If you were wondering whether rock is dead, 58-year-old Tim Butler, bass guitarist and co-founder of the British rock band The Psychedelic Furs, states that rock is, in fact, alive, however, he did say it was on life support. No worries for locals though, at the Wellmont Theater, rock is alive and well as the band will be coming to Montclair next month.
The Psychedelic Furs are an English post-punk era rock band formed in London in the late 1970s with Butler on bass guitar, along with his brother, Richard, on vocals. They gained popularity in the United States in the early 80’s with hits like “Pretty in Pink,” which the John Hughes hit of the same name starring Molly Ringwald was named after.
Tim Butler spoke to The Montclair Times about everything from rock to punk and the music industry.
The Furs are on their “Singles” tour playing some of the songs they haven’t played since they were first released as singles.
“It’s quite a lot of fun,” Butler said. “We are gearing up to do another album so we just wanted to air out our closets and play all those hits to our fans.”
When asked if they would be road testing any new material on this audience, Butler said no.
Singer/songwriter and Tim’s brother, Richard, has a very distinctive voice and continues to write lyrics for the band. According to Tim, the upcoming album, which they hope to release next year, will continue to sound like the Furs. Tim Butler noted, “Musically it’s influenced by everything around us but it will be like a fresh update of the Furs.”
Butler called The Montclair Times while on tour in Florida, but he is a Kentucky resident. When asked how a Brit ends up in Kentucky, he blamed MySpace. He met his wife on the social media site 10 years ago and ended up in Kentucky.
About the new songs being written, he said, “It’s exciting again! We haven’t had it that way since the very early days when we wrote as a band – it’s fresh and argumentative.”
He explained the songwriting process as collaborative among the band.
When asked whether their songs are intended to convey a specific message, he said that their lyrics do not endeavor to tell people what to think but instead encourage people to consider different angles.
To the question of whether rock is dead, Butler promptly replied, “It’s on life support.” He explained that much of today’s music is manufactured by record companies who put together bands.
“It’s getting pretty squeaky clean, it’s all like love songs sung to machines.” He added, “Record companies are run by accountants and lawyers.”
As for what happened to Punk, Butler said, “All the bands that came along insisted on copying the Sex Pistols. They were the beginning and end of punk.”
He felt many subsequent punk bands took the anger and the aggression but didn’t go out and think of changing music in their own way. Specifically, “All these pop-punk bands came along like Green Day, Blink 182… and it got watered down…” His feeling was that the newer punk bands did not do a good job of pushing the music forward.
On the other hand, “Sex pistols kicked the music system in the ass. Then the ’80s came along and it tended to get lazy again.”
He said when Nirvana came along they too jump-started the industry, but said getting another infusion may be harder now – record companies sign a band and then they drop it and don’t allow bands a chance to grow.”
He added that winners of shows like “The Voice” and “American Idol” are hyped and promoted and pushed without a lasting effect.
“Pretty in Pink” was a huge hit for the Furs and in some ways changed their standard audience. Butler agreed and said, “Yes, it changed our fan base in good ways and bad ways. We got the young girls wearing pink T-shirts, screaming, but it also lost us some hardcore original fans who thought we sold out – which we hadn’t.”
One of Butler’s favorite bands is Roxy Music. He said they have been really influential for him.
“I like to think our original sound came from a mixture of the energy of the Sex Pistols and the writing of Roxy music.”
He claimed that this show at the Wellmont would allow fans to catch up on the old tunes and wait patiently for (hopefully) next year’s release. Much like their previous album Butler said, “We are doing it on our own terms to make sure it lives up to the rest of our back catalog.”
He said they are enjoying life as a band now as they do not feel pressured to compete.
“We’ve done our part bridging punk and alternative,” he added.
Butler intimated gratitude for coming from a day and age where fans built a following, “record companies back then allowed us to do that which companies don’t do nowadays.”
Many fans who may not have seen the Furs in a while might think of softer tracks like “Ghost In You” and “Love My Way,” but according to Butler, the upcoming performance “is a hard rocking show.”