Exposure: Ben Butler and Mousepad
Ben Butler and Mousepad - Mousepad
The geeks will inherit the earth. So it was prophesied that men wearing big glasses and bright jumpers, and carrying around portable Yamaha keyboards in their backpacks would come to replace posturing rock stars as the MySpace heroes of a new generation. If nerdcore is the new hardcore then Ben Butler is the hardest of all the nerds. Not his real name, Ben Butler is yet another alias of synthesizer polymath Joe Howe, the 25-year-old behind Gay Against You and Germlin. We've come to expect a fair amount of electronic antagonisation from his other acts, but Ben Butler is a simpler pleasure, formed out of a nostalgic love of synth-playing ranging from Herbie Hancock to Rick Wakeman. Joe explains.
How long has Ben Butler existed?
I had a dream about the name and a character called Ben Butler about six months ago, in May or June, and then the actual music started being made in July and August last year. I had plans to do a new project for a while, but obviously had been busy with Gay Against You for a long time and hadn't really had a chance. I had two months in Berlin in the summer, making an album with Momus (the Joemus album), and that was a really good chance to get going with it.
What kind of character is Ben?
Well, in the dream the guy was a Computing Science lecturer that had a band, and the band was Mousepad, and he thought that it was the coolest name ever. I just decided that when your subconscious comes up with something like that it's so much better than thinking of something that's really laboured. You can easily get sick of something that you've actually thought of. He's kind of a geeky, dorky guy who thinks he's really cool but probably isn't.
Ben's been described as nerdcore. Do you think that does him justice?
That's come up before, I quite like that. I think nerdy but mildly sexy (if such a thing is possible).
Ben Butler and Mousepad goes back to basics, evoking Eno and Italodisco and other classic synth music. Why this return?
A lot of the reason why I started Ben Butler is I wanted a band that was about playing. Gay Against You is very performance based; it engages the audience and it's dramatic, exciting and sometimes antagonistic - quite an in your face thing - but it's not really about playing. I love to play, and most of my other projects haven't had room for, for example, half-an-hour of keyboard solos. I sat down and literally played it all into my sequencer. It totally comes from a love of performing and improvising.
Do you have a favourite synth?
There's this place called the EMIS, which is a synthesizer museum in Bristol. I went in on the most recent tour and bought a Korg Poly-61 which is an eighties, two oscillator, five-octave synth. It's really good to play; it's that wonderful sound that you hear all over synth records and Italo records. My trusty synth is the Yamaha CS-01. It's a little mono synth with only two-octaves but you get some really great sounds out of that. Also it's tiny and you can carry it around dead easily.
You've got a new Gay Against You album coming out soon. Do you have a release date for that?
No we don't unfortunately, but I can tell you it's coming out on Adaadat Records on CD and on Upset the Rhythm Records on Vinyl - should be in May or June, we're just waiting on the last of the artwork. There's also a new Germlin album coming out after that and also a bunch of Ben Butler releases as well.
Ben Butler and Mousepad play Nuts and Seeds at Cassette, Glasgow on Feb 8.