McAlmont & Butler
In the year 2002 McAlmont & Butler are as equally out of step with the likes of Ms Dynamite and So Solid Crew as they were with Blur and Oasis first time round. One of this generations greatest song writing partnership's, who we thought we'd never see grace the same stage together after the acrimonious split in 1995. are back with a semi-autobiographical album "Bring It Back". We caught up with David McAlmont and Bernard Butler to find out who handed over the olive branch and what it's like to be back in the public eye.
Q: The last time we saw you Bernard was across town at Piccadilly Records doing an acoustic set. Again you've chosen quite a low key comeback with a series of acoustic shows and instores around the country. Did you just want to strip it back to the basic again?
Butler: We really like playing acoustic, but I think people find it much more frightening than we do. People come with the idea that we find it really frightening because it's stripped down and were really baring it, but actually the audience find it really frightening because they are so close to you. The store ones are really hard because it's in the middle of the afternoon and there's no alcohol, which I think that plays a big part in it, and you can hear music at the other end of the store in between the songs. I was going to ask them to turn it down until I heard it was us!!!
McAlmont: It's a bit surreal as well. It's like being in a strange bubble at moments. I keep getting lost in the music and then at the end of the songs it suddenly occurs to me that I'm on the middle of the stage in a record shop.
Butler: We did G.A.Y in London which really is this massive club with banging tunes. We went on before Hear'say and it was really bizarre - just us and Hear'say's dressing rooms next to each other. We went on and played acoustic which I think went down great...and as we walked off they were waiting in the wings waiting to sing along with their minidisc. I think they were scared of us...and they f**king should be!!!
Q: The album "Bring It Back" does seem very autobiographical - about two estranged friends coming back together?
McAlmont: Semi. It can be about you, but then sometimes you don't want it to be too much about you - so you have to start making things up and adding a bit of colour. What I don't like to do is completely fake it. But I mean, there's no point in singing a song to our lovers in outer space, that is what "Falling" is about. That's not autobiographical. We just had an idea and said let's write a song about the sky at night. See what I mean? Very surreal.
Q: After the first time around you went through what can only be described as a very messy divorce. Who handed the olive branch out and said let's Bring it Back?
Bernard: I don't think there was an olive branch really, it wasn't like that. It was very simple and really uncomplicated. I bet you don't believe me, but I just gave David some songs. As you say it was a really messy divorce and the truth was it was for everyone else, but it wasn't for us. We just went on and got on with the our lives.
McAlmont: The only conversation we've had about it is with journalists really. People keep saying what's it all about? Why are you back together? But we haven't ever had a conversation about it.
Butler: I don't think you ever do with fights, with anybody. If you have a fight with anybody you instantly forget what it you were fighting about. If I'm having a fight with my misses and I call her a silly cow, I can't remember why I did it in the first place anyway.
Q: You both seem fiercely individual characters. How do you feel each of you have changed over the years apart?
McAlmont: I think that Bernard's still the same person...it's just that I understand him now. I didn't the first time we were together. Were just a bit older, a bit wiser - you definitely acquire things with years, but fundamentally you stay the same.
Butler: The edges get smoothed out a little bit. You're a little less firey or at least you know how to challenge your fire. I feel I've learnt how to channel my excess energy and know I what to get out of it to do what I want to do.
Q: David, you seem a lot less flamboyant of late?
McAlmont: I haven't really toned down. My cuff links are still pretty loud, I wear Prada boots now and spend a lot more money on skin products than I do on actual clothes.
Butler: It's all on the inside now. I met that guy from the Jim Rose Circus, Jigsaw man, his whole body is a jigsaw with no picture. It was backstage at a Suede show and the thing everyone asks was what is the picture? And he replied the pictures on the inside.
Q: Bernard, in the years apart your job description changed somewhat. It wasn't just Bernard Butler - guitarist. It was Bernard Butler full blown singer songwriter. Did you ever feel the urge to take to the mike this time?
McAlmont: It's about what he does best really. And I couldn't ever pick up a guitar. That's my department as far as recording goes, but it's really nice what we do with the live acoustic thing.
Butler: At every stage the theories always been about - How do you make the best record? How do you make the best? What makes the best recordings with the tools you've got? You think about taking it as far as you can, so with the record that's why I went to David - not to make a McAlmont & Butler record or salvage my life. It was simple, I wanted a certain kind of voice and he had the voice it. And if the only thing standing in the way was that I had spoken to him for a while it would have been pretty stupid to let that stand in the way
Q: You've got a very specific sound, yet your solo work is totally different again. Do you come in with a specific idea of what you want to make or does it come naturally?
McAlmont: There were things before that Bernard wrote which were so personal to him, they couldn't become part of the McAlmont & Butler thing, and the same with me. You can be more indulgent when you're making music for yourself and nobody else. But with Bernard I just do the best I can and if I don't think what I'm doing is good enough or I can't come up with it - we decide not to do it.
Q: Even though you have that very unique sound I feel you sat next to Blur or Pulp more readily than you do next to UK Garage or Nu-Metal in 2002. Do you feel like outsiders?
McAlmont: The great thing about being McAlmont & Butler is it doesn't really matter. We just make the sound we want to make. This album wasn't signed when we we started making, so we pretty much signed the finished album to EMI. If were out of step it does make perfect sense to us.
Butler: I don't think we fitted in, in 1995 either. That record is much bigger after the event than it ever was at the time. It's true that a certain amount of what we do has got a similar sound to the first record, but at least half of this record is nothing like "The Sound Of McAlmont & Butler" - in fact it is closer to Ms Dynamite than we ever were to Blur.
Q: Is this going to be a long term thing. Or is it just the one album for now?
McAlmont: It's one of those see how it goes. People like to use words like couple and marriage, so we've just got back together and were having a trial get back together.
Butler: People talk about us as were a project and it's so dull. When I was in a rock band I dealt with it one day at a time and when it didn't feel right I f**ked off then. And I think were both independent enough to go and do that. But this could go on for another 100 records, but I think that's what's really exciting!!!!
"Bring It Back" is out now in all good record shops
The band tour in October - For more info
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