convert. You want to reach into people's hearts. I think why a lot of politicians sound phony is that they've been brought up in speech classes and these debate teams and that's where they learned public speaking. There's this thing in their voice where they always sound like they're lying even if they're not. They just sound like they're full of shit. They all have that thing in their voice that's like "Wh-at I'm seee-ing he-ar to-day was…" It's this weird thing that gets passed around speech classes or something. "Wee can-not al-low o-ur coun-try to be like th-is any-more." They're taught to hit these syllables or something.
S: That goes back to the Roman Empire, the schools of rhetoric and oratory for professional politicians and lawyers.
BS: Yeah I just associate it with fake. When I hear it I don't think the speaker wrote it, someone else wrote it for him.
S: It's very stilted.
BS: Yeah. I think this is why Kennedy was so popular. I doubt he wrote his own stuff, I don't know, but it sounded like he wrote his own stuff in the clips I've seen of him. That's why people loved him as a president so much, they believed what he was saying. We haven't believed anybody like that before or since. Martin Luther King was a preacher and you know he was feeling every thing he said with every ounce he had. When he said "I have a dream" no one else said "Bullshit, that's someone else's dream." [laughs] If George Bush came out with a speech "I have a dream," I would say "No you didn't. Someone just put that in your speech because that sounds cool."
S: "A thousand points of light."
BS: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Whereas if the preacher says it right that's what he really thinks. That's what he really believes.
S: You toured with Lollapalooza as a poet right?
BS: Yeah I went on a couple of stops with that. I could have gone on more but it was just a disaster. There were two types of touring you could do. The real good one was when they put you on a Winnebago and took you on the complete tour to all the stops. What did they call the rest of us? It was some term like "Ghetto Poets." We were invited to all the shows and had passes to all of them if we wanted them, every single show that year, but we had to find our own way to get there. They didn't cover transportation. There were these cars following the buses in convoys to all the Lollapalooza sites. The problem is Lollapalooza is usually held in these fairgrounds and aren't next to anything. It's not possible to take a break and go to the corner store. People were running out of food and water. It was really bad. Logistically it was a disaster because they didn't cover much besides minimal food. The bands got treated really well, the poets got treated like crap -- of course. At first we were told there would be poets on the main stage. This lasted for three stops because the poets got so much shit thrown at them. People were rioting almost. I think it was because everyone was announced wrong. It would be like "Hey is everybody ready for A Tribe Called Quest?" The crowd would be "Yeaaah!" and then the announcer would go "But first here's a poet from Detroit -- Dominique Lowell!" and people started throwing things. It was horrible. Nobody went over well. It was a disaster so they took everybody off the main stage. Everybody was supposed to go to a second stage but the spoken word stage didn't even end up being a second stage -- it was a third stage and it wasn't even a stage, it was a tent. We kept getting downgraded. It was ridiculous how they selected the main poets. They sponsored these poetry slams in each city and who ever won got to go. That seems fair until you think about what it would be like if they picked the bands that way. What if they did a Battle of the Bands and whoever won would be the bands playing on the Lollapalooza Tour? Another thing was is that it was like trying to make a band out of people like Slash, Lenny Kravitz and Joan Baez which is kind of what they did. Here's a poet from Chicago, a poet from New York, a poet from Ashville, North Carolina and you all get to live in this Winnebago all summer long and not see the outside of the tour festival. It was a disaster. They took marginal personality types and mixed them together wrong. Speed freaks in with pot heads. A guy into death metal in with a Dead Head. These people couldn't live together in a Winnebago all summer long! Nobody cared. People just wandered in and out of the tent. It was bad the way it was presented. MTV had just put poets on the air the year before and then put on a poetry tour that sold out every freakin' stop in 1993. People hadn't done poetry tours and it was really amazing that somebody did and was able to make it work. When Lollapalooza's idea for it went so far south no one wanted to touch poets for years after that. The organizers said that there would be poetry every year but they ended up replacing it with the Jim Rose Sideshow. You could see people hanging bricks off their nuts at Lollapalooza but no poetry. It was a bad time. One good thing that happened is there was a lot of networking that went on. That was the first time we found out where all the readings all over the country were. No one really had a list like that before and Juliet Torrez made one. She took down everyone's name and phone number on every stop and she put together a master list of poets in cities. If you wanted to tour to Minneapolis you could call someone in Minneapolis saying you were a poet from San Francisco and wanted to read out there in July. That's how easy it was. People called me up once a month. If somebody came here I could set them up at four or five readings over four or five nights for a week just by word of mouth. It was so radically different than right now that it's a shame really. I wish I had toured more back then.