Andy Butler, the openly gay founder of the edgy electronic dance music project Hercules & Love Affair, talks about live performance vs. studio work, influential DJs and support (or lack thereof) from the gay press
HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR
Club Dada, 2720 Elm St.
Sept. 24. 8 p.m. $17.
As a student of Greek mythology, Andy Butler was captivated by the homoerotic nature of some of the love affairs of Hercules, the world’s strongest man. The notion had such a lasting impact on the musician that he revisited it when naming his ever-evolving musical mission, the electronic music project Hercules and Love Affair.
We spoke with the openly gay DJ and electrionic dance music ringmaster about HALA’s recently released third studio album, The Feast of the Broken Hearts, and their gig at Club Dada on Thursday, a stop that kicks off an international tour supporting the album.
— Scott Huffman
Dallas Voice: Hercules & Love Affair seems to be an ever-evolving collaborative effort with you as the constant and other producers and artists as variables. Is this to keep things fresh and edgy? Does it create a bit of an identity crisis? Andy Butler: Hercules & Love Affair is a musical project born to realize my music via collaborations with other artists and co-producers. It is the ultimate experience in terms of artistic freedom. I am constantly learning and encountering new perspectives and challenging myself. The fact that Hercules evolves does not incite any “crisis” in me although it might cause one for journalists who need an easy story or an audience that wants the traditional personality-driven rock star set up in a band.
The Feast of the Broken Heart is the third album for HALA. Describe the feel of the album and your inspiration for it. The theme is a recurring one with Hercules. It is about transforming brokenness into strength and celebration. This story is in the name of my project and has been reappearing throughout three albums now. Aesthetically, it is driven by my personal memories of house music and techno in nightclubs that I went to as a teenager.
What can we expect at your Club Dada appearance? It will be a definite party. We try to transmit an uninhibited celebratory vibe. There will be big voices and a big banging sound. I think that we offer spectacle, but we encourage closing your eyes and dancing your butt off.
The video for the single “My Offence” feels like an edgy art-house documentary supported by a fierce soundtrack. It educates the mainstream about underground culture — in particular the underground use of the word “cunt.” What was your creative vision for this piece? I think challenging listeners and fans is a perhaps something not to pretentiously do but should happen at some point in an artist’s career — if they are speaking from their authentic voice. I am not too concerned with keeping people comfortable. This video far surpassed my expectations of it, and I think it is totally beautiful. The reaction has been mixed. For instance, in trying to find a platform to premiere the video, we encountered a lot of resistance because of it being too “controversial” or “too sensitive of a subject matter.” This was coming from sites that I could not imagine saying such a thing, considering their young “hip” demographic and “fearless” approach to journalism.
Also surprisingly, the gay press has been quite uninterested … though I would argue scared. Advertisers rule the roost, though. I get it. Publicly, it seems some people understand where I am coming from, and of course there are those people that don’t. There are women who think I am speaking on something I have no right to because of my given sex. There are some music lovers who have criticized the fusion of documentary and music video, complaining the song had been butchered. I say allow them to speak.
Which do you like better: studio work or live performance? I enjoy both, but probably studio work. I love the solitude it offers, and I enjoy the feeling of decoding the puzzle that it offers.
You are an openly gay artist. Has this been difficult or empowering? I have been out since 15 years old. I would not purposely start to hide for any reason I can imagine. Maybe, if my life were at risk, but certainly not for success.
Which DJ has inspired you the most in your career and why? Either Alex Gloor from InFlagranti because of his “fuck-it” attitude, or Derrick Carter because of the impression he made technically and through his tasteful inclusions of stuff that exists a bit outside of the box.
When did you first realize that you had first “made it” in the business? I first felt I made it when I had the opportunity to get on a plane and travel to bring my music elsewhere. So, I guess when I left NYC for the first time and was flown to Vermont and played at a party!
If you had not been able to earn a living in music, what would you have done with your life instead? [I would be] teaching kids or [doing] some sort of service/volunteer work.
Do you have any particular favorite song to perform? If so, what makes it your favorite? I enjoy playing a song from the new record, “543 to Freedom.” It has a great energy and can really feel like a rocket ship taking off when it works.
Of what achievement or moment in your life are you most proud? There are many, but maybe the “My Offence” video from this year, playing Meltdown Festival or our recent Boiler Room performance.
Do you have any particular regrets or projects that you would like a chance to do over? Regrets? Well, I just try to learn from the negatives and mistakes made but try to focus on the positive. Things happen for a reason I believe, and there is always a chance to learn in these moments.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 19, 2014.