The John Butler Trio: Living Colour.

17 February 2003 | 1:00 am | Brett Collingwood
Originally Appeared In

No Place Like Home.

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Living is in stores now.

"I definitely wanted it to sound like a gig and not a polished-off, bastardised version of it. I mean we did clean up bits and pieces as you do in post-production, but I definitely wanted it to stay true to a sound, true to the sound at least that I think I hear."

John Butler's summation of his Trio's new live album Living is certainly telling. Live albums, let's face it, are generally crap. In most cases, a live album is overdubbed later in the studio and slapped with a thick layer of gloss, until it can hardly be called ‘live’ at all. Not so the John Butler Trio - their live album is a double-disc extravaganza that truly captures the rawness and passion coming from the stage. The band's stellar musicianship shines like a beacon on extended, jammed-out takes on old favourites like Pickapart and Better Man, and you're left with the feeling that the band needed to document their incendiary live show before they move on to the next phase of their development. Currently on a six-month break in order to concentrate his energies on his new baby daughter Banjo, Butler agrees that the live album represents the end of a chapter.

"It's definitely a new time, and a closing of a time. I definitely think that. There's been lots of changes going on - in the world, lots of changes for me personally; I've just had a baby. I think there's lots of changes in the band as well, everybody just having things that they want to do, so it's definitely a new time, and there's sounds that I want to get out that are different, and it's a new time to start. Mind you, we'll always play Pickapart and Valley and Better Man, I mean I still write songs in that feel nowadays, that are pretty rocky, but there's so many more spectrums of the rainbow that I want to look at. Just to kind of open up the genre of the music too, so fans and myself and the music as it's seen is not seen as rock or blues or as this or that, it's seen as an artist's usic, you know. People like Paul Kelly or Beck, you know, they can do what they want, and I think that's definitely where I want my music to go, so it's not bordered or trapped in any corner."

Featured at the end of the live album is the new studio track Home Is Where The Heart Is, which, as well as offering a scathing lyrical attack on Mr Howard's indefensible stance on refugees, highlights a new sense of economy and simplicity musically.

"It's meant to be just more groove-orientated, not so cluttered-up, a bit more space and a bit more rhythm," John elaborates. "So that's just what I wanted to hear, that's kind of where I'm moving, into a more sort of rhythm-based music, not having to play a million guitar notes and a million bass notes and a million drum notes, you know? The arrangement was made for radio definitely. I mean, I think the lead break could have gone on for longer if I'd wanted to. If we played it live, each section would probably have gone on for a bit longer. But everything was said, I didn't feel like playing a full-on shredding solo, I felt like playing more of a riff, you know, with the bass player and just elaborating on that. It definitely was arranged to a radio length, but when I look back on it kind of says everything it needs to say."

With such topical lyrical content, were you a bit nervous at how some sections of the public would receive the song?

"I haven't gotten any backlash, I expected more! I kind of thought, essentially, most young people think that way, but even if no-one thought that way, I thought it was a really good point of view to put across, because I know it's not just mine, it's lots of people's, and some times people just need to say it. Sometimes when you say something you pay the price, and I did consider (the possibility of) legal action from the government, for saying the government's full of racial hate. But at the same time, it had to be said, and we just recorded it really quick and got it out; I figured we had to get it out now rather than after the fact. It had to be part of a voice, part of the reactionary voice to the government."