By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 15, 2002 at 5:57 AM

Milwaukee-based musician, producer and composer Peter Buffett has made his name as a respected film score composer. He has released four discs on Milwaukee's Narada Records and has scored New Age chart hits. But there's more to Buffett than meets the eye. He was also the drive behind Comet 9, an alternative rock band that released an LP, "," on Don't Records.

His latest project is a collection of 14 tracks recorded at his East Side studio with guests like Robyn Pluer, The Gufs' Goran Kralj, Citizen King's Malcolm Micheles, The Great Outdoors, Narada artist Kim Robertson and others. Many of the tracks are featured in the film, "Full Ride."

We recently talked to Buffett about the record and his career.

OMC: Tell me about the genesis of this new CD.

PB: I was scoring an independent film that needed some "pop" songs. Normally, on a bigger budget film, a music supervisor would handle the licensing of songs. But in this case, it was up to me to either write, or find, the appropriate songs for the movie. While looking through the catalog of songs I'd recorded, I found that I had the makings of a potentially interesting record.

OMC: I assume you had a large pool of tracks to choose from. Was it hard to select just 14 or did these 14 jump right out at you?

PB: There were definitely contenders that didn't make it (and make for the beginnings of a volume two if this is successful!). But it was fairly easy to zero in on the 14 that made the cut.


OMC: One track in particular -- Robyn Pluer's "C'mon Boy" -- is especially intriguing because it is so unlike her other recordings. How did that come about?

PB: According to Robyn, this is the first song she has written (with John Sieger and Paul Cebar). We run into each other fairly often at various East Side haunts. She asked if I wanted to try something for fun in the studio. She and Paul came over at about 7 in the evening and by about 2 that morning we had what you hear on the record. They were both so much fun to work with. And it was definitely done in the spirit of experimentation -- which makes the studio experience so much fun. We are both looking forward to doing more.

OMC: You've got the biggest collection of Goran Kralj tunes since the last Gufs LP. Do you anticipate a lot of interest in the disc for this reason?

PB: There's no question that The Gufs' (and Goran's) fan base will drive some of the initial interest in the CD. Goran and I had been working for the past year or so on a number of songs. Hopefully, it will be fun for Gufs/Goran fans to hear the Robyn Pluer song, or a song like "Sugar Baby."

OMC: You've done countless projects over the years, what has been the most satisfying for you?

PB: That's always hard to answer because different projects satisfy different parts of what I do. It's like a meal. To me, the work I do on projects like Spirit, 500 Nations etc... are really the main course. Pop material and quirkier studio things are like dessert or appetizers. And I've learned it's important to have the right amount of all the food groups.

OMC: Recently someone was telling me how much they still enjoy the Comet 9 disc. Any chance that will be made available again?

PB: I've noticed that with the re-emergence of material on this disc that people have been saying that. Which is really nice to hear. The CD is available in limited quantities on my Web site right now. Without radio or live support, it's tough to keep it stocked in the stores.

OMC: What are your plans for this disc? Are you securing wide distribution for it?

PB: I'm really treating this disc as a regional release. Once upon a time (or, "back in the day"), record labels were regional companies, for the most part. I think of this disc as local product. If it starts to gain momentum, I'm sure there will be the possibility of wider distribution. The internet allows people that hear it in other places to find the CD and buy it. We've already had sales from other states around the country. It's not unlike a band. You start with a local following and build from there. We are doing quite a bit of promotion locally.

OMC: What are you currently working on in your East Side attic?

PB: I just finished mastering a CD at Mastermind. It's part of my continuing exploration of blending American Indian performances with my own compositions. The CD is related to a soundtrack that I worked on for a PBS show about the Ojibwe people. And I'm also focusing on the development of the live show that started with "Spirit" a few years ago.

OMC: I'm sure I've forgotten to ask you something obvious...

PB: The only other question I get is "explain 'Sugar Baby'," so I will. I wrote an instrumental composition for fun. When it was finished, it felt incomplete. So I went through a collection of Smithsonian Recordings and found Dock Boggs singing "Sugar Baby." This banjo and voice recording of a miner in 1927 sounded like it was the missing voice of my song. With a little (actually, very little) computer magic, he was singing the lead vocal over the instrumental track. The fact that his vocal was the last element on the track is pretty astonishing to me.

Visit Peter Buffett's Web site at "Songs from an Eastside Attic" is available via the site.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.