Hercules And Love Affair: interview

Nu-disco titan Andrew Butler, aka Hercules And Love Affair, tells Time Out the tale of his epic journey from Colorado to NYC to get the mythological party started

  • Hercules And Love Affair: interview

    Butler (centre, pointy hair) and friends © Jason Nocito

  • Dance music is a dirty term among many strata of music fans these days. Not because dancing is unpopular, as the exponential rise in post-gig afterparties attests, but probably because it now carries a fusty stigma of serious boshers studying intense mixological detail. It’s easy to forget what disc jockeys (or ‘DJs’ as they’re sometimes referred to on ‘the street’) brought to popular culture in the first place.

    Not so for DJ, promoter and now super-producer Andrew Butler, aka Hercules And Love Affair. Having started his career as a teen house DJ at warehouse parties and leather bars in Denver, Colorado, Butler is acutely, emotionally aware of what makes a nodding man spinning records important.

    ‘I feel the best thing a DJ can do is play an exciting and informative, educational set for his audience, y’know?’ he chuckles. ‘So that it’s challenging to the DJ and there’s a spontaneity and an excitement. But also because it’s a service to everyone if you play music that opens people’s ears and pushes things a little bit. My approach to community has always been from a musical standpoint: like, am I gonna get a rise out of these people? Sometimes it’s about taking risks and seeing how the audience reacts. And it’s generally those moments that – at least for me – have always been the most bonding. When you’re both taken by a certain groove, and it really lifts you. And you look at someone else and they’re really lifted, and you’re really excited. And you’re dancing together, you’re going through something together. You’re rejoicing; essentially it’s kinda like celebrating together.’

    It was this sense of ecstatic telepathy that first drew Butler to dance music. Although a staunch house collector from the age of 15, a chance encounter with Yazoo’s ‘Situation’ on local radio provided the big bang for Butler’s ideas of what dance music could be, and do. Eventually Butler moved – like everyone these days – to Brooklyn, to attend Sarah Lawrence College, a kind of acid-jazz, Kids From Fame-sounding place, and immerse himself in the city’s famously diverse musicological landscape.

    ‘The time I made the decision to come to New York, I was really going through life in terms of what was immediately happening,’ Butler explains. ‘A very youthful approach to living. I didn’t really think out my move. I knew that there was a lot of good music here, but it was really the experience of coming to visit the school where I ended up going to. The night I stayed there, there was a DJ cutting records with live jazz musicians playing on top of it, and a bunch of really beautiful people dancing. And I thought to myself: This seems like a pretty good school for me. It felt like these kids, not only are they making a party happen, they’re making the music for the party happen.’

    The end result of this vague adventure is Butler’s debut album, ‘Hercules And Love Affair’, which is released this week on LCD Soundsystem’s DFA imprint (a sign of soul-punk success in itself). Although it’s obviously a dance record, the album is no mere barrage of stompers. Butler set out to create a ‘spectrum of emotions’. It has dark, psychedelic moments, such as the downbeat, mildly menacing, almost Congotronic ‘Easy’ alongside outright funky party stuff like ‘You Belong’. Partly this was a result of Butler’s desire to express himself but also because there isn’t really any home for purist disco in today’s NYC.

    ‘Nobody can get the licence to dance in their venue,’ he says Butler, ‘so smaller places have ended up only being bars or lounges, and that whole experience became about sitting at the bar and talking. Personally, I stay in a lot and I make music and I collect records and I kind of dance around in my apartment, ha ha! I think maybe that’s the impulse encouraging artists in New York to make music now.’

    Still, the whole album is, in its own way, a kind of party on a disc. Butler has collaborated with a compact cast of fortuitously talented friends, most notably Antony ‘And The Johnsons’ Hegarty who Butler describes as ‘a huge creative force’. Hegarty’s uncharacteristically bold performance brings an undeniable beauty to H&LA’s current single, the epic down-disco masterpiece ‘Blind’, but Butler’s reasons for getting these people involved weren’t simply vocal window-dressing. Indeed, it’s an artistic extension of Butler’s much-loved dancefloor telepathy.

    ‘Collaboration in general is super-exciting to me,’ he says. ‘I enjoy drawing in tons of people and working on things that are serving as an extension of the music. It’s the whole idea of just learning from working with other people that excites me most about collaboration. You learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot about the work.’

    ‘Hercules And Love Affair’ is out on Mar 10 on EMI. Butler DJs at Easy Lover at Punk on Mar 7.

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