Butcher Brown in the 'Dam Town
Virginia's own five-piece formation Butcher Brown came through Amsterdam's Melkweg as the penultimate stop on their European King Butch World Tour and we have had the absolute pleasure to do an impromptu interview with the band before their show.
Consisting of Marcus 'Tennishu' Tenney on trumpet, sax and emceeing, Andrew Jay Randazzo on bass, Corey Fonville on drums, Morgan Burrs on guitar, and Devonne 'DJ Harrison' Harris on keys, Butcher Brown delivers a home-brew of jams and jazz, rhymes and beats, heavily funky, musical mix. This squad transcends beyond any category, while challenging the musical tradition of contemporary hip hop, jazz, soul & funk and the adjacent in their very own and unique way, while respecting the legacy and history of each of the above mentioned genres in the most virtuous way. Light as a feather. These gentlemen are musicians in the truest sense, an explosive live act, exemplary collective, delightfully synergic, powerfully original and they easily continue to work their magic and win the hearts of music appreciators from all walks of life.
The King Butch World Tour was originally meant for 2020 as a follow up to their latest album statement #KingButch released amidst the pandemic in September. Eighth album in the band’s legacy with beautiful artwork by Lou Beach (also responsible for the iconic cover of Weather Report’s 1977 classic). #KingButch was their first release with Concord Records and it represents one of the most uplifting highlights of the year that changed everything.
"King Butch coming like a freight train in the left lane, 150 miles an hour kind of insane" - #KingButch
During quarantine times when touring and travel was not an option (not even in the slightest due to the whole US travel ban), the band developed a delightful tradition called Mothership Monday. Every Monday at 11am, they would drop a video on their socials that featured a combination of each players solo session recorded in their home environment, put together by DJ Harrison. Reimagined tributes to their many influences ranging from D'Angelo (who's also Richmond born and raised by the way), Bob James, Roy Ayers to Notorious B.I.G., Kool & the Gang, Erykah Badu, Mos Def and many more. Their latest single release 'Remind Me' feat. Alex Isley is a beautiful cover of a Patrice Rushen classic and a direct product of the Mothership Mondays heritage. Currently the series are on hold, but they are planning to return with some heat after coming back from tour. "We’ll bring it back. We’ve just been taking a lil' break, but we 'bout to come back with some heat. We got busy with playing shows around August, so we sort of shifted our focus to that, but the rest of the year is kinda chilled out for us, so we’ll have time to get back into that sorta thing," Tennishu said.
#MothershipMonday has been a great showcase of a few influences of the band that shape the sound of Butcher Brown. Corey elaborates: "We all went to jazz school, but that wasn’t where we started. As kids at one point we were all watching MTV, listening to Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Stone Temple Pilots, you know…Ludacris, N.E.R.D. all across the border. Jazz kinda got in there as well when we were taking lessons with our teachers, that’s what created the whole blend. We have appreciation for Wayne Shorter, Coltrane, Miles, Bill Evans and all the greats, but at the same time we love Lil Wayne and everything that’s coming out now. All the new stuff. It’s part of our DNA. Rap music. Beat culture. Obviously jazz, but all of that is intertwined. You know, it’s important for us to always tap into that in some way. You know there’s gotta be some bass. Rap music and old breaks is part of a lot of stuff that we do."
The band has been on this journey since about as early as 2006, born out of the legacy of Richmond's vibrant music scene. "I know that Devonne and Corey were playing gigs together probably as early as '05/'06.. I met these guys in 2008 so we were playing for other musicians, kind of as sidemen together with Marcus. Tennishu trio was happening as early as 2008 with Devonne and I so we were making that music and intertwined with each other via lots of different bands and working for musicians. But once it was Butcher Brown, it was clear that that was the culmination of all those things. And this is the thing where we just do what we wanna do. We just make the music we wanna make," Andrew recalls.
The name Butcher Brown itself didn't come up until about 2011. "We got it from a video game. It’s a game called ‘Ready 2 Rumble Boxing’, PlayStation. Came out like early 2000’s, but there was this big growly boxer, a character whose name was Butcher Brown. It just stuck one day, I think DJ and I were playing PlayStation, chillin’, probably recording some music, and we just took a break. The guy in the game looks like someone we all know from home and it cracked us up, we started laughing about it, probably smokin’ a bunch of weed, so it was extra funny at that time. So yeah. Butcher Brown. That’s the band name. It just hit." Corey paints the picture.
The band's so called "nerve center" and a spiritual home is Devonne's crib called Jellowstone Studios and the band's been recording there since 2012 after coming through various different spots before that. "That was kinda where everything really became its own sound and aesthetic and whatnot.", Devonne says. "And surprisingly the neighbors are cool with it. We try to keep it cool by recording at a decent time, but then sometimes when I go take out the trash, my neighbor will be like “Oh hey, I heard you on TV in the Monday Night Football thing last night." It’s like whenever we go out of town they’re like 'Okay, how long you going this time? Watch out for the traffic.' It’s a good vibe."
'Camden Session' is an exceptional project that was created and recorded at Mark Ronson's Zelig Studios in London in one take."Our label at the time, Gearbox Records, set aside a day for us to go track out some stuff and record straight to tape. We've learned it while they were setting up the studio, so the first time we played it was the record."
The horn-phrase in Camden Square feels so familiar that we had to ask whether it is a hidden reference to something else. Marcus remembers, "I just came up with something on the fly and then it kind of followed. The vibe of that recording session was really interesting. For the microphones that they were using, they used the Decca Tree. All these crazy old mics. They were really heavy. They had to get stabilized to hold the tree together and it was crazy. We were doing side A, side B and we learned the joint then and there. We worked with Tony Platt, who was working with Bowie (also Bob Marley..mad people) and we thought we’re just gonna have some fun. So that was the vibe when I was coming up with the horns," Devonne continues by saying that for him, the chorus is kind of a hidden reference to Jamiroquai's Falling joint. Everyone starts singing along and it feels like finding a sample real time. "I never put that together in my mind," Marcos says.
Aside from being remarkable players, Butcher Brown as a collective with many diverse talents also often crafts tunes for other artists. To name a few there's Pink Siifu, Nigel Hall who's got a whole record out, Mac Ayres..."We got a track we wrote for Bruce Hornsby," Marcus says and we instantly flip out. 'That's the Way It Is' Bruce Hornsby?! "Everybody’s reaction when we say that shit is like that (laughs). All over the place. Butcher Brown has albums worth of stuff that we’re waiting to release… 'cause this band has like a structure to it now, it’s going through a bunch of different people before it comes out. SO we have like shtuff. Let’s just say that. So much shtuff. It’s crazy."
The European tour has been a long time coming and the band agreed that it has felt real great to come out after almost 2 years."This time we’ve been in the Netherlands four times, spread out over a month. Next time we come, we’re gonna stay and then we’ll have time to go to record stores and do all that good stuff. Utilize all the resources instead of play and leave. 'Cause we’re so multidimensional that it kinda doesn’t make sense, right? Like we should go to a studio at least. We gotta do that. We’re a studio band. That’s where it all started right? Started in the studio." Marcus says. So there's something to look forward to.
Towards the end of the interview, we've asked the band about the music they discovered over the course of this tour that stuck with them. The boys put us on to a dope L.A. based artist we were not familiar with and we'd love to share this treat with you. "She goes by V.C.R. Those are her initials. Song is called 'Lilli Lotus'." Morgan says.
On top of being a committed recording and touring quintet, each of the members is actively involved in side projects with high- profile names including Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Nicholas Payton, Chris "Daddy" Dave, Rapsody and 9th Wonder to name a few. Nevertheless their individual solo projects of their own are extremely noteworthy, as well. Just this year, Corey released an album as FONVILLE, Andrew dropped his 4NDY project, together the two of them published the collaborative 'Thump Tape Vol. 1', Morgan produced songs for Alex Isley and features on a Paul Grant track, Tennishu's solo album 'Three Sides' should be out any day now and DJ Harrison's 'Tales from the Old Dominion' album drops early December on Stones Throw Records.
There's a hell of a lot to look forward to from this squad so we better brace ourselves and try to keep up.
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