Arcade Fire’s Win Butler: New Album Influenced By Kierkegaard, Trip To Haiti

Photo via Rolling Stone.

There’s an interview with Arcade Fire’s Win Butler at Rolling Stone in which he talks about influences on the group and on the new album, Reflektor.

“I studied the Bible and philosophy in college and I think in a certain sense that’s the kind of stuff that still makes my brain work,” Butler told Rolling Stone. “There’s an essay by Kierkegaard called The Present Age that I was reading a lot that’s about the reflective age. This is like in [1846], and it sounds like he’s talking about modern times. He’s talking about the press and alienation, and you kind of read it and you’re like, ‘Dude, you have no idea how insane it’s gonna get.’

“[Kierkegaard] basically compares the reflective age to a passionate age,” Butler continued. “Like, if there was a piece of gold out on thin ice, in a passionate age, if someone went to try and get the gold, everyone would cheer them on and be like, ‘Go for it! Yeah you can do it!’And in a reflective age, if someone tried to walk out on the thin ice, everyone would criticize them and say, ‘What an idiot! I can’t believe you’re going out on the ice to try and risk something.’ So it would kind of paralyze you to even act basically, and it just kind of resonated with me — wanting to try and make something in the world instead of just talking about things.”

Butler also talks about observing missionaries in Haiti and how that impacted the album.

Butler: In the airport in Haiti there are always these packs of missionaries with matching T-shirts that say “God loves Haiti.” And you talk to some of these people and you’re like, “Oh what are you guys doing here?” And they’re like, “Oh we’re going to help Haiti! We’re going to paint houses!” And you’re like, “Well why don’t you hire a Haitian to paint the houses? I guarantee they would love to paint a house.” So I don’t know, it’s just like this mashup of missionaries and Port au Prince and that’s probably it.

Rolling Stone: Are those some of the missionaries you sing about in “Here Comes the Night Time?”

Butler: Yeah. Well there’s a line in it that says, “The missionaries, they tell us we’ll be left behind, we’ve been left behind a thousand times.”

Rolling Stone: What were you thinking when you wrote that?

Butler: Just the absurdity that you can go to a place like Haiti and teach people something about God. Like, the opposite really seems to be true, in my experience. I’ve never been to a place with more belief and more knowledge of God.

For more go to Rolling Stone.

About Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg is a distinguished pioneer in the online music space; Newsweek magazine called him an ‘Internet visionary.’ In 1994 he founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. He was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000. In 1997, Addicted To Noise won Webby awards for best music site in 1998 and 1999, and also won Yahoo Internet Life! awards for three years running as best music site in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Prior to starting Addicted To Noise, Goldberg was an editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications. Michael recently completed his first novel, Days of the Crazy-Wild, and is currently writing a second novel.

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