Growing up in both Warrington, England, and rural New Zealand gave Josh Butler an incredibly diverse introduction to music. Although Warrington is a small quiet town, it lies right in the middle of Manchester and Liverpool, two vibrant cities with incredible electronic music scenes. Josh also spent a lot of time in New Zealand, attending high school in the north of New Zealand. Despite virtually no electronic scene when he first arrived, Josh’s first opportunities to DJ came in New Zealand. “The first time I played in front of people was in New Zealand. People had lots of land so we had outdoor raves. I was into DJing and had decks and a PA system so when people threw parties they hit me up to come play. Those were my first gigs, I was playing all sorts of stuff… 2Pac, Drum n bass, house tunes.”
For Josh, his teenage years were a time of discovery and learning. He started producing music around the age of 14, before he was a DJ. Primarily listening to electronic music at the time, Josh noted that producing first, helped him focus on music as a career. “Over those years I was getting more and more into music, starting to get some tracks played on the radio. I was obsessed with music production and electronic music. When the time came to think about jobs, I told my parents I wanted to give the music thing a go. I flew back to the UK to start a music technology course and the rest was history.”
Growing up in two different places saw Josh gain a multitude of musical influences. Although he initially only experienced an electronic scene in the UK, New Zealand has quickly become a second home for him. “All of my musical input came from being in the UK. Only in the last 10 years has the scene in New Zealand grown… I first came back 7 years ago to play in Queenstown. I’ve been lucky enough to go back every year since. There’s always another city added on to the tour ever year. [My favorite] is a club called 121 in Christchurch. Probably the best venue in the country.”
Creating a sonic identity for Josh is a process that took time, maturity, and is still ongoing. It takes many artists years to get heard and break through. Josh faced a unique challenge when a remix of one of his earliest songs acted as his breakthrough. “‘Got A Feeling’ blew up in 2013. After that big record I almost wanted to distance myself a bit. It was a remix that blew up, not my original. I was getting known for that sound so I wanted to go in the completely opposite direction.”
Josh felt that his next record needed to be true to the sound he loved, and not compliant with fans' expectations after a hot remix. He put out ‘No Frills’ with Kerri Chandler’s Madtech records. The track was very underground and minimal, “I was throwing hard house sounds in there… I was trying to combine all my musical tastes and put them into the pot and figure out how all these pieces would go together. The Madtech EP felt like I found my formula.”
For those who don’t know him, Kerri Chandler is an American house music icon. Running the influential Madtech label, as well as owning a catalogue of iconic tracks, many rising DJs find their inspiration from Kerri. Josh Butler’s first meeting with Kerri was one he would never forget.
“We got booked to play the same show at a place in Paris called Concrete. The club was right on the river, beautiful setting. I was fresh on the scene and we just really got along. He invited me to his soundcheck [Kerri is infamous for his soundchecks]. The soundcheck was almost longer than his set. He’s a man of detail. He brings bits of equipment, analyzing frequencies of the room, running to the sound engineers booth tweaking sounds and knobs to make sure everything sounds perfect. We started playing more shows together and stayed in touch. When I started my label, Origins, Kerri was the obvious choice to tap for a record.”
As Josh worked to define himself and hone his craft, he began finding musical influence in different places. “I rarely listen to house/techno if I’m chilling. I listen to a lot of dug reggae. Minimal vocals buts of effects, reverbs, and samples. These guys for me were the pioneers for what I and a lot of people like me do… its out of this world with all the effects, really atmospheric.” At the same time, Josh started to understand who his peers were and who he could look to for collaboration and feedback. “The Solid Grooves guys, Michael Bibi and Pawsa. Their style is very minimal and stripped back. I get into that style and they know how to party as well. Jamie Jones’s paradise is a good one as well.”
Throughout Josh Butler’s career, he has often worked with others in the studio, making the process of production an inclusive one. One of the strongest relationships he has is with fellow DJ/Producer Bontan. The duo have been friends for years now, performing back to back often, pumping out hit records, and even going on tour with Nile Rodgers and Chic. “We knew each other before we were successful… we made some terrible tracks over the years but luckily we also made some good ones. We got introduced a decade ago and still speak daily.” Butler and Bontan were embarking on a special back to back tour in which they were playing extended, 6 hour sets every night. As they approached the UK leg of their tour, they got an offer to open for Nile Rodgers and Chic on a handful of shows. It was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
“It was very different from what we were doing. It was all disco, playing pretty early. Start with an empty room, playing slow disco, dropping classic house tunes as well. Slowly the room would fill up and when Nile came on stage, it would erupt.” For Josh, it was a serious signal that his career was heading in the right direction. After their stops with Nile, they continued their tour. Despite the incredible experience playing extended sets, it is not always Josh’s goal to take on a six hour night. Often the setting is key in determining set length. “If you asked me 4 or 5 years ago I'd say extended sets everywhere. I like to explore my music. Sometimes I'll play venues that I don't feel comfortable playing long sets in. Those are typically ones with large stages and tons of lights. For one or two hours theyre amazing but for a long extended set i prefer a small dark room with the DJ off to the side and a great speaker system. If I get lost in that flow state, time becomes irrelevant. I can go for 8 hours and it feels like 30 minutes.”
As Josh’s career has continued to grow, he has had the unique opportunity to produce with/remix for some of the biggest names in the industry, as well as playing regularly in places that techno tourists dream of. His remix of “I Want You” by Carl Cox is a mainstay in sets around the world to this day. Speaking on the experience Josh mentioned that the song was so old he had to find the original samples used by Carl Cox in order to do the remix justice.
South America and Ibiza hold a special place in Josh’s heart. “[South America] has such a strong scene. The Lost Beach in Ecuador is one of my favorite spots… some of the best parties I’ve ever played are in South America.” Speaking on Ibiza, a place Josh has played for years now, he almost could not describe it. “Without sounding cliche, it’s hard to put into words… [it’s a] big hippy place, lots of hippies still live in caves there and I think that energy brings to the magic. On the other side of it you have the music scene. It’s the strongest in the world… all the DJs go to test new music and it’s where you’re going to see the best in the world.” Josh’s new single with Dennis Cruz, “Ahora Todo Va,” is out now and he will be playing in New York City on July 24th for Elrow.
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