For well over a decade Butane has been showcasing a distinct brand of dance music filled with warm textures and a steady rhythm. As he focus on his own labels, Alphahouse and Little Helpers, his sonic output tends to deliver sound that envelopes the entire atmosphere. With a full bodied sound, his music provokes the listener to move, and his dedication to the craft has allowed him to remain a bright spot within dance music for many years.
With a new EP, titled Preacher Man, released via Alphahouse, we took the time to link up with Butane in order to get insight into his original style and the vision behind his music. He says the new material is "maybe a little bit out of character stylistically," but as the music seems to be aimed squarely at the dancefloor, he's following suite with what's made him one of the best producers supplying the underground.
Your sound is very deep and ethereal, is there ever a distinct emotion or message you aim to deliver?
It’s not a single emotion per se. I’ve always been drawn to the hypnotic side of dance music, so I tend to make music for patient listeners. My music is not for the ADD kids, or for bros looking for instant gratification at the club. It isn’t full of big obvious hooks, so you need to be locked in, paying attention. The simple, endless repetition of a well-constructed 4/4 loop can do really magical things to one’s imagination. The trick for me in the studio is to find that loop and then add enough interesting, (sometimes overt, sometimes understated) detail to keep it moving for the club. The rest is up to the listener, as Marcel Duchamp would say.
Your recent release, Preacher Man, possesses somewhat of a tribal motif, what influenced that release?
I was listening to some old-timey preacher recordings on the radio (I think NPR), and the timbre of the preacher's voice was very soothing, the cadence very mesmerizing and hypnotic. I had been playing around with some organic drum sounds in the studio, and I hatched the idea that I should try a few tracks combining the two. Once I got started, the EP virtually wrote itself. That’s when you know it’s going to be good. It’s a pure concept EP, and maybe a little bit out of character for me stylistically, but I’m getting very comfortable in my new studio and feeling good about trying new things, so this one came naturally.
If you had to choose, would you rather DJ a sunrise or sunset?
It wholly depends on when the party started and when it ends. Sunsets can be magical if the party has been bumping along all day. I like the transition into nighttime, so you’re playing nice and warm and pretty and you gradually cool it down a few tones, getting more moody for the nighttime hours. On the other hand, if the party as been raging all night, the sunrise can be really fun going the other direction - you gradually warm the music as the sun comes up. I don’t have a preference honestly. In the hands of a capable DJ, both can be amazing. Don’t fuck it up.
Your Little Helpers label is one we have been following for quite some time, for those who are unfamiliar, can you tell us about the imprint and the concept behind it?
It’s b-sides, lost grooves, warm-up, and after-hours cuts. A lot of it is under-produced, so it’s like a blank canvass for a talented DJ to mix up. There are a few hits here and there on the catalog, but mostly it’s just solid grooves you can build fun sets out of. I’ve played after parties where I’ve mixed hours of nothing but Little Helpers and it will never sound the same twice. Endless fun.
How does Little Helpers differ from your other label Alphahouse? What style or artists do each label tend to feature?
I get this question a lot, and I really have a hard time answering it. Alphahouse is my baby, with me through thick and thin. It’s mostly a place for my pet projects, and when I come across a few tracks from friends that I like, I’m happy to release them. I don’t really take demos for the label, nor do I have any particular criteria for artists I work with, other than that they are serious people. I’m searching for integrity, mostly, in the music and from the artist. Hopefully the tracks are special, and a little timeless. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don’t.
Little Helpers on the other hand is a finely tuned machine. Sean and I take demos from all comers, and it’s just about the music. If the tracks fit, we sign it. If they almost fit, or we hear enough potential, we often workshop with the artists, sometimes trading 10+ emails back and forth with them to help get the tracks right. We have a very strong concept in our minds that constrains us, and we work toward it incessantly. With Little Helpers, we have a much more singular outlook. Alphahouse, I guess, is more free and open for experimentation.
What are your thoughts on the current trends in dance music?
I literally have no idea. I don’t follow online techno / social media stuff. I just do my thing, it keeps my music pure. I’m completely out of touch with what’s going on in dance music. It keeps me sane.
Aside from music, how do you like to spend your free time? Any other interests that help take your mind off the music industry?
I live in San Francisco and we go hiking and camping on weekends when I’m not flying somewhere to play. Northern California is a farm boy’s paradise. We explore a lot. Drink wine. Cook. Enjoy nature. Make music.
What's next for you this year and what should we be looking forward to?
Ok, this is the part where I plug some projects [deep breath]:
Jamie Jones and Dubfire are both picking up some recent tracks I made for their labels, details on those should be forthcoming.
The next Alphahouse is Ben Aus’ second EP on the label, with a remix by me.
I have an EP forthcoming on Yakazi which is the label from the Fact Barcelona crew, they just launched their Contrast Agency, who’s handling my EU bookings. It’s three Butane tracks with remixes from Brett Johnson and Frank Haag. The Yakazi guys are solid and they put considerable care into their work, so I’m quite happy to be working with them.
Alexi Delano and I have 2 smokin’ new collab tracks which he’s going to release on his new label called “New Future Series”. That’s the Bass Theory EP and I have no idea when it’ll come out - hopefully this year.
I have a remix coming for Kenneth Gibzon’s upcoming [A]pendics Shuffle album which he’ll release on Adjunct.
I did a really cool deep poolside vibe remix for Duky’s Hibigeebee track on Deep Tech records.
I’m working on a big room techno remix for Glauben Records from Tijuana right now - good people, building a nice scene down in TJ right now.
I also just gave an old unreleased track to the Peloton Music guys here on the West Coast for their Pacific Waves Charity Compilation, which goes to benefit an ocean conservancy charity. It's a nice Little Helpers-style afterhours tool that a few DJs out there might find useful.
Plus I have a bunch of new unsigned/unfinished studio projects that I’m quite excited about. Some of that stuff will probably turn into an upcoming Alphahouse EP - on a more big room dirty hardware house tip. TBC.
Ok, on that note.. gotta get back to work. The next track you make is always the best one!
As Butane himself just told you, there's plenty to look forward to in the coming months. Stay posted for more news coming soon.