Butch Walker –“Out Of Focus”
This DVD is billed with the strap line “The music you know, the man you don’t” and to be fair that’s a pretty damn accurate description. You certainly get a great insight into Butch Walker from the man himself, but also band members, friends and most significantly family. It opens with Butch talking about himself, and it’s nice to hear him recognise that his own singing style is really ‘indie pop’ and the fact his music comes from melody and a lyrical place.
The first part of the DVD is really focussed on the making of his latest record “Spade”. The most obvious point is that this really was a true band effort (including them all getting black widow tattoos to prove it) in comparison to his previous records. It is initially really just a brilliant advert for what is indeed a fantastic album. There are all the aspects you would expect with a music based film, including behind the scenes footage of the song writing process, recording sessions etc. You also get a really good insight in to the characters which make up The Black Widows (the name given to Butch’s backing band). Fran would appear to be the much needed ‘comedian’ in the band with his japes and infectious personality. Once you get over the fact that Jake Sinclair seems to be modelling himself on Garth from Wayne’s World! It is apparent that he is a talented song writer in his own right. Importantly for the band, he also appears to be the one willing to provide Butch with some artistic challenges. There is a great scene where Butch is reflecting on the band’s first big argument following Jake’s challenging of the lyrics to one of the new songs. It’s nice to see the humility shown by Butch where, despite initially taking it personally, in the cold light of day he is able to respect Jake’s opinion and acknowledge he was right.
We are then given a hint as to how the movie will eventually develop, with the introduction of Darren Dodd who was Butch’s drummer between 2005 -2011. It all gets much deeper as we learn about the tough decision that was made to record the album without Darren, as he wasn’t able to commit fully to the project due to other commitments .It’s a glimpse of how raw even music based decisions can be, it feels like a relationship splitting up and gives a real understanding of how much music really means to Butch. In the words of the man himself he “loves good pop music, hates bad pop music, loves rock n roll, hates bad rock n roll, there’s good and bad in every genre”. Having had arguably more ‘success’ writing and producing for main stream artists including Avril Lavigne and Katy Perry (!!,) he is in a very good place artistically himself. That work allows him to continue to write and tour with the music he loves, rather than having to worry about ‘commercial’ success too much.
The whole movie shifts considerably after about fifty minutes and we get to meet Brad Walker (his real name), the family man as opposed to the rock star. We learn about the importance of music to him and the stress it places on himself, and indeed, his family when he is not artistically active. We also get to meet his son, and it’s very clear how much Butch loves him and a real understanding of how hard it is for him to be away from his family. It is easy to forget that it’s not all about being a rock star, but also how important it is for him to have the ‘centre’ that his family give him. He clearly gets very emotional when he has to consider the fine balance between his ‘other life’ and his family commitments.
We are also introduced to his wife, Nora Walker, who very honestly conveys the impact on her and her son’s life and does this with a frankness you can’t help but admire. She not only has to deal with a son who is intense and emotional but a husband who shares the same characteristics. She herself says it’s like “I’m raising two children… quick to cry, quick to laugh, turn red in the face and punch a wall”. To be fair though, she clearly knew what she was getting in to when she married Butch and realised that his music and artistic side would always come first, and importantly she understands that this will never change. Obviously that’s great for his fans but also shows what a strong woman his wife is.
If all that isn’t emotional enough for you, wait until you meet the ‘real’ Butch Walker! The moment Butch Snr hits the screen it is quite clear where Butch Jnr gets all his warmth, presence and charisma from. Butch Snr for some reason is just instantly likeable. He is suffering from ill health throughout the filming and it leads to some really heart breaking scenes. We get to learn how Butch first heard how seriously ill his dad was, which then led to the writing of “Day Drunk”. Discovering the facts behind the song just takes it to a whole new level and you can really appreciate how personal and poignant the lyrics actually are. It is obvious how close the two Butchs are and it’s a really beautiful and special relationship. Big Butch is clearly suffering from his poor health and there are moments where he is very emotional and that makes for some real tear jerking scenes.
As with all Butch songs, however, there is still some light to balance the dark. There is a great scene where Butch phones his dad from the stage at a London gig. Having attended that gig, it was great fun and seemed like just such a cool thing to do. However, this movie and the background behind it, really emphasises the significance of the great father/son interchange. Big Butch talks about the good times he had with his own dad and how he hopes Butch will remember him in the same way, how much he loves him and also that he will be an example to pass on to his son. As this film shows, there is certainly no doubt about that. The movie then ends dedicating itself to Big Butch who sadly passed away after the completion of the filming.
As that film strap line stated, unlike many ‘music’ movies you really do get to meet the man behind the songs. It does include the normal behind the scenes/making of footage, and it will definitely make you want to go and put the album “Spade” on and give it a blast. However, it’s the understanding of the non rock star aspects of Butch’s life which is really great. It’s a brilliant tribute, not only to Butch Walker, but also to big Butch. I am sure he will be very proud of his son and what he has achieved as a musician and a father, something that Big Butch certainly deserves a lot of credit for.