MusicDish e-Journal - January 19, 2020
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Brian Butler on Axuality: The Improvisational Music That Stimulates The Mind
By The G-Man
(more articles from this author)
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Artist: Brian Butler
Title: Axuality
Genre: Improvisational Rockjazz
Label: Independent
Distribution: iTunes, CDBaby

Playing your favorite recordings while thinking, reading, exercising, resting, doing homework or performing daily chores can enhance every minute of your activity, block out unwanted noise, and allow your mind to recharge from the cares of the day.

Using the right music can enable you to speed through or stretch out the task at hand. It can satisfy your need for adding attractive rhythms to your life. In addition, it can free your thought process and help you understand things that were not clear before.

Guitarist Brian Butler has embraced a new approach to making music. Inventing a new genre, which he calls axuality (, Butler improvises his playing and relies on that spirit of inspiration to create exquisite tunes.

An album of 22 improvised tunes, also entitled Axuality, has just been released, available on his site as well as on CDBaby and iTunes.

[Scott G] How do you describe your music?

Brian Butler It's improvisational rockjazz. The more casual side of rock and the more melodic side of jazz.

[Scott G] There is a lead acoustic guitar, yet you always have multiple parts. Do you overdub two improvised performances?

Brian Butler That's right, a lead part and a rhythm part, and often bass and drums. I improvise the first performance, then play it back and improvise over it.

[Scott G] Which comes first, the rhythm or the lead?

Brian Butler Usually the rhythm, 'though a few songs are one lead layered upon another, upon another. . .

[Scott G] There's an otherworldly quality to the performances.

Brian Butler The high degree of improvisation makes it sound very alive, or "present with you" and speaking to you. It's like listening to an old friend telling you how cool he thinks you are. It's very freeing and kind of empowering.

[Scott G] People have told you that they feel better after hearing your music. Why do you think that is?

Brian Butler I think part of it is the absence of any agenda. The songs on Axuality and on the Axuality Web site don't force themselves on you, and they allow your mind to process things that ordinarily wouldn't come up in your thinking while listening to music.

[Scott G] There are many recordings that are designed to let the listener "just float away."

Brian Butler Yes, but I believe the improvised nature of these songs creates a quality of freedom and that this freedom translates to each listener. People tell me these songs make them feel empowered.

[Scott G] How do you describe your music? This takes place both live and on the recordings?

Brian Butler Yes. There's even a benefit with the songs on the album and on iTunes because they have the elements of a live performance and at the same time they are studio recordings, giving you the best of both worlds.

[Scott G] How did the term "axuality" come about?

Brian Butler Axuality is a pun on the slang word for guitar, "ax," plus the word "actuality."

[Scott G] As in "creating music right this moment is an actuality"?

Brian Butler Well, really more like the music being created spontaneously. . . it is more like music "of the present moment" and not so much of the past or of the future. And things in the past and future really aren't quite as "actual" or real as things that are in the present, see? I really feel that this is a better form of musical composition.

[Scott G] How so?

Brian Butler When you sit down and talk with someone, both of you ad-lib your responses to each other, tailoring your words to relate to what the other person is saying. If you were to write out your comments ahead of time and then read them as responses to what your friend said to you, that wouldn't be valuable. What you were reading might even come off as nonsense. It certainly wouldn't be a sincere attempt to communicate.

[Scott G] How do you convince skeptics that your music will be a positive experience for them?

Brian Butler I don't know that I can. All I know is that my approach to creating music in-the-instant reflects qualities such as confidence, creativity and freedom, which in turn help listeners bring out these same qualities in their lives. Obviously, if you approach anything with a big enough chip on your shoulder, you can experience it in a negative way.

[Scott G] When did you begin playing guitar?

Brian Butler In grade school. My cousin taught me a lot of licks from a wide range of artists, everyone from The Ventures to Chet Atkins.

[Scott G] Rock and country.

Brian Butler Everything. Jazz from Barney Kessel and Johnny Smith, too.

[Scott G] Did you play solo, as you do now, or also in bands?

Brian Butler Oh, it was both. In high school, I was in a band called The Prophets. We got paying gigs playing top 40 hits, James Brown, The Temptations, Jimi Hendrix, whatever the crowds wanted. By the time I was done with college, playing guitar was almost a full-time occupation.

[Scott G] When did you move from covering songs to creating your own?

Brian Butler I was being influenced by jazz artists like Wes Montgomery and organist Jimmy Smith, and by rock artists like Clapton and Page, but it really was "Live At Leeds," by The Who, that made me start making things up as I go along. It wasn't until many years later that I learned there wasn't a lot of improvisation on that recording. . . I just thought there was. What a wonderful mistake! Because of it, I went off in my own direction in music.

[Scott G] Do you play any songs now, or is everything improvised?

Brian Butler For years after college, I probably only played one or two "songs" a month, with everything else improvised. But now, and for the past few years, almost no songs have passed my fingers. My performances are 100% improv, and my recordings are a very high degree of improv throughout all the tracks, rhythm and lead.

[Scott G] Can you just "turn it on" when you go into the studio?

Brian Butler Sometimes, but not every time. By the very nature of this form of music, I need to feel inspired when I perform. So I record at home. When the session is good, I keep it. When it's not, I try to learn from it. Mostly, the uninspired moments are related to my not being able to clear my mind enough to let the energy inside me flow into the making of music. But when the energy flows, it's like getting lost inside of music itself.

[Scott G] You make it seem magical, or even mystical.

Brian Butler Well, I know that some of this seems a bit "out there" to some people, but, well, yes! I'm entirely convinced that music I record after being played the fewest number of times has the most sincerity and freshness.

[Scott G] Those songs contain the most feeling?

Brian Butler Right, the most feeling of life, or actual "aliveness" or presence.

[Scott G] There are a lot of albums of music designed for meditating or for exercise, but your music seems more designed for thinking or creating something like a painting or a poem.

Brian Butler Exactly, or for just listening hard to cool, conversational, rhythmic guitar. I see axuality as part of a process of letting your mind and soul open up to whatever potential you possess. I play guitar as part of a conversation, with the listener able to "answer" back in his or her own mind.

[Scott G] You and I both work with Art Sayecki of Art Mastering for our recordings. What does he bring to your work?

Brian Butler Art is great. He speaks of my music as "organic" and treats each track like, well, like a work of art. What I gave him in the first place was not heavy with high frequency response, and what he returned was not heavy with compression, which as you probably know gives music a "loud and in your face" feeling that my work doesn't require.

[Scott G] What's the best reaction to your music you've heard so far?

Brian Butler There's a music industry executive who sent me the most wonderful comments about how the improvisational nature of my music keeps the listener constantly wondering about what is coming next. He said that in my music, no one can become bored by repetitive patterns that you find in a lot of so-called mainstream music.

[Scott G] What's next for you?

Brian Butler I'm already working on the next CD, and I'm going to keep making music that's literally grown on-the-spot, whether it's in front of an audience or in front of a microphone in the studio. The next notes of music will free you to enjoy the next notes of music, and so on.

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.

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