Good Charlotte drummer Dean Butterworth talks pop punk sessions, having a hit TV show and GC’s return
Since his start in LA’s session scene aged 18, British-born drummer Dean Butterworth has been consistently busy, starting with his first major label session with MCA Records, to touring with acts including Ben Harper and Morrissey, and now including a full-time gig with pop-punk Godfathers Good Charlotte.
As recording budgets and the number of sessions has thinned, and with Good Charlotte announcing what would become a four-year hiatus in 2011, Dean could have been staring down the barrel of leaner, quieter times – but not so. In fact, the cool Californian’s schedule was busier and more diverse than ever.
There was a dep gig with ’90s pop-rock smashers Sugar Ray that became his own, an MD position for a high-profile Boy George show, and he became house drummer for a popular new NBC TV show, Hollywood Game Night, now into its fourth season.
That’s not to mention the various sessions he was called for, often with super-producer John Feldmann, a long-time friend and collaborator of over 15 years.
As well as the frenetic frontman for American ska-punks Goldfinger, Feldmann has more than proven his studio chops, most recently writing and producing monster tracks with All Time Low and 5 Seconds of Summer, as well as the new Blink-182 album.
Dean also played tracks on the new Andy Black (Black Veil Brides frontman Andy Biersack) album. In short, Feldmann is a good guy to have on the end of the phone.
Now, with Good Charlotte back playing live and readying a new album, Youth Authority, that’s rammed with hits, it seems Dean isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Good Charlotte are back after four years away, how did the reunion happen?
“Last March an email went out that said, ‘When are you guys available to get on the phone this week?’ I didn’t know personally after four, almost five years, what that meant. We were all on the phone catching up for a couple hours and Benji and Joel [Madden] brought up the idea to do a record.
They were working on all these records that were in the genre and it sparked something, like we should be making a record.
“They were inspired by all the songwriting they had done for All Time Low. Also they’d worked with 5 Seconds of Summer, they co-wrote Amnesia that was a big hit single on the first album. They were working on all these records that were in the genre and it sparked something, like we should be making a record.”
Benji and Joel Madden are Good Charlotte’s main songwriters. At what point did you come in to the process for Youth Authority?
“This band is generally Benji and Joel writing. I love writing songs, but in this context they do all the writing. The songs were basically already demo’d out to a click. [Benji and Joel] just know how to write hooks. In the past we’ve had some success with songs they’ve written and then songs they’ve written for other people. People probably don’t even know some of the artists they’ve written for. I worked with those guys for three or four years before I got in the band. We were doing sessions together with John Feldmann. They used to write and John would produce records for a lot of pop artists.”
Did you use a variety of gear in the studio?
“If anything we might swap cymbals out to get a different sound, but generally you get a sound up and you go for what works. Maybe swapping out snare drums, but generally once you get the rack tom, floor tom and kick drum the only thing that I would swap again would be the rides, crashes or snare drums. I like the Tama Starphonic brass and aluminium snares. Great drums for live and recording.”
Feldmann has a huge reputation in the pop-punk world. What’s it like recording drums with him?
“I’ve worked with [John] a ton. I’ve worked on his band Goldfinger, The Used, Escape the Fate. Probably 30 or 40 records. We have this relationship where we can get stuff done really quickly and we really know each other after 15 years of working together. [On Youth Authority] I went in for three days, afternoon to early evening, six songs a day and I was done. It’s easy to work with him.”
Relationships in business, whether it’s the music business or you’re selling fish and chips, is the most important thing.
Does he reference specific styles or drummers to get his ideas across?
“We have a communication. For example, if we’re going into a chorus or something he might say ‘go to the ride, Stewart’. So that means you’re going to do that syncopated bell thing. We both love The Police.”
You’ve clearly forged a strong bond with John. How important are relationships in the session industry?
“Relationships in business, whether it’s the music business or you’re selling fish and chips, is the most important thing. Relationships are the reason I’ve had a really successful career. You can be the best drummer in the world, better than Vinnie Colaiuta, but if you don’t have people skills and know how to go into a room and have that infectious quality that makes people want you around because you inspire them, then you’re not gonna work.”
Aside from being in Good Charlotte you’re also in the house band for TV show Hollywood Game Night?
“It’s a one-hour television show on NBC, one of the main networks in America. The host is a lady by the name of Jane Lynch. She was on Glee. The fourth season just got done airing here and we’re waiting for the green light to schedule season five. I’ve been working for this music house in LA called Madder Music for probably 17 or 18 years. I started doing jingles for Toyota and Nissan. They’ve had a lot of success in the American television market as well as a ton of films. This opportunity came up about three and a half years ago and they wanted a live band on set.
“They have two teams with three celebrities on each team and two civilians. They play games for an hour. We’re on the side of the set and we’re called Dean Butterworth and the Scorekeepers, which is the corniest thing ever! There’s music under the games, in and out of the commercials, here and there are musical games. They have singers on who sit in with the band too, like John Legend. It’s a huge hit here. It’s been an amazing thing that came about a year or so after Good Charlotte started our hiatus. That’s been a good thing for me.”
Tama Starclassic birch/bubinga: 22″x18″ bass drum, 12″x8″ rack tom, 16″x16″ floor tom, 14″x6″ Starphonic aluminium snare
Paiste: 14″ Signature Precision Sound Edge hi-hats, 17″, 18″, 19″ and 20″ Signature Full crashes, 22″ Signature Precision Heavy ride
Tama hardware including Iron Cobra Power Glide double bass drum pedal and 900 Series hi-hat stand. Evans drum heads: 22″ clear EMAD bass drum batter, 22″ Black resonant; clear G2 tom batters, Black resonants; Coated Reverse Dot snare batter, Hazy 300 resonant. Promark SD9 Dean Butterworth Signature model sticks, Gorilla Ears in-ear monitors, DrumTacs Sound Control Pads