Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Ireland’s Knucklebutt. Together we discussed the origin of their name, the variety of their discography, their collaborations, and so much more!
1. Mustard would like to thank you for joining them. How are you?
Thank you for being so welcoming. It’s nice to be asked questions about one’s art. I am very well. Better than bad, not so good that it’s tiring. Doing well.
2. Humans have both knuckles and butts from what Mustard has observed. Could you share more about you joined both together?
I’ve often been conflicted about my name. I’ve always wanted a different name. I would say this; the name ‘KnuckleButt’ does seem to perk up peoples ears, and generally draws a laugh. When people shy away from it, or don’t seem to like it, I find that to be entertaining and informative. I also get a real kick out hearing people say it.
3. Who (or what) inspires you? What is your creative process?
Bob Dylan, John Frusciante, and Kanye West. They are all prolific, which I enjoy. They all try other art forms. Bob Dylan sits unopposed as the greatest songwriter in living memory. John’s musicianship is unparalleled. Kanye’s production quality and genre defying exploration of sound is a daily source of sustenance and inspiration for me.
My creative process is play. Through play (with music or other art forms) I’ll stumble on to something, play some more, refine until I’m bored of that play, and then come back to play again. Often I’ll change the toys that I’m playing with. Most often I’ll start on guitar, and work my way through my instruments, recording equipment, and other toys.
Sometimes, for all that play to be worthwhile, it becomes a little like work. The slog of tweaking, fixing, and repairing until a project is ready to be shown to people can sometimes be a drag.
That is one of the reasons I release a lot, so that I can play more. I try not to hold to too much, and I try not to be too much of a perfectionist.
4. Your debut album “Knucklebutt” is an electronic concept album. How did this album come together? Was it inspired by other concept albums?
I had discovered production and GarageBand about 6 months before KnuckleButt’s release (June 19th, 2021). The album is essentially my first exploration into what I could do with sounds in a DAW. After becoming KnuckleButt, I decided to release this album that told the story, sonically, of the birth of KnuckleButt.
Very often, the meaning or theme is added pretty far down the line of the production. Most often, I don’t know what I’m doing when I’m doing it.
The template that album follows (play, record, play, set a release date, invite collaboration, mix/master, make music videos, somehow stumble to the deadline, cram in some promo, move on) is the same template that I have followed on each subsequent release. It is the true birth of KnuckleButt.
It wasn’t inspired by any other albums.
5. Following “Knucklebutt” came “KNUCKLEDOWN” that provides the listener on a journey of Knucklebutt in a depressive state. When putting these two albums together, was this planned in advance? Or did it just happen?
For me, everything just happens. At some point, one moves from ‘this is happening in front of me’ to ‘I am manipulating existence in a way that I feel I have control over’.
Speaking more specifically, I felt that after KnuckleButt’s birth, he should experience himself a bit. KNUCKLEDOWN was intended as a therapy for how he felt. Particularly songs like ‘Secret Knock’ is an attempt to provide pleasure to a brain that feels injured. With headphones on, it is a pleasurable, but somewhat brutal experience. Other songs, and certainly the collaborations (of which there are many) were twisted to fit the theme.
In terms of the ambient nature, an old acquaintance who is a fantastic (extremely underground) musician and artist, Alan Massey works often in ambient music, and I wanted to play in that field for a while. This is an exclusive reveal, just for you, Mustard. I have never told Alan this.
6. Mustard subscribed to you on YouTube. What can Mustard expect to find on your channel?
Thank you, every subscription is a feather brushed against my sweating brow.
You can expect music videos/visual experiences. At every release, I release visuals. I almost always do visuals for each track. As such, new vids tend to be album sized, and 2-3 times per year.
I would love to start a music review weekly thing, but I have not managed to progress past basic concept, scripting, and rough set design in the last 6 months. But, one never really knows what my next big project will be.
7. You collaborated with other artists to bring us “Fuscia” inspired by John Frusciante. Could you share a memory or moment you had with John that inspired this album? What was the collaboration process like?
Fuscia is probably my most technically successful achievement in terms of a targeted theme and over all musicality. And certainly financially, it far outstrips any sort of monetary return that I have had for other projects. This is entirely down to my collaborators. In particular, Pietro Baletta, Skye Grant, Roising McAuliffe, and Salty Moon Arcade. The collaboration process is always a challenge. The biggest challenge is connecting with competent people, who relate to the sounds, and are open to sharing themselves in a way that will improve the songs. A lot of people will miss deadlines, or flake on you. Sometimes someone will send you something that is simply not good. That is the hardest thing because you either have to manipulate it in such a way that it sounds good, or tell the person that they have made something that is not good (which is almost impossible to do in a non-harmful way).
But, for as many poor experiences, there are wonderful experiences. Mostly, that is in receiving tracks back that upon hearing, make your life better. I have cried hearing the gift that a collaborator has given me, they can be real moments of glory.
In terms of a memory with John, my life as an attentive music listener is completely intertwined with the music of John Frusciante. I cannot un-entangle my experience of music, and particularly guitar music and synthesis, from him. Particularly his music that he made during his second period with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Me and my two brothers were consumed by him during our formative years. As such, he is a common touchstone of the most important relationships in my life.
8. How has TikTok and other social media platforms helped you as an artist?
The moment I joined TikTok, things started to happen for me. I met other likeminded musicians, I learned a lot, and I had lots of fun. Like any creative hobby, it can be boring and frustrating at times. But it’s a great toy, and it’s been a real lesson to think about editing short form video content. Instagram is a great place to deepen a connection, but not such a great place to grow. Twitter is a black hole. Every time I go to facebook, I am reminded why I rarely go there.
I eagerly await the next social media platform.
9. Speaking of TikTok “Happy Frogs & TikTok songs” is a collection of songs from the platform. Would you say there is a big difference from composing a TikTok song to a regular KnuckleButt song? Mustard loves the happy folk feel of the album. Are there any other TikTok artists you’d like to collaborate with?
For that project, I had taken part in three different song writing challenges (Jamuary, FAWM, and RPM) which essentially meant that I wrote and recorded an EP in a month. This is the first album where I sang the majority of songs. I like to think that, as shown through the variety of song types and genres that I have done, there is no such thing as a regular KnuckleButt song.
It was also a direct response to the melancholy nature of the previous releases. I wanted to find happier tones. I wasn’t 100% successful, but it was certainly a learning experience. Happier songs is something that I am still actively seeking. I’m glad you enjoyed that happier feel. Happy Frogs & Tiktok Songs is also where I first worked with the always wonderful Dullan. And sure, it was through Dullan that we met. So, well met, and a blessing.
10. “Illegal Sh!t [live] mixtape” is your most recent album. What sets this apart from your other releases? Is there a chance of this ever becoming legal in Ireland?
In the same way that I tried to wear my John Frusciante influence on my sleeve in Fuscia, I tried to push my Kanye West influence to the fore on Illegal Sh!t [live] mixtake. In keeping with that, it was the first time that I used sample based song writing as the creative engine.
I strongly hope that it will one day be legal. All I did was take other peoples sounds that they were giving away for free, play with them, and then try to give them to other people. Humans have done this for aeons. In keeping with the Kanye influence, I have enough material from this period to generate at least one, if not two, more mixtapes of the same style.
11. What’s next for Knucklebutt?
My next release, knuckleup, will release on the 19th of August. It is a thematic response to KNUCKLEDOWN. KnuckleButt has experienced ecstasy, and wants to remind himself of that. I feel like it is so easy to make wierd dissonant music and call it ambient. knuckleup is an attempt to make welcoming, non-dissonant ambient music.
Beyond that, I have a reggae infused scifi themed album, an album of cover songs (with a twist), my magnum opus, a sample pack, a synth based project, some more illegal mixtapes, and my greatest hits. They may not release in that order. Quite a work load, so I am always looking for collaborators. Find me on tiktok!
12. Where can readers listen to your music?
You can find my music on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Audius, and Youtube. The greatest hits will be on Spotify, just wait 3-5 years.