FEVER 333’s Jason Aalon Butler believes rock must undergo real change
FEVER 333’s Jason Aalon Butler reflects on his activism and art and what progress rock music must undergo before real changes are made.January 13, 2022
The year 2020 was encapsulated in misery and doom-scrolling. When 2021 reared its ugly head, FEVER 333 frontman Jason Aalon Butler charged at it with all his might — dangling from ceilings, scaling stage structures and making headlines all the while. Becoming an outspoken figure in alternative music last year during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, and emotionally laboring all the turmoil of that time into his WRONG GENERATION EP, you’d think Butler might take some time off in 2021, right? Wrong.
It appears Butler riled up all the energy he’d stored after 18 months of no touring and launched into a plethora of collaborations with Papa Roach, Lamb Of God, Nova Twins, Oxymorrons and more. That includes touring across the U.S. again, making the news for his absolute insanity onstage. Butler doesn’t rest, and in reflection on his 2021, he explains how he has barely scratched the surface of what he’s trying to achieve.
2021 has been a triumphant year for FEVER, touring with a new WRONG GENERATION EP. I mean, just touring alone. Any specific high points you had or any highlights from the year you can think of?
It was the moment where we understood that whatever FEVER — as this project, as an idea, as an entity — created was enough to sustain us through that 18 months without touring to connect with people on a physical level. The moment we announced that we were going to be out again, the response was probably one of the most validating and exciting moments for this year. I just remember sitting in my house, announcing that we were going to play festivals. People’s responses were just so gratifying, the excitement and knowing we were coming back and that people cared. That was a very high point.
Greatest achievements this year, personal or for the band?
Honestly, and I’m not kidding, seeing the more positive results of 2020 and people realizing that there needed to be a change for POC in not only alternative music but in the world. The way that we [POC] all recognize how we are approached, the way we are acknowledged, or lack thereof. It’s not over just because we got into the streets and yelled at a few protests or made a few posts online. There’s so much work to be done. For me, it was seeing people do the work that was so beautiful and so encouraging.
Looking back on 2021, we can’t help but touch on WRONG GENERATION and the success from that. You put a lot of emotional labor into that EP, and I wonder what you’d learned over the year by touring with the songs?
What I’ve learned is that it really does take more than just a song. There has to be action, and I have to hold myself accountable every single day. There’s so much work to be done that I cannot just allow myself to write a song or just have a couple of interviews and think that my work is done. I want to make it very clear that I have to hold myself accountable as well. The same way I go out there and holler at people that they need to do more.
The past year’s events have certainly changed the climate of the industry in terms of diversity. In previous interviews, you’d said that you don’t feel like that change is happening. Do you still feel that way?
I still think it’s too early, right? Because if you look at it relatively, how long we’ve been exploited, how long we’ve been taken from, how long we’ve been cast in the shadows — especially in this alternative music, you look at how long that’s been happening, how long the music industry has been renting Black, brown POC culture. It would probably be a little too eager in answering yet. There’s just not enough evidence to show that.
It goes back to what I was saying about what I’m hoping to do with 333 WRECKORDS. We have to create these spaces for us. On some truly real shit, straight up, we have to do it. I’m done. I am done waiting for the industry to magically reform. I believe that there’s a lot of systems in place and industry-related frameworks that have to be abolished. No, I don’t know how much I believe in reformation anymore. I actually believe we have to abolish the systems, or we have to create our own that maybe run concurrently or completely diverge from what people know.
Looking back on yourself in 2021, how do you think you’ve grown?
I spent the years around 24 to 28 or 29 trying to eradicate my ego, the literal part of your brain that tells you [that you] are more important than you actually are in the grand scheme. But to believe that you’re done with something is, again, part of your ego. I think you can always work more, and so last year has really shown me what I’m capable of when I sit down, focus, commit and exhibit conviction or dedication to something.
But at the same time, what it’s done for me has shown me how beautiful and incredible people around me are. I’ve been able to observe the world around me in such a way, free from my own ego, because when you’re stuck with yourself, you really have a couple options. One is either you believe that you know what’s right, or you’ve got a lot to learn, and I still believe I’ve got a lot to learn.
This interview appeared in issue 401 (the AP Yearbook), available here.