San Jose, Calif., -- Last month, Enter Music Publishing, publishers of hip/drum percussion magazines worldwide, featured the new loud and aggressive playing techniques of Slayer’s Dave Lombardo. Continuing its diversity of coverage, the March Issue explores Switchfoot’s Chad Butler straightforward approach and faith to drumming.
“Chris’ style of drumming seemed like a good contrast to Lombardo for our cover,” said Phil Hood, publisher and co-founder of Enter Music Publishing. “He has a simplistic, steady approach that helps define the sound of Switchfoot. His story is unique and he definitely has an inner faith for drumming and life.”
Like many young players, Butler at age 12 experienced his first challenges as a drummer, the ultimate sacrament of loud practice and frustrated neighbors. It’s quite common for many drummers to call it quits in this kind of environment even though Butler researched all kinds of ways to silence his drum calling without success. This would be an ongoing challenge even as his band, Switchfoot, started to make a name for itself on the road. As Butler noted, “I (would) come off the road to a wife and a tiny apartment.” The result: still no freedom to express his drumming.
And, this continued even as Switchfoot’s gig schedule became more hectic. But Butler’s conviction to be a rock-steady drummer enabled him to work out his parts, on the bus, in hotel rooms and even during sound-check writing sessions. But Butler’s belief in the beat would propel him to artistic expression.
Butler’s drum divinity finally arrived in 2006 when Switchfoot, having made a name for itself as a Christian rock band with the release, Oh Gravity, made some important decisions. They gave their record label (Sony) its walking papers and went completely independent. The result: a 24-hour studio, finally a saving sound grace for Butler. He had finally been given a way to explore the drum sounds in his head at any time.
But, even with his newfound drum freedom, Butler remained true to his straight-ahead approach that had propelled the band’s success. And this strategy would continue to be integral due to changes in production and recording on Hello Hurricane, the band’s latest release. On Hello, the band worked with rap producer, Mike Elizondo, known for his production work with established rap artists, Dr. Dre and Eminem.
The working relationship between Butler and Elizondo proved highly successful. “His (Butler’s) instincts are to do what’s best for the song right out of the gate,” Elizondo notes.
Maybe its Butler’s ability to adapt that defines his faith as a drummer. And though he has a strong relationship with a higher power and Switchfoot has been termed a “Christian rock band,” making music matter most, music that moves the band’s following.
As he says, “I look out at our audience and I see people of all different faiths and religions singing the same song. It’s transcendent.”