sex as a foreign language

awkward aural adventures

Hercules And Love Affair – Andy Butler Interview (Full Version)

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A version of this interview appears in Who’s Jack?

Deep in the bowels of London’s notorious Koko Hercules And Love Affair ringmaster  and New York DJ Andy Butler is riffing on the bands ethos and the success of their eponymous debut album which features divine vocal contributions from Antony Hegarty.. 2008 has been a year spent filling dance floors across the world, watching the number of bodies flailing and gyrating to the electro pulse aural sexscapades of tracks such as ‘Blind’ and ‘You Belong’ grow with each passing show.  Hercules & Love Affair have already rocked the capital with a set at the Wireless Festival and will be returning to play the O2 Arena in November as they bid to keep the party rolling all year.

The last time you were here was Wireless, how was that for you and what have you been up to in the meantime?

Wireless was actually a really fun festival for us. I mean the numbers were a little small at first and we felt “Where is everybody?” But we put on a really good show I think and it was really well run. It was one of the more pleasant UK festival experiences we’ve had.

You’re finishing off with Bestival. As far as shows go do you enjoy the festival scene or do you prefer club shows?

Well you know I love the vibe of a club show. It’s nice to roll into town and know that tonight we’re the only band on stage and we can have a long soundtrack and can really make it our night. But festivals have really grown on me and I actually really enjoy some of the afternoon casual sort of festivals. Like we did a new one called the Beachdown Festival in Brighton this year and we played at like 4 in the afternoon and we put on a really good show and there were loads of kids there. Also we recently did one in Ireland and that was loads of people in the afternoon again, like 5 in the afternoon and  there’s just something really nice about playing early in the day, so you still have your evening and  you have the casual vibe which is fun. So we’ve just been doing tons and tons of festivals and tons and tons of club dates.

Yeah because the first tour was in March wasn’t it so you’ve pretty much been constant since then?

Yeah, I mean we’ve had a week here or a week there but it’s pretty much been constant.

So when you play festivals obviously you will have people there who haven’t heard Hercules… at all, so what do you hope a Hercules virgin would take away from your show?

I hope that they take away… well you know I don’t want them to be totally stuck in the spectacle of it all. I quite like the idea that they could be able to retreat into themselves and really enjoy the music. But I think that’s something that a fan would be more likely to do. In general for a new person who has never heard or seen us I hope that they are able to see that there is a pretty special thing happening on stage with 8 different people, like a magical kind of thing, you know, like a synergy. And I hope that that energy that we create amongst ourselves on stage really resonates with the viewer or whoever. I hope they walk away thinking, “wow 8 people were playing dance music on stage just now!…and it was like a machine and it was really tight and they knew what they were doing, it kind of felt like a journey,” or something, I think that’s really the goal. So it feels kind of like a journey for people.

Cool, so obviously you are now a large group with the live band that you have and I read a quote that said you were, “representing the bohemian New York that we all dream about.” So I was going to ask you what the actual reality of being from New York at the moment? What’s it like to be a band or an artist there, because it was portrayed that you represented kind of a Warholian utopia, is that a reality?

Well you know we as a group, all 8 of us, are very serious about what we do, you know. We’re 8 passionate people who are playing music together and whether or not there’s this scene, I mean there’s not this one nightclub that we are all going to where we all cross paths, this is not the case, there’s no scene like this in New York, I mean there’s no bohemia. There is no bohemia in New York, it’s true you know it’s just romantic and it’s nice that we represent that but the truth is that we’re all just people who have a really intense and sincere relationship to music and coming together to collaborate on this project, I’m sorry it doesn’t sound more romantic.

That’s not a problem.

Well no, but I mean in general I’m saying to people who really perceive us that way we’re people who came together because we really like music more than anything,

Cool, because I was wondering if more than you coming together because there was a huge scene or community it was more a case of you being drawn together as a reaction against the fact that there wasn’t when you were getting together?

That is exactly what it was, and I think that is a good way of putting it. You know, because I’ve been in New York for years and there wasn’t a place to go dance and what did I end up doing? I ended up making there be a place, or creating a place. You know the nightclub situation was really rotten at one point and we just threw our hands in the air and it was like “well I guess we have to throw a party! I guess we have to do this because it’s just not happening.” So I think this is something similar that happened with Hercules & Love Affair, there was sort  of a vacancy or something missing or something not happening you know and it’s a case of us just trying to create something for us, and then people come into it.

Because there’s two perceptions of it at the moment, there is kind of that romantic notion that it’s this artists paradise and it’s like Berlin and there are so many creative people there and so much happening all at once, but then there’s also that , admittedly cliched, perception of the post 9/11 kind of clean up New York crack down , the “we don’t want it to be a party town” kind of vibe.

No, it’s not, it’s not a party town . I always say it’s an island of commerce and it feels much more like…in some ways I feel like New York is more suburban than Cincinnati, Ohio. So I feel that way sometimes and I think maybe there’s something interesting and edgy happening in a small town in America, because in New York it really feels just like shoppers and bankers and doctors and that’s cool, but it’s not a terribly hospitable place to artists anymore, I mean it’s a very expensive place.

Ok, so leaving New York. With the album and the singles, like ‘Blind’ you’ve got quite a lot of critical acclaim, especially in the UK, how do you deal with that, how aware are you even of it and how do you process that? Because for some bands it’s almost a poison chalice to get that kind of reaction. The obvious example right now being Black Kids who must have recorded the best demo in history to produce the hysteria they did and then people have seen them live with unattainable expectations and there’s already a huge backlash in the media. So how do you deal with expectation and pressure?

(Sighs) You know I am aware or it, totally, I’m not going to lie, and partly I am aware of it because, really because I want to be to a degree, but then also because I have people sending me along clips and clips and clips. But in terms of pressure and expectations its more like, well going on the road with this live act, a new band that had never played any live shows and playing in front of thousands of people there was all of this hype and there were these reviews, and there was also all of this expectations because of the question of Antony (Hegarty – Antony and The Johnsons front man) participating but it got the point where we had all this pressure but we had to just go and do something. But to a point I dismiss journalism, because initially you know I didn’t write the record for a journalist .

Did you always view Hercules & Love Affair as a live concern?

I never viewed Hercules as a live band, it was just another way for me to record music and release music and then it became less simple and records got involved and all of this crap happened and then there was touring and everything you know. But if I trace it all back and say ok so where did it all start it was never written for, the music was never written just so someone would have something else to write about in a magazine.

So what’s the next step for Hercules?

Well we have an American tour coming up in October, and I’m just doing production stuff.

Ok, so in terms of new music is that something that’s underway or that you’ll think about next year?

Well I’ve actually already got new material and we’re playing it in our live show, and I’ve been asked to do a couple of really special things, like right now I’m in the process of writing music for Chanel for this big event that they are having. So, yeah the creative juices have definitely been flowing.

…and in terms of new music are you envisaging working with Antony again, or was that purely a first album thing and are there any other artists who you might like to work with in a similar role in the future?

Yeah, I mean Antony was extremely generous and just around a lot, but he has an EP coming out in October and then an album in January. So, I mean, I went into this knowing that it was going to turn into like a Massive Attack thing where we could invite singers in and be a constantly changing face, where the look and the voices are constantly changing. So yeah I am interested in exploring a couple of things, and interested in exploring more different emotional places that I don’t feel I tapped into at all on the first record, because I was in a very different headspace, and using different voices male and female to do that. I don’t really have any names in mind, I mean there are still people I dream of working with….. There are some things in the ether. (Smiles)

Ok so just to finish off then. As such a new live band and you’re just exploring playing together how have the songs changed over the course of the tour?

Yea, they have definitely changed, I mean because certain instrumentation we just don’t have so some of the string parts are played as horn parts and some of the string parts are played as key parts so definitely the arrangements have changed and people have been swapping instruments to fit the new arrangements. But the other thing is also that the tempo of the whole thing has been totally picked up. The record is pretty easy to listen to in the car or at home and it’s all like between 105 and 95bpm so we round it all up to about 120bpm and it’s just a bigger dance party.

So looking at your influences you cite the muppets…favourite?

Oh Miss Piggy, that will never change. She’s my favourite.

Did you see Avenue Q?

Yea, you know it hurt my feelings. I thought it was funny but it hurt my feelings. It was a little sacrilegious to me. (Flashes faux outrage) I was a little bit offended by it…

…you’re laughing as you say that…

Ha, I am. Like I totally enjoyed it but afterwards I was like, you know what, you don’t even go for the muppets. Just don’t go for the muppets!

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