The Butterfly Effect: "I felt that I’d lost everybody’s faith and trust."

The Butterfly Effect: "I felt that I’d lost everybody’s faith and trust."

I arrive at The Butterfly Effect’s rehearsal space in an inner north suburb of Brisbane on the afternoon of Wednesday, 8 February 2012. After pushing open a door bearing the band’s name in bold type, I find all four members in band position, almost as if they’re ready to begin playing. Ben Hall is sitting behind his drum kit, Kurt Goedhart is sitting before a wall of amps and noodling on his guitar, Glenn Esmond is cradling his bass and leaning over his pedalboard, and singer Clint Boge sits at a desk behind a computer and a set of speakers. They’re not rehearsing at the moment, though: instead, these four men are working on a first draft of the setlist for their final tour together. Two days earlier, the Brisbane-based hard rock act announced that Boge will be leaving the band after the tour culminates in early June. The other three members will keep the name, audition to find a new singer, and press on.

Though the announcement was a shock to the band’s significant national fanbase, it’s less surprising when you consider their last few years of activity - or lack thereof, perhaps. Their last album was released in 2008, the sprawling, ambitious Final Conversation Of Kings, which saw the band reaching toward a more epic, prog-rock sound than what we heard on their 2003 debut Begins Here or its superb follow-up, 2006’s Imago. Though the quartet had toured occasionally throughout the last few years - including a short run of dates celebrating their 10th year together, in October 2011 - they had also been trying to produce a fourth album. They still haven’t gotten very far, apparently.

Clint disconnects the speakers on his desk and distributes the milk crates that supported them. Kurt stays more or less in the same spot he was sat when I first entered the room; he continues to hold his guitar, and absent-mindedly plays a few notes occasionally, while the other three position themselves around the desk and do the majority of the talking. It’s clear that Clint and Ben are most interested in having their say, though Glenn does interject with a few nuggets of wisdom throughout our 45 minute conversation. Immediately before the interview begins, there’s an air of friendliness which morphs into tension remarkably quickly, as I start with the most important question: why is Clint leaving, after over 10 years fronting one of Australia’s most successful hard rock bands?

TheVine: How long have you all known about Clint’s decision?

Ben: It’s been a few months.

Clint: September [2011]. It was mid-September when I came in and said I didn’t feel like going on anymore; continuing on. It took a little while to cement in, I suppose.

How did the rest of the band react?

Ben: I think it’d been coming. Everyone knew that there was something that was simmering. Not simmering, but... we’d obviously been trying to make a record for three years, and I just don’t think we were getting very far. I don’t think we were all happy with the way it was going. There was many tense moments, lots of points over those three years where we sat down and tried to realign, and I think it just came to a head on that day. We all agreed that we weren’t in the same direction, so maybe we shouldn’t waste any more time doing that. It was not a decision that was made...

Clint: It wasn’t made lightly. It was something I’d thought about quite a lot leading up to that day. I think it came from... there were a couple of suggestions made to me about who I should work with, and who I should be trying to extract the best melodies with, and not really getting the songs, or delivering them in the right way. That was the last straw for me. I thought, 'If I’ve lost the faith from my bandmates to produce what I think are the best melodies...' and to have that trust taken away, then I couldn’t go on working like that. Not only that, but I don’t want to be the weak link in a band. I don’t want to be the guy that’s not pulling his weight. That was another reason, too. I thought, 'If that was the case, I’ve got to go.'

Not only that, man, but I think musically-wise I was looking for something different that I wasn’t quite hearing in the songs. I [think that some] of the ideas that I [was trying to communicate] weren't being actioned. They weren’t being done, so I felt lost in that department, as well. It’s probably been happening for some time. I really felt some pressure, to not make the same mistakes that I feel we made on Final Conversation. Wanting to step up and go beyond was the focus.

In terms of the band’s style, you mean?

Clint: Yeah, yeah, and especially my vocal delivery, and what I heard in the songs and what I could hear being the final product. That was all taken into consideration, and the decision was made based on all of those points.

Where were you on that day? Did you meet here [at the rehearsal room], and discuss it?

Clint: Yeah, it was just another practice day, pretty much. I sat in my car for about 20 minutes, pretty nervous, thinking, “This is a big decision to make.” And not only that, to come in and do it cold. I pretty much walked in, grabbed my mic, put it in my pocket... because I thought, “I’m taking my bloody microphone!”

[Ben begins laughing, and says, “Far out!” Glenn laughs and says, “I’m taking my bat and ball, and going home!”]

Clint: [laughs] It was a bit symbolic, but nah, I actually needed it to do something with it. I was going to do some singing at home, and it’s a better microphone than I’ve got at home. I said to the guys, in light of the email that was sent and the two band meetings that happened previously in the year, I felt that I’d lost everybody’s faith and trust, so I removed myself from the band. Everyone took it pretty well. I thought so. There was no, “Fuck you, and up yours Jack” and whatever. “Get the fuck out of here or I’ll bash you,” or any of that sort of bullshit.

Ben: Would’ve made for more of an exciting story, but. We can organise it?

Clint: And also, Benny sent me a text message afterwards and just said, “Look man, you know we don’t want to go out like that.” Which I said to the guys, “I don’t want to go out arguing and screaming, and calling each other names”.

Ben: We’ve done plenty of that over the years. There’s been of that sort of shit going on. It’s not just Kurt and me; it’s Clint and Kurt, or me and Glenn. We’ve had plenty of years worth of fights and all that sort of that shit. The second that Clint walked in, when that was the outcome, I think we all felt that this time, more than any before, that it was probably the right decision. It was probably something that had been coming for a fair while. As much as you don’t want to let it go, you fear having nothing. This band’s everything to all of us. It has been. But you go, 'Cool, let’s reflect and look at what we’ve done.'

Clint: And celebrate it.

Ben: Immediately, I started to feel a better sense of achievement than I had the whole time I’ve been in the band. We’ve done a lot of stuff together, and we’ve achieved a lot, and it’ll be great to hold this together in light of what we’ve done, and do this tour that’s coming up. Already today, we’re talking about the setlist, piecing it together, and getting excited about it. Which is awesome. It could be a terrible break-up, but everyone’s been adult-like.

Clint: I think that’s the surreal thing for me -- when we did that tour in October. That week or two for the [band’s] ten year anniversary. We all came in, the pressure was off of writing an album, and it felt good to hang out. I really enjoyed that tour. [He looks around the room and is met with nods.] I thought everyone got along really well. There was a good sense of camaraderie. There was no hint of any malice towards each other. It was really... and it was odd, because I was expecting being at the airport and being sat in a different section of the plane. Sort of feeling this - 'Oh shit, I’m the odd guy out', and having the crew shun me and go, 'You bastard, you’ve effectively taken one of our meal tickets off the table' sort of thing. But no, it was good. Everyone was really good. And now it’s -- do the last tour, really celebrate and enjoy a long time in the music industry, and some great achievements, and off we go. And then it’s a new singer for The Butterfly Effect, and a solo album for me, and rock' n roller.

Did you always intend to go out with a tour together, rather than just - “I’m leaving today, this is the end of it”?

Clint: I didn’t know what was going to happen, to be honest.

[Kurt starts saying something; everyone looks at him. Then he says, “Yeah, nah, I don’t know”, gives a sheepish grin, and returns to silence.]

Ben: The reason that I feel it hadn’t been announced earlier was... when Clint had come in, on that day in September, we had shows a few weeks later that were booked. I think everyone kinda thought there would be that, “We’ll get on the road, then we’ll come home and sort it out”. But everyone got back from the shows - which were great shows, we had a great time - and went, “Actually, things are probably still the same.”

Clint: Yeah. I did actually say to the guys, “We should have a chat,” but on reflection of that, I got home and went - same with Benny - “Maybe the reason why we haven’t talked is because it’s right”. And not only that; reneging on such a big decision, something that was made over a long period of time, and something that was thought about very clearly and methodically; I went through all the different things and the reasons I was leaving in the first place. [To go back on that] I think would be not right to these guys, to walk in and say, 'That’s it, up yours,' whatever — not that that happened, but you know what I’m saying — and then to renege just because we had a good tour or whatever, I thought was a bit shit.

Glenn: Especially if all the things that were wrong in the first place were still wrong when we came back.

Clint: Exactly right.

Glenn: We had a good tour and we came back, but we were still in the same situation.

Clint: That’s exactly right. In light of that, the decision was stuck to, from my point of view anyway. I had a good think about it. It’d be great to go out with that last album, with a band and all of that. But it’s something where I felt like my heart was slowly being...I was moving away from it. My heart wasn’t in it as much as it used to be.

Ben: I don’t think we were getting any closer to having a record. We’d spent a long time on it, and it wasn’t something that I was looking at going, 'We’re nearly there, we’re nearly there.' It’s not any one person’s fault, it’s just the way that it was moving.

Was this kind of decision explored earlier in the band’s career? The reason I ask that is because I’ve interviewed other bands - Dirty Three, for example - where they’ve referred to having an ‘unspoken rule’ where if one member leaves, the band’s over. Did that ever come up during the band’s history?

Clint: No, there was nothing spoken about. Man, you know what, I’m in two minds in that scenario, if a band member leaves. Depending on who it is, and depending on the band, I suppose. It’s interesting. Bands continue on. Bands have lost drummers, singers, bloody keyboard players, whatever - and continue to make great music.

Ben: It’s not something we discussed.

Clint: No, it’s not something we talked about. But I’m excited to see what happens next. As other people have said... because people want to take a negative line to it, you know? They say, 'They can’t survive without you' or 'Wouldn’t it be shit if they wrote a #1 smash hit single?' I say, 'No, it’s bloody fantastic, because not only does the band survive and go on, and become a part of history for being a band that did that — I mean, no pressure guys [gestures to the others, is met with laughs] — but you know what I’m saying? I don’t want to the band to fall apart. I don’t want the name ‘The Butterfly Effect’ to just fade into obscurity. I worked too long and too hard to built it. That’s something I’m quite mindful [of] as well, it’s just that my time was done. For all of the reasons that I illustrated before. But not only that, I hope the guys write a #1 smash hit single, because they’ll sell a shitload more back catalogue, and I’ll make a fucking bucket! [everyone laughs]

But not only that, man, in all sincerity, I don’t have any ill... there’s no hate in my heart, man, whatsoever. There’s no ill feeling towards any of these guys, at all, at any point. It’s just... [exhales] getting the compilation disc out there, and doing the last tour. That’s all I’m focusing on for this chapter. Once it’s done... when we went out with the official announcement, I had a bit of a rough day. I had a bad day, just feeling shit. Feeling sad emotions, going through all those sort of things. But yesterday, I felt heaps better. I woke up and went, “Alright, that’s cool man. It’s all good.”

What kind of response have you seen from the fans?

Ben: It’s a little bit overwhelming, because we haven’t really done a great deal for... we haven’t had a record out for 2008. So to see the Facebook response has been quite overwhelming.

Glenn: I was saying to Clint earlier - you get so focused on the four members in the room, you just sort of become four regular guys doing your thing. You become quite disconnected don’t really feel like you have any extra presence in the world. You just feel like four guys making music in a room. Then to do that and see the other part of the band that exists in the go, 'That’s right, we actually do shows, and release records, and it does actually mean stuff to people.'

Clint: And we affect people. I mean, pardon the pun.

Glenn: It’s like - 'Oh, that’s right! I totally forgot! It’s been like three years...' I mean, we’ve done shows and whatever, but you lose touch with that part of things. We were never very full of our own importance anyway, but, you know...

Clint: I always felt like we weren’t very cool. We weren’t the coolest kids on the block. That’s something that used to annoy the shit out of me. I’d go, 'How come people love Cog and Karnivool more than us?' It boils down to musical taste. Because they’re great bands. But we’re a part of that band scene that made up those people. Back in the day, that took me a while to get my head around it, that we’re just as relevant as anybody else.

Ben: It’s awesome to... whatever happens for anyone’s future, to be involved with those bands. Cog, Karnivool...

Clint: I remember reading a quote from somebody, somewhere, in some publication. It was like - 'Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, INXS - that was a part of Australian music history. And then there was the whole ‘prog’ movement, which is Cog, Butters, Karnivool.' We get mentioned in there. Which is... for the years that we won’t be playing, we’ll be remembered as a great time in Australian music; heavy, progressive music, anyway.

I always thought that you were the ones who paved the way for Cog, Karnivool, and Dead Letter Circus.

Ben: Oh, yeah, fuckin’ oath we did. [Clint laughs and claps.] I’ve been waiting for someone to say that. [laughs]

Clint: Man, that’s... thank you very much. That’s a nice comment.

Ben: I always remember... Oh, I fuckin’ remember a lot of things about those two bands [Cog and Karnivool]. But - flying into Perth for our first show in 2002. Sitting out the front of the hotel, drunk, probably high, with a guy called Jonno from Karnivool. Him putting on his disc, and going, 'Man, check this shit out.' And all of a sudden...

You’re on top of the world. We’ve just come from a nightclub that’s playing our songs....

Glenn: That’s right! [puts head into hands]

Ben: I thought, 'Fuck yeah, I’ve made it!' There was nobody in the nightclub, but that doesn’t matter. [laughs] And all of a sudden I was in this car, in the front seat. This guy puts on this song, and you just go, 'Oh my fucking god - I’m a child. I’m just a little boy listening to this guy’s band that is just out of this world.' You learn to deal with those kind of things. Everyone writes their music, and you write what you’re best at doing. But memories like that are amazing to have.

Was that Karnivool’s Persona EP you’re talking about, or the one they released before that?

Ben: That was the demos for [their debut album] Themata.

Clint: ‘Themata’ was one of the first things I heard, that “buum buum buuuum!” [sings the opening chords]

Ben: It all had programmed drums, and that sort of business.

Clint: Those guys...

Ben: But those little slices of history... you can’t buy that. It’s an amazing thing to remember and be there for.

Glenn “That was me! Fuck! I was there!”

Clint: But also, along that line of listening to bands: I always felt like we were always our harshest critics of ourselves. It almost seems to me like we never really enjoyed us, you know? Being this band that people really attach this huge emotional value.

Glenn: ‘Cause we were always striving for more, really.

Clint: That’s exactly right. We kept shifting the goalposts every single time. When it came to writing, it was always - “more”. That was always something that struck me as odd about this band. We never rested on our laurels. It always trying to go one further, or one harder, or get better or bigger, or whatever.

Ambitious. An ambitious band.

Ben: Mate, there are a lot of young kids out there that want your job.

Clint: That’s true.

Ben: And a lot of them are quite good.

Clint: Yeah, man. It makes me jealous when I listen to some of these albums that are coming out now. It’s like, 'Holy shit - who thinks of this stuff?' Mainly it’s coming from... people who’re inspiring me at the moment are Gotye and Lana Del Ray, and those sort of cats. I’m like, 'Holy crap! What the fuck?'

Ben: I worked out that I’m older than Gotye. It’s terrible.

Oh, not by much. He’s in his early 30s.

Ben: I think he’s two days younger than you. [Points to Kurt.] Is that right? [Kurt nods.] He’s 31. Same age. But he’s actually... yeah, anyway. I don’t want to talk about it. [smiles]

(Continued next page)

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