Under Andy Butler's unerring tillerage, Hercules & Love Affair has mutated through a range of line ups and vibes, with singers and musicians coming and going around Butler's disco steeped production. At times the act has seemed more akin to a mini replication of Motown than a traditional band set up, with Butler taking the Holland-Dozier-Holland role; giving his songs to different singers to interpret, reworking motifs, and keeping a pop aesthetic very much in mind. A thoughtful scholar of dance, Butler has always got plenty to say about his work, and with a newly formed live band around him (officially being touted as Hercules & Love Affair 3.0), a strong album to play (this years 'The Feast of the Broken Heart', and gigs in Ibiza's Glitterbox ahead on August 16th, we had plenty to ask him...
You’ve recently been quoted as saying that ‘maybe the nightclub isn’t just decadent and meaningless’ – what would you like it to be instead?
I would love for it to be a meeting ground for different kinds of cultures and artists/media, where emotional and intellectual communion is found through dancing and a mutual appreciation for music.
Should there be a space for music that is just ‘meaningless’, that purely exists for it’s own sake?
Absolutely. I am not one to suggest music should serve only one purpose only. Music functions differently for different cultures for instance, and for me to say that EDM or light hearted dance floor oriented music should do for people what indigenous folk music of Gambia does would be ludicrous. But there should also be room for meaningful dance floor oriented music that exists for the purpose of evoking different emotions other than simple elation and making people think.
Hercules & Love Affair tracks are really rooted in traditions that have come before – do you ever feel that your awareness of the weight of house music history makes it hard to produce new songs that stand up to the classics? And how do you work around this?
I often find inspiration in memories; moments when music moved me. Those songs provoked emotional responses in me- if I then start from there, I am likely to evoke an authentic emotional tone in the piece. I have always written from this place- whether in a moment I choose to look to the chromaticism of Gershwin to evoke a wistful sentiment with a smile that so excited me as a young person or if I look to the directness and chilly simplicity of Vince Clarke's work for an anthemic synth line, it's the same. I don't worry about my work or myself for that matter being as great as either of theirs/them.
Following on from this, the internet makes so much knowledge available, it’s almost easier to discover that something has been said before than say something new – for example, writing this, I can see the millions of other interviews you’ve done, and have an urge not to replicate the same questions. But is novelty over rated? Should we just accept that something doesn’t have to be new to be good, or should we be striving to offer fresh perspectives?
Don't worry about asking me the same questions- such as this one:) Worrying about whether something has been said before has one effect usually- it shuts people up. For me this is a personal journey, what the masses are saying or not saying is not of very much of interest to me. One of the great things about collaborating with other people and with people from other backgrounds musically and otherwise offers new perspectives.
And just before I disappear in a fug of overly intense questions, how are you settling in with the new line up of H&LA?
They are family now, the greatest stars spotted in the world of Hercules arguably- I have never been prouder of our live show.
How much of the back catalogue are you covering live at the moment? Can audiences expect new renditions of H&LA classics?
Yes, we do a couple of old numbers from the first two records, but we focus on the new stuff.
Are there any tracks that you feel belong so particularly to one singer you’ve worked with that you don’t like to play them with another?
Not so much. I see what sits well and personally is embraced by the current singers; for instance, some of the new singers have felt bored by the lack of challenge in some of the earlier material. A lot of the songs in earlier work floated between the singers- a song like "Athene" for instance, which I have recorded versions of with Antony, Nomi and Kim Ann Foxman, though not performed currently in the set (its dear to me as I wrote it about my mom), could easily be resurrected and performed by one of the new vocalists. That is one of the coolest things about Hercules for me.
The live set up has been through a lot of changes –how much do the group of people you work with shape the direction of H&LA?
They greatly influence the shows of course. The level of artistry that the singers brought to the most recent record had a great impact on the current vision. In general though, conceptually and compositionally I maintain the loudest voice in the mix, which offers cohesion for sure.
You’ve just had a single signed to Defected, who have released some real mainstream pop dance in the past, and you’ve suggested you want to make pop records - what are your thoughts on the current state of pop? Does it tell us anything about the world?
That is a lot to get into here. But I am excited to make music that reaches lots of people and is "pop"-ular.
And finally, now Feast of the Broken Heart is out, what are you working on? Can we expect another album in a similar vein?
Currently, lots of other projects with other artists, relaunching Mr. INTL and excited about all that. As for your last question, you can probably answer it yourself:)
Hercules & Love Affair play live at Glitterbox, alongside Todd Terry and Horse Meat Disco @ Boom, Ibiza on Saturday August 16th - more details here