Throughout his career with R.E.M. (1980–2011), as well as during his subsequent solo career, Buck has also been at various times an official member of numerous 'side project' groups. These groups included Hindu Love Gods, The Minus 5, Tuatara, The Baseball Project, Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 and Tired Pony, each of which have released at least one full-length album. Additionally, another side project group called Full Time Men released an EP while Buck was a member; ad hoc "supergroups" Bingo Hand Job (Billy Bragg and R.E.M.) and Nigel & The Crosses (Robyn Hitchcock, Peter Buck, Glenn Tilbrook and others) have each commercially released one track.
Other notable groups of Buck's that have not recorded include Slow Music, which plays semi-regular gigs, and "Richard M. Nixon", a band Buck founded in 2012 to support the release of his solo album with live gigs. Richard M. Nixon consists of Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin, the same three musicians who comprise The Venus 3.
Buck also has a notable career as a record producer (including releases by Uncle Tupelo, Vigilantes of Love, Dreams So Real, The Fleshtones, The Feelies, and The Jayhawks, as well as a session musician (for the likes of The Replacements, Billy Bragg, and Eels.)
Peter Lawrence Buck was born in Berkeley, California on December 6, 1956. After spending time in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Buck family moved to Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating with honors from Crestwood High School in 1975, Buck attended Emory University and joined Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He eventually dropped out of Emory. Buck moved to Athens, Georgia, and attended the University of Georgia as well. While in Athens, Buck worked at the Wuxtry Records store, where he met future bandmate Michael Stipe as well as R.E.M.'s future legal and managerial representative, Bertis Downs.
Buck's style of guitar playing is simple and yet distinctive. He makes wide use of open strings while chording to create chiming and memorable pop melodies. His sound, especially on mid-period R.E.M. albums that saw the band break through to international popularity, has been associated with Rickenbacker guitars, particularly a Jetglo (black) model 360. He has also used a wide variety of other instruments as the group has continued to experiment and develop. On some more recent R.E.M. releases prior to Accelerate (2008), his guitar parts have been less prominent.
"When Peter plays guitar, there's a strong sense of fuck off that comes from his side of the stage. And you feel that he wants to be in a band because he likes what they do... but that's all," explained U2's lead singer Bono in 2003. "And it's almost like performing and having to deal with all of that is a bit of a compromise for him, so just fuck off. And I like that energy a little bit, and that gives them their aggression."
Buck has produced many bands, including Uncle Tupelo, Dreams So Real, The Fleshtones, Charlie Pickett, and The Feelies. Buck also has made contributions on many other musicians' albums, including The Replacements, Billy Bragg, The Decemberists, Robyn Hitchcock, and several Eels albums.
Peter, Mike Mills, Bill Berry and Warren Zevon recorded an album under the band name Hindu Love Gods, while the R.E.M. bandmates and Zevon were recording tracks for Zevon's 1987 album Sentimental Hygiene. Hindu Love Gods is one of many names the members of R.E.M. have used performing around the Athens area.
Buck also coproduced the 1992 Vigilantes of Love album, Killing Floor, with songwriter Mark Heard. He co-wrote, produced, and performed on Mark Eitzel's 1997 album West. He recorded an EP with Keith Streng of The Fleshtones as Full Time Men in 1985, and along with R.E.M. sideman Scott McCaughey has been a partner in The Minus 5 and a member of the instrumental band Tuatara. Additionally, In October 2005, he joined R.E.M. studio drummer Bill Rieflin, King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp and three others in forming an improvisational performance band called Slow Music. His voice can be heard on one R.E.M. song: "I Walked with a Zombie" from the Roky Erickson tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye. In 2006, Buck toured with Robyn Hitchcock, McCaughey, and Rieflin as lead guitarist for Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 in the wake of the band's first release, Olé! Tarantula. In 2008, after McCaughey and Steve Wynn decided to work together, the duo asked Buck to be the bass player in their new band, The Baseball Project, along with drummer Linda Pitmon.
Buck has contributed liner notes to compilations, reissues, and special editions, both of R.E.M.'s own material (the best-of compilations Eponymous and In Time, the rarities, B-sides and out-takes collection Dead Letter Office, and the special edition of New Adventures in Hi-Fi) and of other artists' work (such as The Beach Boys' Love You).
On September 9, 2008, immediately following the band's concert in Helsinki, Buck's signature Rickenbacker guitar, used live and in the studio since Chronic Town in 1982, was stolen from the stage. It was returned on September 18, 2008, by an anonymous source.
In March 2012, six months after R.E.M.'s September 2011 dissolution, Buck, now signed to Mississippi Records, announced intentions of working on a solo album, backed by singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur. The first track from the self-titled solo album, "10 Million BC," was released via SoundCloud on June 21, 2012. His eponymous first album was released later that same year.
In the final days of 2013, Buck announced he would be releasing his second solo album soon. The new project, titled I Am Back to Blow Your Mind Once Again, was released on February 18, 2014, again on vinyl only.
In 2015, Buck released his third solo album, Warzone Earth, under Little Axe Records.
In April 2017, Buck released the first single "Any Kind of Crowd" from his latest collaborative project with Filthy Friends, a super group with long time associates Scott McCaughey, Bill Rieflin, Kurt Bloch and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney. The same month also saw another new release with Buck and McCaughey teaming up with Frode Strømstad and Arne Kjelsrud Mathisen of Norwegian band I Was A King to form the group The No Ones. The first song from their Sun Station EP was released, with the EP set to follow later in the year.
Starting in the 1990s, Buck relocated to the Pacific Northwest and divided time between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. Buck currently lives in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
The guitarist is twice divorced. He was once married to the owner of Athens' 40 Watt Club, Barrie Buck. He has twin daughters with his ex-wife Stephanie Dorgan, Zelda and Zoe, born in June 1994. Buck married his third wife, Chloe Johnson, on June 1, 2013, in Portland, Oregon.
Buck is known for his encyclopedic knowledge of music, as well as his extensive personal record collection. On March 12, 1999, in an interview on Wiese, a television music show based in Oslo, Buck estimated his collection to be around 25,000. In the late 1990s, he estimated he had 10,000 vinyl singles, 6,000 LPs and 4,000 CDs.
Buck is an atheist.
On April 21, 2001, Buck was aboard a trans-polar flight (British Airways #48) from Seattle to London to play a concert at Trafalgar Square. Witnesses alleged that Buck exhibited various bizarre behaviors on the flight, including shoving a CD into a drinks trolley thinking it was a CD player, tearing up the "yellow card" warning notice handed to him by the flight crew, claiming "I am R.E.M." and being involved in a struggle over a yogurt cup with two flight attendants, which resulted in the cup exploding. Buck's actions led to two charges of common assault on the flight attendants, one charge of being drunk on a plane and one charge of damaging British Airways cutlery and crockery.
At the ensuing trial in London, Buck's defense claimed that the moderate amount of wine he had drunk had reacted adversely with the brand of sleeping pill he was taking and rendered him unable to control his actions. The prosecution, on the other hand, argued that he was simply intoxicated from supposedly consuming fifteen refills of wine. After the trial, which included testimony from Bono, the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2, Buck was cleared on the grounds of non-insane automatism.
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