In an exclusive interview with Simone Butler, bass guitar player for Primal Scream and also presenter & DJ on Soho Radio, we receive great tips for up-and-coming musicians and find out what Simone's favourite songs of all time are too.
Simone Marie Butler is a busy lady. She's had the tough task of following on the steps of Mani (Stone Roses) and Debbie Googe (My Bloody Valentine) as the most recent Primal Scream bassist, a role she's been doing since 2012.
Besides playing with one of the greatest British rock bands of the past 25 years, Simone also keeps busy presenting her own 'Naked Lunch' radio show on Soho Radio in London, DJ-ing at gigs and music festivals (including Glastonbury) and recording with legends such as The Stooges' guitarist James Williamson. Oh, and she's also officially endorsed by Fender due to her preference for their basses, as you can see by any photos of her on stage!
So here at PMT Online we thought it'd be great to catch up with her and see what tips Simone could share with new bands and up-and-coming artists, plus we check out some of her favourite songs!
What do you think makes a great song?
That's a pretty difficult question, I mean there's no one formula for everything. That in itself is an element of a great track: to make something that sounds like nothing else. I remember the first time I heard Suicide... I just fell in love with them immediately, they sounded like nothing else. It was 'Dream Baby Dream' - it sounded other worldly. It was perfect.
I think it's important not to overcrowd a track, give it space to breathe. It's true what Thelonius Monk said, "less is more". If you take a track like The Troggs' 'I Want You' (one of my fave tracks) or or even 'Wild Thing', they could almost be the same song. The beauty is in the simplicity, the growl of the guitar, the space, the whole vibe.
I think everything has to fit in a track, it can't have a vocal that just doesn't sit well with the guitar, etc. The person singing has to mean what they say. I think that's really important. Play it like you mean it, whatever it is you're doing. When you listen to Wayne Kramer's guitar solo on 'Looking at You' it rips your heart out. His heart and soul are in it. It couldn't be any other way.
A great track, if it's not instrumental, has to have great lyrics. I've heard many potentially good songs be ruined by really mediocre lyrics. Not everything has to rhyme perfectly or fit perfectly. Think outside of the obvious. Don't use phrases that are cliché or have been used time and time again. You can say things you wouldn't normally say in a song. You can be a third person, you can create scenarios that didn't exist before. You can reveal how you truly feel about someone or something. But going back to what I started with, it doesn't have to pretty and perfect. I love the way Sly Stone phrases words to fit around a beat or a riff, or line. That area in the middle of the road... stay away from it.
It's gotta make you feel something, either that or make you move. There is also something great about a perfect pop song. When it's right it's genius. Look at how Phil Spector approached songwriting and melody for all the girl bands. 'Be My Baby' is a perfect song in my opinion.
If you are the kind of band who can afford it, work with a good mixer and engineer; it can make or break a track in my opinion. A good mixer will keep his ego out of it and understand your vision and get to that point musically. It doesn't have to be the biggest name in the industry, it just has to be someone who is going to do the best job. That said, you could make something on a beat up old tape machine in a garage and it could be the best thing in the world. There's no recipe for the end product. Ultimately the more you listen to the more reference points you have, and the more equipment you experiment with the more you can create sonically. Never be afraid to experiment.
What do you think new bands should know if they want to get played on the radio?
First of all, gone are the days when a band or artist are played on the radio and the next week its number one. Mainstream radio is pretty much all playlisted except for specialist shows which are getting fewer and fewer. On the flip side, there are so many new internet stations now which are filling the gap in the market, where all the big leagues are failing to pick up on talent. These stations are really important for new bands. It allows a relationship and a following to develop at grass roots.
It's a fact that FM radio audiences are getting smaller and smaller and Internet station listeners are rising. I host a show on Soho Radio. It's an internet station based in the heart of central London. Everyone on there is a musician, or a DJ, producer, writer or a creative in their field who understands all sides of the industry. None of it is playlisted, we all create our own shows. I've been with them since day one and have seen it grow so much in the first year alone. I would urge any band who want to get radio play to visit all these stations, because they are small they are much more accessible. Pop in, go meet the presenters and be really friendly. Be your own manager and your own PR. Hit them up on social media.
A DJ has the power to break a band. I'll tell you why, because even if it's at a small station, they are so well connected that they will know promoters who will be able to put said band on for the new night they have. Their friend probably works at a much bigger station, and the presenter will say "Check this band out..."
More and more people are tuning out of huge stations and choosing smaller niche stations with people who genuinely love music. On a practical level, if you have music to give a station, make sure it's a good recording, make sure it's the best example of what you're about as a band. If it's good, it will get peoples' attention. Keep fighting the good fight.
Any tips for bands who want to get good gigs?
Whether you like it or not, we live in an age where social media is a huge tool. And it is just that. It's very useful for new bands building up a following. Take control of it. Befriend promoters whose nights you like. It's a bit of a cliché but networking and meeting people is important, I think. Contact venues you would like to play in. Start your own night! There is absolutely nothing stopping you and a few friends' bands doing it yourselves. You could end up making some money on the side from it too.
Keep a great relationship with venue managers and promoters. Don't act cocky and rude, no one will want to book you. Free streaming has been a thing for a long time now. Get a page together on Soundcloud with your tracks and email promoters and other bands who you think would go well with your band on a night. Sometimes it's easier than people going through a tonne of CDs. Ultimately don't give up. You will get knock backs. Just don't lose your love for making music.
Do you think getting signed is still important for bands?
Yes and no. I think it's good to have a publishing deal and good management. But it really depends on the label and the band and the deal. Signing with a big label may mean you have a lot less control over what happens, but they will have the budget to push you. They also have the ability to drop you in a second if they don't recoup. I'm a fan of smaller independent labels. Rough Trade, Heavenly, Tummy Touch, Thrill Jockey, Sonic Cathedral.
I like how smaller labels can specialise and be in tune with the band's audience. I think the right label can really guide you and help you grow. If I was in a very new band looking at deals I would say don't jump at the first offer, see what else is out there and don't be dazzled by figures you may get given. Build your following from gigging. If people like you, then audiences will start growing and word of mouth is a powerful thing. This is how record labels find out about you, but you have to be out there playing great shows, working hard. Always keep working.
Primal Scream UK Tour Dates Nov/Dec '17:
21-Nov Edinburgh, Usher Hall
22-Nov Motherwell, Concert Hall
23-Nov Inverness, Ironworks
25-Nov Kilmarnock, Grand Hall
26-Nov Dunfermline, Alhambra
27-Nov Liverpool, Olympia
30-Nov Dublin, Olympia
01-Dec Belfast, Limelight
03-Dec Stoke, Keele University
04-Dec Birmingham, O2 Institute
05-Dec Cambridge, Junction
07-Dec Bristol, O2 Academy
08-Dec Oxford, O2 Academy
10-Dec Sheffield, Plug
11-Dec Nottingham, Rock City
13-Dec Portsmouth, Pyramids Centre
14-Dec Brighton, Dome
15-Dec London, Brixton O2 Academy
Primal Scream tickets for sale on Ticketmaster
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PLEASE NOTE: Spinnup code expired on 30/09/15.