Page last updated at 09:58 GMT, Saturday, 14 February 2009

Talking Shop: Bernard Butler

Bernard Butler and Duffy
Duffy handed Butler the Brit Award and Music Producers' Guild trophy
As a member of Suede, Bernard Butler was a guitar hero who helped write some of the biggest indie anthems of the 1990s, and helped usher in Britpop in the process.

Butler has moved behind the mixing desk and has won the Brit Award for best producer and the Music Producers' Guild award for producer of the year.

He co-produced, co-wrote and played guitar on the UK's biggest-selling album of 2008 - Rockferry by Duffy - as well as taking the controls for artists such as Black Kids, Tricky, The Libertines and Sharleen Spiteri.

After the Music Producers' Guild ceremony in London, he spoke about the art of production, new Duffy material, and why a Suede reunion is unlikely.


You've worked with a variety of artists - what do you try to achieve with all of them?

I just want to make records that I like. That's all. If I don't like it, then no-one else is going to like it.

I know what kind of environment they want to be in - because I've been in environments that I don't like
Bernard Butler on producing for other artists

How do you decide which artists to work with?

If I like them. I'm lucky because what's happened has been really quick so I've been offered things that I just like, and I've got lucky.

With someone like Duffy, I just met her. Anyone in this room could have met her on the same day and I just got lucky. We wrote a song the first day we met. That song was called Rockferry. That became the title track of her album, and that's history.

Why do artists come to you - what do you bring that other producers might not?

To some people, it's useful that I'm a songwriter and musician. I see things in terms of songs before I see the studio. I'm thinking about the studio in my mind but I'm not discussing the studio.

You come at it from a songwriter and artist's perspective?

Yeah, you understand what's going on, and you can double-cross them a little bit because you know what they're thinking, and know how to deal with it.

I know what they want. I know what kind of environment they want to be in. Because I've been in environments that I don't like.

Producing is mysterious to a lot of people - how hard is it, and how hard is it to deal with artists?

if you can help lift somebody for three minutes out of that dreary existence then I think that's a major achievement

I don't find many artists difficult at all. No-one's said it should be easy, and it's not easy. The prize is big, and it's a great prize. Not these [pointing to awards] - I mean the prize of making a great record that moves somebody. I'm completely devotional about that idea - I have been since I was a kid.

Pop music has a currency that goes beyond lots of other art forms. I do something that I really love and a lot of people I know don't do things they love.

If you can help lift somebody for three minutes out of that dreary existence then I think that's a major achievement.

Who are you working with at the moment?

At the moment I'm working with Duffy.

There have been some reports about her changing direction and going all Mariah.

[Sarcastically] Oh yeah, that's exactly the truth. If I had a pound for every time Duffy changed direction…

What's the new material sounding like?

We both have very eclectic tastes. What's brilliant about Duffy is that it's completely personality driven and those are the people I love the most.

Whatever she's like that day is how the song will be that day, and that will drive whatever direction we take. And we don't care what kind of direction it takes, as long as it's something we're both totally moved by.

I wouldn't put your money on any particular angle if I were you.

How did you make the move from artist to producer, and is this the future for you?

Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler as The Tears
Butler (right) and Brett Anderson got back together as The Tears

I know it looks like this, but I still don't see myself as a producer. I never saw myself as a guitar player, or in any particular role. I've always played piano on records, produced, played tambourine, done everything I can.

I want to be involved in great records, whatever it means. I've played more guitar on more records in the last year than I have in most of the previous 10 years. But people ignore that completely because you're not on a stage doing it.

Do you get offers to do reform Suede?

I've never had an offer to do anything as Suede. There's several different line-ups of Suede as well, so I very much doubt they'd pick my one - too much of a liability.

Really? No festivals have offered you big bucks?

I'm obsessively opposed to nostalgia. I hate the idea of it. It doesn't work. And it doesn't interest me at all.

What's important is not what I did last week, it's what I'm going to do next week. I made great records - I love them. My kids play them now. But that's for them and everyone else.

There's an awful lot of Britpop reunions going on at the moment and I find it embarrassing, personally. I think it's got no relevance to what's going on at the moment.

I know it's good fun and everything and sure, you can't deny someone a good night out but personally, I just feel uncomfortable with nostalgia.

If I could dedicate six months of my life to one thing, would it be somebody who's doing something that's interesting and totally new, or something that reflects something I did 15 years ago?

You couldn't possibly be a human being and be motivated by that.

Butler was talking to BBC News music reporter Ian Youngs.

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SEE ALSO
Suede star attacks revival trend
14 Feb 09 |  Entertainment
Butler wins Brits producer award
13 Feb 09 |  Entertainment
Duffy and Coldplay top Brits nods
21 Jan 09 |  Entertainment
Duffy and Burke top 2008 charts
29 Dec 08 |  Entertainment
Britpop stars Suede announce split
06 Nov 03 |  Entertainment

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