Bernard Butler Teaches You How To Play “Animal Nitrate”

Bernard Butler Teaches You How To Play “Animal Nitrate”
Bernard Butler by Frank Yang

So I’ve been somewhat obsessed with Bernard Butler’s guitar tone since the first Suede record, and thanks to some guitar magazine interview circa then I’ve been convinced since, like, 1994 that his lead tone was the product of some esoteric and expensive ’60s Japanese fuzz pedal and spent no small amount of time over the years trying to figure out what it was1.

And so I was overjoyed when, in April 2010 as part of their series The Record Producers, BBC Radio 2 got Butler to sit down with the gear he recorded “Animal Nitrate” with way back in 1992 and play it for the first time since he left the band in 1994. And, at about the five-minute mark in the video, he offhandedly mentions the rare, unobtanium stompbox that made those magic sounds was… a Boss DS-22. About as common a distortion pedal as you’ll find on this earth.

Of course, in this context it’s far from common. Kind of like watching Butler casually break down all the parts of the song and making it sound like it’s just some thrown together chords and riffs and not pure aural magic. And on top of all of that, just seeing Butler play Suede again – even if it’s as a lesson – is pretty special.

The official video… I remember seeing this on MuchMusic in 1993. I wouldn’t become a proper Suede fan for some years after that, but it still made quite an impression.

As part of their pandemic film series, Suede made a freshly-remastered version of their Love & Poison concert film available to stream for free. The camera work is a little… over-enthusiastic, but what a document.

And because there’s just not that many recordings of Bernard playing live with Suede, here’s their performance of the song from the 1993 Brit Awards. Sound is a little off but the visuals are great.

1 I got it in my head it was a Shin-Ei FY-2 Companion Fuzz which, if you’ve ever heard it, sounds nothing like the lead tone on “Animal Nitrate”. But, in the ’90s, hearing stuff you couldn’t actually get your hands on was nigh-impossible. It was the dark ages, man.

2 It actually took me a number of years to get a DS-2 for myself, despite them being cheap and plentiful. And while I don’t have the Vox AC30 to run it through (yet!), it’s that sound.

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