In Conversation with Guy Buttery

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We catch up with the guitarist on his tour around South Africa

Guy Buttery © Eric Kruse Photography

You’ve been touring all over the country since the beginning of the year. When taking on a local tour, we’ve noticed you enjoy sharing the stage with the likes of Shane Cooper, Nibs van der Spuy, and Dan Patlansky. Can you tell us about the camaraderie you have with your fellow local guitarists and how essential it is to support one another in the industry?

I feel very privileged to have worked with the artists mentioned above and have a ton of respect for each of them as individuals and, more importantly, as human beings. There are many pluses to the small and intimate nature of the SA music industry but the one that almost always reveals itself is the brotherhood/sisterhood between musicians (and across genres) in this country. The bush telegraph between artists about new gear, gigs and obscure artists is constantly in communication and always feels very much like home. This support structure often makes this whole thing possible and is something I don’t take for granted.

You partnered up for a tour with the US iconic guitar player Kaki King. Tell us how you met and what chemistry you have with on stage?

Kaki and I met at a solo show I was doing in NYC a few years back. The tour I was on at that time consisted of dates throughout Europe, the UK, Canada and obviously the USA as well. The show Kaki attended of mine was hands down the kakkest out of the lot. Being a self-confessed teetotaller most of the time whilst on tour, I’m always well slept and ready for the shows night after night. This all changed in NYC that day when I got trapped (half-intentionally) inside a music venue at a Pixies show and couldn’t leave. The venue didn’t serve any food. Just beer. It didn’t end well for me. Kaki came to the show the day after the night before. It wasn’t pretty but she has finally forgiven me and even invited me to stay at her place last year on another trip out that way. We’d been talking about doing these dates together ever since. The shows are our first together and judging by the jams we did at her place, the music promises to stretch out and go deep.

You released your self-titled album last year which was received in high praise and recognition of your craft and songwriting narrative. Can you share with us your approach to writing an album and what elements you look for before you go into studio?

My most recent album was a long time coming. The idea’s were vast and vary a fair bit from tune to tune, however the overall theme of the record focuses on creating a new language for South African music. An international SA if you like. This entailed many collaborations including appearances by Vusi Mahlasela, Dan Patlansky, Piers Faccini and multi-Grammy Award winner, Will Ackerman. In studio my focus for the music is often based on specific textural idea’s, but often in the studio this all changes and something totally unexpected is often born.

You’ve played in an array of environments. From nature to churches, festivals, houses, cafes, yoga rooms and community centres. Which sets have you walked away from feeling supported by life for the path you’ve chosen?

People often forget how important the audience is at each concert. Their willingness to exchange energy, open up and be vulnerable to the music being created before them, is integral to a concerts success. I’ve been fortunate to have been apart of this kind of interaction many times in all my years doing this and it is definitely something that keeps me going.

How often do you take time outs from touring and writing to just be inspired? Where do you go to find inspiration?

So far 2017 has been a little crazy with tours around the country almost non-stop since January but it goes like this sometimes. I’m generally pretty good with allowing myself some downtime, even if it’s just for an afternoon here and there. In terms of writing music, I find this imperative. The ability to be still is key to creativity in my case. I will be touring Thailand this May/June and have allowed some time off after the shows there which includes a lengthy mountain journey into some pretty rural places. I hope to find whatever it is that I’m looking for out there.

Who’s on your radar to listen out for locally and what tops your playlists these days?

Locally, I absolutely loved BCUC’s album last year as well as a great Afro-psych compilation I picked up released by South African re-issue label, Matsuli Music. Internationally speaking, I’ve been giving a lot of time to Kishori Amonkar, Delia Derbyshire Appreciation Society, Francis Bebbey, and I seemed to fallen in love with Bjork all over again.

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