The Radar: Josh Butler is the British house hit machine
No sooner had house music taken another cyclical swing onto the upper echelon of global club culture had Josh Butler launched into the night like an artist possessed. Aligned with the rise of the shuffle, the convergence of club and pop etiquette and an unfortunate bloating of the European big room market, the West Yorkshire-based upstart was plotting an agenda that not only would seal his name as one of the UK’s essential genre contenders, but one with little regard for following the dotted lines provided.
A successful first saunter into the North American market and an exaggerated presence on the digital market hasn’t hurt, adding to an already elaborate name for bringing the precious underground market a solid wave of accidental hits and enough modesty to remain completely content with the gradual footsteps of his promising musical aura. “Things just suddenly got a bit mental for me,” he laughs, alluding not only to the trail of North American dates just passed, but the stacked global itinerary facing him at the outset of the summer. “It feels like you spend so much time working on your craft behind the scenes and within your own remits that when bigger audiences finally catch on, you can’t quite believe it is happening to you.”
Hits were never the intention for the humble Leeds upstart. Once scoped to be an unreleased gem, his MTA debut “Got A Feeling” would set a precedent for the enthusiasm that has carried Butler forward amid the modern house spike. Subsequent Beatport awards, follow-up label success and an inauguration to such esteemed imprints as MadTech and Roush were the immediate indicator that the timing and the talent had coupled to give Butler a deserved break into the limelight.
On the other side of the coin sits an unexpected panache for bringing pop music into the underground sound scope. This moment of clarity came with remix duties for Ellie Goulding’s “Goodness Gracious,” an expertly timed digression from straight club records that highlighted not only Butler’s experimental flare, but the numbers and enthusiasm that are meeting it along the way. ‘I was surprised to see the remix get an official release full stop, let alone reach such a buzz ahead of release. Every time I refreshed the page a few hundred thousand plays seemed to have equated. That kind of buzz is definitely going to take some getting used to.’
Why then did it take ten years for Butler to find this supposedly implausible balance among the golden boys of British house music? Having relocated to New Zealand in his younger years, the return to West Yorkshire would set in motion an orchestrated focus timed perfectly to the peaks and troughs of dance music’s cyclical tendencies.
‘The timing was just spot on. I started honing in on my sound and trying to work out exactly what I could bring to the table and then made the first mark just as the market was growing. It was an accidental leap into an exaggerated audience, but when you arrive to such a huge buzz all you want to do is better yourself to fit the bill.’
As far as Josh is concerned, what we see today simply couldn’t have happened anywhere else. It’s a matter of musical pedigree, one that he hasn’t forgotten amid all the globetrotting ventures. ‘You look at the heritage and the influence that England has had on all genres of music and you really feel like you are a small part of something far bigger and timeless. There is still a hotbed of talent in this country, be it dance, pop or alternative. I’m just happy to be a part of this musical gold mine.’
As enthusiastic as he is, Butler remains skeptical of the bigger picture now facing his craft and the legions of overnight advocates claiming their stake along the way. ‘Everyone seems to be getting on it these days, don’t they?” he laughs. ‘On the plus it means I can go and play to larger and way more enthusiastic crowds than I could have say two years ago. The downside is a lot of those people want to be out there DJing as well. As a result I feel the standard can suffer – we end up with a rift of bandwagon DJs and acts who are in it to be seen as part of some cultural shift.’
If Josh is to continue to assert himself as the authentic British house evangelist, it certainly isn’t to be through criticizing the clingers-on. Past dual residencies for Sankeys and Creche on the White Isle and an impressive back-and-forth of global tour and festival duties, Butler remains ardent on letting the music do the talking throughout 2014. He’s primed a collaborative spree with Bontan, remixes for both MTA and Lost Records, and is pretty confident that an inaugural North American run was just the start of his ramblings with the increasingly enthusiastic nation.
For now though, the bar is set considerably high, not only by the masses now tuned in to Josh Butler’s experimental club aptitude, but by the man behind the meticulous beats himself. ‘It’s about challenging and bettering yourself in the studio every time, which can be hard when the market bows increasingly towards one solitary sound or movement. Beating the last record on a personal level is where you really feel the progress. That is natural evolution, it’s that sort of organic success that is tastes the sweetest.’