Indietracks interview #6: Butcher Boy


Phew, it’s been a busy few weeks at Indietracks towers. You’ll hopefully have seen the recent additions to the line-up and we’ve also announced which bands are playing on which days. And, we’ve announced the details of this year’s Indietracks compilation CD (44 tracks for just £6!). It’s just ten weeks to the festival now, and we’ve lots more interviews, quizzes, announcements and features to bring you on the blog before then, so do stay around!

Today we’re joined by Basil, guitarist from ornate orchestral octet Butcher Boy. The band has existed in its current form since early 2005, but lead singer John Blain Hunt has played in various incarnations of the band since the late 1990s. In 2006, the band recorded their debut album at CaVa Sound in Glasgow with Geoff Allan, and the band were signed to London label How Does It Feel To Be Loved? in the same year. They appeared on the 2006 HDIF compliation, ‘The Kids At The Club’, and their debut album, ‘Profit In Your Poetry’, followed in March that year. Earlier this year, the band released their second album “React Or Die” in April to genuine acclaim – not least the 5/5 reviews in the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph!

Hi Basil, tell us about an unusual place you’ve played a gig in the past

Butcher Boy kind of specialise in playing unusual places as getting away from regular music venues can make the experience better for everyone involved – hence the attraction of Indietracks. One of the favourite places we’ve played is the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall in Glasgow. Opened in the 1880s the music hall lay derelict from 1937 until the mid 1990s when a trust was set up to restore it to use. In it’s heyday it ran variety bills and was one of the first theatres in Glasgow to show movies – it wasn’t the most genteel of places and the audiences were notorious for being extremely boisterous. Today you enter the Panopticon via an amusement arcade at street level, like a seaside pier stranded in the middle of town, and that journey from the street, through the arcade and up the staircase to the theatre quickly re-sets your perceptions and prepares you for a world of other possibilities….

It’s wonderfully atmospheric place and even in its partially-restored state you can still get a sense of what it must have been like in its heyday. The house piano is a haunted pianola named George that slams it’s lid on the fingers of people it doesn’t like. Our Alison got on fine with George… We filmed the end sequence of the video to our song ‘A Better Ghost’ there – it felt really special to have the theatre to ourselves that day. You can just see in the video that we were blindfolded while ‘playing’ for the dancing couple, like some elaborate knife throwing act.

There’s always something worth seeing at the Panopticon, in particular the regular Laurel & Hardy film nights – Stan Laurel famously made his stage debut there, so check it out if you’re in town! http://www.britanniapanopticon.org/

Do you have any exciting plans for the rest of the year?

We haven’t thought much beyond Indietracks this summer, but before then we have a very special event booked. Our John is a real cineaste and on June 14th we combine his two great interests when we play a live score to the movie ‘Chick’s Day’* at the Glasgow Film Theatre Chick’s Day is the work of the largely forgotten Scots/Italian amateur film maker Enrico Cocozza. Cocozza made around sixty short films in the late 1950s/early 1960s that were self funded, with performers and technicians drawn from his home town of Wishaw. All the films were silent, although occasionally dialogue was dubbed on later. Many of the films were comic; however Chick’s Day is a seriously adult-themed piece that reminds me of elements of the film adaptations of Allan Sillitoe’s novels, but with a touch of surrealism. The score is being specially written for the film and we’ll play a set of songs afterwards. Being able to do this is a real treat as the GFT is a great favourite of the band. Tickets available now… just go to June 14th here: https://tickets.glasgowfilmtickets.org.uk/public/

*Chick is a common Scottish diminution of Charles – nothing to do with the ladies…although guys that get called Chick do tend to be a bit on the wide side.

Do any band members have any particular skills, hobbies or claims to fame you wish to share?

Special Indietracks railway-related Butcher Boy facts:

1. Basil once worked for British Rail in the signal & telegraph stores at Irvine and that job paid for his Guild Duane Eddy guitar.
2. The Glasgow subway runs directly under Alison’s house, and she often dreams about it. Once, she dreamed that she got to ride in the cab of a subway train, and to see the mysterious depot… which turned out to be a gigantic subterranean funfair, all decorated in the standard
beige-and-brown. Once they got to the depot, the trains turned into rollercoasters, corkscrewing and looping-the-loop over the heads of the drivers who were on their lunch breaks below. And then the trains would slow down, go back into the tunnels and roll along to Govan station as if were the most boring thing in the world.
3. Findlay is a railway poster nut and subscribes to Railwayana Magazine to feed his addiction.
4. Fraser was born in Milngavie to the North of Glasgow, the home of the George Bennie Railplane – a crazy-looking prototype propeller-driven monorail built in 1930. It never took off (in the metaphorical sense).
5. John is hopelessly romantic about train travel and insisted that Butcher Boy travelled to their first two London shows by train.
6. Aoife’s viola predates the invention of the steam train (tenuous)
7. Robert gets the train to work (struggling now)
8. Maya can whistle the tune Casey Jones backwards (ok, I made up that one)

What attracted you to play the Indietracks festival?

We needed to get out more. And our Fraser played Indietracks last year with The Just Joans and said we’d enjoy it, that it was our kind of thing – a bit quirky, honest fun – so when the call came we couldn’t say no. And name another festival that puts on steam train rides?

Thanks Basil. And the band have kindly given us a free song for you to download: Carve A Pattern

Next up: Roy Moller