Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Books that Rock: Drinking with Strangers

Post # 210
Butch Walker-Drinking With Strangers: Music Lessons From a Teenage Bullet Belt
When I received a copy of this book, I had not heard anything about it, nor did I know who Butch Walker even was. I read the back cover and found out he's a songwriter/produced for pop artists like Pink and Katy Perry, to which I said 'ho-hum, maybe I'll get to this book a little later...'. When I finally cracked the book open, the dedication caught my eye right away: "... I dedicate this book to Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley." Now, I was MUCH more curious to read this book. Anyone who would dedicate their book to the 4 original members of KISS had already won me over in part by simply being a kindred spirit of the KISS Army ilk. So now I began to read, wondering what the life-story behind this Butch Walker guy was like. I already wished I hadn't waited so long to read this book...

Turns out that Butch Walker was much more of a rocker and metal-head in his past. Like myself, he grew up as part of a generation and culture (small-town America), where the only way to get into music was through listening to the radio and watching MTV music videos (which USED to be on-air daily during prime-time and those couple extra hours between getting home from school and 'uh-oh, Mom and Dad are home!'). His love for rock music grew into the desire to play and write music, and later he yearned to 'make it!' in the music industry.

With mixed blessings and curses, Butch persistently pursued his dream to make it in the music scene. He had a couple not-quite successful bands; the first being the 'hair-band' Southgang, the next was the 'number-band' Marvelous 3. Though neither of these bands led to lasting success, neither did they trap him in America's memory, forever tagged to a passing trend in music. Is his book he describes this as 'Falling backwards up the ladder of success.' A fitting analogy, as each endeavor brought small degrees of larger success.

For Butch Walker, this was a long, slow, and far from steady rise. While he may have had shady record deals, or botched tour promotion strategies, he always seemed to learn from his experiences. Personal hardships have played a role is some of his major set-backs, but he shows remarkable resilience to keep working at his craft through thick and thin. He does not come across as an ego-maniacal Hollywood celeb, but rather a home-town guy you can identify with as he tells his tale.

Whether it's recounting 'dead-dog-sledding' while on tour in China, catching helicopter rides in Hollywood backyards, watching people country line-dancing to Nine Inch Nails, or meeting guitar-god Yngwie Malmsteen years after his heyday, Drinking With Strangers is sure to prove an entertaining read. Some parts of this book are so funny you'd think they were thought up by the likes of some humorous writer, like Christopher Moore. However it's actually non-fiction, hard as it may be to believe at times. As Butch himself reiterates many times, he couldn't make this stuff up if he tried!

Over the years, as he has matured, Butch has learned several valuable lessons from his experiences- both positive and negative, in the music industry. Butch Walker truly has developed a musician's broad appreciation for several genres of music and a personal drive to create music from the heart that has true meaning and doesn't depend on mindless promotion and marketing. His purpose in writing this biography seems to be as a guide for those interested in a career in music. He is putting his experiences out there for others to learn from.

Check out this book, and see how Butch has gotten to where he is. It may prove invaluable to future aspiring musicians.

Lastly, feel free to enjoy this promo clip of the book, including Butch Walker's parody of the 'Reading Rainbow' commercial theme-song:

No comments: