We connected with Brooklyn based professional beatboxer, EDM producer, and punk guitarist Johnny Buffalo for an exclusive interview to discuss his upcoming instrumental EP “Welcome to Buffalo”, which drops on August 29th. During our interview with Johnny, we touched on several topics, including his creative process for the EP, how he unwinds when he isn’t working on music or performing, whether we can expect any visuals for the EP’s three tracks and much more.
After reading our Q&A with Johnny, be sure to pre-order the “Welcome to Buffalo” EP, stream “Crestwood Avenue” on Spotify, and connect with him on his website and social media!
Congratulations on the completion of your EP "Welcome to Buffalo". Tell us about your creative process for the EP's three songs.
Thank you very much! I started working on this solo project 4 years ago, not exactly sure what it would become. It took a lot of experimentation, and trial and error. It’s a blend of unique aspects, and I didn’t really have one artist I could look at to model myself after.
As it evolved, it became a fusion of what influenced my beatboxing (bass-driven trap and hip hop production) with what inspired my guitar playing (classic rock, metal, and eventually classical). I would say about a year ago, I really got a solid feel for what my sound was, and how to compose tracks within that sound.
For each of these three songs, I started with the first section, which is full electronic orchestration. I have a midi pickup on my guitar, so when performing live, I play the lead synth lines on guitar. After the electronic section, each of these songs features a guitar break, and finishes with the melody being played on distorted guitar.
“Auburn Ave” and “Buffalo on the Beat” (bonus track), have a distorted guitar break, while “Crestwood Ave” has a clean guitar section, which is a nod to my classical studies. This track specifically was a breakthrough for me, having a soft section in between two heavy sections, and trying to make it a cohesive journey. To me, it represents the chaos of becoming an adult, with the middle section being reminiscent of simpler times when growing up. This led to the name of the track (and the concept for the album name), which is the street where I grew up on in Buffalo, NY. Auburn Ave is the street of my grandparent’s house on my mother’s side, for whom that song is dedicated.
Let's discuss beatboxing; how did you discover that you were proficient in it and did you integrate it into the EP?
I was very fortunate in my beatboxing path. In my last semester of college at SUNY Fredonia where I studied classical guitar, I lived with my friend Chris Celiz. Chris was a nationally ranked beatboxer, competing in the American Beatbox Championships that summer in 2012. He took me to a battle in Toronto in February 2012, and I was instantly hooked. I was so blown away with what these beatboxers were capable of…replicating sounds and structuring routines that only a computer could match.
For the rest of the semester, Chris taught me his craft while preparing for the champs that year. I ended up moving to NYC with him two weeks after graduating, where we became part of a community of beatboxers who have become some of the best in the world. I kind of dropped everything and focused on beatboxing for 4 years, and this project was really about bringing guitar back, my first instrument. I wanted that to be the focus of the EP, since so much of what I’ve been doing recently is beatboxing.
There are beatboxing textures in all 3 tracks, with the middle sections of “Crestwood Ave” and “Buffalo on the Beat” featuring beatboxing in place of sampled drums. However, the bread and butter of this project is the live show. It’s heavy electronic production, but 100% performance based. While performing these tracks live, I bounce between synth and regular guitar, beatboxing, and keys, and then also feature solo beatboxing compositions as well as live looping sections. A large portion of my show is solo beatbox. After doing a bunch with a lot of equipment, I like to show what one person is capable of with just one microphone. In a project in the near future, I’ll feature a track composed solely of beatboxing sounds and textures.
When you are not in the record studio or traveling for music related events, how do you unwind and relax? Also, what do you do for leisure?
Music takes up about 99.9% of my life. I’ve been performing full-time with a professional acappella group Backtrack Vocals based in the city for about 2.5 years. In between gigs and traveling with them, I’ve been working hard on this solo project, as well as traveling internationally for beatboxing related events.
For fun, I like to go to friend’s shows and gigs in the city. It can get pretty crazy, so when I’m home with a little bit of free time, I usually spend it alone in my room watching anime. It’s a nice little escape for me and allows me to recharge my batteries. A new passion of mine is dance as well, something I would eventually like to learn more and become more involved in.
Can we expect a visual for any of the EP's three songs? If so, which one(s)?
Absolutely! The music video for “Crestwood Ave” will actually be released before the “Welcome to Buffalo” (EP). The release date for that music video will be August 23rd. “Auburn Ave” will also have a music video to go along with it, and that will be released sometime in early September.
Why should every person reading this interview, purchase, stream and share the "Welcome to Buffalo" when it drops on the 29th?
It’s something new and unique. It features elements of bass-driven electronic trap and hip hop, but with rock and metal guitar, live synth guitar, and world class beatboxing.
I took every side and aspect of my art and threw it into one project, so this has my heart and soul poured into it. It’s been a journey for 4 years to find what this project would be, but its origins go back 15 years to when I first started playing guitar.
I have always strived to be unique and try new things, and I believe there isn't anything like this out there. These songs are more than just party trap beats, because they take you to unexpected places. They’ll have you head banging and then 30 seconds later completely in your feels. “Welcome to Buffalo” truly takes the listener on a journey unlike anything else out there.