Expect the unexpected from Jeffrey Bützer


An honorary native of Atlanta, Bützer moved to Marietta from Ocala, Florida at age 3 when his father’s job brought the family north. He was homeschooled and started showing musical promise when he was 8 years old.

“My mother was a church organist and pianist. I learned to play drums when my mom had her midlife crisis, and she became really obsessed with heavy metal. She played these metal songs on the piano and I played with me on the drums. And then I ended up picking up other instruments.

A voracious consumer of media, Bützer spent his youth reading comic books, skateboarding, and working at the local cinema. He wrote his first screenplay at the age of 15 and his unfailing love for cinema would later strongly influence his music.

“For me, music has always been linked to cinema. I heard Tom Waits and John Zorn and realized there was no need to have a genre. I was like, ‘Oh! You can mix it all up. You can have an accordion and double bass album, an orchestral album. It didn’t have to be guitar and drums all the time. Same with cinema. I watched David Lynch films and Jean-Luc Godard films which made me realize that films can be a statement and not just entertainment.

To this day, Bützer’s music is best understood through film; minimalist arrangements that swell and breathe, compositions better suited to accompany the film. He takes his rhythms from Marc Ribot and Sonny Sharrock, and cites Italian film scores and chamber music as driving influences in the recordings he carefully self-publishes on his Bandcamp page.

Credit: Jeffrey Butzer / Kaitlin Crawford

Credit: Jeffrey Butzer / Kaitlin Crawford

Although his musical career never regained the heights he reached in Hong Kong, Bützer remained a diligent and unwavering creator of art and music, film and live theatre. For Bützer, live performances of these works are more about a fundamental desire to create than a service to the ego.

“You know when you’re younger you want a lot of applause. I like crowds and it’s really fun to play for people, but I don’t live off applause.

Those who know him are quick to point out that Jeffrey Bützer fits more into the mold of an artist’s artist.

“With Jeff, it’s always about art. It’s never about what he thinks is popular or what will draw a crowd or get him into the AJC. He just digests art in general. He’s a huge fan of Archie comics, he loves comedy and writes jokes. He plays tribute shows. He’s in a surf group. He does solo music. He writes screenplays and composes film music,” explains Sean Zearfoss.

Bützer is nothing if not prolific. He is perhaps best known for his annual holiday show at The Earl, covering Vince Guaraldi’s iconic 1965 album “A Charlie Brown Christmas” alongside pianist TT Mahoney and other guest artists. The event is a huge raffle, selling out three nights each December.

This year will mark Bützer’s 15th year in the tribute show when he returns to The Earl from December 15-17. The group would also take him on the road, performing in Woodstock, Athens and Birmingham, Alabama.

“I’m really not famous at all, but if I’m known for anything, it’s this.” Butzer said.

Christmas pageants have become an East Atlanta Village tradition. But it’s the artistic work he does for the other 11 months that makes Bützer such an interesting subject.

During the most confined part of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Bützer recorded and released three albums, including “Soldaderas”, his homage to the spaghetti western genre. And in April 2022, Bützer released “Bedrooms,” a chamber folk album written and performed with “Cobra Kai” actress and singer Emily Marie Palmer, whom he met online.

“She was looking for a band and I was looking for a singer. We had a lot in common. Emily and I were both homeschooled and share an interest in traditional folk music and film. We got along well and worked very easily together. Almost all of the vocals and most of the guitar tracks were recorded in an eight-hour session. I’m really proud of this album, it’s one of the finest things I’ve ever done,” Bützer said.

Like almost everything Bützer releases today, “Bedrooms” was recorded at Ant Lodge, his home studio, and released through his independent label Ant Baby.

Yet for all he accomplished as an independent artist, the music was an afterthought in the hours leading up to The Compartmentalizationialists’ August show at the Earl. This is because the concert was to double as the launch party for Bützer’s first short story book, “Artificial Islands” (Western Pines Press, $12).

“I’m primarily a musician, but narrative storytelling is one of my favorite things. I got it into my head that I was going to do a play. So I wrote a piece called “The Artificial Island”, which appears at the end of the book, and then I had it performed.

Produced last spring by PushPush Arts in College Park, the play follows a young woman’s journey from a drunken and violent encounter with a fortune teller, through imprisonment in a women’s correctional facility, to to romance with his new cellmate.

“Seeing ‘The Artificial Island’ performed encouraged me to publish the rest of my stories,” he says. “The fact that the play was working, people were laughing and the actors were buying in, I thought, ‘Yeah, I think I want to put my writing on. I think other people might like it.

Back at the Earl, before Bützer’s band hit the stage, his friends Tom Cheshire, James Joyce and Cassandra Renee, who are the hosts of the music discussion podcast Three on the Ones and Twos, each took turns reading humorous passages from “Artificial Islands”. ”

A reading of the chapter titled “The Promise”, a short story about the importance of experience when performing emergency brain surgery. Another reading of “Jean-Pierre Duvet”, Bützer’s short story about a French writer on tour in America. The third reading of “A Neurotic’s Meditation Checklist”, the inner monologue of a restless mind during a self-guided attempt at meditation.

Credit: Western Pines Press

Credit: Western Pines Press

Taken together – the film-inspired music, the experimental pieces, the utterly authentic short stories – it all contributes to Bützer’s collage as a self-taught, self-published, self-doubting multidimensional artist and tireless tinkerer, working by day as a framer in Buckhead, skateboarding with his kids at night and recording instrumental Spaghetti Western music or writing comedic stories by lamplight.

As the podcast hosts wrapped up their readings, Bützer, alongside drummer Zearfoss and guitarist Mitch Laue, took the stage to perform what may be the world’s only noise-surfing film music for movies that don’t exist. not.

When the show ended, Bützer’s friends from the Atlanta music and arts scenes surrounded him to offer encouragement and kind words. But her mind had already turned to the next projects on her endless creative checklist.

“Right now I’m working on a script for director Jeff Shipman. It’s a detective comedy in the style of the Coen brothers. After the script, I’m going to write a play in January. After that, I will arrange and record new versions of some songs to accompany my next book. I’m very disciplined and structured, I plan ahead and I just like to do stuff,” he paused.

“I have to do something, you know?”


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