Here’s a classic in-person interview with singer Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs, Love Spit Love) from San Francisco in May 1987, during the Midnight to Midnight tour. The text is presented below as originally written for my fanzine, Audivisse.
We managed to stop RICHARD BUTLER of the PSYCHEDELIC FURS long enough to ask a few questions…
by Nancy Robinson, and with assistance from Christine Sutherland.
Audivisse: I’ve read that you don’t like writing songs about love, but you seem to use the word ‘heart’ a lot.
Richard Butler: I don’t mind writing songs about love — I don’t like writing love songs. There’s a big difference… most of the “Talk Talk Talk” album was about love, but they weren’t love songs, like “I love you, baby” — all that kind of shit. I can’t do those.
I don’t think I really use ‘heart’ a lot. (“Heartbreak Beat”, “Heartbeat”, “Shadow in my Heart”…) I think I used it a lot on the last album — more that I’ve ever done before. On the first album, I used the word ‘stupid’ a lot. I just get different words that I like using at different times. On the last album, I think I used ‘rain’ a lot.
A: I’ve heard of plans for a solo album…
Richard Butler: At the moment, I’m just doing a lot of writing… whichever it happens to be for (Furs or solo]. I’d like to get enough to be able to do both.
A: How would the solo material be different from what you’re doing now?
Richard Butler: I’d like to think it’d be more…not country music, but a bit like country music, but a bit janglier than country music, you know? I’ve got a sound that I want it to sound like, but it’s very difficult to explain. I like a lot of the Doors’ music — it has the feel about it I want. A lot of the Velvet Underground’s early music has the kind of feel that I want. It’s kind of jangly-countryish almost… but not quite.
A: Why do you think other bands sometimes consider the Furs an influence on their own music?
Richard Butler: I think it’s just the fact that we’re a rock band. I think that any rock band who’s not making pop records is influential to people, in a way that it shows there is another way to make music. Especially in England–it shows there is another way to make music besides being in the charts all the time.
A: When bands come out with material that sounds a lot like the Psychedelic Furs, without really copying a song directly — do you feel as if they’re being unoriginal?
Richard Butler: I don’t think anybody starts out being original. I think you’re always the result of your influences. If someone was to start a band and they were influenced by Captain Beefheart and The Doors, people would go, “God, that’s incredibly original — what an original mind!” If someone came out and did the exact same thing with Duran Duran and Howard Jones, everybody would go, “That’s unoriginal — that’s crap.” But the person has only done the same thing, which is to mix up two influences.
I’m not saying that I like Duran Duran or Howard Jones, but that’s the process that gones on when you start a band. It’s not really about originality — you’re just taking all of your influences and all that you’ve taken in yourself, and putting it all together.
And for more from The Psychedelic Furs…