Described by Butler as “a voodoo painting of a black star with rays coming out of it,” the painting was bought, Butler said, before Bowie announced details of his final album, 2016’s ‘Blackstar’.
In a new career-spanning interview with Stereogum, Butler was asked about Arcade Fire’s long-running collaborative partnership with Bowie, who joined them on stage in 2005 and sung on their 2013 single ‘Reflektor’.
“I have a photo of David in my studio that I look at when I’m working sometimes,” Butler said. “It’s just him in a dressing room with one of those kind of Hollywood mirrors behind him. He really… I don’t know, he felt some sort of spiritual connection with us. It wasn’t like he wanted anything from us. I just think he wanted to say, ‘Hey guys, you’re going on the right path, keep going.'”
Going on to speak of the painting, Butler said: “I was emailing him over all those years. I don’t know if you have anyone close to you that’s died and you go back and read those emails, it’s really these strange digital fragments of someone you care about. After he sang on ‘Reflektor’, Régine and I bought him a painting in Haiti as a thank you gift.
“We were supposed to mail it to him and we got busy and forgot about it, and in the interim he passed. I knew he wasn’t well, but I didn’t know he was dying. Maybe a couple months later I remembered the painting and I dug it out and it was a painting of a black star. A voodoo painting of a black star with rays coming out of it.”
The Arcade Fire musician added: “I didn’t know anything about his record being ‘Blackstar’ or anything like that. Now it’s on the wall of my bedroom. Shit like that sometimes happens in my life. I take it for what it is.
“I don’t know exactly what that means and I just feel grateful… I don’t know man. Even just how inspiring, what he put into his art even in death. He’s someone I think about at least on a weekly basis.”
Last week, Arcade Fire premiered a new song called ‘Generation A’ during an election night performance on Stephen Colbert’s US TV show.
Reviewing ‘Generation A’, NME wrote: “Arcade Fire are at their best when they become a rousing orchestra, greater than the sum of its parts and with the ability to make you feel anything is possible.
“On ‘Generation A’, this blood-and-thunder approach returns with a vengeance – and by God we need it right now.”