Butch Walker

Rock's marvelous metalhead

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By Gary Graff  

Butch Walker is hardly a household name, but the Atlanta musician has become one of the go-to guys of rock 'n' roll. He's produced and written for Pink, Sevendust, Midtown, Bowling for Soup, the Donnas, Simple Plan, Hot Hot Heat and The Academy Is.... And his work on Avril Lavigne's sophomore album, Under My Skin, really put him on the map. He'll be producing the debut album by Supernova, the TV-formed supergroup, once a singer is chosen.

But that work tends to obscure the fact that Walker is a talented artist in his own right, having risen from the ashes of the group the Marvelous 3 to make some highly acclaimed solo albums, including The Rise & Fall of Butch Walker and the Let's Go Out Tonites, which introduces a new kind of band concept within his solo career. One thing is for sure: the guy knows how to make music.

Q: How do you juggle the roles of producer and artist?

Butch Walker: I'm more noted as a record producer than as an artist, which is funny to me. I'm as proud of having a No. 1 hit on the pop charts with Avril as I am of my own new record. But producing never was my agenda. It's a fluke thing that it ended up taking precedence in the grand scheme of things. I'm grateful in the sense that I haven't had to whore myself out to make records. That never was my agenda, and it's a fluke thing that production ended up taking precedence 'cause I've been playing two hundred, three hundred solo shows a year since I could walk, I think.

Q: How do you tend to approach the job as a producer?

Walker: Because I am an artist first, when I go in to make a record with an artist I try to approach it from their standpoint, and be an extension of the artist, because that's what I am first and foremost. I think that's why people come to me to produce their records. It's already sort of an artist-against-the-world situation when you're making an album. They give you a budget to do stuff, so you might as well just make it a good time. I just go in and try to make a record as an artist with them and become a member of the group, almost. It just makes everybody a lot more comfortable.

Q: What led you to become a musician?

Walker: My mother, who I love dearly, said "You can't go see AC/DC in concert! The devil dances on stage with them every night!" I said "Awesome!" I was hooked on hard rock ever since.

Q: You view the Let's Go Out Tonites as a band in its own right as much as a backing band, don't you?

Walker: It started taking shape because the band that I've had out for the last year and a half became more of a full-fledged entity. I took them in the studio with me with nothing but some lyrics, and it was a very collaborative process. That's why it has its own sound compared to my other records. So the band deserved a title. I couldn't hog the ball.

Q: What led you to take on the Supernova project?

Walker: I know its seems like it's a train wreck, a band that has no singer 'til the end of the record. But I'm up for any challenge, and that one seems like a tall order. Sometimes producing records can get mundane, and you don't want it to be just the same old crap. This seems like an interesting challenge. And being that I was a teenage metalhead and met my first band members at a Motley Crue concert, I felt like it was serendipitous that Tommy Lee asked me to work with him. So bring it on, man!

Gary Graff writes extensively about music. His work has appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Detroit Free Press, and Billboard.