Butch Walker joined us last year for an episode of our web series, Ernie Ball: String Theory. As usual, the episode is filled with moments of insight into the guitarist’s background, history with playing guitar and more.
Here, we present to you the six biggest things we learned about Butch from his episode. We’ve provided the timestamp for each segment as well, so you can follow along.
#1 – KISS started it all (0:25)
Witnessing the masters of concert performance at the tender age of 8 was the impetus of Butch’s guitar journey.
“Ace Frehley throw his guitar up into the air, and it just kept going all the way up, it was tied to some string I guess, and it blew up in the rafters and 30,000 stoners went bonkers, and so did I, and I was 8! I don’t know if it was the pot fumes but I was definitely high as a kite when I left there from that concert, just because I wanted to start playing guitar the next day.”
#2 – He learned to play guitar by ear (2:33)
Butch says that in his nascent development as a guitarist, he would tune in to the distant radio stations of Atlanta and record songs onto cassette tapes in order to learn and play along to the songs of the day.
#3 – He still finds a way to stay inspired (4:51)
As a working artist, output has to stay consistent. In order to keep from getting burnt out, Butch has worked out a formula to stay inspired.
“A lot of times I’ll just lay on the couch and listen to records, and that’s just as much work to me as anything. So, it doesn’t feel like you’re phoning it in and, you know, making the donuts every day.”
#4 – No Rules for Gear selection (5:54)
Some guitarists can get hung up on the prestige of vintage guitars, or pine for the latest and greatest products, but we learn here that the best music equipment can come from an unexpected place:
“There’s no rule to whether or not a guitar needs to be old or new or worn in or none of that to me. I’ve played just as many old expensive guitars off the shelf that played like shit, sounded like shit, and gave me zero inspiration. But, then I’ve got some that are beautiful and rare, and they do that for you.”
#5 – He’s not afraid to get dirty (6:35)
Musicians can tend to be a little overprotective of their gear, however according to Butch getting wear on your instruments can be rewarding in its own way.
“I don’t like my guitars to be trophy queen glass case guitars, like ‘don’t touch it, don’t play it, its got no scuffs, no scratches, original paint.’ Same way with motorcycles and cars, I don’t give a shit about that. Like, I want to use the stuff. I want to play it.”
#6 – He values the unconventional (8:16)
When first being taught, guitar players can be taught to revere technique above all else. Butch reminds us that experimentation and putting your own unique touch on your music is what brings the biggest joy out of playing any instrument.
“I think the only thing I can really tell people starting out is just to not box yourself in with any rules. […] Whatever makes you happy, and makes you want to keep learning and keep playing, because you can hit a wall very quickly and stop playing as most kids do, and that sucks, that’s crime. […] I just think you have to keep reaching for ways to learn that are interesting and exciting for you.”
Watch every episode of Ernie Ball: String Theory at our website, featuring such players as J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Dhani Harrison, Joe Bonamassa, and more. You can also enjoy some of Butch’s most popular songs in this Spotify playlist.
Butch Walker plays Ernie Ball Power Slinky electric guitar strings. Do you? Try a set.