Man Behind The Music: For Duane Buford, Success Has Been A Process
February 12, 2009 by Screenmag
It’s not every day we here at SCREEN get the chance to talk to a former member of a platinum-certified, Grammy-nominated industrial band, so when the chance presents itself, we jump on it.
Chicago native Duane Buford was the keyboardist and programmer for the band Ministry from 1994 to 2001. He recorded three albums and performed on three tours with the band. He was even around when Ministry was asked to perform in the film “A.I.” and when the band recorded the song “Bad Blood” for “The Matrix,” which was nominated for a Grammy. But despite his celebrity-esque resume, Buford is quite a humble guy.
A pianist who studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, Buford took off for New York to study fashion design in college. A friend got him back into music while in New York and he returned to Chicago, where he started getting lucky. He met Ministry co-leader Paul Barker, who got Buford involved in one of the band’s side projects, Revolting Cocks. About a year later, he was asked to join Ministry.
“Funny story,” Buford says. “In 2000 we were supposed to play the second stage at Ozzfest, [but] we got booted off the tour.” Sounds like bad news, but for Buford and Ministry, it couldn’t have been better. About a month later, Buford found out that Ministry had been asked to perform its song “What About Us?” in Steven Spielberg’s “Artificial Intelligence: A.I.” The band that’s performing during the Flesh Fair? That’s Ministry.
“Doing the thing with Ministry opened up some doors for me,” he says. “Here I am, a kid from the South Side of Chicago. I never knew these things would happen to me being a musician.”
Between touring with the band, Buford worked at a music house on commercials for agencies like Leo Burnett and Foote Cone & Belding (now Draftfcb). Around 2001 to 2002, Buford started out on his own, winning projects for Xbox through Day 1 Studios (Chicago). He composed for the video game MechAssault, “and then I started getting calls to do films,” says Buford.
As far as film composing goes, he has done music for “Voices of Cabrini: Remaking Chicago’s Public Housing” for Facets Multimedia (Chicago) about the displacement of tenants at the Cabrini-Green housing complex. Subsequently, he composed for the documentary “A Day on the Force: Women’s Professional Tackle Football” and the feature films “Even Trade” and “Dead in the Water.”
“I really got my foothold in the film thing learning about film,” says Buford, “and I have to give credit to [the filmmakers] on ‘A.I.’ because when I wasn’t working I was actually paying attention to what was going on. I got to meet Stan Winston [and] I got to meet John Williams – being able to talk to some of the professionals as far as music and film is concerned and really getting tips from those people – and I was able to put it to use when I got hired to do these other films. It’s been an upward momentum for me.”
Buford runs his Chicago company, Process, Inc., with his partner Slavik Livins, a Russian-born engineer and writer who Buford calls “awesome.” Process creates original music for commercials, TV, film and video games.
“We really try to concentrate on music,” explains Buford. “I play piano [and] I actually play. I know composition [and] I’m always a student. It’s not about technology running the music. I’ve become very versed in using the technology, but I don’t depend on it.”
Buford says there was a time when he got sucked into the technological revolution in music, and that its an easy thing to do. He would rely more on technology than on his own talent and skill as a musician, for example, running out to buy the latest keyboard because he thought it would make his song sound better, when actually the song remained the same. It was a trial and error process, he says, but ultimately, he learned to use technology on the side and not as the main course.
“That’s the basis of what Process is,” Buford continues. “Believe me, I’ve had to work a long way...to get there. I don’t need a sequencer, I don’t need this or that. I can open up the piano and play what I’m supposed to play. I’m in it for the long haul. I’m in it until I drop.”