Bilinda Butcher

Bilinda Butcher
Bilinda Butcher performing in 2009
Bilinda Butcher performing in 2009
Background information
Birth name Bilinda Jayne Butcher
Born (1961-09-16) 16 September 1961 (age 59)
London, England
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar, keyboards
Years active 1987–present
Labels Lazy, Creation, Sony, mbv
Associated acts My Bloody Valentine, Collapsed Lung, Dinosaur Jr

Bilinda Jayne Butcher (born 16 September 1961) is an English musician and singer-songwriter, best known as a vocalist and guitarist of the shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine.

Early life

Butcher was born and raised in London and later relocated with her parents and older sister Jo-Anne. Butcher and her family were relocated in Golden Valley, Derbyshire a small hamlet in the countryside. Her forename is an alternate spelling of Belinda and was chosen by her grandfather. According to Butcher, "if I'd been a guy I would have been named Bill, but since I was a girl it became Bilinda". During one of his radio shows, BBC Radio 1 disc jockey John Peel once said Butcher was "being pretentious and tried to be special by spelling [her] name differently".[1]

Butcher has said that growing up in Golden Valley was difficult as it was "very conservative". She has said that she was considered "a weirdo" as she wore clothes based on 1920s fashion and listened to records on a portable gramophone. Butcher stated: "My mother thought I was up in my butts. I never watched the news or read the papers; it was like I lived in another era. Everybody was into punk and I was living in the [19]20s and [19]30s."[1] At age sixteen, Butcher moved back to London and began studying dance at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance,[2] but dropped out after nine months due to developing a case of cystitis[3] caused by a chronic urinary infection. She developed a serious liver disease as a result of mistreatment by doctors.

After dropping out of Trinity Laban, Butcher worked as a nanny for a French family in London for six months and later moved to Paris for another six months with her partner. The pair moved back to London, squatting in Brixton, and had a child, Toby. Describing the experience, Butcher said: "it didn't feel that great to stay in the squat, there was a lot of heroin and it's not ideal that a drug user's needle could sting your baby. Toby's dad was flipping out because of all the acid he took and I just wanted to get away from all the madness. We tried to live together but he was in too bad a state so it didn't work".[1]

Music career

My Bloody Valentine

Butcher was recruited as a vocalist for My Bloody Valentine in April 1987. She replaced original vocalist David Conway and shared vocal duties briefly with Joe Byfield. Butcher, whose prior musical experience was playing classical guitar as a child and singing and playing tambourine "with some girlfriends for fun", learned that the group needed a backing vocalist from her boyfriend, who had met drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig on a ferry from the Netherlands. At her audition for the band, she sang "The Bargain Store", a song from Dolly Parton's 1975 album of the same name.[4] She was chosen as a vocalist ahead of "this girl, Julie", who was in a relationship with Douglas Hart from The Jesus and Mary Chain.[1]

Butcher was featured as co-vocalist and co-guitarist on My Bloody Valentine's non-album single, "Strawberry Wine", and the band's second mini album, Ecstasy, both of which were released in 1987 on Lazy Records. She performed vocals and guitar on all further My Bloody Valentine releases, until the band's second studio album Loveless (1991)—on which her guitar duties were performed by co-vocalist and guitarist Kevin Shields.[5] She contributed a third of the lyrics to Isn't Anything (1988) and Loveless,[6] as well as other releases including You Made Me Realise (1988), Glider (1990) and Tremolo (1991).

Butcher performing with My Bloody Valentine in 1989

My Bloody Valentine attempted to record a third studio album after signing with Island Records in October 1992 for a reported £250,000 contract.[7] The band's advance went towards the construction of a home studio in Streatham, South London, which was completed in April 1993. Several technical problems with the studio sent the band into "semi-meltdown", according to Shields,[8] and Butcher left the band in 1997,[1] leading to an indefinite hiatus. My Bloody Valentine reunited in 2007,[9] and released their third album, m b v, in 2013.


During My Bloody Valentine's hiatus, Butcher collaborated with two major bands. She performed lead vocals on two tracks—"Ballad Night" and "Casino Kisschase"—on the hip hop band Collapsed Lung's album Cooler (1996),[10] and performed backing vocals on the Dinosaur Jr song "I Don't Think" from Hand It Over (1997).[11] At Primavera Sound 2013, Butcher performed with The Jesus and Mary Chain, providing vocals on "Just Like Honey".[12]


Butcher's vocals have been referred to as a trademark of My Bloody Valentine's sound, alongside Kevin Shields' guitar techniques. On a number of occasions during the recording of Isn't Anything, Butcher was awoken and recorded vocals, which she said "influenced [her] sound" by making them "more dreamy and sleepy". A similar process was used during the recording of Loveless, on which her vocals have been described as "dreamy [and] sensual". Explaining the situation, Butcher said: "often when we do vocals, it's 7:30 in the morning; I've usually just fallen asleep and have to be woken up to sing … I'm usually trying to remember what I've been dreaming about when I'm singing".[13] Her singing was originally influenced by Françoise Hardy and later by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.[1]

Butcher wrote a third of the lyrics on both Isn't Anything and Loveless but has referred to a lot of the lyrics as "plain nonsense". According to Butcher, she "didn't have a plan and never thought about lyrics until it was time to write them. I just used whatever was in my head for the moment".[1] Some of her lyrics were written as a result of attempting to understand rough versions of songs Shields had recorded. Butcher has said: "He [Shields] never sang any words on the cassettes I got but I tried to make his sounds into words. It always became my own thing in the end though. And that was the only power I had in the band".[1]

Like Shields, Butcher uses a number of offset guitars. Her most notable instruments include several Fender electric guitars, including Jaguars, Jazzmasters[14] and Mustangs.[15] On occasion, Butcher uses a Charvel Surfcaster,[14] which she has referred to as her favourite guitar. When performing live, Butcher uses a minimal number of effects pedals and processors.[14]

During her adolescence, Butcher became a fan of gothic rock bands such as Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy, and later post-punk artists, including The Birthday Party, Talking Heads and Joy Division.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Johannesson, Ika (3 September 2008). "TD Archive: My Bloody Valentine's Bilinda Butcher Interviewed". Totally Dublin. Totally Partner. Retrieved 19 November 2008.
  2. ^ Barron, Jack (10 December 1988). "Dream Demons". NME. IPC Media. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  3. ^ Rubble, Jason; Rubble, John (4 January 1992). "My Bloody Valentine – The Sweetest Abrasion". Melody Maker. IPC Media. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  4. ^ Carew, Anthony. "My Bloody Valentine Biography – Artist Profile". About. InterActiveCorp. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  5. ^ McGonial 2007, p. 50–51.
  6. ^ McGonial 2007, p. 78.
  7. ^ Stubbs, David (1999). "Sweetheart Attack: My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything is the Eighties Rock Album". Uncut. IPC Media (February 1999).
  8. ^ McGonial 2007, p. 101–102.
  9. ^ Cohen, Jonathan (7 November 2007). "Shields Confirms My Bloody Valentine Reunion". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  10. ^ Cooler (CD). Collapsed Lung. Deceptive Records. 1996. BLUFF 031 CDS.CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ "Hand It Over – Dinosaur Jr: Credits". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  12. ^ "Video: The Jesus and Mary Chain plays Just Like Honey with MBV's Bilinda Butcher". Slicing Up Eyeballs. 25 May 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  13. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (2 December 2001). "A Love Letter to Guitar-Based Rock Music". Chicago Sun-Times. Sun-Times Media Group. Archived from the original on 6 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  14. ^ a b c Cooper, Adam (February 1991). "Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine". GuitarGeek. Archived from the original on 20 December 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  15. ^ "The Fender Mustang® Guitar | Fender News & Tech Talk". Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Retrieved 13 March 2013.


External links