This is the story of a seemingly innocuous pop rock song – a song born out of drug abuse and inspired by a temporary light of salvation. It’s a song that won over the world but caused a massive rift between a couple of friends and musical collaborators.
Believe it or not, this is the story of Crazy Town’s “Butterfly,” the breezy 2001 hit where a gratuitously tattooed rapper named Shifty Shellshock (real name: Seth Binzer) half sung, half rapped the lines, “Come my lady/ Come, come my lady/ You’re my butterfly/ Sugar baby” over a looped sample of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Pretty Little Ditty.”
From a sober living home in Pasadena, Shellshock candidly explains that his early collaborations before “Butterfly,” with his fellow bandmate Epic in the rap/rock group Crazy Town, were frequently detoured by the two’s substantial drug problems.
“We had done some songs before, but we would never finish enough songs to go and shop a demo,” Shellshock says. “We always did one song, and then we’d celebrate for a month. We just didn’t have the focus, because we were on speed,” he says.
Bouncing in and out of rehab and experiencing trouble with the law, Shellshock seemingly turned a corner when he met an individual who inspired him to write the lyrics to “Butterfly.”
“I was trying to get my life together, and I met this beautiful girl,” he recalls. “It turned out to be this girl Cynthia that I wrote the song ‘Butterfly’ about.”
With the lyrics done, Shellshock approached his musical collaborator Epic with a request to create some music for the song that was “earthy and melodic.”
“I said, ‘man, I want it to sound like “Under the Bridge” musically,’” he says.
Epic obliged with a hazy loop of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Pretty Little Ditty.” The two finally completed and released their debut CD The Gift of Game in 1999. In 2001, they put out “Butterfly” as a single and it stormed to the top of the charts in 15 different countries. But the popularity of the song along with the band’s continued drug use caused Crazy Town some serious problems.
In 2001, Crazy Town made headlines for bailing out of a coveted spot on the Ozzfest Tour. Shellshock says a breakup with Cynthia caused him to suffer an emotional breakdown and to start partying a lot while on tour.
“Actually what happened is the band wanted to leave,” Shellshock says. “I refused to go home. I actually stayed for three more dates after the band left. The band said, ‘Dude, this guy is going to kill himself. He scares the s*** out of us.’ I beat up like two of them.”
The shadow of Ozzfest and “Butterfly” ended up hanging over Crazy Town as they started to work on their follow up album to The Gift of Game. According to Shellshock, Epic wanted to craft a harder rocking CD than Ozzfest fans would like, while he wanted “to make some more ‘Butterflies.’ ’’
“I don’t give a f*** what anyone thinks about this song [‘Butterfly’],” he says. “It just sold f****** 3 million records and went number 1 in 13 countries. It’s not commercial to me, because it’s real. It’s about me, and what I’ve been going through. Epic, on the other hand, was like, ‘The song got too bubblegum.’ ”
Shellshock acquiesced to Epic, and Crazy Town put out the more rock oriented Darkhorse in 2002. There was no single released in advance or promotional tour to support the album. It sold less than 13,000 copies in its first week and shortly thereafter Crazy Town called it quits.
Shellshock has managed to stay in the public eye since the disbanding of Crazy Town. He released his solo debut Happy Love Sick in 2004, which featured a collaboration with famed DJ Paul Oakenfold on the song “Starry Eyed Surprise.” But, through it all, Shellshock has continued to struggle with drug abuse. “I had so much money to spend on drugs that I built this monster of an addict,” he says.
The musician joined the cast of the reality TV show Celebrity Rehab in 2008. Shellshock says he didn’t decide to join the VH1 program for fame or money, but because he thought other participants would shy away from the gross realities of addiction. “I’m gonna go out there, and I’m going to f****** show exactly how dark it is,” he says.
Shellshock recently made headlines once again for abruptly leaving the residence where celebrities were living together in the Celebrity Rehab spin-off Sober House. He says it is because the producers of the program had fellow participant Steven Adler, former drummer of Guns N’ Roses, arrested during a relapse instead of sending him back to treatment. “I do a good job of avoiding the police,” Shellshock says. “Do you think I’m going to let a f****** TV show put me in jail?”
Now, saying that he has been sober for two months, Shellshock is busy at work collaborating on a Crazy Town reunion album with Epic and another solo CD aptly titled Dr. Sober and Mr. High. “I think making music,” he says, “gets me high in a different way.”
SHIFTY SHELLSHOCK plays 9pm Friday, at The Hippodrome, 321 Alvarado St., Monterey. $10. 646-9244.