Drumming to Cirque beat
ALL Paul Butler wanted to be while growing up in Adelaide was a rock star.
Now he travels the world living another dream – playing drums for Cirque du Soleil.
“When I was in high school my teacher suggested I broaden my horizons,” Butler said.
“He got me into studying percussion, which took me to studying classical percussion at university and was a big step in making me a more diverse player and thinking outside the box.
“The percussion department was right next to the jazz department, so I spent my time between the classical percussion course and hanging out with the jazz guys and playing with them whenever I could, and then doing pop gigs on the side.
“In a town like Adelaide, if you pigeonhole yourself into one thing, you might not get enough work. Being able to say yes when the phone rang to one thing led to another and another.”
Butler said he saw three options when pursuing a full-time job in his field – joining an orchestra, touring in a music theatre production (he worked on The Sound of Music) or joining Cirque du Soleil.
A trip to Las Vegas five years ago put him in contact with the percussionist on Cirque du Soleil resident show O and he was hooked.
Fate stepped in shortly after when a percussionist friend on Cirque production Corteo contacted Butler to say he was moving across to another Cirque show, Kooza.
Butler auditioned and not only replaced him in Corteo but continued to follow in his footsteps by recently joining the cast of the high-energy Kooza during the Australian tour.
“Like most Cirque shows, Kooza has a world music influence,” he said.
Butler, who performs a drum solo during the second act, said he loved his bird’s eye view from the band’s position at the top of Kooza’s travelling tower called the Bataclan.
“We’re at the level where the performers are when they’re flying up in the air,” he said.
“It’s crazy to think I’m in my comfort zone on the same level while they’re up there.”
Butler said his fellow cirque performers had inspired him to try the odd circus skill, but when handstand practice started to hurt his hand, he decided to protect his livelihood.
Instead he works on how to speak the various languages spoken by his cast mates.
“I learn how to order a beer and ask where the bathroom is,” he said.
■ Community Newspaper Group has 10 double passes to give away to Kooza. Enter at www.communitynews.com.au by 10am, March 31.
Paul Butler in Kooza.