Trebuchet interviews Dale Butler, lead singer and foreman of the least glamorous metal band in the UK. How come then we think they’re also one of the most important? Read on.
Malefice mean business. Other bands wear make-up and rock out from expectation. Speaking to Dale Butler it’s clear that he is a no-nonsense social analyst and when he goes to a gig he expects things to done properly and when it’s his gig it seems he’ll stop just shy of cutting his nuts off to make it happen.
And the band are looking good. With a new guitarist ushering a leaner approach Malefice’s mission is to get from the ordinary world of A to B; the loud company of heroes, enduring, striving and surviving life to swing hard and rock. At this stage of the game it’s just what they do.
Despite paying dues, making records and filling halls since 2003 Malefice are second from bottom on a long bill. Why aren’t they taking it easy? Why aren’t they playing to their solid core of fans? Why are they still striving to find new fans?
The money. It’s about the money.
If that sounds cheap then let Malefice change your perspective.
Cramped into a tiny shared dressing room Trebuchet grabbed a few critical minutes with Dale Butler before he hit the stage.
Trebuchet: The last record Awaken the Tide – how did it go?
Dale Butler: It was good. It did very very well in Germany which was something that we’d never ever been able to do before. It’s a market that never really understood us before and they really vibed that record. We loved it. So of course we had to go out there.
The Americans and the British have always been into what we’re doing it’s that kind of music so everyone lapped it up. I think we’re doing two tracks off that on this tour, everyone’s singing along, punching their girlfriends in the face and stuff.
Trebuchet: …dentistry included!
A new record?
Dale Butler: Yeah we’re working on some stuff. It’s that old cliché, I can’t say too much about it at the moment.
We’re bringing in a lot more of the symphonic side of our music , loads of piano parts and samples left right and centre. It’s going to be great.
Obviously we have a new guitarist at the moment, Andy Wilson, who came in 6 months ago and he’s leading the writing process for us. We’ve got a new kind of vision on the band which is really nice. ‘Cos since we were 16 it’s been pretty much Ben and I doing most of the writing.
It’s great to have another songwriter come in add more to mix. It’s what you need. It needed refreshing, rejuvenating, we were running out of ideas to be completely honest with you.
We’d done three albums and we were like ‘right where do we go from here’ and to have someone going ‘here, why don’t you try it like this’ and we’re like ‘yeah, fucking right. Let’s go for that!’.
So (on the new record) we’re rolling back the gain so we’re a lot more crunchy, a lot more current, and loads more string sections. We’re playing with different instruments and we’re going to try and get saxophones here and there. Basically, seeing where it goes and if it works – great – and if not we’ll fuck it off.
Trebuchet: How far are you through the process?
Dale Butler: We’re about four songs in. We’ll be hitting the studio this year definitely.
Trebuchet: Coming at it from a different angle, in 2003 when you were starting out, I guess you were into music in terms of rocking out, getting drunk and all the rest of it, has that changed a few years on. How do you see the band now?
Dale Butler: The band now… (pause) …well I don’t see it as my band I see it as my business.
It’s a really sad way of looking at it but really we’re all partners in a business. It’s about making it work. You know we’ve all got families, wives and girlfriends and fiancées and children so it’s important that we put food on the table now. So it’s about surviving.
Between 16 and 21 (years old) you don’t have a single care in the world. You don’t have to pay rent. We could go out on tour then… and that’s why we got so big so young we didn’t have any responsibilities.
But now that we have responsibilities we have to do things a slightly different way, make sure that ends-meet, pretty much.
We can’t go out and come home without paying ourselves as we’ve got bills waiting for us the moment we get through the door.
Trebuchet: Does this come out in your songwriting; “these are our real feelings” or do you approach it in terms of “this is the sort of songs we need to write in order to be successful as a business”?
Dale Butler: You’re right in both senses.
We take inspiration from what’s happening in the music industry at the moment and we see where metal is going. So we’ve got to include that aspect in our sound. You can tell through our three albums how the industry has changed throughout each album. It’s still us but it’s us adapting our sound for what’s going on at that moment.
…and you know, kids will say that that’s selling out but at the end of the day (pause)… I don’t give a fuck. I’m getting to go on tour with my best friends and living the dream AND paying my bills . That’s the most important thing.
Trebuchet: The feelings are there though right. Listening to your songs I don’t automatically get the sense that these are a bunch of guys paying some bills…
Dale Butler: Oh definitely, it’s an art form but at the end of the day the business has to be there too.
You can be the best band in the world and be absolute arseholes at business; not knowing how to brand yourself, not knowing how to put your merchandise out in a certain that makes kids want to buy it, printing t-shirts that no-one wants to buy so you don’t sell fuck all merch on tour and so you come home with no money.
We’re all about keeping our brand fresh and keeping our image fresh just so kids can relate to us.
You’ve got bands like Bring Me the Horizon selling like 20 grand a night on merch. They’ve got the designs that you need to start looking at and saying ‘kids are buying that’ and immediately you’re like ‘we’re going to have get on that’.
Trebuchet: Do you know the Baroness shirts, they’re quite hip?
Dale Butler: It sells man. All the Mastodon stuff.
I mean you would never try and imitate a mastodon shirt, they’re amazing. I can’t remember his name, but I met the artist at a new England metal festival in Boston, and the guy who does all their art was there selling his oil paintings. He’s an incredible artist. I asked him ‘how do you do it man?’ and he just sort of shrugged and said ‘ I don’t know, I just kinda do’.
He’s got paintings the size of this wall that Mastodon have just taken a bit of it and said ‘that’s the album cover’ and he’s selling prints of the whole work and it’s like ‘fucking hell, this is even better’.
Trebuchet: Are you quite hands on in terms of the t-shirt designs? How does the process work?
Dale Butler: I literally go to an artist and tell him that I want some t-shirts designs, he’ll show me some designs, I say ‘I want four shirts’, he sends me some stuff, I say I want that, that, that and that. Done.
Trebuchet: Does he get a percentage of the merch or is it a fixed rate?
Dale Butler: Oh no. fixed rate! We don’t give anyone our merch. That’s the only way you can earn from a band these days. No one’s ever getting any of our merch.
We sell all of our own merch. We’ve got a merch guy tonight just because the dressing room is so far away from the merch table. We sell all of our own merch ourselves pretty much. Our online store is from our drummers garage. We post it all out ourselves. It’s a bit more effort but you make so much more money.
Trebuchet: Tell me about your video clips. It’s looks like you guys enjoy making them…
Dale Butler: The last one was made ‘Awaken the Tides’ the one that we shot in a military bunker…
Trebuchet: …that was the time of long hair Dale, long hair and long beard…
Dale Butler: (laughs) Yeah that was a funny time of my life.
he had the lyrics tattooed on his back and he’s was like ‘that’s how much those lyrics mean to me’.
Trebuchet: Very Viking.
Dale Butler: Much more Viking!
The thing is, I decided to cut my hair as I couldn’t be arsed with it. I had it for ten years and I was like ‘Right, that’s it, I’ve paid my dues. I don’t care what anyone says I ain’t having long hair anymore. I don’t care what anyone says I’m not putting up with the upkeep! ‘
But that video we shot, we shot it in 24 hours and when I say 24 hours I mean 24 hours straight.
Everyone worked through the night. It got really bad ‘cos we all had to wear cold war nuclear suits and stuff. Worse still, since we hadn’t slept during the last shots we were all in these suits and hyperventilating. They had paramedics on site and they were telling us that we were going to prang out because we weren’t getting enough oxygen to our brains. So we were doing three minutes in suit, 20 minutes our of suit, then three minutes in suit… etc. But you know suffering for your art
…or at least suffering for your film clip.
Trebuchet: What can we expect from the tour?
Dale Butler: For every show of this tour we’re going on crazy early. Which is quite strange for us because we’re normally one of the later bands. This was a younger crowd for us so it was something that we needed to do to get out in front of younger kids.
Every band on this bill are fucking awesome so we’re not bitter about being low down but it’s just not our (regular) scene. It’s not somewhere we’re been before. We’re normally out with bands like Arch-enemy and Devildriver – these fucking brutal bands and we thought that we’ve got to branch out and explore other markets as we’ve done that scene to death. We’re not turning our backs on those fans but when we do headline runs we want more than one group of fans coming to see us.
So you can expect all the usual things that you expect from a Malefice show. We normally just kill ourselves on stage just to make sure that everyone has a good time.
..and everyone has had a good time on this tour. We’ve smashed it up. We’ve had a pit touching all four walls of the venue most nights and just been absolutely killing it live. Exceeding our own expectations because we’re relatively unknown in this market of people. Also we’ve structured our set so that it’s just brutal all the way through.
It’s just bounces hardcore, then it chugs, and then slams so that they’ve got no choice but to thrown themselves around.
Trebuchet: There’s a lot of political influence in your song writing.
Dale Butler: Yeah?
Trebuchet: I mean, while there’s the typical metal posturing of ‘yarg things are fucked up’ there seems to be a positive spin on it.
Dale Butler: Our lyrics… a lot of them are lessons. I grew up listening to Corey Taylor from Slipknot and I wrote the same way he does because of that. There’s no point being negative and saying ‘aw my life’s shit because this happened’ it’s about giving a message.
I did some fucking stupid things when I was growing up and if anyone can listen to my words and relate to it and think that it’s okay to fuck up sometimes but it’s what you take from it…
One of our songs minutes is all about people worrying about what tomorrow will bring, for instance people thinking ‘aw shit I’ve got an exam tomorrow’ but then when you get there you’re like ‘I know this shit, what was I worrying about’.
Now a kid came up to me the other night after a show and told me how much that song meant to him and then took his shirt off and he had the lyrics tattooed on his back and he’s was like ‘that’s how much those lyrics mean to me’.
I didn’t even have to explain the song to him and HE told ME what this song was about and I was just like ‘you got it, you got it’.
The hours it takes me to structure these songs were suddenly worth it if just one person comes up to me and is moved or says that they learnt that there’s no point worry about the future might bring. You make your own future. So you can either sit there worrying about it and fuck it all up or you can do something about it and bring something to your life. That was just it. That summed up everything I’ve always spoke about.
Trebuchet: Is that a thread that runs through the Malefice stuff?
Dale Butler: Yeah, different takes on that. We touch on the London bombings in one of our songs and we got in a lot of trouble over it.
There was an Iranian TV show that filmed us here (UK) for a show and the lyrics to ‘Hatred Justified’ and they were concerned that it promoted anti-terror in a poor way. It was about the spirit of Britain and the spirit of London during the Blitz.
It’s going nothing to do with your religion or the colour of your skin or how you believe or what god you worship. It’s about how our country has always come together when it needed to and that Britain is a multicultural society. It shows that multicultural societies work… and they just didn’t get it. In the end, I to let it going and just think ‘well they can just believe whatever they want’ even though I knew it wasn’t what the song was about. I grew up in this country, I’ve seen everything and some people get it and some people don’t. You can’t convince everyone I suppose.
…but that isn’t going to stop Malefice from trying. For Dale being in a band is a reality that he’s had to make work and that he continues to make work.
As they take the stage they use every trick in the book. Classical symphonic bombast as they hit the stage, bouncing riffs, heavy drops, double-timing bass beats, and frenetic energy. The band is tight.
The honesty that is Malefice comes through in their politics, their ethos and their openess to demystify the touring rock thing. The smoke and mirrors, us and them, elevated performer and rank audience separation that holds acts back is refused with an almost visceral hatred by Malefice. It feels good seeing a band with this level of conviction and dedication seek out new audiences.
Beyond any fashion it’s their honesty that allows their new shirts to be worn with pride by generation after generation while their contemporaries fade away.
Dale Butler from Malefice was interviewed by Kailas Elmer for Trebuchet Magazine on March 17th 2012 at the Islington Academy 2012. Photos by Carl Byron Batson.
Supporting: Cytota, Adept (Swedish), Heaven shall Burn (Germany), Rise to remain.