Seven Songs from Arkansas
REVEALING INTERVIEW WITH Butane Maclane By John Garabedian Sunday Times Gazette Note: This interview was conducted early Sunday morning after a blazing show at the downtown Metropolitan Club performed by MacLane and his band. The guitar player later held court at the nearby Denny's, signing autographs and chatting with fans. J.G.: I feel like James Lipton with my questions written on these little white cards. B.M.: The cards aren't so little, John. It's the size of the questions that worries me. By the way, I think my last two interviews were done by Armenian Americans. I hope I phrased that properly. Is this some kind of media take-over, Mr. Garabedian? J.G.: I don't think so. No one on the inside has told me anything. B.M.: Yet. J.G.: Correct. B.M.: The last reporter was, ah, Hagopian, actually Der Hagopian. What's Der mean? J.G.: It's a religious thing. It means priest, like there was a priest in the family. B.M.: Are there any Der Garabedians? J.G.: Nope, no priests in my family. B.M.: Heathens, eh? I sensed that already, you hanging out at night in Denny's and all. You know, I've never noticed a Der in front of Kardashian, either. More like a Duh. A couple months ago I saw what's her face, Kim, at a club in Los Angeles. Man, that chick is stop-the-traffic gorgeous. Lustrous black hair and almond Euphrates eyes. Breathtaking. Her hind-end is so wide I bet has it's' own heart and lung system. Fantastic, man. She must keep Oleg Cassini on full-time working on the moustache camouflage. It looks like one of those Errol Flynn pencil-line jobs, you know what I'm sayin'? J.G.: You're kidding. B.M.: Would I kid an Armenian media mongol, I mean mogul? J.G.: I'm not sure, Mr. MacLane, not sure. B.M.: I prefer Mr. MacLane, sir. J.G.: Yes, sir. B.M.: And add the comma, please. And say it loud if you can. MISTER MACLANE COMMA SIR. Like that. J.G.: Are you serious? B.M.: I'm foolin' witcha. Please call me Butane. J.G.: Do you mind if I shuffle the deck, Mr. Butane? B.M.: (as W.C. Fields) Pick a card, any card. Life's short. Take a chance. J.G.: Okay, who was your best boss in the music business? I mean the best, say, manager, promoter, club owner, you know. B.M.: Hands down, don't even have to think about it - the Hell's Angels. J.G.: Now you're kidding me! B.M.: Any man that would kid about the Angels would probably make that mistake once. Believe me. I'm absolutely serious. The best to work for, bar none. Nowadays, everyone and their sister rides a shiny new Harley. I ain't talkin' about that, my friend. I'm talking the real thing, John. I've played Angel clubs, picnics, and never found more honest businessmen, fair, respectful of the band and gentlemen around our womens. God's honest truth. Plus, a very appreciative audience because they've lived the stuff I sing about. But, you know, I had to be on my toes. I wasn't walkin' into Sunday church services. I admit I had to step it up a couple notches in that environment. Except once. J.G.: Tell me about it? B.M.: Must I? J.G.: You must. B.M.: (Deep sigh) Oh, Lordy, Lordy, hep' me now. Years ago I showed up half-cooked at one of their big picnics. They'd invited a rival gang and I understood beforehand there might be some, ah, inconvenience. So, my crazy drummer and I went to this joint before the gig, you know, the kind of dump you enter to forget, so you have to pay in advance. J.G.: Uh, huh. B.M.: Well, I show up, ah, how should I say this, bombed, yeah, that's the word, bombed, out of my skull shitfaced. I had a few thousand one-percenters that didn't want to talk to each other staring at ME for the first couple songs. That sobered me up quick. Eventually, my legs stopped shaking and I finally hit a groove, but my mind was playin' tricks on me that day. Anyhow, in the end it all went well. I got to talk with a lot of the guys and, apparently, they hadn't even noticed! I remember the Sergeant-at Arms being very kind to me that afternoon, very protective. I'll never forget it. J.G.: Hmm. Sounds pretty hairy. B.M.: Yes. Much hair, mucho hairy. J.G.: If they were the best, I can't wait for who's the worst. B.M.: One encounters a lot of fools in this game. Let me think. Oh man, so many small-time gangster wanna-be club-owners, especially on the East Coast. Half-assed promoters, you know, thieves. I've got one for you. I was playing a job outside New York City, I forget, maybe it was Long Island. One of my bandmates up and quit after a couple songs, put down his guitar and walked off the stage. Now I have to cover my parts, plus his parts, and sing at the same time. And I was sick that night. Stomach troubles, I'd eaten some tainted Hot Weenies in Providence the night before. So, I'm sweatin', pumpin' out the songs and, little by little, I start seein' crazy people in the audience. I think I'm hallucinating like I was back in the '60's. Which reminds me, ask me later about the time I took LSD before a performance. The only time. So, I'm seein' real crazy bastards with huge teeth, elongated craniums, six inch ears, droolin', grinning, yellin', happy as clams! Some start climbin' up on stage. I'm feelin' the pressure anyways, but this was getting weird. There were maybe twenty of 'em, then fifty, then hundreds! I found out later they'd opened the doors of the local mental institution! So, I'm working, they're screamin', doin' air guitars, and I begin seeing these button-down CIA types filtering in, mingling with the nuts, suit and tie guys with guns! I find out later a New York State Trooper convention was out partying! Now, I'm not sure who's crazy. J.G.: What a crew! B.M.: So, the kicker is, the son-of-a-bitch owner and the punk faux-Mafia promoter were trying to stiff me because my guy quit and it didn't sound exactly like the record! The little bastards, I can see them now. J.G.: Take it easy, Mr. Butane. Take a deep breath. B.M.: (Breathes deeply; closes eyes) Ah, thank you. I was having a shithead flashback. So, what did I do? I found a buzzcut drunk State Trooper and a 450 lb. Italian nut that looked like a grotesque Luciano Pavarotti on black market steroids. I tell these two pigs that the guy with the gun is my manager and the big guy that's drooling on the desk is my cousin Eugene who has a penchant for human flesh. J.G.: Ha, ha! B.M.: I gets my money, I pays everyone, I grab a plane to Jamaica and goes up into Cockpit Country for a month. You feelin' me now? J.G.: Sweet. I bet you've had plenty of wild times. B.M.: Oh, yeah mon. Here's our meal. Note: Without me knowing, MacLane had ordered a huge breakfast for both of us. I witnessed him slip the elderly waitress a fifty-dollar bill. J.G.: Do you mind if we keep rolling? B.M.: Not at all. J.G.: Okay, great. Here's another two-parter. B.M.: Shoot. J.G.: Who's the coolest musician you've ever met, and who's the uncoolest? B.M.: Cool and Uncool. Let's see. Well, I liked that little Bobby Dylan, he's a gas, but my mind hearkens back to one evening in 1964. Being from a contemporary generation, your mind might recall, or recollect, but my mind hearkens. Does it all the time. The two guys I'm thinking of appeared on the same night. Coolest: Brian Jones. Uncoolest: Mick Jagger. J.G.: Why Brian Jones? He was with the Stones, right? B.M.: There would be no Stones without Brian. Brian was the most legitimate rock star I ever met. As authentic as they come. Now, Hendrix was a great guy, genuine, a real sweet vibe, but Brian Jones, man, he was it. J.G.: And Jagger? B.M.: The same night I met Brian, Jagger showed up backstage at the old Rhode Island Auditorium. It's torn down now, but it used to be a hockey rink for the old Rhode Island Reds and a boxing arena where Rocky Marciano fought. The dressing rooms were converted locker rooms that smelled like a combination of rotten eggs and rancid socks. Well, Jagger was flittin' around with a feather boa around his neck, making everyone very uncomfortable. He's not exactly gay, you know, he's like a near miss. He seemed to be loaded on some kind of drug that had an extra dose of obnoxious in it. All of a sudden he grabs my face and tries to plant one on me! Jesus H. Christ Almighty. Unsolicited, mind you, John. Very uncool. I didn't know then he was destined to become one of greatest rock legends in history. I think if I saw him now I'd probably French him and maybe give his shriveled little English gonads a firm squeeze. J.G.: I see. B.M.: I see said the blind man. J.G.: Ah, what do you think of his singing? B.M.: One of the best. No doubt about it. But I think he can only hit High C when he backs into David Blowie. J.G.: Is that right? I'm, ah, you mentioned Dylan? B.M.: Were you just trying to figure out what Blowin' In The Wind means? Yes, Mr. Bob, the greatest artist of the last century. Bobby was a very nice guy - to me, anyway. I hear he can be a little poopie when he wants to be. But he was fun to be around. I mean he'll make you void your bladder, you know what I'm sayin'? Funny guy. If I saw him today I'd probably have to double-up on my Depens. J.G.: (Shuffles the cards) What's your favorite color? B.M.: Of Depens? I go for the basic... J.G.: No! I mean... B.M.: Ah, ha! The old card shuffle switch-er-roo! Two can play at that. What's yours? J.G.: Let me see. B.M.: Three seconds! J.G.: Red! B.M.: Communist, eh? J.G.: No, I, ah... B.M.: Pinko? Salmon eater are ya? J.G.: Not really. B.M.: Do you ever dream about Armageddon? J.G.: No. B.M.: When's the last time you saw your mother naked? J.G.: Never! Well, there... B.M.: Show me the face you had before you were born! J.G.: Alright, alright! No more switch-er-roo. Back to the straight questions. B.M.: That's right. The old straight and narrow. The American Way. By the way, I've got a new song coming out, a tribute to all my gay friends. It's called Queen of the Hop. A big-band sound with a bluesy/rock beat. Different, you know. Ain't that what it's all about? That straight and narrow is not only uninteresting, it's somniferous as well. So, watch my website, it'll be out soon. Queen of the Hop. Free download! Watch out Provincetown! You gonna be dancing this summer! J.G.: So, let me ask, at some point you branched out from music and went into writing. B.M.: Writing came out of me, I didn't go into it. J.G.: You write poetry, short stories and screenplays, right? B.M.: Right. That's what I write. J.G.: Tell us about that. B.M. Alright. Yes, it's true, I've got my finger in many pies. J.G.: Which genre do you prefer, writing, or music? B.M.: Music. Immediate gratification. The only sign of real maturity, in my opinion. J.G.: What inspires you the most about music? B.M.: The fainting women. I get to see the whole deal right before me - the rapture, the ecstasy, the actual fainting spells, the attempts to revive, the smelling salts, the mouth-to-mouth, the resuscitations. J.G.: Really? B.M.: Really, man. It's the apex of life for me. Then, after they can't be revived, there's the whole ambulance thing, the EMT's, the oxygen, the confusion, and, lastly, the piece de resistance, the wailing sirens fading into the distance. Extremely poignant. However, with any artistic pursuit, one must take the crust with the crumb. The last time I left Paris there were women sobbing and pulling their boyish Sassoons out of their heads on the Champs Elysees. Damn near broke my heart. J.G.: Really? I don't know about you, Butane. B.M.: That's the beauty of this whole thing. Neither do I. J.G.: May I ask a favor? B.M.: Sure enough may. J.G.: My girlfriend has a question. She wants to know if you ever worked with Springsteen. B.M.: Yes, I did, once. George was kind enough to play bass on a song I recorded years ago - Hubcap Men. George Springsteen. J.G.: No, I'm serious. B.M.: I am, too. J.G.: If I don't get this in she'll kill me. B.M.: She's serious, alright. J.G.: I must ask - have you ever worked with The Boss? B.M.: Oh, you're talkin' about what's his face there, Goose, ah, I mean Bruce, right? J.G.: Right. Bruce Springsteen. B.M.: You're kidding me now, right? No, never had the, ah, agony. He's kind of a Johnny-Come-Lately who was never invited to the dance to begin with. What's he the Boss of, anyway? A landscaping business in New Jersey? No one ever explained that to me. The Boss of What? And that flavor saver under his lower lip. What's he got in there? Macaroni? J.G.: So, I take it you don't like Springsteen. B.M.: I never liked a man I didn't meet. J.G.: What about his song writing? B.M.: Who cares what I think? J.G.: I promised my fiance. B.M.: Thirty seconds ago she was your girlfriend. What happened? J.G.: Oh, man! It slipped! I haven't told my parents yet! B.M.: Calm down. Nobody will ever read this. J.G.: So, for the record, so to speak... B.M.: You funny. J.G.: For the record, you're not fond of Bruce Springsteen. B.M.: Let me say this - he used to be decent, but he broke himself of the habit. J.G.: That explains it. B.M.: And this girlfriend/fiance thing. Take a tip from one who's tried. Why don't you find a nice homeless girl to date? You'd be performing an act of humanity by taking a homeless person to dinner. Besides that, afterwards you can just drop her off anywhere. J.G.: Hey, that'll work. B.M.: You know what they say? If the shoe fits, get another one just like it. J.G.: I see you still have fans waiting. Just a couple more questions, if that's okay. B.M.: Fire away, baby. J.G.: Um... B.M.: Um is not a question, nor an answer according to Judge Judy. And she should know. J.G.: Sorry. I got a little frazzled thinking about my girl. B.M.: Forget about her. You got Butane now. J.G.: Okay, here's one. When you write songs, do you ever collaborate? B.M.: The only place two heads are better than one is on a boat. J.G.: Do you like sports? B.M.: Love sports. Lifelong Red Sox fan. J.G.: How are they doing this year? B.M.: It's early, but so far, not so good. All I've seen are guys that that can strike out on two pitches. J.G.: That's bad. B.M.: Yeah man. I think they had a pitching machine that threw a no-hitter in spring training. J.G.: Wow. Oh, how about the gig you played on LSD? B.M.: I never use the word gig. I use the word job. J-O-B. That is work, man. Yes, I took LSD before a show at an all-girl college. They allow guys in now, I think, but I can't reveal the name of the school because some of the cameras I installed in the locker rooms still function. Yes, I took an orange pill before the show in a moment of weakness. I'd inadvertently stolen a pair of bowling shoes from a candlepin alley and I began to see them melt off my feet before I hit the stage. We played in an old gymnasium with wood everywhere and the acoustics were amazing. Especially on Sunshine. I don't remember the first song, but all the young womens and their dates were jumpin' for joy. I stopped a moment to tune my G-string and noticed the rear wall, some two or three hundred feet away, undulating, kind of wavy like in an earthquake. I tried bending the string and the back wall came right up to my face. I bent it back into key and the wall snapped back in place. It was so cool, I had to try it again. Bend the G, bend the wall. Yeah! Let me do that again. Bend it up, bend it back, in and out, in and out, in and out, over and over and over and over. When they finally stopped me, some five minutes later I understand, the crowd had totally lost any enthusiasm and was starting to leave. I took it as a metaphor for life. J.G.: Crazy, man. Is there anything else you'd like to add? B.M.: Welp, thank you for a wonderful evening. Brush your teeth and say your prayers. Obey the laws of the pack. And remember - the future ain't what it used to be. REAL DEAL Butane Maclane IS A BLUE ROCKER MUSIC REVIEW: "SEVEN SONGS FROM ARKANSAS" Whenever I meet an old-time blues rocker, I'm amazed at how they've aged (sometimes not recognizing them from press photos), and, how, nearing the end, the fight has gone and the attitude has soured. I recall one dude who'd played all the tough joints in the South and even had a Billboard #3 Hit. He showed up wizened and pissed with wrinkled white skin like a chicken's and a beak about an inch longer than his photo. His demeanor was so gloomy he'd darken a room on a summer's afternoon. Then there was the aged bluesman who, despite having a string of radio successes, never left the top half of his state. He made such a repulsive impression on me (and my photographer), I thought I was looking at a giant black spider the size of a man. So, it was a pleasant change to encounter Butane Maclane's good-humored smile and charming manners during our interview over a 4 a.m. breakfast at our downtown Denny's. MacLane's new release, "Seven Songs From Arkansas", is a compilation of re-arranged blues tunes he learned back in the 1960's, in two cases from the original sources. As a young man, MacLane had the good fortune to attend the iconic Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals in Rhode Island during that turbulent decade. He sat with and played with some of the legends, i.e., John Lee Hooker, Mississippi John Hurt and Reverend Gary Davis to name a few. Armed with this experience, he went on to play the New York to Boston circuit and had regional success. He started studio work in 1969, later sharing time and instruments with his then unknown pals in Aerosmith. This led to a contract with Capital records and an here-to-fore unreleased album that's now "rectified, revivified and digitized". MacLane branched out writing poetry, then short stories and screenplays. He ended up a Hollywood "hack". His new website will be featuring all this material, added incrementally throughout this year. See www.butanemaclane.com. "Seven Songs From Arkansas" begins with an almost rockabilly version of "I'm Ready", recently covered by Aerosmith. I was correct in assuming that MacLane had never heard their version. "About all I listen to are the tweety birds," he said. However, his website states that he's "The Real Deal" and Butane's authenticity shines through here with the help of the Rochelle Rochelle Trio, "a group of crazy Jamaican women introduced to me by Jerry Seinfeld". Next is Jimmy Reed's "Shame Shame Shame" with an infectious beat, stinging guitar and wild harmonica. "Little Red Rooster" is a haunting version of the old tune, scarier than even Howlin' Wolf could have delivered. "It's about some chickens," MacLane offered. Chuck Berry's "No Money Down" made me feel I was cruising down Route 66 in my '57 Chevy. "Ain't Got No Money is an original written when Butane was down on his luck in the Safari Motel in Los Angeles. "I'd like to apologize to the maid," the guitarman said. Then we come to a re-arranged version of John Lee Hooker's "Serves Me Right To Suffer", that could be considered a blues opera. MacLane takes us down a road of 38 tempo changes and roller-coaster emotions that made my skin crawl. The project ends with "Baby, Please Don't Go" crafted so powerfully that it almost blew me out of the venue. It was refreshing to meet Butane in person -- a strong, serene individual with candid eyes surrounded by tiny wrinkles like sunrays. "Seven Songs From Arkansas" 5 Thumb's Up! David Hagopian Herald Examiner REVIEW: 'Seven Songs From Arkansas' Hailing from a "lazy village beside the ocean", Mr. MacLane now lives in a yurt on the "wrong side" of an Ozark Mountain dubbed Rattlesnake Hill. Along with his axes, MacLane shares his life with a "gorgeous blond" - his miniature German Shepherd JoJo. "If Paris Hilton was a dog," he said, "JoJo would be her twin, or did I amscray that backwards?" Asked how he came by the unusual first name, the musician jokingly accused your reviewer of sexism, "Would you ask my girly-girl sister Methane where she got hers?" At the age of 5, the Blue Rocker found himself "tinkling on the ivories" after a sweaty nightmare involving "My Darlin' Clementine." The night Elvis first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, Butane claims he strummed a hemp fireplace broom until "my grubby little feelers bled. Little did I know them red stains would be the yellow canary in the mine." Yes, Elvis was cool, and Jerry Lee was better, but it was the Originator, the Architect that fired MacLane's soul, "the Tutti Frutti himself, Mr. Little Richard Penniman." A complex twist of fate brought Butane to the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals of the 1960's. He spent valuable hours with some of the best: John Lee Hooker, Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, and a "cat on a collision with kismet, that funky white dude from Minnesota - Blind Boy Grunt." Music historians will recognize the name as an early pseudonym of Bob Dylan. "I always thought of Grunt as more of a ha-ha clown, a jester, but all that went down the toilet once the long-hairs called him God." Butane described the day he met Howlin' Wolf as "overcast, threatening, but rainless. The only sound was the dripping on my leather shoes." Asked how he'd characterize his music, MacLane answered in the third person, "Butane wants you to dance." Pressed on what ocean he's from, and where's he's been for three decades, the handsome rocker cried that he "wasn't there" and "didn't do anything." He added that we must have him "confused with someone else." Yes, here is an enigma, a perplexing, puzzling artist, but one thing is absolutely unambiguous - this music is sharp - clear and sparkling as a sunshiny day. 5 stars! ***** Dave Edwards Post/Herald Times.