Vintage Guitar - March 2017 - Open - 24
company, Electric Factory X, which you
started in 1991. How did that happen?
I realized a number of years ago that being
"Jon Butcher, guitar player" had a limited shelf
life because unless you're Eric Clapton or Jeff
Beck, it's incumbent upon you to expand your
horizons and see yourself in broader terms. For
most musicians these days, how to make a living
in the present landscape with the lack of record
sales is a great challenge. That dawned on me
in the '90s, so I started doing music production
for TV and movies. I've spent the last 18 years
building my company and doing productions
for Showtime, HBO, and the TV networks,
starting with the series "Ugly Betty." I find the
work really gratifying. The most important
thing now is that my company becomes a
platform which allows me to do things that
are bigger than me, like producing new talent.
The track "Madness" has what sounds
like a resonator guitar. What is that?
Yes, it's a National round-neck that I
borrowed from a friend, combined with a
five-string banjo to give the song its retro
voice. I don't think any real banjo player has
to fear for me (laughs), but I was able to coax
something out of it.
What were your go-to guitars and amps
on the album?
Beyond the Axis
ne of the most-influential guitarists to
emerge from Boston, Jon Butcher has just
released his 14th album, 2Roads East.
We caught up with Butcher as he prepared
2Roads East is perhaps the most reflective
and soul-oriented thing you've done. It's a
"song" album with great guitar as opposed
to a pure guitar album. The arrangements
are well-conceived, with plenty of air to
make it sonically pleasing. What inspired
you to take this route?
Initially, I thought I was going to make
a different record, containing songs like
"Brontosaurus" (the only instrumental on the
album). My initial thought was, "I can blaze
runs over some blues or whatever," but then
it hit me... I didn't want to do that. I wrote
five or six songs in that vibe, but it just wasn't
satisfying. So, I discarded them and started
telling my own story, trying to find my own
truth. And the truth is, songs matter. The lyrics
on these songs are photographs from my life.
I can't explain why that happened, I was just
trying to write something that I believed, that
was at the least true for me. From that point
on, it was a natural process.
You've long been associated with the
Fender Stratocaster. When did that fascination develop?
It happened even before Jimi Hendrix,
though Jimi reinvented the Stratocaster. I
liked its shape and I like lightweight guitars
because I think they resonate better. And,
single-coil pickups provide more nuance than
humbuckers, in my experience. You have to
work a little harder on a Strat to coax sounds
from it, but it's worth it.
Many musicians are trying to figure out
how to make a living in this post-Napster
world, yet you've thrived with your music
How about effects? There's wah on
"Power of Soul" and a few others, along
with some delay and what sounds like an
octaver on the title track...
I used an old Vox wah modded by Kyle
Chase, as well as a Boss DD-20 delay, a Fulltone Ultimate Octave , a Rimrock Mythical
Overdrive which is terrific, a Landgraff MO-D
distortion, and a Jim Klacik Unique-Vibe,
which is a Uni-Vibe clone.
There's a beautiful Spanish-sounding
acoustic trading licks with an electric on
"Dust." What were you playing on that?
That's an old nylon-string Ramirez. I'm trading licks with my buddy, Tomo Fujita, who was
playing an ES-335 on that track. - Tom Guerra
Jon Butcher: Michael Sparks Keegan.
I used a '63 Fender Stratocaster that weighs
6.5 pounds - a true beauty. But I also have an
'03 Bill Nash in Olympic White that I've taken
around the world, it looks like a vintage guitar,
though the wear is all mine! That's my go-to.
One of my all-time favorite amps is a tweed
Fender Blues Junior modded years ago by my
friend, Bob Dettorre - re-tubed with EL84s and
a Celestion Vintage 30. He took an off-the-rack
amp and made it into a powerhouse, a beast.
I wouldn't sell that for 10 times what I paid.
I also used a '62 Bassman and a '65 Vibrolux.
Live, I use a '69 Marshall 100-watt Super Lead,
a couple of Marshall '59 Super Lead plexis, and
a mix of 4x12 cabs.