This record was recorded at Barefoot Sound studios in Valley Village CA, the scene of the crime and jumping off point for the Barefoot Servants. Ben Schultz and I had collaborated on a lot of music over the years and after the success of Barefoot Servants I it became clear that the Servants still had something to say. Songs like Rude Boy and I Don’t Care At All were the beginnings of what was to become a much more personal and introspective record than any of us thought and Monsters of Bethlehem and Brown Penny were songs which wrote themselves.
Barefoot Servants I, the first Servants record almost didn’t happen, and listening to it now brings into sharp focus just how big a role chemistry plays in relationships of any kind, personal, professional, whatever. When Leland Slkar signed on to play bass for the Servants, Ben Schultz[ co-founder, co-writer, co-guitarist and all around cool dude] and I both knew this was true alchemy, a chemical reaction on the molecular level that all musicians hope and pray will happen to them once in their careers. BSI stands up even now- It Hurts Me Too, Better Off Dead, Bound For Glory are all songs I still do in my tour set and which haven’t aged a bit. And just in case you don’t know it Lee Sklar is simply the best bass player in the world, hands down. If you haven’t already check this one out, you’ll thank me later.
Electric Factory might possibly be my favorite JB record. From the title track [Brian’s Electric Factory] to Rocket Ship to Cactus Flower, Electric Factory is burning, intense and firing on all cylinders. Also recorded at Barefoot Sound w/ co-conspirator Ben Schultz[ who also joins me on guitar] Electric Factory is the record I wish I’d made first, at the start of my career. It combines the best of the blues with enough electric guitar rocking out to satisfy the most discriminating tastes. Recorded for Mike Varney at Shrapnel Records, EF is hands down some of my best recorded work and I’m very proud of this one.
Positively the Blues
Positively The Blues was the first of two records recorded at Barefoot Sound studios in Valley Village CA for Shrapnel Records. Recorded w/ Ben Schultz[ guitar] it features Cadillac Limousine, 20 Yrs and High Heel Shoes, all an extension of where I was at during 1995-1996. Like it’s follow up Electric Factory, Positively is essentially a blues-centric record with inflections of rock which make for a cool balance of cool and intense, and I was very comfortable in the the medium. At that time Axis was a distant memory and I found it refreshing to re-embrace the blues. Also on this album are two songs, The Coalman Mine and By Railroad Line which still find their way into my shows today. Both are acoustic in inception and both feature some fine dobro/ slide playing by Ben.
An Ocean in Motion
Got live if ya want it! An Ocean in Motion is live Jon Butcher Axis at its best, a true document of what the Axis was all about. Recorded at the infamous Channel in Boston MA in 1984 it was released on Atom Records in 2002 and features all the JBA good stuff; the first MTV video hits Life Takes a Life, Don’t Say Goodnight and of course Ocean in motion. Both Chris Martin[bass] and Derek Blevins[ drums] are in top form and round out what was the quintessential rock trio from Boston. Also worth mentioning is The Sentinel, an instrumental recorded for the first JBA record that SHOULD have sounded like the live version, more’s the pity. This is one record which should round out anyone’s JBA collection and by the way, Not Fade Away is also included, the Axis live show closer which usually found us performing with reckless abandon.
Jon Butcher – King Biscuit Flower Hour was recorded live at the Palace Theater in Los Angeles on July 31 in 1987 and features liner notes by my long time pal and confident Ken Ciancimino. It features live versions of hits Wishes, Life Takes a Life and Holy War. But what’s cooler are several songs which never made studio records, most notably Writing On The Wall, American Dream and a positively rocking version of Stevie Wonders’ Higher Ground[ recorded well before the Hot Chili Peppers version]. In addition it includes a JB interview recorded in 1998 which offers some insight into the events surrounding the transition from Axis to a solo career and recording under my own name. I’d done several King Biscuit broadcasts but this is my favorite and showcases Ronnie Sage[ drums] and Jaimie Carter [bass] who supply thunder and lightning, in that order.
A Stiff Little Breeze
A Stiff Little Breeze – Archives was released on Atom Records in 2003 and is kind of a hodgepodge in terms of content. Although one of my favorite releases Stiff Little Breeze was conceived as a concept record but instead was meant to offer a fans songs which stretched from the Axis to present day film/ tv compositions, most notably the title track. SLB is about 2min of transient cool blues guitar which formed the genesis of the two following records, Positively and Electric Factory. Still one of fav recordings, SLB also has been featured on several TV shows and provides context for my music production company, the Electric Factory. But the flagship of this record in my opinion is Red House, a song made great by Jimi Hendrix and one which I still include in most live performances. Red House was one of the first recorded at Electric Factory studios as such represents a love affair with the blues that continues to this day. Also noteworthy is one of fav songs, Tiger In The Tall Grass and Big Guitars.
Pictures From The Front
Pictures From The Front was the third Capitol Records release and one which marked my ‘return’ to rock via the inclusion of the ‘new guys’, Ronnie Sage [ drums], Jamie Carter [ bass] and Thom Gimbel[ keys]. In terms of execution and energy this band was slamming, a force to be sure. One of the best bass players in the US Jaimie Carter provided the kind of solid foundation, inspiration and energy many guitarists never experience in a band setting. And Thom Gimbel[ now in Foreigner] was a triple threat- a strong piano player, rhythm guitarist and reed player, this band rocked several tours[ most notably INXS and RUSH during and just after the release of the Pictures Cd. This was also around the time period that I met [Aerosmith] producer Glenn Ballard, and he and I co-wrote a couple of songs for this record one of which went on to become another MTV hit vid, Send Me Somebody. Overall the record was strong in songwriting and two the songs, Live or Die and Waiting For a Miracle[ which features Timothy B. Schmitd of The Eagles] are still standout tracks and songs I’m proud to have recorded. Check out the instrumental track The Mission for a taste of JB electric guitar turned up to ’11’.
If there’s one record in my discography which put me on the map in terms of International exposure and awareness it’s this one, Wishes. Recorded in 1987 at Hollywood CA recording studio Pasha Records it was the end of one era[ JBA ]and the beginning of another. It also represents my transition from Boston resident to Los Angeles, and the ensuing culture shock found it’s way onto this record. Having already spent a lot of time in LA recording and working on movie music, Wishes best summed up where my life was at. In fact that entire year was difficult; I felt homesick and truly the ‘fish out of water’, not at all comfortable among the palm trees and Hollywood hills. I wasn’t sure where I was going nor how I’d fare in LA and the early indicators were questionable at best[ I had my Mazda RX7 broken into three times while sharing a condo in W. Hollywood with a tremendous songwriter/ producer Ron Aniello]. I was lost and at a low point emotionally, so it stands to reason that this provided the grist for writing music. Disappointed by the commercial failure of Along The Axis I knew I had to say something honest. And so Wishes was born, the first song written for the record Wishes set the tone for what was to come. A Gold record, 80-city tour with Def Leppard and the jumping off point for Holy War [ a story in it’s own right] and Goodbye Saving Grace, both of which produced controversial MTV vids. Wishes is one of my favorite records and one which has defined me as a writer and recording artist. On this record the band featured Thom Gimbel, the late Rob Jeffries and my old mate on drums, Derek Blevins.
Along the Axis
Along The Axis was the first record recorded for Capitol and the first done after moving to Los Angeles CA from Boston. Produced for Pasha Studios it was also the first record I did without my own band, without my own crew and without a clear idea as to what I wanted to say. The MTV vids Stop and Sounds Of Your Voice were sprung from Along The Axis and while I was generally pleased with Stop I never felt like Along The Axis represented me honestly, particularly after coming off of the high energy and trio-centric JBA tours. There were several ballads on this record and it’s still painful for me to watch the vid, Sounds Of Your Voice. Still, the title track Along The Axis is a fav and still holds up well, as does Only The Fox. All in all ATA is an important inclusion if not for it’s totality for the title track.
Stare At The Sun was the second Polygram Records release and was recorded by the late Pat Moran at Rockfield Studios on Monmouth S. Wales UK. It was to be the last JBA record with the original Axis alumni, Chris Martin [bass] and Derek Blevins[ drums] and was also the last time we toured. The critically acclaimed it wasn’t a commercial success and by the end Chris and I figured we’d have to sell 10,000,000 records just to break even- the handwriting was on the wall. Even with that the record produced some interesting music-Walk On The Moon and the MTV vid Don’t Say Goodnight [ shot on an airstrip in Massachusetts in the dead of winter- I’m STILL not completely thawed out from that one]. Most interesting was the Rockfield Studios experience which put me in touch with Robert Plant [ Led Zeppelin] and which introduced us to the UK. We had a ball recording there, discovering London and generally feeling pretty good about being so far from home. This record is a must have for any serious JB fan if only for Walk On Moon and the trip-y record jacket which I never understood.
Jon Butcher Axis
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you- the Jon Butcher Axis. This is the one that started it all, the first record for Polygram and my first record company sanctioned studio release ever. The three of us, Chris Martin[bass], Derek Blevins[drums] and myself had just finished a whirlwind tour with the mighty J. Geils Band, sold out houses everywhere and my first taste of the big time. Peter Wolf had agreed to let us open for the Geils band as an unsigned act, something unheard of today. And though we had achieved some measure of local success in Boston as a local act it was the Freeze Frame tour which raised the temperature of our profile and which put us on a serious trajectory. Simply put, JBA killed. We were a force to reckoned with and it wasn’t long after that we finally got our major label record deal. So- off to Electric Lady Studios in NYC we went, producer Pat Moran in tow and full of expectation. As the first JBA record it was landmark BUT… it didn’t in my mind fulfill expectations, especially since we’d just come off the explosive J. Geils Freeze Frame tour. The JBA record sounded tame to my ears, subdued and not at all the ferocious power trio of our experience. And in that realization lay my first serious lesson as a recording artist; with few exceptions no outside person[ i.e. producer] is going to have the vision that you do when it comes to getting your sound, making your case. Pat Moran was a great producer and I loved the first Robert Plant solo record, part of what Chris Martin and I found interesting about bringing him on. But in the end I wish that we’d produced ourselves, or that Polygram had allowed us to produce ourselves. Had we, the first JBA record may have sounded quite a bit different. Still, the MTV vid Life Takes a Life was groundbreaking on it’s own and went far in presenting JBA as contenders.
Jon Butcher Axis