Published on August 8th, 2011 | by Clara Cullen
UPDATE: The Spade is out now! you can grab a copy of it from here:http://www.lojinx.com/home
Butch Walker: Music’s Clark Kent
Butch Walker & The Black Widows’ are set to release their new ablum “The Spade” on the 29th of August. To celebrate Blagsound will be publishing an indepth interview with the man himself.
Now some could say that Butch Walker is rather like the Clark Kent of the music industry. No, I don’t mean at night he flies around the world wearing a cape, but rather, during the day he’s a top LA producer, helping create that top ten sound. While, by night, he’s a shot swigging, mandolin playing southerner on one mission and one mission only: to get everyone at his sold out show in London’s Borderline dancing till the soles of their shoes are rubbed through and singing till their lungs are raw. A mission he throughly accomplishes.
However, this interview starts prior to Walker’s show, in a south east London recording studio, home to Lojinx Records, a small independent record company. I begin by talking to Andrew Campbell the head of Lojinx, the conversation soon moves to the topic of the cult like following Walker has amassed here in the UK. For you see Walker elicits the type of hardcore adulation that not many “under the radar” acts do. This manifest itself in the many Butch Walker related tattoos lining the bodies of those who later, wait hours outside the Borderline, people travelling thousands of miles ( flying in from America and Japan) to see this one off show. One can certainly say, this is a pretty big deal, myself included.
1) You have a new album with The Black Widows coming out on the 29th of August called “The Spade”. This is your second record with this band. So how has the writing process changed since your solo albums such as 2004’s Letters. Is it more of a collective feeling?
Butch: Yeah, the whole idea was just to have it where I could let my guard down for once. A record where I could let my band shine. We became really close and I really grew to respect them as writers. I just thought it would be more fun and interesting to have the sound that we were cultivating while touring. Michael Trent [lead singer of The Films] is sort of my partner in crime for lyric writing. He’s sort of an un-official Black Widow! He’s got his own projects to do and that’s fine, with him I really found an interesting side of writing songs. We’re both similar writers, so it’s like what I do on my own, but it’s kind of nice to have this other identity for this. Then I can kind of keep other stuff separate from this and it can just be its own thing.
2) Since forming The Black Widows, a certain rejuvenation of energy seems to be taken place, not only in the music, which is a lot more positive and shambolically rock n’ roll, but also in your live sets. On this album particularly, it just seems like you’re having the most fun you’ve ever had!
Butch: Yeah I think so! We ended up touring so much last year, we spent half the year touring straight through, so we just really felt connected as a band and as people. The camaraderie was at a peak, so when we went into do the new record, once we got into the room together it was a lot of high fiving and “ yay we’re back together!!” sort of thing. The songs weren’t really written yet either, it was just let’s go in and see what happens. We didn’t really have any high expectations, it just happened. It was effortless, and we loved the fact that it was exercising our rock n’ roll side!
3) To a new listener, what song of yours, best represent what you’re trying to say?
Butch: Hmm what represents us…it’s hard to say because I’m really happy with every song on the record! I feel like the whole first half of the record really sums up who we are, from the first song “ Bodegas and Blood” it really establishes that we’re a rock band. It sounds like how we play it live, because the whole record is live. That’s how we try and make it, we go in and we work the song up live and press record button on the tape. That’s why there are a lot of mistakes on the album, but they’re earnest mistakes! Which in a way is us rebelling against the system I think.
I mean, I have to face that a little bit with my day job of producing records for other people, where they’re manager or label won’t accept anything less than perfect ya know! It’s has to be polished and all that, I get it, and I don’t mind doing it to make a living, but it’s not that rewarding. So for me it’s fun just to go in and have that reckless abandon, and we’re all confident in ourselves, to the point where we don’t have to feel like it has to perfect to be great. Let just make it great to us!
4) There almost seems to be a certain Costello like vibe with your albums. In the sense that each one is different in genre and feel than its predecessor. This seems to be the exception and not the norm within the industry. So has that musical exploration always appealed to you, or has it come bout more with age?
Butch:Yeah well he’s on my arm [pulls up his sleeve to reveal an Elivs Costello tattoos] so he’s definitely a big influence on me. It’s one of those things where you get a tattoo and think it’s the coolest thing ever, but then you meet the person and it’s like “fuck!” I was in an elevator with him, just him! Like that’s the worst place! He’s always been one of those guys who has been a rebel to the system, but first and foremost an amazing writer. There are poets out there who are great activists but not really very good writers, but this guy to me is the best.
I don’t think I ever really tried to calculate it, and especially now i don’t. I just kind of do whatever I feel like is necessary when I go into a studio to make a record, to make mehappy. I just can’t stick to one thing I think, i’ve been kind of a drifter my whole life, I’ve never been happy just sitting static and i‘ve never been happy musically staying static. I’ve always wanted to [be in a place] where I can explore all the kinds of things that I grew up on. I grew up on all kinds of music, and other artists that grew up on different music, so that’s input. Some of my favourite artists are Elvis Costello, David Bowie and Prince. Then you could even go as far as the 90’s with Beck and The Beastie Boys, groups that just showed massive growth and change, but it was always good! So I strive to do that, not just change it to change it gratuitously, but I enjoyed exercising a different muscle.
5) On the same level, is it intensely frustrating that people still come up to you and say they preferred you when you were making * insert music genre here*songs?
Butch: Yeah constantly living in the shadow of your former self! When you have had a history and you’ve put out records your whole life, you’re going to constantly live in the shadow of your previous work.
I think it’s because people get a romantic attachment to the first record they heard you on. The Smashing Pumpkin gave a great interview on this subject years ago, and love them or hate them, Billy Corgan has always tried to grow as a songwriter and whatever. The way that they broke it down, which made perfect sense to me, was that you have a romantic attachment to a record because it triggers a lot of positive senses in your brain. So you associate that [positive senses] with the music on the record. So it has all that nostalgia for you and alot of people who may not be happy now, and maybe arn’t as blissfully carefree as they were when they were younger associate the music with good times.
In a way that’s what the song “ Summer of 89” is about, it’s kind of about the fans! I feel i’ve grown as a writer with each record, and thank god people do like them, because if I was the only one, I’d probably be in bad shape by now! I think they are a breed of people that are stuck on an idea of what they want me to be, then they’re are people who appreciate the journey.
6) I hear you’re a vinyl fan, so whats your favourite record it, be it for the artwork or music?
Butch: Man, I’ll have to answer this in several parts, as it goes beyond just one record! I think when I got into records in the begining it was just visually, becuase I didn’t understand the music as a kid. I was drawn to an aesthetic, my mum and my two older sisters had all these amazing records, where the artwork was a spectacle! It wasn’t just stick a picture on a CD yaknow , there was all kinds of amazing things being done. Coloured vinyl and stuff. I have all these memories of listening and looking at all these old Elvis Presley records [Lifts up other sleeve to reveal Elvis Presley tattoo] with his crazy outfits, and P-Funk, cos they look like a comic book!
Also Kiss, I was into Kiss just because of the way they looked! I didn’t come to realise until later that they were sub-par musicians, but it didn’t matter to me yaknow! They appreciated the gift of image and they had the image. Every album was a spectacle, it had pull out tattoos of the ones they had, personal letters written stuck on the fold outs. Great ideas like that.
Then the other side of it, the side where I am now, which is muscally. Records that sound amazing on vinyl, becuase nothing sounds like that. I’ve gotta say, one of my favourite records in my collection is an AC/DC records. Which is interesting is because it’s the remastered version, not even the original pressing. It’s the remaster of “Highway To Hell”, it’s one of the best sounding, one of the most perfect rock recordings of all time, they remastered it and didn’t ruin it! Then I also have an original pressing on a record called “Ram” By Paul McCartney and Wings and that’s one of my favourite sounding records to listen to. I have a remastered version of that too, but the original actually sounds better!
For more information about Butch Walker & The Black Widows head here: http://www.lojinx.com/home
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