SEE LONDONER BERNARD BUTLER CYCLING UP A HIGH STREET IN THE NORTH SIDE OF THE CAPITAL AND YOU WOULDN’T MAKE EVEN A FAINT ASSUMPTION THAT THIS IS A MAN WHO HAS HAD A STAGGERING IMPACT ON POPULAR MUSIC OVER THE PREVIOUS TWO DECADES.
But, as songwriter and push-it-to-the-limits guitar genius in darkly beautiful Suede between 1990 and 1994, as a mid-90s solo artist, as writer of one of the greatest soul singles ever recorded, and as producer or collaborator-of-choice for Sparks, Duffy, Tricky, Bert Jansch, Duke Special and Kate Nash, Bernard Butler’s contribution to our sonic landscape has been immense, if not always overt.
Butler has had to shoulder a reputation as awkwardly uncooperative, which probably stems from the hearsay surrounding the fried disintegration of his incarnation of Suede, but this sits entirely at odds with the interesting – and interested – character who dismounts bike and greets me at the door to his studio with a handshake and a grin. Any apprehensiveness I felt is immediately dispelled with a “make yourself at home” and a trip to the kitchen where he fashions me a cup of strong coffee, chattering away enthusiastically about still listening to The Smiths as middle-aged men, and about his new-found love of running.
Suede released two albums with Butler; first, the shocking visceral crack of their eponymous 1992 debut; then the enormously romantic ‘doomed sci-fi glamour’ of DOG MAN STAR (1994) which eclipsed it. It’s a delight to hear Butler talk of his songwriting partnership with Brett Anderson in the same reverential terms as those outside of it. It’s also, of course, fascinating to hear the Suede story from the eye of the storm. In 1995 he teamed up with David McAlmont to record the “ridiculously uplifting fuck you” YES, and seems as proud of this as could be, like much of the rest of his career throughout our conversation, with a matter-of-factness which never crosses the line into arrogant self-congratulation.
Butler talks to The Mouth Magazine about his love of Morrissey and Marr, the disheartening experience he and a reconciled Anderson suffered when they collaborated as The Tears, and – most surprisingly of all (other than revealing a fondness for Swing Out Sister) – how he now looks back and can see the end of his time in Suede as an almost inevitable intentional implosion.
Bernard also tells us about his October 7th 2012 half-marathon for the Bobath Centre for Children with Cerebral Palsy. We ask that if you listen to this Mouthcast you also make a donation to his fundraising efforts. You can travel to his fundraising page by clicking on the link up on the right hand side of the website. If you would like to win an exclusive DOG MAN STAR print, signed by Bernard Butler, please make a donation and then let us have sight of the MyDonate acknowledgement by way of proof, via email. PLEASE NOTE THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED BUT YOU CAN STILL DONATE TO THE BOBATH CENTRE.