Born to a family with deep musical roots, he is also the heir to a century-old tradition of artistic pursuit that began with his grandparents: Alvino Rey, a pioneering jazzman known as the Father of the Pedal Steel Guitar, and Luise King of all-girl big band singing group The King Sisters.
He is the leader of one of the today's biggest bands, Arcade Fire. He plays the guitar, bass guitar, mandolin, and keyboards. He sings songs of alienation, struggle, and chronic confusion amid the chaos of the modern world. And in an era when the popularity and relevance of rock 'n' roll is waning, he, wife Régine Chassagne, brother Will Butler, and their bandmates triumphed with their masterwork, The Suburbs, to win the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2011.
Indeed, Win Butler seems to be a very serious guy. But hey, everybody needs a hobby. And his semi-secret pastime happens to be playing occasional club shows under the goofy name DJ Windows 98.So far, Butler’s only official release as this alter ego is “Jesus Walks, Loser,” a mashup of Kanye West's "Jesus Walks" and Beck's “Loser,” which he decided to combine into a single musical composition after Kanye got obnoxious and protested Beck’s 2014 Grammy win by saying, "Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé."
(Now, “Jesus Walks, Loser” may have seemed like a sarcastic prank. But DJ Windows 98 actually appears to have intended a message of peace, unity, and fellowship among superstar musicians. As he tweeted around the time of the mashup’s debut via SoundCloud: "There's lots of problems with modern music, but the problems aren't Beyonce, Kanye, or Beck.”)
Of course, being DJ Windows 98 isn’t really about making hot tracks. It’s about having fun. And shedding Butler's previously super-serious, perhaps media-constructed public persona. And celebrating the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game veteran’s love of basketball. And using the mugshots of famous people to promote his gigs. Since assuming the DJ Windows 98 alter ego, Butler has played Minneapolis, Arcade Fire’s hometown of Montreal, New York, New Orleans, and SXSW 2015 in Austin, Texas, among other locales.
He has also done two past DJ sets in Miami. In 2013, after Arcade Fire’s small, exclusive show at Mekka as The Reflektors, Butler (not billed as DJ Windows 98 at the time) spun a set of Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, and Technotronic while wearing a bag on his head. Fourteen months later, he returned for his next local gig behind the decks (and first under his chosen DJ moniker) to play a "midnight until sunrise” party with legendary New Wave and hip-hop producer Arthur Baker at Soho House during Art Basel Miami Beach 2014.
Soon, or about 48 hours, DJ Windows 98 returns again. And he’s gonna get those booties shaking from the carpet stage at Bardot.
“Let’s,” as he likes to say, “get cray!"
Arcade Fire’s Win Butler as DJ Windows 98. 10 p.m. Friday, April 3, at Bardot Miami, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-576-7750; bardotmiami.com. Tickets cost $24 to $30 plus fees via showclix.com. Ages 21 and up.