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Good Buddha

The nature of the Australian music scene, focused as it is on live performance whether it's in cramped pubs or in packed arenas, has had an interesting effect on several of the country's home-grown hip-hop groups. Rather than relying on samples found by digging through crates of funk records from the '70s, some of them chose to use real live funk musicians as their backing wherever possible, creating a hybrid sound that's closer to latter-day Lyrics Born (who has a large following in the country, even recording his live album there) than it is to traditional boom-bap. Good Buddha are such a band. Alex Young (aka MC Xela) and Andrew Lane (aka AND) went to high school together in the western suburbs of Sydney where they discovered a mutual love of rap and funk. Young played bass while Lane played guitar, and both rapped as well. With a drummer named Mick Downing recruited from a local rock band, they formed Good Buddha and played a string of gigs at house parties. Downing left shortly after and was replaced by Matt Johnston, a drummer whose tastes were much more closely aligned to those of Young and Lane. He'd seen one of their shows and been so impressed that he immediately offered his services. Two producers, Pete Brennan and Sandro, joined the band next. Unable to afford studio time the group snuck into the studio buildings Brennan had access to while he was studying to be a sound engineer and recorded their first album, 2001's Skillathon, without anyone knowing. Given the covert nature of their recording, they were unable to capture the live sound of the band exactly and were forced to rely on elements like sampled drums, which they normally eschewed. Skillathon was picked up by MGM for distribution; its first single, "Ultrasound," was popular on radio and later used on the soundtrack to the film Candy. Brennan and Sandro both left the group at the same time and Good Buddha were left to record their second album without access to either of their producers. Locking themselves away in a bedroom they created 2004's Futurhistrix, paying for everything by gigging constantly. Young gave a copy of the finished album to Mark Walton, a DJ he knew from playing clubs, and told him that he wanted him to join the band. Obviously impressed by the album, he consented. Another DJ, Jack Prest, was added after he impressed the group at a house party he was playing. They also added Lachlan Doley, a keyboardist, and percussionist Nui Moon. With this lineup they finally had the fully combined funk/hip-hop band they'd been aiming for, so in 2007 they hired a Byron Bay recording studio for a week and laid down nothing but instrumentals. After some more touring to raise additional funds, they returned to record the vocals of what became their third album, Hit the Sky Running, which finally managed to capture the sound they had been aiming for since the beginning. ~ Jody Macgregor
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