Matt Buck walked alongside a Klan rally with his sousaphone on Saturday, farting out a low, slow version of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” as a plodding gaggle of KKK members slowly clopped toward the South Carolina State House.
His mini-protest only lasted a couple of minutes, but most of it was on video. That 95-second clip, which was taken by a stranger, has now reached 3.6 million views at press time—most of them since Tuesday morning.
But Buck wants to make it clear: he didn’t stop because he felt threatened by the KKK.
“I only stopped once they turned onto the State House grounds because I didn’t know if I was allowed to keep going,” he tells The Daily Beast. “Plus, it was like 100 degrees out.”
But Buck didn’t know that a video of him walking down the street with an instrument he’d mostly kept stowed away since college would make him, according to The Huffington Post, “an American hero.”
“I saw the video [Monday] morning when I got up. Not much attention, at that point,” he says. “But then I was at work [Monday] night and it started to take off.”
At about 7 p.m., he looked at the video of his Symphony for the Dumb posted by a stranger on YouTube: 6,000 views. Then he went home and went to bed.
The next morning?
“I woke up and it was 800,000 views,” he says. “Now, it’s over double that, just on that one video.”
Currently, it’s nearing 4 million views. The mom who took the video has had to set up a licensing address so people don’t steal the thing. And Matt’s now a star.
“I’ve had a couple independent music companies wanting to offer me products. Chris Hayes [of MSNBC] wanted to put me on the show [on Tuesday],” he says. “Who knows what’ll happen. It’s kind of a roller coaster.”
And it all happened on a whim. He and his friends were hanging out when they heard the KKK was coming to town. One of them came up with the idea, knowing that Buck went to the University of South Carolina to study music and played the tuba his whole time there.
He and his friends loaded up his horn and made their way toward the State House.
“We got really lucky. We parked a few blocks away. Nobody knew where they were gonna be,” he says. “Sure enough, we got out and there they were.”
Then, for “a little over the length of that video,” Buck started his two-song Hate Concerto for Sousaphone. And the song choices were very deliberate.
“That first little ditty was a little marching baseline. It’s a very lethargic one that they used to use in old Looney Tunes cartoons,” he says. “It got really popular in Family Guy, when Stewie quits his day job to start following a fat guy around all day long while playing it.”
The other one is a deeper cut.
“Then there’s Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries.’ In movies, it’s used as sort of a ride of the bad guys,” he says. “In Blues Brothers, they use it to make fun of the Nazis. So I thought it’d be fun to make fun of the KKK the way they did with the Nazis in the movies.”
If people got the reference, this could’ve riled people up, right?
“Well, there were a lot of counter-protesters there, and now all the counter-protesters were moving around me,” he says. “It eased some tensions, if anything.”
Well, how about the people it was supposed to rile up?
“I think some of the Klan members got it,” says Buck. “And then there were some of them that really didn’t understand what I was doing.”
Now, Matt’s along for this magical tuba ride however long it takes him. He’s been talking to those same friends who coaxed him into his first march about starting some kind of anti-hate tuba collective.
“We’re thinking about calling it Tuba Libre,” he says. “Maybe Tuba Gooding Jr.”
He hopes it keeps going, and he’s encouraging copycats. What better way of protesting hate than to strip it of its dignity with stupid sounding music, anyway?
“If this becomes a thing whenever somebody does something stupid in public, then I’m all for it,” says Buck. “Far too often, people get away with being idiots. And it’s a little easier to play notes to stop them than to form sentences.”
He thinks it can used effectively to shame people who might be too dense to be angry in the moment. But even if this is Matt Buck’s only 95 seconds of fame, he’s happy with what he gave to the world.
“I don’t play a lot of tuba anymore. It’s not the most common or useful instrument. There’s a reason there’s not a lot of tuba in a heavy rock and roll band. I’m just glad I was able to use it to help people,” he says.
“At the end of the day, I was just at the right place at the right time with a sousaphone.”