Personalities | Bernard Butler | Suede’s Chameleon | Guitar Heroes
Indie guitarist and producer Bernard Butler (b. 1970) was born in Tottenham, London. After learning violin as a child, he took up guitar at the age of 14, inspired by Johnny Marr, learning Smiths’ guitar parts by watching the band play live.
He was also influenced by Bernard Sumner and Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame. After replying to an advertisement in the ‘Musicians Wanted’ column of Melody Maker, he successfully auditioned for Suede in 1989.
Butler formed a songwriting partnership with singer Brett Anderson, and the quality of their material saw Suede hailed by the music press as ‘the best new band in Britain’ before they had recorded anything. Suede spearheaded a shift from grunge towards a more British sound, which would culminate in the Britpop phenomenon of the mid-Nineties.
Since the early days of Suede, Butler has been associated primarily with his cherry red 1960 Gibson ES355 and also uses a black Gibson 330. His versatile approach was evident throughout the debut album, Suede (1993), mixing glam-rock aggression (‘Metal Mickey’) and subtle touches worthy of George Harrison (‘She’s Not Dead’). While recording the second album, Dog Man Star (1994), tensions between Butler and the others escalated and he left before its completion but after contributing some dynamic guitar, notably on ‘We Are The Pigs’ and ‘New Generation’.
After brief encounters with the Verve and former All About Eve vocalist Julianne Reagan, he formed McAlmont & Butler with soul singer David McAlmont. Another acrimonious split followed after only two singles, but there was enough material in the can for an album The Sound Of McAlmont And Butler (1996). The pair reunited in 2002. Meanwhile, Butler released two solo albums People Move On (1998) and Friends And Lovers (1999). Butler renewed his partnership with Brett Anderson shortly after the demise of Suede in 2003. Working as the Tears, they made Here Come The Tears (2005), which was inevitably reminiscent of Suede. The Tears have since announced a ‘temporary’ hiatus. Butler has become known as a producer-player in recent years, working with artists including the Veils, Duffy and Scott McFarnon.
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