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Grand (Inter)National: John Butler talks with us about Australia, politics and going dread-less 

Get a good look at those dreads, 'cause you ain't gonna see 'em again.The Source caught up with Aussie sensation John Butler over the phone

click to enlarge Get a good look at those dreads, 'cause you ain't gonna see 'em again.
  • Get a good look at those dreads, 'cause you ain't gonna see 'em again.
Get a good look at those dreads, 'cause you ain't gonna see 'em again.The Source caught up with Aussie sensation John Butler over the phone last week before he and his band played in Flagstaff, Ariz. Their latest release, Grand National, has gone multi-platinum and enjoyed worldwide success. And it all started in 1998 with Butler busking on the streets of Fremantle, a small port city just south of Perth, on the West Coast of Australia. Which is where we began our line of questioning...

The Source Weekly: What's it like being so huge in Australia and then coming to the US as a lesser known act? Is it strange or do you like being somewhat anonymous?

John Butler: There's a big difference between mainstream popularity and underground popularity, which is what I guess we kind of have over here now after seven or eight years of [touring] America. We kind of just build it up from the ground up [so] by the time you're kind of getting to where your status is in the well-known region, it's solid and it just stays for a long time. That's kind of what's happened in Australia, every step of the way it's grown slowly, it's never been like a huge splash and so by the time we were big, the roots were very deep, it wouldn't really matter what storm came by, what we built wouldn't be knocked over.

Is it nice to go around and not worry about people coming up to you all the time though?
You know I don't mind that. To a certain degree, people are pretty polite in Australia. I'm not like a huge celebrity [there] because I'm not a f***-up. Because I'm not a f***-up I'm not very interesting in that big paparazzi world so I'm not getting really hounded.


You're touring in the midst of a huge political surge right now in the States, what's the political atmosphere been like at concerts? Do you think the US is starting to progress in the right direction or do you think that the younger generation is still too unmotivated to make a real change?

Oh, America. Okay, well ... it's hard to tell. I don't really believe in politics as a practice unto itself. Politics is for the people and politics is to protect basic common sense. It's not really about us against them, blue against red - that's all a game to keep people separated. I think most people in this country want the same thing, whether they know it or not and whether they back McCain or Obama or a Muslim or a Christian or a black or a white or an atheist or a fundamentalist. I think we all want the same thing, most of us, unless we're crazy, and there are a couple lunatics out there who always ruin it for everybody - and there happens to be one running the country. We want clean air, we want clean water, we want peace, we want justice, we want freedom, we want equality - I don't know anybody who doesn't want that. I think it's changing slowly, I think it always has to get worse before it gets better.

Grand National has much more political and social commentary than your previous album Sunrise over Sea, can we expect more of this on your next album with all that's been going on in the world?

I use music as a vehicle to make sense of the world and to express how I feel about it and to use it as a kind of therapy. So there are probably going to be quite a few songs talking about what's going on around us. Not because I feel like I know something that other people don't know and not because I'm trying to tell them how to be - I think that would be a bad way to take my music. I'm more interested in the human condition ... looking at the anthropological kind of psychological reasons why we choose to kill each other or why we choose to love each other.

You've cut your dreads - why did you decide to get rid of the hairstyle that you've become known for?

I just didn't like them anymore. I had them for 13 years you know? People change. They didn't suit me. I just was sick of it, I needed a change and I like it a lot more ... It's not about how you look, it's not about what you wear, it's not about what god you worship - it's about what you have to offer.

The John Butler Trio, Crash Symphony
6:30pm Tuesday, September 9. Athletic Club of Bend, 61615 Athletic Club Dr. 385-3062. All ages. $58/dinner tickets and reserved seating; $26 reserved seating; $22 general admission.

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