Guy Buttery: Caught in the strings
Guy Buttery is a luminary of South African folk music. This guitar maestro is a musical mastermind. He is well known in South African festival circuits and regulary performs with some of the best musos in the country. In his latst solo ofeering he has decided to release a limited edition vinyl offering. We spoke to him about the beauty of vinyl, To Disappear In Place and his influences.
Why have you chosen to release your latest album, To Disappear In Place, on vinyl?
The inspiration for releasing an album exclusively on vinyl goes back to an obsession I had with collecting LP’s from as young as 14 years old. It was eventually long-time friend Steve Hawes from Erased Records who actually manifested the project for me.
Despite the on-going change in the industry, vinyl records have remained a sought after product to serious music fundi’s, DJ’s and album collectors. If anything, with the rise and rise of digital music, the vinyl has become a sort of antidote symbol for those that value the tangible embodiment of hard copy albums. LP sales have increased where CD sales have dropped, probably because they represent authenticity to fans. For me, it is a way of recognizing independence within the industry, to develop my music and distribute it in ways I see fit, ultimately going the indie route. Releasing a vinyl record in South Africa is exactly that.
It has been ten years since you released the album When I Grow Up… . How would you say you or your following has changed in the past decade?
Musically, I feel there is quite a big difference when comparing my first album to what I’m writing these days. I feel the compositions and arrangements are far more mature and I like to think the performances are more articulate and developed. I do however still like “When I Grow Up…”. It stands a testament of a time for me. It took me some time to differentiate between performing my songs for a live audience and recording them in a studio. I think I understand that now.
It’s difficult for me to say how my audience has changed over the years. I guess it’s safe to say that it has diversified a fair bit. That is probably due to collaborating with so many different people and performing in all corners of SA as well as in numerous countries abroad.
Do you think the decision to release in vinyl will increase availability of your music to an older audience or an alternative market?
I don’t know if it would increase my visibility to older audiences as much. People buying LP’s these days are definitely that of a younger generation. Strangely enough, it’s the young iPod generation that are the driving force behind the resurgence. LP sales across the globe have gone through the roof in the last 5-6 years or so. Sales rose 40% in the UK last year alone and also surpassed the amount of LP’s sold in 1991 when vinyl was still readily available. I would say it is still a niche market but one I’d really like to see grow.
Are there any other notable artists that have chosen to release albums in vinyl?
It seems most established artists in the last 5 years or so have been releasing their albums on vinyl. I can list hundreds of them but if you search online or read any current music magazine you’ll find that most new releases are “Available on CD, LP and Digitial Download”. It certainly isn’t a rarity in the US or in Europe.
The New York Times was once quoted as saying “vinyl was dead”. That was 11 years ago, and 8 years later vinyl records sold their best since 1991. Would you say selling vinyl is a sound business decision?
I think we all know that CD sales have slumped pretty low in recent times. In fact music sales are down 80% worldwide. I think the phrase “sound business decision” maybe an over-statement but it surely is another way to get the fans to hear the music. In my case by “going vinyl” in South Africa, I’ve probably marginalised myself even further into the darkest corners of all that is niche, but I’ve had a great time doing it.
What was the creative process in producing To Disappear In Place compared to Fox Hill Lane and your other albums?
Well the creative process for “To Disappear in Place” was kind of complete 18 months before it came out. The album is essentially a collection of out-takes, remakes, demo’s and live recordings based around “Fox Hill Lane”. All the material was 70% completed but never made it to the final album for one reason or another. It was mainly due to time constraints as “Fox Hill Lane” had to go to print for its official launch date at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Personally I preferred a bunch of the versions and out-takes from “To Disappear in Place” but we never had a chance to get them all together in time. For me, the collaborations with London based composer and arranger, Chris Letcher are the highlights of the record and some of the best stuff I’ve put my name to.
Fox Hill Lane was critically acclaimed and won a South African Music Award (SAMA). Is it your favourite album?
That’s a pretty difficult question. I am very proud of that album and am really happy to have had the chance to record with a bunch of my dear friends and childhood heroes. The album features some real greats in the form of Tony Cox, the late Syd Kitchen, Madala Kunene, Dan Patlansky, Nibs van der Spuy, and many others. It was also my first album to be produced outside of Durban. Most of the record was tracked in a beautiful studio in Knysna called Peace of Eden. The stunning setting on the edge of the Knysna forest and laid-back atmosphere was perfectly conducive to the nature of the music.
I think it’s an album I’ll continuously return to and will always have really fond memories creating.
What has been the finest moment in your music career?
I have had so many beautiful moments. Some of them big, some of them small. Off the top of my head, I’d have to say that I’ve been really fortunate to travel and see a fair bit of this incredible planet. Whenever I’ve arrived in a new town, surrounded by new smells, new languages and new music, I always remember how lucky I am doing what I do.
Where can people get a hold of your music?
FULL KZN TOUR SCHEDULE:
Friday, 3rd February
Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, UKZN, Durban
Contact: 031 260 2296
Bookings: Computicket – 086 1915 8000
Adults R90, R50 for scholars
Thursday, 16th February
Crawford College North Coast, Watson Highway, Westbrook
Contact: Bernadine – 032 943 2041
Adults R90, R60 for scholars
Friday 17th February
Contact: Kim – 035 340 2511 / email@example.com
R100 (percentage goes to wildlife)
Sunday 19th February
Upstairs @ Spiga D’ora, Florida Road, Durban
Contact: Shayne – 083 260 3121
Thursday 23rd February
Ashton International College, Ballito
Contact: Tara – firstname.lastname@example.org
Adults R90, Scholars R50
Friday 24th February
Michaelhouse, The Schlesinger Theatre, Balgowan, Midlands
Contact: 033 234 1314 / email@example.com
Adults R80, Scholars R60