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Jason Aalon Butler: Rock has so much in common with hip hop

Jason Aalon Butler
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After Jason Aalon Butler dissolved Letlive – one of the most critically revered bands of the last decade – we didn’t know how long it’d be before we experienced his unique brand of chaos again. He’s since spent his time performing guerrilla gigs outside of donut shops, working with big-name producers like Travis Barker and John Feldman and making a stunning UK return at Download with his latest project, The Fever 333. We caught up with the man himself to talk rap, revolution, punk and protests. 

What was the intention with The Fever 333 when you conceived it? 

“With this project every piece of the puzzle, from the artwork to the live show to the music itself, all played into the ideology. I wanted to make sure every movement was deliberate and the message we’re trying to offer a representation of is clear.” 

Sonically it’s leaning on a lot more than punk rock, too…

“Yeah, well one of the big things was for me to show my love of rap and electronic music. To me, the way those genres have been able to evolve and to shift their culture is indicative that people want more from their art now, whether that’s personally, sonically, politically or ideologically, and for some odd reason rock’n’roll has chosen to concede to the environment around it. Rock’n’roll came from blues and chain gang music and real struggle, it has a tremendous amount in common with hip hop. We want to make sure we can shift hip hop and punk rock into a new direction, to affect culture, that’s what I’m interested in. That’s what music does; it creates culture for people to exist in, to assimilate in, to be represented in. We have to affect that culture and not just ride the wave.” 

Are you disappointed by the current state of heavy music, then? 

“I don’t feel let down, but I do want to know when we decided to abandon a subversive presence in this style of music. Rock’n’roll and punk rock was challenging in its sonics and its ideas, that was what was so beautiful about it. Now we’re becoming complacent and playing catch-up. All we have to do is look at the history of punk, metal and hip hop to see that what we have to do is burn it all down and start again. We come off of the backs of bands that did that – Public Enemy, Rage Against The Machine, even fucking Pearl Jam!” 

So how difficult will it be for you to thrive in 2018 with that attitude? 

“This is the thing: when we do reach the door of the – let’s be ambitious and call it ‘revolution’, or let’s be modest and call it ‘change’ – we peek inside and we see that not only is it frowned upon by people, but that shit don’t pay! Revolution don’t pay! But when you invest in change you have to accept the very high chance that you won’t see the rewards of your efforts. Most revolutionary moments take decades, the figure-heads are usually gone or assassinated. We are fighting such a massive machine, a powerful, incendiary, manipulative presence that’s enveloped the world for millennia. And people will have to sacrifice today for the results of tomorrow, and that isn’t as appealing as getting to ride the limo to an awards show.” 

So, The Fever 333 is more than just a band to you? 

“Absolutely. You can’t just write the music anymore, you have to be with the people, in the crowd while the protest is happening, as face-to-face as you can. You have to be willing to go there with the people and be part of the movement that you are trying to soundtrack. People aren’t always willing to do that.” 

People think that sharing things online equates to ‘fighting the system’ these days don’t they?

“Exactly! You don’t want to be part of something, that’s fine, but don’t fucking tell me you’re part of the revolution. People may think they are creating an idea, but if you talk about an idea and you don’t do anything about it, you falsify it, you make it weak. We left-leaning liberals all looked on Facebook and said, ‘Oh, no one likes Trump!’ And now we have a racist, Islamophobic, unstable man as one of the most powerful people in the world. We just talked about it, but we have to be about it! I want to use this opportunity to say that the media have a responsibility. I know you gotta post about Foo Fighters or whoever, but if you posted one article in 10 about bands looking to change things then that would at least give those ideas real representation.”

The Fever 333's Made An America EP is out now and available on Amazon (opens in new tab).

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.