Given there is no such thing as a boring conversation to be had with Hercules and Love Affair head honcho Andy Butler, you can’t help but be a tiny bit disappointed when the request comes through to send the questions via email. Andy is a born raconteur. The reason he manages to spin such exciting sets out of his DJing, from peaks to troughs, cascading ups and downs, is because he knows the power of the story.
He is one of the most verbally engaging men in the world of dance music, perhaps because he has an inner understanding that moving your feet is not just a direct connection to moving the heart but the head too, sometimes. A Hercules and Love Affair record, an Andy Butler DJ set, an interchange with the man himself over any medium: these were designed to make you think. Hercules as a band are currently preparing for next year’s release of their third long playing record, a balls to the wall selection of unadulterated bangers, scrubbed up with their familiar fairy-dust ethos of outsider sexual politics, gender diagnostics and Out Come The Freaks party hooks. Butler is a techno scholar. He understands the power of placing a hi-hat at a certain pitch in homage to his heroes. But he’s no nostalgist. Third time lucky is his most collaborative affair yet. The cast-list of co-conspirators he’s adding this time round are; everyone’s favourite pianoman John Grant, French Alegerian Trans-identifier Rouge Mary, Belgian rival for Sylvester’s falsetto supremacy Gustav and baritone chanteuse Krystle Warren, possibly the best soul singer in the world. This time the Hercules and Love Affair camp is spiritual as well as sexual.
Last time we spoke you'd just alarmed yourself with a radical new Annie Lennox inspired haircut. How's it settled in?
Doh, I think there have been 2 or 3 haircuts since then. It had a great run though! I am beardless at the moment as well, which has been a really great experience. I’ve decided to forget the facial hair and grow the fingernails as an expression of my masculinity. Just kidding :-)
What's your look this season?
Hmm, I'm digging my overalls and lycra biking shirts right now. But in general, I seem to be drifting more and more to the loose-fitting, oversized, linen-y kind of situations. It might be that I am getting older. I like faded brights as well. Oh, goodness, it does sound like I am getting old.
You know when people ask you who you'd invite to your perfect dinner party, do you assemble the various Hercules & Love Affair line-ups a bit like that?
What a good question/idea. I do think there is a current or common denominator that runs through all participants at any given time. There is a lot of dialogue that is shared between each singer and myself. The connection is often musical (duh) but the topics of interest run the gamut from spirituality to spirits. That dinner party would be so interesting.
Could you tell me in one sentence the reason you've chosen each of the new members, please?
Mama, THEY ARE THE BEST SINGERS IN TOWN. There I said it.
While we're on the subject, who would you invite to your perfect dinner party?
Oh God, I think it would be big if it was the 'perfect one', like the ones that Karl Lagerfeld is known to have. Well, definitely a scandalous drag queen or two. No more than three because it can get dangerous. Some mysterious, introverted artists that I admire and who make me scratch my head like Chris and Cosey or Austrian singer Soap and Skin. All my friends from NYC I haven’t seen for a while like playwright Jonathan Lisecki or designer Alexis Bittar. And maybe one or two family members, again no more than three because it can get dangerous. Oh and some spiritualists and or sect leaders.
On ground level, why do you think that the LGBT conversation has moved away from L and G toward T? What part have Hercules played in that shift?
I think it’s fair to say that it has moved away from a L/G conversation and more towards a T conversation, primarily because most people don't understand the distinction between sexuality and gender. I had the unpleasant but ashamedly entertaining experience of watching an old Jerry Springer show where a Trans person quite eloquently stated this fact, only to receive an overwhelming producer encouraged 'boo' from the audience. 20 years later somehow, this 'unknown' quantity still scares people but the conversation is really happening at the moment. Look at the phenomena of Rupaul's Drag Race. Though cartoonish in its representation of Trans issues, I think it has moved the dialogue forward. And I would like to think that Hercules has helped in its own way. Primarily Hercules is a vehicle for music. But it is also the combined story of many queer identities, with the voice of each participant asserting its own demand to be recognized as beautiful. It is in its nature community oriented.
You and John Grant share a history as brilliant musicianly queers that got straight outta Denver and now you're recording together. If the two of you collaborated on a guide to Colorado how close do you think your experiences would mirror one another's?
Oh girl, that guide would be a dangerous one. You'd be lucky if you left the 5th establishment on the list alive. Seriously though, our experiences would be pretty damn similar. I mean we were gay alterna-dorks in the somewhat cow-town of Denver. The scene was only so big. That said, there were some great things about it. We were not the only music obsessed people around there, so there were some pretty cool things happening.
How important was the moment John announced his HIV status on stage with Hercules at Antony Hegarty's Meltdown festival in London in cementing your band as a force not just for joy and dancing but a force for good?
You know, I don't think John does anything in life "just because". Dude has a purpose. He has made a huge impact on my life, and seen me through the bleakest of moments. I thought we were on a mission before, and when life got personally hard for me, it was also a close call for an aborted mission with Hercules. John, at Meltdown, before and after has helped keep that mission on track, so the short answer? Very.
Be honest, what was your reaction when you saw banners and promo material saying 'Antony's Meltdown' outside a brutalist theatre in London?
I thought, "She really is sharing it with the world now." It was an opportunity for the world to see Antony's passion and interests and artistic pursuits. Really it was an opportunity to see inside Ant's mind. Ultimately it reminded me to dream as big as Antony does.
Why did you move to Vienna and not Berlin?
I wanted to get stuff done. No disrespect to the Berliners but there is a lot of stuff to be distracted with there. I also needed some art nouveau in my life as well as Eastern European lovers.
What's better: sex or techno?
God that is a hard question. I have a pretty hardcore relationship with both.
What lasts longer?
Dude some techno tracks are long. But I am happy to say generally the sex is lasting longer.
List me the five songs disco dollies that know Hercules & Love Affair from the Frankie Knuckles mix of Blind should hear immediately, please.
The Word is Love by Steve Silk Hurley, Some Lovin by Liberty City, Turn Me Out by Praxis feat Kathy Brown, Let The Music Take You Higher by DJ Pierre, the vocal mix and The Wander by Romanthony.
Physically, who's the hottest DJ of them all?
Do I have to answer this one? I’ve got a man.
Why should people who only listen to dance music give a shit that Lou Reed died?
He taught us all not to give a fuck. That man was punk's papa, the DIY spirit literally poured out of him. And if you didn’t know, you do now, techno and dance music was born out of that spirit.
Listen to Hercules and Love Affair's exclusive Music to... make you wanna work it mix
Hercules and Love Affair play XOYO Loves at The Coronet Theatre this Saturday 30th November - Tickets available here.