MusicMusic Features

David Barbe

Favorite superhero: Atom Ant. Barbe cites Atom’s “phenomenal strength, blazing speed and invulnerability” as deciding factors. The character’s experience as an engineer also helps. In terms of superhero fashion, Barbe says he favors stealth and flexibility, without feeling the need to be “so splashy” about it.

As a local music legend and storyteller, David Barbe has done it all. From paving the streets and playing in punk bands to coaching a championship-winning Little League baseball team, it’s not hard to see the impact Barbe has made on Athens.

After moving from Atlanta to Athens in 1981 to attend the University of Georgia, Barbe quickly found the music scene. He fronted the band Mercyland in 1985 until its dissolution in 1991, when he founded Buzz Hungry. A few years later, Barbe was approached by Bob Mould (of alternative rock band Hüsker Dü) to join his new endeavor, Sugar. Barbe played with Sugar until 1995, when he stepped back from performing to spend more time with his wife and three kids.

In 1997, he opened an independent recording studio, Chase Park Transduction, and launched a successful career producing albums for a variety of musicians, with notable names including Drive-By Truckers and Deerhunter. In 2011, Barbe was announced as director of the Music Business certificate program at UGA, where he continues teaching. In addition to Chase Park and MBUS, Barbe is currently mixing a new studio album for the Truckers and operating Left Brain Artist Management, his local company that manages Athens bands such as New Madrid and Muuy Biien.

Reflecting on his successes, Barbe cites the good fortune of having friends who do creative and interesting things, allowing him involvement in a lot of projects. Barbe looks towards the future of Athens with optimistic eyes. Saying he values the combination of traditional and progressive qualities the area has cultivated, he hopes Athens can maintain its unique identity as it grows.

Although Athens won’t see Barbe leaping tall buildings, shooting webs or using a golden lasso, he is continuing a long tradition of influencing his community with proactive creative change.

“My hope is that Athens grows intelligently, with citizens, local government and private business all keeping in mind not to sacrifice the long term in order to make more money in the short term,” he says. “The things that make Athens unique and special are the same things that make its real estate valuable. Continuing to build high-rise student housing in and around downtown is not going to help anybody in the long run. It has the potential of damaging the character of the town for those of us who live here, and, frankly, for those who invest here, too.

“I think we can do it right,” he adds. “There are a lot of people who realize how special this place is. Exploiting it would only kill the thing being exploited.”