WHAT WIN BUTLER SAWDet sista där med att DVDn redan skulle ha släppts ska ni ta med en rejäl skopa salt. Helt felaktigt. Kommer att skeppas iväg någon gång under mars månad om ni förbeställt den.
The Arcade Fire's frontman on his "Year off": a DVD, a soundtrack, Springsteen and Slipknot...
"We've got a lot of new songs" reveals Win Butler. "We're casually playing together, working on our ideas. It reminds me of when we recorded our first album [2004's Funeral]. We couldn't really afford to make records so we'd go in at weekends, whenever there was free time in the studio, and work on songs, and play some shows to raise some money to do a little more. It feels like we’re in that frame this time. We’ve got a studio, and I’ve got a tape machine in my house. But the idea of banging out a record is pretty far from all of our minds.”
The last time Uncut caught up with Butler – in late 2007 – he was wrestling with fatigue as the gruelling, year long campaign in support of Neon Bible drew to a close. Then, he talked fondly of retreating to the splendid isolation of his Montreal home during the snow-bound winter months. All that was over a year ago, and Butler, it seems, has been a lot busier than he first planned.
For a start, he’s been working with wife Régine Chassagne and Final Fantasy’s Owen Pallett (Arcade Fire’s string arranger) on the soundtrack of The Box, the new film from Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly. “I always thought their music was inherently cinematic,” says Kelly. “I felt that they could be magnificent film composers, if the timing was right and if I could somehow get them interested. I met Win at the Hollywood Bowl in the summer of 2007. So I handed him a script for The Box…. And about a week later, he called me back. They were intrigued and interested.”
Due for release in autumn, The Box stars Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a married couple who are given an old wooden box with a button on it. If they press the button, they receive a large sum of money. The catch is someone they don’t know will die.
“Writing a film score was something Régine and I were interested in,” explains Butler. “It’s based on a Twilight Zone episode, and Richard wanted a Hitchcock vibe. So we got a Mellotron. We liked the idea of doing a project that is somebody else’s thing, as an experiment to see if we could even do it. It’s very orchestral.”
“It’s more Nina Rota than Neon Bible,” continues Pallett. “The movie is set in the ‘70s, so the Mellotron was a good starting point. In Hollywood, every decade has a sound. We put a good deal of effort into making this sound like an old-school Hollywood suspense movie.”
Not content with working on the new Arcade Fire album and The Box, Butler also found time to play his first solo gig. His band are long time supporters of Partners in Health, a charity dedicated to improving healthcare for the poor in Haiti, Chassagne’s native country. Just before Christmas in 2008, Butler appeared at a benefit gig in LA.
“Régine was feeling really sick, and that was the first two days we’ve spent apart since we met,” he says. “It was also the first time ever in my life I’ve played by myself, just an acoustic guitar. I’ve never been interested in being a solo artist. In high school, there was no point where the idea of not having a band to play with me appealed to me in the slightest. What’s exciting to me about our band is that what we’re able to come up with together is so much better than what any one of us could do on our own. I’m constantly aware of that – there’s so many minds working on it, thinking about it, caring about it…”
Meanwhile, Butler has been involved in putting the finishing touches to the band’s first full length DVD, Miroir Noir. It ostensibly covers the arc of the band’s Neon Bible campaign, but is thankfully much more than a meat-and-two veg tour doc. Directed by Vincent Morrisset, an old college friend of Chassagne, it’s full of visual flourishes, mixing footage of the band recording the album in the converted church they own in Farnham, Quebec with live performances and allusive imagery that calls to mind Lost Highway-era David Lynch.
“I find live DVDs pretty boring,” admits Butler. “Even the really great ones, like Stop Making Sense, are 45 minutes too long. My favourite part of every Stones documentary is the part when I get to see where the microphone is placed, because I’m a nerd in that way. Ours is probably not the most accessible film.”
What Miroir Noir certainly does successfully is captures the righteous cacophony of the Arcade Fire’s live shows. Armed only with two hand-held cameras, Morisset and cameraman Vincent Moon throw themselves into the fray onstage, dodging the odd violin bow and flying drum. We also see the band busking through the crowd.
“Vincent Moon came to a show in Paris,” recalls Butler. “At the end, we were playing In The Backseat, and we went through the crowd and outside onto the streets of Paris and kept going. Maybe only two people followed us. We walked down this long alley, and at the end there was this family eating dinner in this big picture window. It wasn’t a planned thing. We just circled around this family’s window while they’re eating, they’re like the falafel guys.”
“They had all these plans, to go to some exotic place and have us play. It didn’t happen. So we played in the elevator instead.”
One of the most intriguing elements heard throughout the film are the “thousands” of messages left on the answering service the band set up prior to Neon Bible’s release.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” he laughs. “It was a serious expense! About six months into it, they were like “You know guys, we’re paying about 1,500 bucks a month in phone bills…” What? Just from people leaving messages, because you pay the charges on 800 numbers.”
Some of the messages get pretty intense. One caller even goes so far as to claim “Your product gave me my life back.” How does Butler respond to things like that?
“It doesn’t necessarily seem that real. It’s not necessarily about us as people. What would be weird is if it was like some celebrity connection. But it doesn’t really feel creepy in that way. To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of every day thinking about how the music makes people feel. But it’s interesting to have a window on it. I’ve felt that way about music before myself. I was never the type to be in a fan club, or be a superfan, but there’s definitely times in your life when music is very important.”
Which bands did you feel that way about?
“I went to a boarding school for the end of high school, and it was pretty lonely being away from home for the first time. That was when I got into The Cure and New Order and stuff like that. But also Radiohead and Bjork. They were the two artists making records at the time when I was the most open. I listened to Disintegration by The Cure so much that hearing it made me chuckle instead of feel depressed, and I remember thinking “OK, I’ve listened to this a lot!”
From listening to your heroes, to meeting them; success has ensured that Arcade Fire can now move freely in such circles themselves.
“We went to the Grammys for the first time,” recalls Butler. “It was so shitty. You go to this venue, like a conference centre, at about 10 am. And it’s totally dry – no food water, alcohol. Then it’s two in the afternoon, and we haven’t eaten. Right before us was the award for Heavy Metal album. So you hear this roar behind us – “Rraaaarrgghh!” – 15 guys going crazy. It takes them a full ten minutes to get to the stage, they’re all wearing the full regalia, the masks and everything. So their voices are all muffled, and the one guy accepts his award and he’s like “Graggrrh ggrrhhll rrgghhmmm,” and another one is sobbing into his mask. Then they shuffle you over to the main event. No-one’s eaten all day, by now it’s three in the afternoon and there’s people in tuxedos in the hotdog line offering $100 for a hotdog. A total crush of humanity, trying to get hotdogs…”
“But the most positive part of all that was that, at one of the after-parties, we met Bruce Springsteen. He was really lovely. We talked to him about being married and being in a band and kids. When he was leaving, he came up to us to say goodbye and remembered our names. So in this fake, LA bullshit thing, it was a really nice moment. Then he invited us to play with him!
Miroir Noir is available to download from http://www.miroir-noir.com; the DVD is released January 31st.
Ha en skön helg allesammans!