English musician, songwriter and record producer Bernard Joseph Butler was born born 1 May 1970. He is best known as the first guitarist with Suede, until his departure in 1994. He has been hailed by some critics as the greatest guitarist of his generation; BBC journalist Mark Savage called him “one of Britain’s most original and influential guitarists”. He was voted the 24th greatest guitarist of the last 30 years in a national 2010 BBC poll and is often seen performing with a 1961 cherry red Gibson ES-355 TD SV (Stereo Varitone) with a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. Butler also names former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr as his major inspiration.
He first achieved fame in 1992 as the guitarist with Suede, forging a songwriting partnership with Brett Anderson. He co-wrote and played guitars on every recording until 1994, when he exited Suede, leaving behind the Mercury Music Prize-winning debut Suede, as well as the follow-up Dog Man Star. Immediately after leaving Suede he formed the duo McAlmont and Butler with David McAlmont and they released two singles, “Yes” and “You Do”. A compilation album, The Sound of McAlmont and Butler, was also released.
Butler then released two solo albums under his own name, People Move On and Friends and Lovers, on Creation Records, yielding the hit single “Stay”. In 2001 Butler teamed up with McAlmont for a second McAlmont and Butler album, Bring it Back, and they toured the UK after the release of two singles, “Falling” and “Bring it Back”. In 2004 Butler formed a new band with Brett Anderson, The Tears, based on the same style that yielded their first successes with Suede in the early 1990s. The Tears released their debut LP, Here Come The Tears, produced by Butler, in June 2005. Singles include “Refugees”, which reached number 9 in the UK Singles Chart, and “Lovers”.
Butler has also collaborated with many musicians and has played on and/or produced records by Aimee Mann, Edwyn Collins, Neneh Cherry, Tim Booth (of James), Eddi Reader, Hopper, Roy Orbison, Bert Jansch, The Libertines, Heather Nova, Mark Owen, The Veils, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, The Cribs, the Pretenders, The On-Off’s, 1990s, The Mescalitas, Cut Off Your Hands, Cajun Dance Party, The View, Arkitekt, Sons and Daughters, Black Kids, Tricky, Sharleen Spiteri, Nerina Pallot and Natalie McCool. In 2005 he was introduced to Welsh singer Duffy, and contributed to her top-selling debut album Rockferry—it was the best selling album of 2008 in the UK—which won the Best Pop Vocal Album Grammy Award in 2008. Butler told the media in April 2014, in regard to the Welsh singer’s musical career difficulties:
In 2009 Butler co-wrote/produced/played on tracks by The Veils, Tommy Reilly, Jonathan Jeremiah, Kate Jackson and Catherine A.D who now performs as The Anchoress. He also worked on Kate Nash’s second album My Best Friend Is You. Butler also worked with Nerina Pallot, Fyfe Dangerfield, Noisettes, Slow Club, Gabrielle, Howling Bells, The Veils, Simon Dine, and new artists Jodie Marie, Vince, Daley, Summer Camp, Joe Worricker and Scott McFarnon. Butler also produced albums for Frankie & The Heartstrings and the album Days & Nights. He also co-wrote and produced Texas’s comeback album The Conversation. In 2013 Butler worked with the group Teleman, to finish their debut album; he also worked on songs with London group Flowers; and collaborated with Paloma Faith and Fyfe Dangerfield.
In 2013, he sang an impromptu improvisational performance at the Sunderland record store run by Frankie & The Heartstrings. Alongside members of Warm Digits, Field Music and 1990s and also played two shows at The Slaughtered Lamb in London, UK, accompanying Ben Watt on electric guitar. In 2013, new group Trans released the red EP, the first in a series of EPs for Rough Trade Records with Jackie McKeown, Paul Borchers and Igor Volk In February 2014, Butler played two lives shows with Watt at London’s St Pancras Old Church, preceding the release of Watt’s solo album Hendra. Butler also joined Watt on an eight-show UK tour in support of the album. Butler played again with Watt in November 2014 as part of the Ben Watt Trio. Butler also organised two special McAlmont & Butler performances to raise funds for The Bobath Centre’s work with children with cerebral palsy. The London shows at the Union Chapel and Islington Assembly Hall sold out, and the duo were accompanied by a full band that consisted of members of The Magic Numbers, Mako Sakamoto on drums and Sean Read on keyboards.
Butler also created the soundtrack to the 1997 film The James Gang and played on the soundtrack of Velvet Goldmine, alongside Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead.