Harry Stafford and Marco Butcher have never actually met in the flesh. But they are punk soul brothers from the same muddy musical pond.
With a year long’s pandemic, it’s been a long time in the wilderness, a musical ennui that we have called ‘lock down hell’… but in times of musical drought, creative people get to reach out online and make things happen.
So, that’s how Harry Stafford and Marco Butcher ‘met up’. Primarily it was to exchange ideas and talk about their musical influences. But after a while it soon became apparent that there was more to the ideas and wild notions, they were creating than a mere shared love of Swing, Be-bop, blues, post punk, trash and all the untamed genres in between.Now, as the innovative, juices began to boil, there was a frenetic exchange of digital files zinging back and forth across the Atlantic, and in no time, what materialised was a twelve track Album, Bone Architecture, that both of them had been itching to make . . .
Introduce yourself in less than 10 words…..
Harry Stafford, guitarist in swamp\rock band inca babies
What made you want to get into music?
In 1977 I was in the thick of the punk revolution and I like pretty much everyone about me wanted to form a band. I was massively influenced by US bands The Ramones and NY Dolls and UK bands like The Clash, Wire and The Fall.
If you were young (14) and creative this new music shook your very soul. It threw us violently into the mad excitement and adventure of all the crazy possibilities now open to us. From this obtuse platform I formed various punk bands until in 1983 I formed inca babies who became part of the post punk rock style that became death rock influenced by bands like The Birthday Party, The Gun Club and The Cramps. From those days I have always been involved in music creation in bands and now as a solo artist writing songs with Brazilian punk-blues guitarist Marco Butcher.
How did you all meet?
Marco Butcher and I met up during lockdown on Facebook and Instagram as people with common interests -seemingly drawn together by some not completely useless algorithm.
Primarily it was to exchange ideas and talk about our musical influences. When he started telling me about all of the bands he was in or had been in and directing me to his YouTube channel it soon became apparent that there was more to the shared ideas and wild approach to Rock n Roll we were creating. Within the ideas and shared genres, Swing, Be-bop, blues, post punk, trash and all the untamed genres in between there suddenly became a gateway to a collaborative process. I also discovered when he was a delinquent teenager in the 80s (in Sao Paulo, Brazil) his ‘go to’ band of choice was inca babies, how cool is that!.
Also, we’ve never actually met as in face to face, he lives in North Carolina, USA, but we are punk soul brothers from the same muddy musical pond. And we decided to make an album (two actually) swapping files across the pond until we had something we could release.
What’s the writing process?
Marco comes up with some music, and I throw down some piano and guitar and vocals, he then takes it back for consideration and adds bits here and there and suggests an arrangement, I then tweak it into a collective masterpiece, or something like that. We have many efforts that didn’t turn out as masterpieces, so the technique is not fool proof. Sometimes we sent the idea to Kevin G. Davy who ads some cool trumpet into the mix, as he has done with Juniper Sunday.
What come first lyrics or music?
It was a tie, but they both failed a dope test.
What has been the best gig you’ve ever played and why?
We used to tour a lot in Europe, and we were given some amazing stages to play. Once in Nov 1984 we supported Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Berlin at the Metropol, only to be told by another promoter that after we finished our set, to quickly get in the van and come and play at The Kob an Anarcho punk Squat down the road in Villa Kreutzberg. Two gigs in one night!! We only saw a bit of Nick Cave before we had set up and played till 2 in the morning to a really wild crowd at the Kob. Amazing times. Some people saw us at both gigs, it’s a wild city.
What was the last track you played on Spotify?
The Dead Brothers – 5th Sin-Phonie
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
Everything, and yet nothing because it’s too late. The industry is a self-contained artless conglomerate, it is a corporation, it is Amazon, it is Apple, it is a rogue government, it is a dictatorship – it does nothing to further anything but the global standing of its power and wealth, and thus artistically it is a useless commodity.
Music is the name of their pain, if only it would behave itself and cease to exist. So they must make it conform to a virtual and bland entity. When music is virtual and of no discernible significance then to the population ‘music’ as such does not exist. There is a product called ‘music’ but it has absolutely no value , soul or merit.
So, I must be a complete mug, because I still don’t believe that a song has been released unless you can buy it on a CD or a vinyl record. Which is of course madness, as I can barely shift sufficient units to break even let alone make a profit.
What is depressing though is that there’s too much of it and it’s all aiming for the same market. Spotify post something preposterous like 10,000 new tunes a week. Much of this product cancels itself out and it’s usually the artist with the biggest marketing budget who can aggressively persuade their product to be noticed.
When target audience is anyone . . . everyone . . . the population . . . the world, the records that get to the top are involuntarily injected into people who actually don’t like music, but their one exception of the year will be this click bait that they can’t get out of their head.
Music is little more than an ethereal idea that exists to be a commodity to have – for free – and because it is free it becomes the dispossessed soundtrack to other ‘more valuable’ pursuits like gaming, Netflix TV seasons, YouTube channels and social media scrolling.
Music is not to be listened to but to be surreptitiously introduced as a tempo for commercial mood or product influence.
The music Industry allowed this to happen by refusing to invest in experimental, progressive, and artistic music. In doing so they created the lowest common denominator market where everyone likes beige because that’s the only colour that’s available.
Too many people make music to try and please everyone, and in doing so please no one.
On the plus side, the action lies outside the industry. There has to be a lot said about bands finding an audience and catering solely for them.
A couple of years ago – pre Covid, I went to see Girl Band (now – Gilla Band) who were recommended to me (by blogger Adam Hammond) and I was amazed that there were still bands who could gather an audience playing decidedly un-melodic, and dare I say it, music that had an ‘Avant Guarde’ direction.
They were very anti FM radio guitar music and for me they were brilliant. Years ago, there was a much bigger audience for this kind of thing and a gig like this today is such a rare thing. Or maybe I am just completely out of touch.
I did like the time when there were more music genres, Reggae/dub seems to have disappeared, industrial bands making atonal variants on a three-minute pop song seem few and far between, Experimental reverb storms and grinding walls of noise all in the name of art don’t have the same artistic value they once did. They still exist but few are talking about them.
People seem to choose music as a temporary lifestyle as opposed to what it actually is which for me was an aesthetically driven musical existence. Almost tribal in your belonging to this group.
I am always interested in what some people play in their cars when they drive by. Blokes in fast cars will play ‘sweary’ rap music for pugnacious effect, others will have double speed EDM to show they are party animals. Mostly it will be dance music that suggests they are in constant holiday mode. Of course, there is little wrong with this but, are they listening to the music or just watching out for our reaction.
The music press is mostly now online. The music reviewers who have the biggest audience are the main Daily Newspapers – Guardian, Mail, Telegraph, Independent and aware that they are losing readers try to win over the younger consumer by gushing over the new pop, hip hop and soul from the major labels, failing to understand that this young consumer will never read their fogey newsprint. The Newspapers readership is older and uninterested in this new music. The resulting vacuum means that in their zealous youthful thrust, the newspapers have managed to please no one, and their words are tickertape in the wind.
In promoting the New Record Bone Architecture by Harry Stafford and Marco Butcher, I was given various pieces of advice, one of which was to aim at a jazz audience because we had the mighty trumpet of Kevin G. Davy on board, and we could possibly get some jazz audience engagement there.
It even got us a review staying we were truly cool Jazz greats, I think the reviewer failed to listen to the record, but I am obviously delighted for his or her input. Ultimately, this was unhelpful, because we were a swamp-blues, post-punk, act. We didn’t get a new audience, and our situation had not improved.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
Interestingly I am working on a project with Keith Levene who provided the astonishing guitar on Metal Box by PiL, and who has also worked with The Red-Hot Chilli Peppers, Pigface and Jah Wobble. We have been in the rehearsal studio trying out a few ideas which is really intriguing, and it should make for a compelling project.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Practice, a lot, music sounds better if the band have actually practiced. When I play solo piano gigs, I was once told by David Bowie, “never name drop.”
I mean, make sure you can play the song inside out so as you don’t fuck it up, and remember you are playing piano and singing, both need to be completely flawless. When you play in a band there is less pressure, but you still need to practice.
If you could open for any band / act / solo artist, who would it be?
Can I open for Tom Waits?
What’s in store for you when all this is over?
I guess it all comes to an end one day, but I don’t want to think about that yet,
# one kind favour I’ll ask of you, see that my grave is kept clean#
How is lock down effecting the music scene?
Far too many people are still afraid to go out, and unfortunately the longer this fear remains the live music scene will suffer. You can’t blame them, but they still make up the numbers and can be the difference of a promoter taking a risk or covering his loses by only booking sure fire things like cover bands . . . . . !
What’s the scene like where you are from?
Manchester is a hybrid of many wonderful musical things, but I think there is a little too much nostalgia at the moment, something though is probably just around the corner, and it’ll be fabulous. Manchester is basically a city that likes to dance, and that kind of music will always produce more bands and interest than say dirty rock, trash blues or metal.
The Inca babies in the 80s were the only goth band in Manchester, and we were snubbed by the art bands and flexi indie foppery that was popular at the time, but we survived and still play to this day, now, I think that’s sheer bloody mindedness!!
Talk us through the new track & video
From the 2021 Album Bone Architecture comes the haunting and melancholic ode to lost love that is Juniper Sunday. which is considered to be one of the highlights from last year’s Album. Harry Stays this of the title song:
‘Juniper Sunday’, is my favourite track from the Album, ‘Bone Architecture’ by Harry Stafford and Marco Butcher. It’s one of the jazzier cuts from the album. Along with some cool vibraphones there is the astonishing trumpet of Kevin G Davy who brings further layers of the blues to the story of Juniper Sunday.
Harry Stafford penned the tale of a girl he once knew from the 80s, “It’s ultimately a sad song as Juniper is long gone now, and I only knew a few moments of her life which were glorious and so worth celebrating. She was the one who you were glad got away, but you might always love the most.”
Maybe it’s a Ruby Tuesday song Jennifer Eccles or an Eleanor Rigby song in context, but often these are the saddest songs of all. Harry Stafford.
With a remix and a collection of new tracks there are three new tunes which span the styles and interests of Harry Stafford and Marco Butcher, from Jazz and blues to Latin and post punk.
In this Film Marco’s wife Allie Jade Butcher plays Juniper Sunday as a lost love to a (now much older) man who is looking for her grave. The film was shot in Southern Cemetery, Manchester on a glorious autumn evening.
Where can we find out more?
My name is Harry Stafford and this year I released my third Solo Album in September 2021 with Brazilian Punk Guitarist Marco Butcher who I met online and collaborated with to write and record ‘Bone Architecture’. It’s a collection of our favourite genres of punk, blues, jazz, rock, soul, and rockabilly with a Pink Floyd track (Arnold Layne) thrown in for good measure. It Rocks. https://open.spotify.com/artist/5JXtZ10c6Bah5IRERYaln0?si=y_Vp0DaBRi-j5VcLmzoXkQ