Buck Down of The Mutaytor

Born in Black Rock City at the world-renown Burning Man Festival and incubated in Los Angeles’ tribal-techno underground, The Mutaytor combines 100 thundering drums, live improvisational electronica, breathtaking fire performers, sensual hoop dancers, dazzling aerial stunts, various forms of modern and bellydance and giant video projections. It’s a multi-media experience blending high energy music with amazing performance art all under a serious rising star.

Recently however, that star has taken a detour down a high profile rocky road as news circulates of Mutaytor founder and business manager Matty Nash’s arrest via NBC Dateline’s hidden camera investigation called “To Catch a Predator.” It was here that it was revealed that Matty was soliciting what he thought was a 13 year old girl in an online chat room. .  Glide connected with Mutaytor performer/composer Buck Down to hear the real story of  37 other people who were as shocked as anyone else, if not more so, as the TV show aired, and the subsequent fallout.  Buck shares how they are managing to keep their dreams alive one day at a time, as they brush off the dust, reorganize and get back to work:   

“To anyone out there that still believes that you can change the world starting with having the best night of your life surrounded by truly inspired and inspirational people, know that The Mutaytor is still open for business with no waiting in line.”  Buck Down

Describe the role you play with The Mutaytor both onstage and off.

Aside from drinking beer and telling jokes, it’s expanded to a little more front office stuff lately. I sit on the governing board, and am now handling some of the bookings. This is now in addition to my longer held positions as a producer, arranger and writer along with Atom Smith, as well as serving as the band’s art director. Onstage it has been running the Dub Pscience Laboratory, playing drums, guitar and singing, however, I’m trying to just play guitar and sing at this point. Enough’s enough!
What’s the Dub Pscience Laboratory?

The Dub lLb has been an ongoing project of Atom and mine for about five years now. Back in the day, when we basically just had a lot of drummers and nothing else, we were trying to figure out a way to bring electronica to the table in a more dynamic way than a dj would with vinyl or cd’s, which we did briefly enough to discover both mediums skipped horribly when confronted with the chaos that goes down on a Mutaytor stage. Mp3 technology was just getting started at the time, but the players didn’t have the kind of memory, or weren’t facile enough.  We needed to store and execute the whole show seamlessly. Right about the same time, a program called "Reason" came out, which allowed some fairly complex things to happen across several tracks at once, while being playable to a point, and able to run on a fairly pedestrian computer. I hauled a purple imac (the ones with the big round back screen) onto stage around for the first time in 2001, and can remember thinking that any punk rock credibility I ever had just went out the window!  People at the time thought it really odd to see someone rocking out in front of a computer screen, including me. Once Atom joined the band, we started midi-syncing grooveboxes to it until we had a whole table full of knobs, blinking lights and cables knotted up everywhere, which was the first real prototype of the Dub Lab. Later, we got an early beta version of a program called "Ableton Live," which was perfect for what we wanted to do in the way of managing a lot of separated tracks along with complex effects chains. We sampled all our favorite stuff from the boxes and got a pair of ibooks and synched them together with the addition of a couple of different simple midi controllers. We now had the improvisational power of a complete band underneath our fingertips. It allowed us to deconstruct and reconstruct our material however we wanted to on any given night. What’s funny is now, five years later, tons of bands have laptops on stage as instruments. I’d like to think that Atom and I played some part in pioneering that.

Can you shed some light on the actions that led to founder Matty Nash’s departure from the band last month?

The short version of it was that Matty was caught in a sting operation by Dateline’s To Catch a Predator television show somewhere in early September of last year. Around February 7, 2007, the footage of Matty getting arrested aired on national television. It wasn’t until the piece aired that anyone else in the band, save Matty’s wife, Crunchy, knew anything about it. The show began at 8:00pm and by 8:20pm, my phone started ringing, and didn’t stop for almost a week afterwards. The decision for Matty to leave the project was made within hours after the show aired. 

The company behind To Catch a Predator is called Perverted Justice, and they have been doing this same model of moleing in chatrooms as underage girls, trying to catch adults willing to meet them, ostensibly to have sex. When the adult arrives there is a team of police waiting there to arrest them. It is a fairly recent phenomenon that they have been televised through Dateline. Prior to their involvement with MSNBC/Dateline, where the perpetrators are exposed on national television, part of the practice of Perverted Justice was to do something they call “follow up", which involves contacting anyone close to the person they caught…employers, ex-wives, business partners, friends, etc. and informing them that the person is a pedophile . Their rationale for doing this was that they felt most people would not come out and tell their employers, etc. that they were caught and that people should know to keep their kids away from them. They have since kept up this practice, even though now the people they catch are being caught in front of an audience of about 1.2 million people a week, not to mention reruns.

Matty turned out to be the most famous person they have ever busted, and so when they went to go do "follow ups" it included contacting as many past and future clients they could find of ours, of which there are very many, and whose contact emails are all hot-linked right off our website. What they usually do is send an email that would say something to the effect of "before you consider working with The Mutaytor again, you should probably see this: and then there would be a link to the video of Matty’s arrest. All of these are done from vague, untraceable email addresses, and had fake phone numbers, etc. In one instance we believe they posed as a "concerned parent" and emailed the organizers of the Langerado event, stating that if Mutaytor was playing that they, as a concerned parent, wanted a refund on their tickets. Rather than contacting us, Langerado decided it was far easier to jettison us from the line-up than potentially deal with some PR disaster. As it turns out, the same people were also involved in the Wakarusa festival, which we were also booked for, and dropped from. The Langerado/Wakarusa people then contacted our agency, who essentially did the same thing: dropped the project altogether without any discussion with us. I suppose to them, it didn’t matter if Matty was still in the band or not. They just didn’t want any of the stink near them. Of course once our management heard that the agency was dropping us, they followed suit. All of this happened in the span of an afternoon. In addition to this, Perverted Justice placed people under assumed identities in Burning Man forums on Tribe.net. which became a VERY fevered discussion that is STILL going on to this day.

How have things changed for the ensemble since his departure?

On one hand a lot, and on another hand practically nothing.   Obviously we had to take Matty out from every facet of the project, which went fairly deep, as he was the face and voice of a lot of our business both on and off stage, and he was heavily involved in our booking process. This is where we suffer the greatest material loss of him, particularly now that we have no formal booking agency or professional management to compensate for, or pick up the slack on the business that Matty wrote. Matty was also one of the members of our LLC, so we had to do, and still are doing, quite a bit of reorganizing. The good news is that we have an exceptional talent pool within the band, so a lot of people have stepped up and expanded their roles in the project, inclusive of taking ownership of the LLC.  The result is that we are turning this into much more of an employee-run business than it was in the past, which has served to really invigorate and motivate our sense of purpose as a band. It’s like walking in to work one day and realizing that you now own the place you have worked at for almost a decade, and are now responsible for the minutiae of it’s day to day existence. It’s daunting, but there is also something kind of exciting about it. It’s a whole level up from just showing up and knocking out your job description and as little else as possible.

We have faced many adversities in the past as a band, usually by the very nature of our existence. Having 37 people in your band, two trucks full of gear, tons of potentially life-threatening special effects, and key portions of your show that can’t even legally happen indoors in most states should have been an instant recipe for failure in the "getting-started phase" of our career, yet we stuck to our guns, respected our audience and each other in almost sacred ways, and compulsively raked over every facet of our project/production to ensure that it was being done as professionally and efficiently as possible. The result is that we have managed to travel all over the country, play for millions of people and eek out a meager yet honest existence for the better part of 10 years, all without ever having a record label, music on the radio, or videos on TV. We have been able to pack 1,200 seat venues and participate in giant festivals all over the country with little more than word of mouth, small local press and the internet to promote it. One thing that will not change is that process, as well as the intense love and respect we have for each other, along with our pledge to constantly seek to make inspiring one another and our community our number one priority. My feeling is that if we stick to that charter all the other details will fall into place. We are heavily invested in the business of joyous and rapturous fun. Once it becomes about anything else, we’re probably doomed.

As i have said in the past when we have faced tough times, I honestly still believe then and now that there’s never anything wrong with the Mutaytor, that what’s right about the Mutaytor can’t fix.

Describe the reaction of your fanbase to the cancellation of your performances at Langerado and Wakarusa?

The Mutaytor and the jamband community are still in the getting-to-know-you phase. We were born at, and have become a veritable institution, at the Burning Man festival, and it is that culture that we most represent and are a result of. There is a little conceptual crossover between both the Burning Man and jamband community, as they share a common ancestor in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury scene. Both camps place a high premium on psychedelic music, and roots activist community, however seem to have radically different opinions on how to arrive at both. After we worked with Mickey Hart at the Jammys last year, people in the jamband community at least started to take us seriously, despite the fact that we sounded and looked so radically different than what they were used to. A lot of them gave us the benefit of the doubt, and I’d like to think we won a lot of them over. However when the news hit the discussion group forums on the Wakarusa and Langerado websites, it was much more apathetic than what happened on the Burning Man Tribe lists. No one was really rushing to our defense and for every person that was bummed out about us not playing there was someone saying how they didn’t dig our more electronic or "bad techno" elements.  I think when the new record comes out, we’ll win some of them back, as we are becoming much more traditionally organic sounding than we have in the past, in terms of there being more horns and guitars and the like than we are usually known for. This will also be the first full album we have done since John Avila (former bass player from Oingo Boingo) and our horn section joined the band, so you’ll hear a huge difference in the way we make and play music that will probably be a lot closer to sounding like what folks in the jamband community traditionally like.

Do you have a name or release date yet for the new record?

The title of the record is going to be Yelling Theatre in a Crowded Fire. We’re rounding the corner on it, if not actually coming into the home stretch. We’re hoping to put it out before summer. I have always been fond of the great tradition of summer records. Every summer gets it’s own soundtrack – that one record or single you hear at every party or when you go to or at the beach or whatever… the one you put on when you’re cruising with the windows open or  the top down and it’s warm out at night and there’s that feeling that everything is fun and possible. Anytime you hear that record for years after, you’ll always remember that summer. Hopefully this becomes that record for someone. If it does, we did our job.

What are some lessons learned in the wake of this transition?

That love is best measured when it’s down.

What’s next for The Mutaytor?

We’re clawing our way back with bookings.  Obviously we’ll be doing the usual Burning Man regional events, as well as returning to doing a formal show back in Black Rock City for the first time in three years. There’s a lot of corporate gigs in there too, but essentially there’s still a lot of learning and rebuilding to be done which I’m very happy for because it keeps things fresh. I can assure you this: the new music and show we are currently working on is light years evolved beyond the last one and many times better. And to anyone out there that still believes that you can change the world starting with having the best night of your life surrounded by truly inspired and inspirational people, know that The Mutaytor is still open for business with no waiting in line.

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