I first heard about the Marvelous 3 from Chip
Z'nuff of the band Enuff Z'nuff. We were sitting on their tour bus discussing
the current music trends and he pointed out that the Marvelous 3 had succeeded
in defying the conventional wisdom by doing their own thing. At the time
"Freak of the Week", the single from the Marvelous 3's debut album was
sitting comfortably in the top 5 on the modern rock radio charts.
Later that week, I went to the record store and bought the "Hey! Album",
only to be blown away by not only it's arena rock anthems and heartfelt
ballads, but by the remarkable songwriting of Butch Walker.
When it came time last December to select
the best albums of 1999, the "Hey! Album" easily captured the best pop
album of the year award here at Rocknworld.
Being the editor, I don't often get the
opportunity to conduct interviews. That task usually falls to our Special
Features Editor, Debbie Seagle. But when given the chance to interview
Butch from the Marvelous 3, I snagged the assignment out of Debbie's hands.
I hope you enjoy the interview. Butch discusses
a lot of topics, but I mostly focused my questions on the new Marvelous
3 album, ReadySexGo. It hasn't left my CD player since I got an advanced
copy a couple weeks ago. This album only builds upon the great elements
of the "Hey! Album" and Butch & company did a remarkable job of dodging
the dreaded "sophomore" curse.
If you haven't discovered this incredible
band yet, here is your second chance.
with Butch Walker
RNW: First off congratulations on
the new album, I can honestly say it's one of the best new releases I've
heard all year.
Butch: Well it hasn't come out yet
but it comes out September 12th and I'm really excited
about it. This is the most excited I've been about making a record in a
RNW: I have to ask about the title
of the album, ReadySexGo... where did that come from?
Butch: I was looking at a piece
of paper that had ready-set-go written on it. Somebody had written it very
shitty. The t was a lowercase t, but it was kind of crooked and it looked
like sex. Of course, you know the first thing my dirty mind honed
in on was the word. And I was like, see, that's just typical of a guy.
It's typical about how obsessed with sex we all are. And I kind of took
it and ran with it and said well there's the album title. Then thought
to myself that this is actually kind of reflective of how we are today,
right now, when in the 80's everything was so excessive and all about,
you know, tits and ass. Then the 90's came along and got all stuffy on
us and became very politically correct. But we needed it. We needed awareness.
And then all of sudden everyone is tired of that and we're back to letting
our hair down and partying and doing it all for the nookie.
RNW: (laughs) Yeah we're back
to music for people who arent all pissed off at the world.
Butch: Right, you can either take
it as sort of a dis or get pissed at the fact that it's being all about
gratuitous sex and violence and everything now. Or you can just be like
the Marvelous3 and laugh it off. So we're just taking a kind of light hearted
poke at it. The album cover has a picture of a scantily clad, slutty looking
mannequin with her crotch in the camera with a red, white and blue flag
To me that's kind of just my little stab
at how fake and plastic rock n roll had become. It's back
to the way it always was. And it's just so cyclical, things don't change
they just come back around. And this was just my way of saying we don't
take it too seriously, obviously. And I'm kind of calling them out for
being gratuitous, and I've kind of seen it happen twice in my career.
RNW:This album is a lot heavier
than the last one, did you guys set out to capture the live feel more on
Butch: It wasn't intentional. I
think it was just the fact that, my head space on the last record when
I was out touring, we were playing a record that I wrote in my living room
a year before or six months before anyone even cared. Record Companies
weren't around, I was living alone and had a lot of emotions. I think it's
more of a sensitive record and I'm very proud of that record, I love it,
I love the way it sounds. I love the songs on it. Then we went out and
played live and did what we do best, which is put on a rock show. We played
these songs in a rock show context and the fans were saying "God I love
your record but live you guys are whole other band." And so I said well
maybe the next record should be more reflective of how we are live. Now
that my head is in a different space writing wise and song wise than it
was two years ago. I always wanted to be different, I didn't want it to
be the same on every record, that's boring to me. I think everyone changes,
everyone goes through changes and there is no reason an artist can't either.
And you know, last year was the biggest year of our lives. It was the year
we waited for forever. We got the notoriety and respect, got to go out
and play live shows. And got to do some fun but superficial things like
go on all the late night shows, have a video on MTV and all that crap.
It was fun. We toured, made a lot friends, partied a lot on the road. It's
reflected I think on this new record. That's just kind of where my head
RNW: Yeah the Cigarette Lighter
Love Song says it all.
Butch: That was the emotional high
point for the record. Everybody's been through that scenario,
I think. Anyone whos ever loved and lost love. I wanted to end the record
with a power ballad. I was like, it would round out this record great.
Make it sort of like a soundtrack with this thicker and tighter power ballad.
I didn't have a title for it, so I called it the cigarette lighter
RNW: One thing I personally love
about your music is the lyrics.
Butch: Thank you, I try always to
write good lyrics.
RNW: They convey some really strong
mental images when you hear them.
Butch: I've always been inspired
by other songwriters who can do that and I envied them for it. Everyone
from like Fiona Apple all the way back to Elvis Costello can write some
amazing lyrics. It's just that I like rockin' too much and those are artists
that obviously kick ass at what they do, but nobody has ever tried to fuse
that with like heavy guitars and arena rock. I think that's the missing
link. It's not like I'm reinventing the wheel or anything but I think it's
a good marriage of the two.
RNW: Do you come up with the lyrics
first and then write the music around it?
Butch: A lot of times, yeah. I can't
force myself to write so I don't sit down to write. I end up picking up
the guitar and being the guitar player at heart and being three times the
guitar player when I was sixteen than I am now, obviously I challenge myself
everytime I pick it up to be as good as I use to be before I became a songwriter
and singer as well, because I used to be just a guitar player. I tend to
sit down with a guitar start playing AC/DC and KISS riffs. I lose sight
of what I'm doing and I lose my focus, so writing sessions like that don't
work for me. I have to be inspired by a lyric or a melody or subject matter
that I want to write about or something like that. Usually that stuff comes
to me at the most unexpected times. Usually it will come to me while I'm
standing in line at McDonald's for a hamburger or driving in my car. Driving
with my left foot while writing on my notepad with my left hand. That's
kind of the only way I can write, I'm not good at like the "I'll just smoke
weed and let it flow".
RNW:: Not like one of the guys?
Butch: No, I can't
RNW: Yeah it comes across, the honesty
in the music.
Butch: I appreciate that.
RNW: So your not like a lot of bands
out there right now that go "we're gonna write this one to be an instant
hit". I get the impression that you guys go first and foremost "we want
to do what sounds right to us. If it succeeds great, if not who cares?"
Is that accurate?
Butch: That's the truth, it's hard
to wanna just have nothing but gratuitous pop radio songs. I love getting
our stuff played on the radio and I always want to have that but I want
variety. Even if that means I've got this song bottled up inside of me
that a power ballad but I can't put it on my record because it wouldn't
be cool to have a power ballad on your record in the year 2000. To tell
you the truth I let those inhibitions go. I've had songs like Radio
Tokyo in my head forever. I think to myself, if I do this song
on the record I'm taking a chance because it's not like what's on the radio
right now but you know, fuck it. It should be about being honest with yourself.
RNW: Right on! Now going back to
your lyrics, most of your songs follow in the tradition of the great 70's
story tellers like Harry Chapin and Billy Joel except with a rockin' feel.