It’s only been two months into 2020 and we already have a massive spread of disasters, deaths, and tragedies happening all around the world. The death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, John Altobelli and his family, the outbreak of the coronavirus, a recently discovered yaravirus in Brazil, and amidst of all the darkness and despair, the beginning of Trump’s impeachment. But it’s not enough, and that glimmer of light should be, must be, kept alive as a beacon of hope for the others to follow. For the others to believe.
Jason Aalon Butler’s new band, Fever 333, aims to be such a torch, carrying a message of peace, tolerance, and respect for others, echoing the minds of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. And together with fellow guitarist Stephen Harrison, whom Jason claims has been playing ever since he could walk, and power drummer Aric Improta, the band wants to help others amplify their voices, to empower the unable, and to deviate itself from the system that has kept them separated and at war with each other. It seems anger is at its most effective when it’s united and directed to a certain subject. We managed to catch up on them to get a few words.
What does Fever 333 mean?
Jason: The idea of fever is sort of a pandemic spreading from one person to another. That’s kind of what we wanted this to be, to represent like you know making sure an idea can be sowed with one, go to ten, go to a hundred, go to a thousand. So from there, that was sort of the idea of the whole overarching thing, and then the 333 represents the 3 C’s which are community, charity and change. C is the third letter of the English alphabet. So, that’s what they represent at the end of our name and that is the foundation upon which this entire project rests.
As most other bands here use their imaginations to paint their story or a reflection of their past experiences, you use yours to talk about sociopolitical issues. Has this been your way to express your views on certain topics or a blanket statement reflecting the issues happening in the USA?
Jason: I think we all kind of speak from experience, because then you can’t be lied to and you can’t be told you’re wrong. You know it’s very factual if you speak about your own experience. There is no real room to slice it in the other way. Perspective is huge of course, but if we try our hardest to top off the facts, talk a lot about policy, these policies are in so you can check them up anywhere, statistics are all there, you can check them up, and for us personally, we are quite open to various perspectives and we allow a space for people to have the discussions and have a healthy discourse. Yeah but I think it’s a hybrid of both what you said, own experience and blanket statements I suppose, but they are all derived from our own experiences between us all and thank you for delineating. It is very sociopolitical. You know we are not necessarily sitting here talking about how to reframe specific politics or the structure of the system directly. We are talking about social effects of politics, so yeah it is a very sociopolitical project.
“You don’t even have to understand what he’s doing to understand that it’s divisive. I think that’s what it is. It seeps through every crack there is as far as there are people in the country. It doesn’t matter if you pay attention to the American politics, if you don’t, if you’re black, white, it will reach you and then you make a decision whether you realise you’re doing it or not.”
So what was the idea behind the multiracial inclusion of your lineup?
Jason: That’s hard! We wanted to offer a spectrum. We wanted people to feel if they look on stage that we could, between the 3 people as we know each other. I know these guys really well, and what I was hoping to do and what we speak on and the way we speak on it and also the inclusion of the three of us in this project , based on what we feel like we can achieve. We want people to be able to look up on the stage and try to see a bit of themselves whether that be through representation of race, culture, belief, whatever it is. Or just again open mindedness. You know we’re doing our absolute best to bring three male performers on stage to offer representation but we also know that there is representation outside of us which is what we encourage as well. Which is why we open the space so widely at our demonstrations, but yeah, again great question and great observation, very astute. This is certainly like a spectrum. like Eric is a Caucasian, I’m mixed race and Steve and me are black. This is the best idea of representation right now on this stage.
So, who are your major inspirations for your sound? How do you come up with the rap drop fusion?
Jason: It kinda stands in between like, Stephen was saying earlier you know, like I started in hip-hop and R&B and then got punk rock and other stuff later. Stephen’s been playing guitar since he could walk.
Aric: I don’t know who our inspirations to be honest cos there’s so much different shit. I think of big riffs, I think of Deftones like big, heavy courses like…… damn man, I don’t know. We listen to a lot of different shit!
Jason: N.W.A, Public Enemy, things like that.
Stephen: I also do a lot of metal, I don’t know how much that comes through all of the time, hahaha, but I grew up on metal, and then the other side especially production side, stuff like trip hop, like Massive Attack, Portishead, and early Hooverphonic, and Tricky and stuff like that. But there’s also a lot of weird stuff in between that. We listen to weird shoegaze, vaporwave and stuff that I don’t know how much comes into our music!
Does Fever 333 give you a completely give you a completely blank canvas to do what you want to do that’s different from your previous band that lived?
Jason: Yes. A hundred percent.
How different would you describe it?
Jason: I think you know with any sort of new introduction, personalities, ideologies, beliefs into something like a project like this, being with these guys have been; like I said no matter what, who or how you do it, but when you interact with different people you’re gonna get different results? And with Stephen and Eric I’ve felt like the most free and supported to do thus far in my whole career. As well as Travis and John being involved, Travis Barker and John Feldmann. I’ve just been really lucky and fortunate to be in a space creatively and ideologically, cos a lot of people could think that it is quite crazy to want to challenge the amount of things that we do. I mean not just on wax either. I mean like the way that we perform, the way that we hold demonstrations, where we go, how often we go, the rate at which we tour. All of these things, there’s not many people on this planet you can share that sort of drive and experience with and these two have made it the easiest I’ve had thus far and the most sort of encouraging atmosphere, and it just feels nice man.
from an American perspective, how would you describe the Trump Administration?
Jason: From the American perspective? Extremely divisive.
Stephen: It’s insane. You don’t even have to understand what he’s doing to understand that it’s divisive. I think that’s what it is. It seeps through every crack there is as far as there are people in the country. It doesn’t matter if you pay attention to the American politics, if you don’t, if you’re black, white, it will reach you and then you make a decision whether you realise you’re doing it or not. So its extremely divisive to the point where it’s showing people’s colours. Like I think that people who didn’t even realise like what their colours were, it’s wild man. You can’t even talk about this kind of stuff, at like at work, at school. That’s kind of why we set our shows the way we do where it’s just us because if nowhere else you can talk about this kind of wild shit that’s happening in our country, how divisive it is, you can come to our show and talk about it man. If nothing else, we can sit and have a conversation, talk to us about it without your boss getting pissed at you or where your teacher says stop talking or it would cause a fight. Before this band I worked in an office, and a girl got fired from my office after Trump got elected for speaking about it. It’s like you just can’t do it. So yeah, it is extremely divisive and toxic towards progress.
Jason: And it’s distracting too. There is a lot of distraction. Think about all the time we spend fighting amongst ourselves as citizens and constituents, and everything that’s happening behind those fights, everything that’s happening behind those fights. All of the people that are benefiting while policies are being made, laws are getting overturned, people are getting elected. A lot of people don’t even know who their states people are, people who don’t know who their local chairpeople are, council people are, like think of all the things that are happening while you’re upset someone wearing a hat, or someone saying something relentless. You gotta think of this as an American. It’s really fucking crazy to think about, and there is a lot who are benefiting….. not even the top 1%, even that is sort of a blanket statement… it’s the top half of 1% that are benefiting from these economic advances and policies that are being touted throughout this administration. So, it’s just distraction in general and it’s divisive.
So with all that’s been happening and things, do you think that your music will be able to make a dent or at least affect what the government is currently doing?
Jason: We have to believe that! Otherwise we’re just doing it in vain. We have to believe and this is not hubris or arrogance. It’s just that you have to believe that you can win a game if you play it or you have to believe you can be a good boyfriend or girlfriend or partner. You have to believe that you can make a cake to do it. You just have to believe it, and again that is the biggest fucking problem in so many societies is that, we are actually just doing things on autopilot. We’re just doing because we think we have to do them, not because we think we can achieve or succeed in doing them. We feel as though we have to get a job because we have to because I need to make a median income because I need to pay my fucking bills because I need to get by, not I need to get a job because I need to get a better one so that I can find my passion and invest in it because maybe one day I can break outside of this median level and work for myself, do something that I love. You have to believe that you can do that.
So us believing that we can make a dent in politics, first and foremost, we’re not naive, we’re not too hyperbolic and we start locally, and that’s what we’re trying to do. That is why we involve ourselves in local charities, local projects as often as possible. I believe you have to believe, you have to be crazy enough to believe that you can change something first and foremost.
“Like I don’t care what you say, where you look at it, how you look at it, every single progressive community, culture, renaissance, every period is because someone wanted to do something; and it starts here and it spreads. So we’re more powerful than we can even imagine and they know it which is why they keep us numb, which is why they obviate much of our participation and our cooperation.”
Stephen: And that’s where the idea of power comes from that we talk about so often, is people are capable of so much. But what happens is we forget them and we need to be reminded that like, this is what strength and numbers is about man, and it’s like you and like minds and you make decisions to work towards change whether be in your neighbourhood or wherever it’s that you just can do it, it’s possible. It’s not easy, most changes are not easy but it’s doable. We get so bogged down by just life and the daily, kinda day-to-day; it happens to me too, it’s like you’re inherently powerful, like being born and being alive and existing, you have the power to change, just you. So when you go into your community or if you say you throw shows or you have a band or have a zine or shoot photos, you meet like minds. That’s a crazy, potentially really awesome thing you can do to spark change in your community. So yeah, like I 100 percent agree that we can make a dent, make a change in anything but like yeah, I 100 percent agree with it because that’s just beyond this band, just the potential energy, us three.
Coming to Malaysia have you guys heard of the problems with the current government here as well as Najib and the whole 1MDB case?
Jason: Yeah, a lot of money was lost, a lot of racial disparity, a lot of division in that way culturally as well. And i find it very fascinating, it’s much like America you have so many cultures that just live against each other like I mean literally overlap. You’re all sharing space under the idea of what it is. In America at least it is that we’re all American, you get the idea. And then here you’re sharing space as you know Malay and in Malaysia, and then all these different cultures but you live under this space, within this space, and I think it’s very fascinating to see. Again we’re all fighting about whose culture, whose God or whose preference in this or ideology or colour, skin or whatever, it’s better. You’re getting fuckin money taken from you, you know what I’m saying? By your government that you entrust. Same shit happen to us; so I’m not here to talk about to condemn or to castigate what’s happened here because I get it; I’m saying we get it.
But we’ve observed it. And we’ve been told, and we’ve been hanging out with a young person here, who is from here and he’s been here his whole life, he’s explained to us that the disparity is not all that dissimilar from what we experience culturally and racially in America. And I think that they want that, you know. And you know this is probably, whatever, this is probably. I don’t know if I’m not supposed to say it or no but if you don’t say it, if you don’t talk about it, nothing is going to happen. Revolution doesn’t pay, it’s not easy as Stephen said, it’s not something, it’s not cool. It’s not like a hip thing to challenge, you know.
Why is that? It’s because you then upset the interest of people that hold more than you and what equates the power? Here in a capitalist based society, it’s money. It’s money and resources right? And the structure is built in such a way that they want you to keep fighting amongst yourself so that they can keep doing what they need to do to better serve their own interest which do not give a fuck about any of us below it and so many more of us. Think of this. Here’s an example, think of all of… let’s just put it in a microscale right, relatively, if everyone at this demonstration tonight wanted to run on that stage and pick us up and take us out and put their own show on the stage, they can do it.
That’s strength and numbers, that’s the idea of that… there are so many more of us that if we… maybe it doesn’t have to be physical; maybe mentally, intellectually, emotionally, empathetically, find a way to amalgamate, to put ourselves together, in solidarity, to mobilise. Even on a small level, even if it’s just in your neighbourhood, just the start, it will disrupt something, it will cause unrest and unrest is part of progress. Descent is part of progress. Like I don’t care what you say, where you look at it, how you look at it, every single progressive community, culture, renaissance, every period is because someone wanted to do something; and it starts here and it spreads. So we’re more powerful than we can even imagine and they know it which is why they keep us numb, which is why they obviate much of our participation and our cooperation. So while we’re out here trying not to argue but more so open up healthy discussion, you know, we’re trying to step towards that so we can make these decisions as people versus having to fucking fight among each other, we’re actually in the same position at the end of the day.
Okay, so let’s go to a lighter side. What’s the inspiration behind the fashion sense of the band?
Jason: Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
If you guys were a shoe, what kind of shoe will you guys be?
Jason: That’s a good question. We’re going to have to answer that separately though. I would be like a 70’s OX Converse. It’s like perennial, it’s timeless but now it’s quite comfortable because you know, it’s got that nice sole, it’s thicker. And I think it kind of fits with almost anything and to me that’s how I see our band as but also being different. Not everyone knows about 70’s OX Converse, even though it’s an OG that they brought back. You know some people are still running around with flat feet with the All-Stars.
Stephen: Black Air Force Ones. It’s wild, unpredictable, completely unpredictable. It’s the type of person that was a questionable person sometimes, a loose cannon, you might get robbed… No I’m just kidding. I don’t know, I never thought, because even the regular white Air Force Ones, it was only street kids wearing them. Forever. And I never thought that would change, ever, but it did. Everyone wears them now, and it’s cool. Normally I’m like fuck but now it’s sick. I really like how people have kind of integrated wearing them into their fit. It’s not just like a hood shoe anymore. Black Air Force Ones are hood shoes. It is a hood shoe. That’ll change, I know it will. I see it happening probably in the next two years-ish, a year and a half. People like, models would start wearing black Air Force Ones. But for now it’s a goon shoe and us three are for sure goons. I think when shit hits the fan for the hour or whatever we play on stage, we’re black Air Force Ones for sure.
Aric: I mean if i have to answer something different, I’d say like Old Skool Black Vans just cause they came from skateboarding and it was kind of an exclusive thing and they grew into something literally every person in the world could wear. We definitely came from skateboarding, we definitely played a lot of shows where no one gave a shit and it was just us and fortunately in the last two years, people were starting to pay attention and we’ve been getting to connect with more and more people, so yeah. I know it’s not like the most exciting answer but it’s honest.
What will be next for the band?
Jason: Just sort of really amplifying and catalysing the idea, and the messaging really you know, the three C’s and of course more touring and series of demonstrations and events and creating a larger space. Yeah, that’s it! A larger space, a larger space that doesn’t need to considered fucking selling out, that doesn’t need to be considered you know, too hard you know; just creating a safe space for as many people as possible due to writing what we think is good music, what we think is honest music and performing in a way where we think is ahis is not an esoteric place, uthentic to us. And really making sure that people feel like they can be involved in it.
This is not some exclusive club, this is not a place you can get your gatekeeper clout points. This is a place for you to feel safe and to recognise that there are still people who want to be honest and authentic and exhibit humility; you know in their own lives to be better people, performers, activist, partners, sons, you know, whatever, citizens. And we’re gonna keep doing that through our new album and more touring as we said but messaging, messaging the idea and exhibiting that power and just letting people know, you know what I’m saying? The whole idea of Fever. It’s still… there’s a fever coming. Bitch!