He first achieved fame in 1992 as the guitarist with Suede, forging a songwriting partnership with Brett Anderson. He co-wrote and played guitars on every recording until 1994, when he exited Suede, leaving behind the Mercury Music Prize-winning debut Suede, as well as the follow-up Dog Man Star.
Immediately after leaving Suede he formed the duo McAlmont and Butler with David McAlmont and they released two singles, "Yes" and "You Do". A compilation album, The Sound of McAlmont and Butler, was released after the collaboration ended.
Butler then released two solo albums under his own name, People Move On and Friends and Lovers, on Creation Records, yielding the hit single "Stay". In 2001 Butler teamed up with McAlmont for a second McAlmont and Butler album, Bring it Back, and they toured the UK after the release of two singles, "Falling" and "Bring it Back".
In 2004 Butler formed a new band with Brett Anderson, The Tears, based on the same style that yielded their first successes with Suede in the early 1990s. The Tears released their debut LP, Here Come The Tears, produced by Butler, in June 2005. Singles include "Refugees", which reached number 9 in the UK Singles Chart, and "Lovers".
Butler has played on and/or produced records by Aimee Mann, Edwyn Collins, Neneh Cherry, Tim Booth (of James), Eddi Reader, Hopper, Roy Orbison, Bert Jansch, The Libertines, Heather Nova, Mark Owen, The Veils, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, The Cribs, the Pretenders, The On-Off's, 1990s, The Mescalitas, Cut Off Your Hands, Cajun Dance Party, The View, Arkitekt, Sons and Daughters, Black Kids, Tricky, Sharleen Spiteri, Nerina Pallot and Natalie McCool.
In 2005 he was introduced to Welsh singer Duffy, and contributed to her top-selling debut album Rockferry—it was the best selling album of 2008 in the UK—which won the Best Pop Vocal Album Grammy Award in 2008. Butler told the media in April 2014, in regard to the Welsh singer's musical career difficulties:
She [Duffy] went off the rails and it all went pear-shaped for her. And maybe she brought all those problems on herself. But I always had quite a lot of sympathy for her, because she was young, from this tiny village in Wales, and she was just hurled into the fire.
In 2009 Butler co-wrote/produced/played on tracks by The Veils, Tommy Reilly, Jonathan Jeremiah, Kate Jackson and Catherine A.D who now performs as The Anchoress. He also commenced production work on Kate Nash's second album My Best Friend Is You in mid-2009.
In 2010 Butler worked with Nerina Pallot, Fyfe Dangerfield, Noisettes, Slow Club, Gabrielle, Howling Bells, The Veils, Simon Dine, and new artists Jodie Marie, Vince, Daley, Summer Camp, Joe Worricker and Scott McFarnon.
Over the 2011-2012 period, Butler produced albums for Frankie & The Heartstrings and continued working with Daley on his forthcoming Days & Nights album, the title track of which was co-written and produced by Butler. He also co-wrote and produced Texas's comeback album The Conversation. Butler again worked at Studio 355 for these recordings.
In 2013 Butler worked with the group Teleman, to finish their debut album; worked on songs with London group Flowers; and collaborated with Paloma Faith and Fyfe Dangerfield. In June 2013, he formed an impromptu improvisational performance at the Sunderland record store run by Frankie & The Heartstrings. Alongside members of Warm Digits, Field Music and 1990s, the impromptu group played a completely unrehearsed and improvised set.
In August 2013, Butler played two shows at The Slaughtered Lamb in London, UK, accompanying Ben Watt on electric guitar. Watt described the start of their musical relationship in 2014:
We ran into each other at a party a few years ago and just got chatting. I’d spent ten years in electronic music, running Buzzin’ Fly (his underground house and techno record label) and DJ-ing whilst Bernard had spent ten years as a producer and collaborator. We both wanted a change.
In October 2013, new group Trans released the red EP, the first in a series of EPs for Rough Trade Records. Featuring tracks grown out of improvisational sessions that date back over a year, with Jackie McKeown, Paul Borchers and Igor Volk, the recordings were made at Studio 355. All sessions were improvised, recorded in their entirety and later edited with very few overdubs. To date, Trans have played a select number of shows, including an entirely improvised show at London's Shacklewell Arms venue, acting as carriers for former Can pioneer Damo Suzuki.
In February 2014, Butler played two lives shows with Watt at London's St Pancras Old Church, in the lead-up period to the release of Watt's solo album Hendra. Butler was also involved with the recording of the album, with Watt explaining that he knew that Butler would be the "perfect counterpoint to bring some darkness to the light."
Hendra, Watt's first solo album since 1983, was released on 14 April 2014 and Butler joined Watt on an eight-show UK tour in support of the album. including shows at the Nottingham venue "The Bodega", Hebden Bridge and Cambridge. Butler than played again with Watt in November 2014 as part of the Ben Watt Trio.
In May 2014, Butler organised two special McAlmont & Butler performances to raise funds for The Bobath Centre's work with children with cerebral palsy. The London shows at the Union Chapel and Islington Assembly Hall sold out, and the duo were accompanied by a full band that consisted of members of The Magic Numbers, Mako Sakamoto on drums and Sean Read on keyboards.
Butler created the soundtrack to the 1997 film The James Gang and played on the soundtrack of Velvet Goldmine, alongside Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead.
Butler names former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr as his major inspiration. He started learning guitar playing after hearing Marr and was eventually able to play all Smiths songs by ear.
On 13 April 2014, Butler participated in the London Marathon to raise funds for children with cerebral palsy, described by Butler as one of the "worst starts in life". Butler explains:
The problem is it’s getting harder for families to get funding for therapy and children aren’t getting the specialist support they need. So I’m raising money for the charity’s treatment fund to make sure that children get seen as early as possible when it will have the greatest impact.
Butler won the Producer's Award at the 2009 BRIT Awards, Producer of the Year at the 2008 Music Managers Forum Awards, and was nominated for Best Producer at the 2009 Music Week Awards.1993 - Suede - Suede (Mercury Music Prize winner)
singles: "The Drowners", "Metal Mickey", "Animal Nitrate", "So Young"
1994 - Suede - "Stay Together" (Non-album single)
1994 - Suede - Dog Man Star
singles: "We are the Pigs", "The Wild Ones", "New Generation"
1997 - Suede - Sci-Fi Lullabies
(first eleven tracks on a collection of B-sides)
2003 - Suede - Singles
(eight tracks on a collection of Greatest Hits)
1998 - Bernard Butler - People Move On #11 UK
singles: "Stay" #12 UK, "Not Alone" #27 UK, "A Change of Heart" #45 UK
1999 - Bernard Butler - Friends and Lovers #43 UK
singles: "Friends and Lovers", "You Must Go On" #44 UK, "I'd Do It Again If I Could" (U.S.)
1995 - McAlmont and Butler - The Sound of McAlmont and Butler
singles: "Yes", "You Do"
2002 - McAlmont and Butler - Bring It Back
singles: "Falling", "Bring it Back"
2006 - McAlmont and Butler
2005 - The Tears - Here Come The Tears
singles: "Refugees", "Lovers"
2013 - "Red" EP
2014 - "Green" EP
Manic Street Preachers - The Drowners and Stay with Me (1994) Live recordings appeared as B-sides to the Manics' She Is Suffering
Aimee Mann - I'm With Stupid (1995)
Neneh Cherry - Man (1996)
Booth and the Bad Angel - Booth and the Bad Angel (1996)
Hopper - English And French (1996)
Bert Jansch - Crimson Moon (2000) and Edge of a Dream (2002)
Heather Nova - South (2001)
Bernard & Edwyn - "Message For Jojo" (2001)
The Libertines - "What a Waster" (2002), "Don't Look Back into the Sun" (2003)
Mark Owen - "Four Minute Warning" (2003), co-wrote b-side "Jay Walker"
Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Shoot from the Hip (2003)
The Veils - The Runaway Found (2003), Sun Gangs (2009)
The Cribs - "You're Gonna Lose Us" (2005)
1990s - Cookies (2007), Kicks (2009)
Sharleen Spiteri - Melody (2008)
Sons And Daughters - This Gift (2008)
Cajun Dance Party - The Colourful Life (2008)
Duffy - Rockferry (2008)
Black Kids - Partie Traumatic (2008)
Tricky - Knowle West Boy (2008)
Duke Special - I Never Thought This Day Would Come (2008)
Cut Off Your Hands - You And I (2008)
Findlay Brown - Love Will Find You (2009)
Tommy Reilly - Words on the Floor (2009)
Fyfe Dangerfield - "Faster Than the Setting Sun" and "She Needs Me", Fly Yellow Moon (2010)
Kate Nash - My Best Friend Is You (2010)
Nerina Pallot - Year of the Wolf (2011)
Richard Walters - Pacing (2011)
Natalie McCool - Thin Air (2012)
Texas - The Conversation (2013)
Teleman - Cristina (2013)
Frankie & The Heartstrings - The Days Run Away (2013)
Teleman - Steam Train Girl (2013)
Trans - Red EP (2013)
Daley - Days & Nights (2014)
Trans - Green EP (2014)
Ben Watt - Hendra (2014), Fever Dream (2016)
Teleman - "Breakfast" (2014)
Flowers - "Do What You Want To, It's What You Should Do" (2014)
The Rails - "Habit" (2014)
Paloma Faith - "Beauty Remains" (2014)
Shaun Keaveny - "Please Don't Get Me Anything for Christmas" (2015)
Kate Jackson - British Road Movies (2016)
The Tyde - "The Curse In Reverse" (2016)
QTY - "Rodeo" (2016)
Mark Eitzel - Hey Mr Ferryman (2017)