The Popdose Guide to Buckethead, Part Four

Written by Music, Popdose Guides

Just like when I did the Popdose Guide to Prince I’m a little sad to see it come to an end but I certainly won’t need to hear any more Buckethead for a long long time.  With this final part comes the rest of the projects that he’s been a major contributor to.  So here’s the final 18 Buckethead records to mull over!

…with Frankenstein Brothers

Bolt on Neck (2008)
The Frankenstein Brothers are a unique paring of Buckethead and That 1 Guy. That 1 Guy plays homemade instruments like what he calls the magic pipe or the magic boot and a musical saw.

Based on this info I’d expect to hear this strange album filled with sounds I’ve never heard before and there are points when that happens, like in the 14 minute “The Thief and the Prince” but for the most part the songs are pretty basic.

“Bought Big Ben” is an extremely generic rock song without what feels like anything unique at all. The aforementioned “The Thief and the Prince” and “Prototype #1” are the tracks to focus on as they definitely include all the instruments mentioned above giving “The Thief” a weird horn sound and “Prototype” a large portion of that grinding saw.

I think it’s probably safe to say that the two of these guys in concert would probably be a very unique and rewarding experience, but on disc – it’s nothing special.

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…with Giant Robot

Giant Robot (1996)
The self-titled Giant Robot record is a collectable piece these days thanks to very limited distribution. This is normally referred to as Giant Robot NTT to not get confused with Buckethead’s solo album with the same name (it was on NTT records).

This time it’s Buckethead on Guitar and Bass, Brain on drums and someone named Pete Scaturro on keys.

The album itself will never see the light of day again because it has copyright infringements all over it featuring many clips from popular movies like A Clockwork Orange and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And it really doesn’t need to either. It’s all over the map, from funk to jazz, to brutal experiments with noises and has pretty much zero flow at all. There’s a handful of decent tracks like “Scapula” but they are few and far between. And would you believe it, “I Love My Parents” shows up for a third time. Still just as shitty.

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…with Gorgone

Gorgone (2005)
Gorgone is something I would have never assumed I would like. It’s a jam record featuring Buckethead on guitar, Pinchface on drums and Travis Dickerson on organ.

While recording Population Override these three characters decided to hold a jam session and record what came out of it. There are supposedly a handful of overdubs on this but almost all of it is made up as they went along.

If we want to analyze the three of them, Pinchface is the least creative providing very few surprises and little more than a backbeat for the most part. Dickerson often trails off into no man’s land and sounds like he’s not really paying much attention, while Buckethead not surprisingly provides most of the sidebars to the established rhythm. His excellent solos are what make the album which is broken into three tracks over 40 minutes, though in reality it could just be one long suite of tunes. The 15 minute “Enter Gorgone” really is the most listenable of the three tracks as all three members seem to be on the same page there.

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…with Jonas Hellborg and Michael Shrieve

Octave of the Holy Innocents (1993/2003)
On this release Buckethead plays acoustic guitar, Jonas Hellborg plays acoustic bass and Michael Shrieve is on the drums.

There are two versions of this album. The first was released in 1993 and the second in 2003. A decade after the original release, Hellborg was riffling through old tapes and found parts of the original session that he hadn’t used and decided to remix all the original tracks and re-release the album.

I’ve only heard one version. I believe it’s the original, though without hearing the second it’s hard to know. But either way, the album is five long tracks ranging from very mellow (“The Past Is A Different Country, I Don’t Live There Anymore”) to wildly experimental (“Kidogo”) to upbeat and funky (“Rana and Fara”).

Each track has some cool moments, but it really peaks with “Rana and Fara” and unfortunately, that’s the first track.

The video below indicates it’s from the re-released version and it does sound slightly different, so maybe I’ll have to head over to YouTube to listen to the whole thing.

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…with Alix Lambert and Travis Dickerson

Running After Deer (2008)
This is an odd record in the Buckethead arsenal. The concept was thought of by filmmaker Alix Lambert who took samples of an interview he did with Samuel Stuart and chopped them up into song with Dickerson playing keys, Buckethead on guitar, Paul Eckman on bass and DJ Bonebreak on drums.

The album has an avant-garde jazz feel to it with Buckethead really only being a minor player, but he’s still on each track. Since Buckethead albums don’t usually have lyrics, it’s kind of funny when you hear tracks like “Becoming a Race Horse” with lines like “I beat the living shit out of him/I beat that motherfucker” or “Maybe It’s Because You’re An Asshole”. It’s not crazy shit like the Cornbugs albums where you’re expecting to hear the most bizarre crap. Instead these clips make you think and laugh a little at the same time.

Avant-garde Jazz isn’t my thing, so I don’t particularly care for the album, but it’s unlike any other album Buckethead’s worked on yet.

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…with Pieces

I Need 5 Minutes Alone (1997)
A Japanese import only featuring Buckethead and Brain, this is one of the truly miserable releases from our favorite guy. I don’t really know what the fuck they were going for here. It’s a mess of badly produced jazz, hip-hop, electronic and random assorted bullshit that is so stupidly diverse I don’t know why they are all on the same disc.

This is only notable for one thing, the rare vocals of Buckethead. Vocals are credited to Herbie, which just happens to be Buckethead’s decapitated sock puppet. I shit you not. And Herbie tries his hand at rap on “Bobafi Crucify” which is maybe the worst track in the vast Buckethead catalog.

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…with Praxis

Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis) (1992)
One of Buckethead’s earliest collaborations, Praxis is one of Bill Laswell’s projects. Bill is a bassist and producer and owns his own record label which helps him be able to put out some crazy avant garde material.

Laswell’s music is all over the map but I’ve heard more really funky music from him than anything else. But he’ll do anything really – funk, jazz, metal, dub, ambient and many more styles. Praxis had a rotating lineup but Buckethead was part of most of them.

Transmutation was the first Praxis record and this was really more of a writing and producing project for Laswell as he only seems to contribute noises, samples and random things here and there to the actual sound.

The lineup for this album actually featured musicians that will pop up all the time with Buckethead. Bootsy Collins on bass, our man on Guitar, Brain on Drums, Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell on keys and Next Man Flip on the turntables.

It’s a great mix of experiments, hip-hop, funk and metal that becomes one of the better pieces of work Buckethead has worked on. It’s Laswell’s vision, but Buckethead is the riffmaking centerpiece of it.

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Sacrifist (1994)
Back in the day I’m assuming the second Praxis record was, well – kind of odd sounding. But man, this one grows on you over time.

Laswell assumes the bass duties on all tracks but one (Bootsy on that one) and Buckethead really is at the forefront. With Sacrifist, Laswell adds Boredom’s singer Yamatsuka Eye and Mick Harris, then drummer of Napalm Death to provide the ungodly screaming over most of these tracks. The addition of Harris makes this feel very much like an experimental grindcore album. Even though it’s not accessible at all, it’s still more accessible than Napalm Death were in my opinion.

The biggest problem is that Laswell should really have just stuck with the grindcore on this one, as Bootsy’s track “Deathstar” is a 9+ minute lo-fi funk track, the track following it – “The Hook” – is hip-hop and the 9-minute ender is an extended jam for Bernie Worrell. It totally destroys the flow of the record and though flow isn’t the first thing on Laswell’s mind, it would have made this really spectacular had these three tracks not been there. Still, loud and abrasive and something metal fans would partially enjoy at least.

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Metatron (1994)
The third Praxis album in three years features just the core members of Bill Laswell, Buckethead and Brain and at times makes me throw up the metal horns. This album can certainly be a difficult listen but is very rewarding if you give it some time.

First of all, if you’re coming into this wanting traditional songs, then you will be sorely disappointed. There are some killer metal riffs on songs like “Meta-Matic” and “Turbine”, but only rarely does anything come close to regular song structure. Plodding doom-ish numbers are abound as well, like on the creepy, almost menacing “Cannibal (Heart Shape of the Iron Blade)”.

Just like the previous Praxis albums though, Laswell can’t stick to just one style and once you reach track eight, the record becomes just a mess. Cut it in half though and it’s one hell of a recording.

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Profanation (Preparation for a Coming Darkness) (2008)
The first studio album for Praxis since 1994 is fucking crazy.

Laswell brings aboard an enormous amount of collaborators on each song – and people Buckethead has never worked with before. It was delayed for almost three years in the US probably because of all the hoops Laswell had to jump through to get clearance from everyone’s record label to release it.

Every genre you can imagine is present on this album, from hip-hop to metal, to drum and bass and weird bullshit. One of the highlights for me is “Larynx” which features drum and bass duo Future Prophecies creating the beats and Mike Patton providing his normal weird voices.

Patton and Buckethead got together once before to perform live as a group called Moonraker, but I don’t think they’d ever recorded together until this point. It’s a collaboration that’s been a long time in the making. In fact, I’m shocked Buckethead doesn’t do a full album with Patton and/or at least be on Ipecac, the home for weird experimental music.

“Furies” is another highlight – a pretty basic dark rock track with these almost sing-songy lyrics provided by Iggy Pop. “Galaxies” is a full blown rap track featuring Killah Priest from the Wu Tang Clan.

Maximum Bob, Serj Tankian, DJ Disk, Grandmaster DXT and others also show up on various tracks across the disc.

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…with Science Faxtion

Living On Another Frequency (2008)
This is a record conceived not by Buckethead but by singer Greg Hampton and Bootsy Collins.

It’s funk metal in pretty true form with Bootsy playing almost everything at various points and hard rock vocals provided by Hampton. Buckethead definitely embraces tradition song structure on this one and with his metal licks he’s able to get in a mess of great solos.

Living On Another Frequency is a concept album based on what the future will be like – taken over by robots and machines and the mechanical musicians – a theme taken across the entire record.

I wish the vocals were a little better as Hampton’s not the greatest singer, which is probably why I like “What It Is” the best because the vocals are provided by Chuck D. But Hampton’s rock style fits well with the music and provides a very different feel than most of what you’ve heard from Buckethead.

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…with Shin Terai

Unison (2001)
I’ll be honest; I’m not sure why Shin Terai was a needed collaboration for Buckethead. Bill Laswell’s a part of this project – so maybe he has some pictures of Buckethead without his bucket on and is threatening to go public with them if Buckethead doesn’t perform on everything he feels is necessary.

Shin Terai is mainly a percussionist but so much of the percussion is electronic and looped – just like so many other Laswell projects that I don’t really understand what he brings to the fold. The overall feel is a mellow one, with funky bass and programmed drums providing the backbeat.

There’s nothing bad about the record, but it falls right into the background if you aren’t paying attention.

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Heaven & Hell (2004)
Billed as Shine this time around, the album consists of a little bit of new material but mostly reworkings of the material used on Unison and in the sessions recorded for the album.

Titles of the tracks are simply “Movement #1” – “Movement #6” and for my money sounds pretty much like the first album.

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Lightyears (2007)
For the third record they are now known as Shin.E and pretty much the same lineup is aboard with a few extra guests including Bill Laswell’s wife and son on vocals.

Lightyears has a slightly different vibe to as there’s more hip-hop beats present but it’s still very much a mellow record with looped drums and Buckethead playing the same riffs he played on the first two.

Sorry, I just don’t get the appeal of this project in the least bit.

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…with Thanatopsis

Thanatopsis (2001)
Consisting of Buckethead, Travis Dickerson and Ramy Antoun on drums, the overall sound of the first Thanatopsis album is mostly progressive rock with some funk thrown in for good measure.

Dickerson provides his usual array of keyboard sounds from his Fender Rhodes and the organ but thankfully opens up a bit more on this record and has a lot of experimental passages as well.

The weird thing about this one is that Buckethead’s guitar work might be the worst part of the record. This isn’t to say it’s bad, but his relentless soloing doesn’t add much to any of these songs. His bass work on the funkier tracks is stellar however and “Pyrrhic Victory” really stands out because of it.

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Axiology (2003)
There are a handful of tracks on Axiology like “Pyre” that are funky and metal-ish that could have fit in on the first album, but there’s also a lot of tracks that focus more on Dickerson than Buckethead and he creates a very jazzy feel to the tracks.

The lead track – “Nostrum” is a great example of Dickerson leading the way and playing a great tune on the piano which is only enhanced by some mellow and introspective riffing by Buckethead. “Cult of One” is a pretty groovy track that never really goes anywhere, but still captivates me and “Gnash” alternates between heavy modern metal licks and groovy ‘70s inspired guitar lines.

Axiology is more diverse than the self-titled album but also feels more complete and can be a fantastic listen.

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Anatomize (2006)
The weakest of the three releases but still not bad, this is Dickerson’s baby from the start. He says these tracks were ideas he had for a solo record but in the end a lot of tracks became part of the Thanatopis project.

Anatomize is extremely ‘70s sounding using Dickerson’s regular array of keys and a moog and is a total avant-garde jazz throwback to the early part of that decade. Since I’m no fan of ‘70s music, this clearly isn’t going to interest me as much as the other two. Buckethead gets lost in the mix quite a bit on this album and that actually could be okay.

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…with Zillatron

Lord of the Harvest (1993)
Zillatron or Fuzzface was a moniker for Bootzilla aka Bootsy Collins to create a funk-metal record with his pals from Praxis. Brain is the only member of the first incarnation of Praxis that isn’t part of this record at all. Buckethead plays all the guitars on this one, shredding nicely over Bootsy’s funkiness.

Buckethead’s guitar work on this one is spectacular and shows his versatility and you get the feeling that both him and Bootsy had a lot of fun in the studio putting this one together – throwing outrageous licks over super space-bass. I can never forget Bootsy’ line in “Fuzz Face” as well – “a burnt cat is a dead pussy.”

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Not reviewed
800 albums from Viggo Mortensen (They are all the same. Viggo speaks, Buckethead jams. I cry.)

Guns n’ Roses – Chinese Democracy (We all know Buckethead’s on the disc but there are so many guitars on the damn album that I can’t possibly figure out what’s played by him and what isn’t.)

Praxis – Live in Poland (1997), Transmutation Live (1997), Collection (1998), Warszawa (1999), Zurich (2005), Tennessee 2004 (2007) (These are all live albums except for Collection which is just that. Each live album has a different group of players on them, mostly DJs and most of the tracks seemingly become a test on who can scratch the most.

Recap

Excellent: None

Worth Your Time: Octave of the Holy Innocents, Sacrifist, Living on Another Frequency, Transmutation, Axiology

Eh: Gorgone, Profanation, Lord of the Harvest, Thanatopsis, Metatron, Bolt on Neck

Die Hards Only: Anatomize, Heaven & Hell, Unison, Lightyears, Running After Deer, Giant Robot

Smash Into Pieces: I Need 5 Minutes Alone

That completes the Popdose Guide to Buckethead. Now go ahead and realize what a fabulous guitarist he really is and go listen to his better stuff!