Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with Butcherwhite

This interview is week 10 of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews.

The Butcher Is In
Getting Messy with Butcherwhite

3/5/10 @ Red Eyed Fly - Photo by: Photography By Maurice

By Sean Claes
Butcherwhite came onto the Austin music scene in 2005 and brought their brand of metal with them kicking and screaming. Bandmates Billy Perkins (vocals), Rob Hacker (bass), Bill Ables (guitar), and Justin Stansfield (drums) continue to fill the stage and bring their offering to the alter of rock every chance they get. They've released two albums, the self-titled debut (2006) and Sex and Poison (2009). In between gigs, rehearsals, jobs, and real life, they've been assembling a third record, that should see the light of day soon.

The name derives from the color of a butcher's apron. It's white, but that color is only temporary as it will deem the fate of the blood, guts, knives, and bones that accompany the job of the person who dons the apron. Butcherwhite.

I took the chance to see how The Butcher was doing these days.

Claes: Unabashed metal with a slight punk swagger is how I would describe your music. How would you do it?
Justin Stanfield: Energized, rowdy, catchy licks and lyrics…and I always liked on one of our posters (from the ROT Rally), "Loud • Greasy • Dirty." On a personal level, it gets me pumped up and amped up. As I feel, so do the fans…I see the reactions from our music.

Billy Perkins: Our music is influenced by everything from the Ramones to Sabbath to Riot to Slayer. We enjoy a 6 minute Texas metal stomper with time changes, and a 2 minute hooky punk tune equally.

Claes: Do you think the band has continued along the same track you were on in 2005 when you began, or have you evolved?
Rob Hacker: Evolved for sure with a much heavier sound since I joined in 2009, layin' down the bass tracks on Sex & Poison with my molasses-thick grooves - and the newest addition of Justin slaying it on drums.

Perkins: I think we're still doing what Butcherwhite does, but we've definitely evolved. We have a couple of "new" players on bass & drums since the early days. Our rhythm section is subtly different, even though we're plugged in to the same beefy formula.

Justin's drums are more busy and aggressive. Bill's leads have gotten even better, and he and I are both playing different guitars & through different gear now. My vocals have also evolved. Watching and listening to our live performances, I've come to realize that I can be a decent singer, but I'm not a very good screamer. I tend to sing a little more than growl these days.

Claes: I really dug your 2009 album Sex & Poison. How do you think you’ve progressed as a band since then?
Perkins: Mostly, I think our songs are just coming from a different place now. A lot of the tunes on Sex & Poison were reflections on some dark times regarding my split with my ex of 17 years. That's not an easy break, and in my case it got really ugly and dramatic - as in suicide attempts ("Why Do You Wanna Die"), mental hospitals, electroshock therapy, substance abuse ("Find A Way"), and the guilt that comes with making the excruciating decision to end a long relationship ("The Hardest Mile," "In The Rearview Mirror").

Now I'm in a much happier place, so our songs don't really have as much of that depression and sadness. Now it's just meaner, more fun and heavier. Newer songs like "Lying In Wait" are about giant beings lying dormant in the clouds waiting to take their role in the end of the world. Still full of testosterone and adrenaline, maybe even more - just refocused into different subject matter.

Claes: Tell me the story behind the song ‘Blood War” off of Sex & Poison.
Perkins: Blood War is another tune off that album that sprung indirectly from the drama surrounding my divorce. I have one sibling, a younger brother, who I love dearly. We've always got along throughout our entire lives and never really even argued.

But these were dark and trying times. My family was greatly affected by my actions. My brother was living in L.A. at the time, and going through a lot of stress of his own while trying to break into Hollywood as an actor. The drama going on in both our lives put our mother under a great deal of strain, but my actions in particular almost broke us.

Kevin flew down to Texas one weekend, and let me know very strongly that he disapproved. Some of it was his own stress spilling over, but nevertheless we almost came to blows for the very first time in our lives. I was always scrappy growing I was probably in 30 fights or more. I was hot-tempered, and likewise so was my little bro. BUT - there was absolutely no way I could lift a hand against my brother. Never. I literally would have put my arms to my side and let him beat me in the face and still not lifted a finger to hurt him.

I always protected him through our childhood, like a big brother should - and I was going to protect both of us and our relationship by taking whatever punishment he felt like I deserved. It was a very emotional moment for us both - but one we thankfully got over quickly. I'm getting emotional right now as I type this.

Claes: I know you did some recording in late 2011. Are any of those tracks going to see the light of day (or have they and I totally missed it) as a third Butcherwhite album?
Hacker: Lots of new songs coming together as we jell with Justin and keep popping out new tunes for the next album.
Perkins: We have plans to record a new 6 or 7 song EP very soon (songs are ready), then hopefully start working on new tunes for the 4th Butcherwhite record. We'll see how it plays out.

Claes: Tell me about a few of your newer songs.
Perkins: "Finding Religion" is a ZZ Top-like Texas metal groover, a neutral & somewhat cynical observation of religious worship rituals.

"Shine" is an interesting song for us, and one of my favorites to play. It's a bit more complex rhythm, even a little Rush-like, that was composed by Bill Ables. Lyrically it's a story of a man who goes to a fortune teller and is shown a vision of the end of the world.

"Lying In Wait" is a metal stomper that continues along this apocalyptic path. When flying back from San Francisco a few years ago, I was in a nighttime electrical storm. I got buzzed before getting on the plane, and it was like a Twilight Zone experience. We flew very high above the storm. It was pitch black, but when lightning flashed I could literally see the curvature of the earth. I imagined that I saw giant beings nestled in the tops of the clouds.

"Barney" is a crowd favorite - a two-minute punk song about my best little buddy, my pudgy beagle who died a few years ago.

"Ugly Season" is reminiscent of "Blood War", and derived from the same tough period in my life.

"Hedgehog"…let's see, what can I say about Hedgehog. It's a Ron Jeremy reference, and is the best punk singalong ever written. It's simultaneously our most prideful and our most shameful moment, and it rocks all kinds of balls.

Stanfield: New tunes have us so excited, they seem to morph into even better tunes the more we play them. Still sounds like the good ol' Butcherwhite with new chops, more energy, and seems to earfuck everybody in its path. Heavier on different levels of the music spectrum.

Do you have any songs that were almost too personal to release?
Perkins: Well speaking for myself, I have plenty of those. It's not that they're too personal to release, they're just not metal songs. They'll see the light of day at some point. But Butcherwhite holds nothing back.

Claes: You just got over the big music week in Austin. Where did you play and how did it go?
Perkins: We played a rooftop gig at Blind Pig Pub. We always have fun when we play, but (in my opinion) playing during SXSW is a lot of hassle with not much to gain. The club really didn't have their shit together, which was a little frustrating, but what the hell - it's SXSW week and it's to be expected. Our set got cut way short for reasons that we still don't understand. When we show up, we're ready to PLAY.

Claes: Did you catch any bands that really struck you as interesting?
Perkins: I have some friends from Canada that play in a live dance band called Shout Out Out Out Out, and they always bring a party. Two drummers that sync up perfectly and rouse the crowd, and at times two bass players. Those guys bring it.

Claes: What are your thoughts on the whole “Music Festival” in Austin as a whole? As a band and as a fan of music.
Perkins: As a band, it's always flattering to be in any way a part of the excitement. But…and this is just me - it's really a pain in the ass. Every alley, parking lot, club, and closet is booked with live music, but with no plan whatsoever as to how it can be pulled off. It's a logistical nightmare to load and unload in a timely fashion, then it's over too fast. Is it worth it? Not really.

As a fan of music, it's pretty great. It's like a smorgasbord of great music, and if you have the energy and mental capacity to keep up with everything that's going on, you can have a ton of fun. I love my city.

Claes: Billy, you’re a well-known poster artist (is that a fair title to call you?) and you just got done with Flatstock. Tell me a little about that show.
Perkins: Flatstock is a gathering of 100 plus concert poster artists from all over the world. It's an awesome community that I'm very proud to be a part of. It's a pretty overwhelming display of work if you've never been. Literally some of the most dementedly creative minds on the planet under one roof. You can buy rare limited edition screen prints directly from the artists. Makes your living room hip and sexy! These are some of my dearest friends, and when we get together, we throw down hard.

Claes: I know Billy is in Honeycreeper, who I interviewed back in January, but what are some of the other projects members of Butcherwhite are into these days?
Hacker: I play Bass with longtime Austin favs "Johnny Tequila"( Classic Rock,Blues and Country) on occasion.

Perkins: Bill Ables plays guitar in Skrew. Rob is also a luthier and has owned The Custom Shop for over 18 years now. He's worked on instruments for Eric Johnson, Nikki Sixx and a lot more. Broken headstock? Call Rob.

Claes: Who in town are you guys listening to these days?
Hacker: My new favorite local band is "Douche Magouche" ...words can't even describe how fuckin' cool these guys are.

Perkins: I love my boys in Hyde Park Showdown and Burning Avalanche. The Heroine from San Antonio are awesome. I'm actually about to go on a mission to find some new local music that I haven't heard yet.

Claes: You’ve been in the music game a long time. What have you seen that has changed in Austin in the past decade or so?
Hacker: Too many out of town newbies coming here willing to play for free effin' it up for the rest of us. And that is all…

Perkins: The sound ordinance is a big buzzkill, although BW really hasn't been affected by it (yet). The Red River district sprung up and thrived, but I think it's now in decline. It created a very tight community though, one that will probably stand the test of time.

Clubs have come & gone. I miss Room 710. Bands have come & gone, that's probably the saddest part. Local bands like Elvis On Speed usually shine like a star briefly, then they're gone. Get out & see em while you can.

Good news is that the live scene in Austin just refuses to die, despite the city's best efforts to corporatize it. Clubs will just spring up somewhere else, like mushrooms. Hello East side!

I’ve noticed that Dirty Dog puts on a lot of free shows. Do you think this is a positive thing for the scene? I’ve heard the arguments both ways… some say free shows are making it hard for bands to get fans to attend their paying gigs.
Stanfield: Free shows are nothing but a positive thing for both the scene and the bands/fans. Pay to play?? *spits on ground*

Perkins: I should clarify that "Free Show" doesn't mean the band plays for free, it just means no cover. The Dirty Dog is a well-managed club that takes care of the bands much better than most. They also don't designate that the shows have to be free; bands can charge at the door if they want to.

We just like free shows there because they're located on 6th St and get a lot of walk in traffic. It's no risk to come inside and have a drink, and we get paid from the bar. Plus, once they're in, we're confident that we can keep em there.

Also, those bands that are whining don't have to play the free shows if they don't want. Some of them have inflated egos and think people will actually pay a lot of money to see them. It all comes down to how the individual clubs pay the bands.

Some pay only from the door money. Some pay from the bar. Some don't pay at all. I pretty much like em all except that last one.

Butcherwhite just likes to play, and we want people in the door so we can give em a show. Pay is secondary, we'd just spend it on beer and shots anyway.

Keep up to date with Butcherwhite and see where they'll play next by following them at either Reverb Nation or Facebook.

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