The North Door occupies a pretty cozy space just east of Interstate 35 between 5th St. and 6th St. here in Austin. The people who book the venue, represented in this interview by Booking Manager Butch Webster, love all styles of music - and it's reflected in their programming.
Read on to learn a little bit about North Door and what you can expect to see at the venue when SXSW Music kicks off in a few weeks!
RB: State your name and occupation - what do you do for the North Door?
BW: Butch Webster, and I’m the booking manager. We have several different people who do booking here, so I manage the calendar and place all the shows.
RB: How and why did you get started in the music industry?
BW: I’ve been a touring musician since I was 17. So, as soon as I got out of high school I pretty much went on tour for about 16 years.
I’ve played in tons of different groups. I’ve played drums in Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee, with Mike Karoll and Tim Kerr from Poison 13. I don’t know if you’ve heard of a guy called Har Mar Superstar - I played drums in his band, Sean Na Na, for like 10 years.
I had this big music career where I was the artist. I was booking the entire time - booking all our tours, booking shows for other people - but at the time, it was all just DIY, for free, not a job. It was just something we did for each other the time.
Now, I [also] have a small record label called Insect Records. I’ve 45s for Guilty Simpson, Dudley Perkins, Georgia Anne Muldrow. A lot of independent electronic music. Vinyl, cassettes, flexi discs. We don’t do anything digital only - there has to be a physical product that goes along with it.
RB: How long has the North Door supported SXSW as an official venue?
BW: I’m going to have to guess - but I think [North Door] has been part of the festival since they opened. And I think that this is either fifth or sixth year they’re open. I came on last May.
RB: Do you have any memorable stories from past SXSW Music Festivals?
BW: Here… no.
I think [my old band] Attack Formation played like six years in a row. And probably every time we played we had like 10-15 people onstage. That band was based around the idea of collaborated with as many people as possible. So our shows would either be great or somewhat of a trainwreck.
RB: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the North Door this SXSW?
BW: Thursday we have Har Mar Superstar and Marijuana Deathsquads. They’re all friends - I’ve played with Deathsquads a bunch as a drummer.
The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is Saturday which is the Stones Throw Records showcase because Madlib is actually gonna be there this year. It’ll be Madlib, J.Rocc, I think Peanut Butter Wolf, Jonwayne, Knxwledge.
RB: What does it mean to you, the city of Austin, and live music in general to have SXSW here in town?
BW: It’s something that I’ve grown up with. I started going to shows at Liberty Lunch, Texas Tavern, stuff like that when was 12 or 13. This was when the festival was still probably 5,000 people? 10,000 people? At the time, you could compare it really easily to [Austin] Psych Fest.
I think it’s great as far as being able to showcase our city. You’re never gonna get it unless you live here. But at the same time, it opens up all these places that everybody goes to, to where they can go and enjoy bands that they’re familiar with.
I think if you went to the same festival in a different city, you would see the intimacy that Austin has. To me, that’s the coolest thing about it - you’re getting these marquee acts in [smaller, more intimate] venues.
RB: What’s your favorite show you’ve ever seen at the North Door, anytime?
BW: She just played here - Barbara Lynn. She’s this blues legend, she’s from Beaumont [Texas]. She had a number one hit in like 1963. She’s one of the few singers that actually writes their own material. She’s just started touring in the last year. And I have to say it was totally one of those “hair [standing up] on the back of your neck” moments.
When she comes to Austin, she has a pickup band called the Soul Supporters. They play over at Sahara. They play more at small bars.
RB: Last question - albums you can’t live without?
BW: Slint - Spiderland
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Miles Davis - A Tribute to Jack Johnson
Don Caballero - For Respect
Flying Lotus - Los Angeles
Probably Jack White’s Blunderbuss. It’s really recent but the record’s pretty ill.
Okay three more. Um, first Quasimoto record The Unseen.
Led Zeppelin I.
A record that I put out - so take that with a grain of salt - it’s by this guy called Aadm Our Hatley, Blast The Rim. It’s an all-drum record.
The new Kendrick Lamar record [good kid, m.A.A.d. city] is ridiculous. I could listen to that a million times. People that can do the concept album and nail it - it’s pretty dope. Nobody’s really messed with that format in a long time.
Photo by David Fox