Brian Butler speaks with the soft ease and quiet smirk of someone who either knows something you don't or simply doesn't care. There's some unseen force that compels him to create some of the most haunting installations employing film and music with the likes of Kenneth Anger and Vincent Gallo. He is more unflinchingly dedicated to the validity of his craft than the most rabid of people.
However, it is not today, which concerns him for he appears to exist outside the dimensional constraints of time. I sat down with him recently to discuss his new works being shown internationally, dispel the nasty rumors of him hypnotizing and hexing the masses, and learn a little more about what gives this movement it's weight and depth in a happy go lucky consumer society.
Brian has been guided by a "weird string of coincidences" to reach the place in which he now stands. After bearing witness to a demonic ritual, or "soul brokering," at a seedy Hollywood hotel, his curiosity was piqued. He purchased Magic in Theory and Practice by the prolific occult writer Aleister Crowley at Gilberts Book Shop, an old haunt of Jimmy Page. He later ran into the man from the hotel ritual wearing new snakeskin boots who introduced him to a woman who happened to have a complete set of unreleased Crowley manuscripts. His research began. He finally had a name to make a connection which made him feel safe and at home in the world of Lucifer that his grandmother had always warned him about.
Music was his first expressive medium, and Butler's psychedelic and experimental derivations of metal have been influential in the worlds of art and music. He dapples in the intangible with an ease and playfulness. Brian is currently in a band named Technicolor Skull with the legendary filmmaker and occultist Kenneth Anger. But eventually the combination of film and music would take over to provide a more concrete reality to showcase his vision, with unforeseen results.
On the rumors of his mischievous doings, "At first it was it was fun to take credit for that stuff but there are people out there with a complete lack of understanding of what the occult means and that can be dangerous thing." When asked about stories of hypnotic powers and ritual orgies in luxury hotels across the globe, Butler quickly brings the conversation back to what's most important to him, the work. The free association his films employ can have a dreamlike and ethereal aesthetic conducive to these intangible correlations. But is that not the real power in this town or any other, to be responsible for your own work and your own legacy?
His travels have led him from demonic temples in Beijing, Loch Ness, and Berlin all the way to the most exclusive parties at the Cannes Film Festival and the front row of the top fashion shows in Paris, NYC and London. Appearing as a sort of pied piper, Butler is often pursued at these events by those seeking hidden knowledge before disappearing with the nearest runway model. Inspirations for him are "nature /object oriented more so than people," and of the people he does find interesting and inspiring not many are still alive. Instead he draws on inward inspiration rather than the vapid landscape around him. He remarks, "By induction I'm being pulled into a role that needs to be filled. The necessity of someone to float between surreal and the real while also being authentic." He succeeds, like any true artist, to alter or reinforce people's minds and sometimes in extreme ways. But it is also this absence of aesthetic that pushes him to create and re-create his own.
Stories of Brian appearing in people's dreams and floating red balls of energy in rooms have been recounted to him after the Night of Pan screenings along with an overzealous crowd reaction. When pushed he just shrugs his shoulders and presses on. "After this film I've had a lot of women approach me on the nature of mysticism and sex-magic. Their eyes light up with the possibility of wizardry and that's fun." But he's not sharing any secrets just yet.
"What you see in my films is 90% a surreal representation based on past experience, actually the less you provide and more vague you can be the more freedom of choice you allow the subject to build an unconscious dialogue." A re-assuring promise in a place where the metamemes are so easily dealt out and digested.
Night of Pan trailer:
On Wednesday, May 19, 2010, Kenneth Anger and Brian Butler make a rare appearance as the audiovisual performance project Technicolor Skull at a benefit concert in support of The Anthology Film Archives, NYC (anthologyfilmarchives.org). Also performing are Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, and The Virgins, along with a DJ set from Moby. That evening Kenneth Anger, the American underground avant-garde filmmaker and author, will be presented with the AFA's Lifetime Achievement Award. The Hiro Ballroom at the Maritime Hotel is located at 363 W. 16th Street, NY, NY.