After a two year absence from the home taping scene, the notorious Wayne Butane is back with a new CD, entitled Meat Cannon. In his first published interview ever, he sat down with me and spilled the beans
FOR THE BENEFIT OF
ANYONE WHO HASN'T HEARD IT BEFORE, DESCRIBE YOUR WORK.
I'm not really sure I know how to describe it. Other people have called it "an audio Rorschach test". Someone said it was like being on drugs without the drugs. I like that one. But if that's the case, I wonder what it sounds like if you actually are on drugs? Anyway, I take little bits of sound, music, spoken words, odd noises, or whatever, and assemble them into sound collages. Whenever you tell someone that you do sound collage, generally their eyes glaze over and roll back in their heads. Most people think "artsy-fartsy" when they think of sound collages. In the wrong hands they can be the most dry, boring things in the world. I've heard some awful ones. I wanted to make humorous ones that would appeal to people who normally don't like that sort of thing. At the same time, I didn't want it to be all little comedy bits, so I put in weird and interesting sounds and noises too.
WHEN DID WAYNE BUTANE
What's my origin? Well, when I was a kid I had a cheap little tape recorder and I spent hours making tapes of sounds around the house and in the back yard. The microphone had an ON/OFF switch on the side and when I switched it off and on real fast, it distorted the recording and made strange sounds. I wish I had some of those tapes now. They would definitely turn up on my current work. Another early influence was a record called "The Flying Saucer" by Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman, where they would ask a question and the answer was a line taken from a popular song. The origin of modern sampling.
YOU DEDICATED ONE OF
YOUR TAPES TO THE MEMORY OF DICKIE GOODMAN.
Yeah, he was an innovator. He made some great records, although the earliest ones are the best. They're more chaotic, not just song bites but strange noises, backward voices, sped-up chippmunk voices, rather than thestandard question-and-answer style that he fell into in later years. The best record is the follow-up to "The Flying Saucer", called "Buchanan And Goodman On Trial", which is actually about all the lawsuits they got into for using bits of other people's records.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM?
They were found not guilty, a precedent that's often cited in sampling cases to this day.
WHAT KIND OF EQUIPMENT
DO YOU USE?
Anything that will serve the purpose. I have a four-track, a cassette deck, a reel-to-reel, two CD players and a turntable hooked up to a mixer. That's the core of my set-up, nothing real fancy. I'll also use a VCR, a little Radio Shack reverb unit, and whatever new junk I find at the swap meet. I like gimmicky gadgets and toys, little Casio sampling keyboards, things like that.
YOU DON'T USE ANY COMPUTERS?
No, but my friend Ted is trying to nudge me in that direction. I just don't know if I could ever use a computer to do an entire tape. There are a few things I want to do that will require a computer but they're just small
bits that I can't do any other way.
HOW DO YOU EDIT? DO
YOU PHYSICALLY CUT THE TAPE?
Ordinarily, no. But I have done that on occasion. I heard the story about when The Beatles were recording "For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite", and George Martin took a tape of a calliope and cut it up into foot long strips, tossed it in the air, and reassembled it randomly. I had to do that myself to see what would happen.
HOW DID IT WORK?
Not very well. It was hard to tell which side of the tape went up and which side went down. But at least I had the experience of trying it. Anyway, mostly I edit my tapes together either on a four-track or just using the
"pause" key on a cassette deck. You have to use the older ones though, the ones with the big, sturdy metal keys. The decks they make today don't work the same way. They're mostly crap. I won't say which brand is my favorite, because every so often I see one on eBay and I can snag it pretty cheap. I don't need any competition outbidding me.
DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE
I sit down with a stack of records, a stack of CDs and a stack of tapes and mix and match until things begin to fit together. It can take a few seconds or it can take hours. Sometimes nothing works. That's when you go and do something else.
YOU DON'T WRITE ANYTHING
OUT OR PLAN IN ADVANCE?
I have a notebook that I jot ideas down in whenever I think of something, but mostly everything is done seat-of-the-pants style. It's pretty weird how things just seem to fall together sometimes.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR
Lots of different sources, mostly thrift store records. The thrift store people love to see me coming, because I take all the records nobody else wants. I buy all those children's records that are scratched all to hell. Doesn't matter to me, I can use just about anything. People send me records and tapes to use too, which I strongly encourage.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN
DOING YOUR TAPES?
The first one I did for anyone besides myself to hear was in 1992. It was called "Lawsuits Aplenty", and I never made it available publicly, I just gave it to friends. I did use bits and pieces of it on my other tapes.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE
TO COMPLETE A TAPE?
All of my previous tapes have taken about a year to finish. The new one, "Meat Cannon", has taken over two years. I did some moving, from one side of the country to the other and back again, so that slowed down the process considerably. Now I'm settled back in the desert once again and ready to create.
DO YOU EVER GET AIRPLAY?
Yes, I do get airplay. I get playlists from several stations. I'm not sure if they have to edit my stuff or not. I would imagine they do. There's some pretty colorful language in there. But I'm not about to change anything just to get on the radio. If they play me, that's fine. If not, that's okay too.
YOUR WORK IS VERY ROOTED
IN AMERICAN POP CULTURE. DO YOU HAVE ANY OVERSEAS FANS?
Yes, surprisingly. I didn't think my stuff would appeal to anyone outside the U.S. either, but I guess Johnny Mathis transcends all borders.
WHAT IS YOUR BEEF WITH
I don't have anything against him. He's a fine singer and hopefully he has
a great sense of humor and isn't prone to suing people. I just think that sound bite of him saying his name so deadpan is really funny, especially when you pair it up with something outrageous.
HAVE YOU EVER PUT SOMETHING
ON ONE OF YOUR TAPES AND LATER REGRETTED IT?
No, not really. I've done some pretty harsh things though. I took a thing off of a Raggedy Ann record where she says something like "Don't get too close to the window, you might fall out", and in the background you hear an Eric Clapton song, a reference to his kid who did get too close to the window. Very morbid, I know. Also, I made a little girl say "My life would be a whole lot easier without John Denver", and then a few months later he died. On one tape I said Chris Farley was "an untalented sack of crap". As long as it's funny, anybody is fair game to me. I don't play favorites. I picked on Clinton a lot, but if Bush gets in and does stupid things, I'll pick on him too.
WHAT DO YOU LISTEN
A wide variety of stuff. I like Zoogz Rift, Boredoms, Chris Rea, The Monkees, The Sex Pistols. But Rupert Holmes is my hero. Most people only know him as the "Pina Colada" guy, but he's done everything. He's even scored porn films! If I had the opportunity to meet anyone, it would be him.
WHAT DO YOU READ?
Mostly nonfiction. Biographies. George Hayduke books. And old Herbie "the Fat Fury" comic books.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING
ON RIGHT NOW?
I've already started my next tape. I'm also involved in a collaborative project called "Creepy Jesus", and I'm working on a compilation which features other sound collage artists.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO
ACCOMPLISH IN THE FUTURE?
Well, I'll keep doing sound collage as long as people will listen. And even if they won't, I'll do it for myself. I also really want to do a video equivalent of the audio tapes whenever I can get good enough editing equipment. Someone sent me a video of something called "Concrete TV" that aired on cable access in New York and it's vaguely like what I want to do, but still not quite either. Another thing I want to accomplish is to find out whatever happened to Booty Green.
Booty Green. I use a lot of samples from him. He is probably the worst comedian ever, so bad that he's good. He put out an album, "Pray To Booty" on Laff records. It's his only record as far as I know, and he sounds like he's drunk during parts of it. He tells the oldest jokes in the world and manages to screw them up. He thoughtfully used the punchlines to several jokes as titles on the album jacket, so if you read it before you listen, you know the ending long before it comes. I've been trying to find out if he's still around or if he's passed on. If anybody has any info, let me know.
ANY PARTING WORDS?
Whatever you like to do, DO IT! Do it well, and don't let anyone stop you.
Wayne Butane can be reached
at Wbutane@aol.com, or through the Flaming Canine
web site, at http://www.flamingcanine.com