Hercules & Love Affair’s Andy Butler on Touring, Frankie Knuckles, & Roots

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Andy Butler’s romance with dance music is a storied tale. After first being exposed to the world of nightclubs and dance music in his hometown of Denver, Colorado, Butler eventually relocated to New York City where he later formed the dance music project Hercules & Love Affair. The ever-shifting lineup of the group has produced a wildly diverse output over the years, including 2007’s critically-lauded “Blind.”

Earlier this year, the group released its third full-length album, The Feast of The Broken Heart, a collection of disco-tech stompers drenched in both nostalgic heartbreak and unabashed euphoria. Ahead of the group’s packed show at Brooklyn’s Verboten last week, DJ Times caught up with mastermind Andy Butler to talk about his influences, production setup, and Frankie Knuckles’ impact.

DJ Times: How was the approach to the new album different from the past two?
Andy Butler: Well, I tend to be an annoyingly referential artist, so I’m constantly wearing the inspiration on my sleeve. I think this makes the music extremely personal, as it shows what I’ve been moved by throughout my life (which has musically been what has inspired me to write). So the first time around I was obsessed with disco records and had been collecting for a long time, all of which surfaced on the [first album]. On the second album, I had been listening to a lot of singer-songwriters—folky, acoustic, psychedelic—while also getting into house again. This one was a full-on return to my warehouse parties growing up.

DJ Times: What do you consider to be the primary themes from the album?
Butler: I need to get a new theme because every album seems to be the same! [laughs] The theme is the idea of transforming one’s brokenness into something celebratory and joyous; using music, dancing, and the nightclub to transform an emotional experience. That’s kind of what The Feast of The Broken Heart means. There’s a contradiction in the statement itself: celebrating a broken heart is a bizarre concept. I think that’s what the idea behind Hercules [& Love Affair] has been for me.

DJ Times: What gear were you using for the creation of the album?
Butler: In terms of software, I was using Logic almost entirely. I’ve been based in Logic for all three records, with a little bit of Pro Tools coming in for Blue Songs. For hardware, it’s the classic analog setup: we’ve got the standard arsenal of Roland machines—including the Juno and SH-101 in addition to the classic dance 808 and 909—and a fair amount of hardware sampling devices. We’ve got an Emu E-max for that. Of course, we’ve got a lot of top-of-the-line plugins for Logic.

DJ Times: You’ve simplified the tour setup from the original nine-piece live band of your first tour, correct?
Butler: For sure. Oh my gosh, yeah! We’re running Ableton primarily. A majority of the drum rhythms are coming out of a MPC. There’s also an old school Simmons pad-esque drum machine that’s involved along with an SH-101 and a number of controllers. There’s a Moog Sub Phatty. There are a lot of pedals; it involves an effects chain. And we have two vocalists. It’s setup to incorporate three vocalists, and we’ve had three at points this summer. The first record’s setup was entirely live besides a MIDI clock we had running and an MPC, which was really crazy. It was cool, but it was a very different aesthetic and much bigger production in terms of logistics and traveling. After a couple of years with a live band, I decided to streamline it, and we got three singers from Blue Songs on, and now it’s been two or three for the past few years.

DJ Times: A lot of your roots are in classic house music. What’s it like to know that Frankie Knuckles remixed “Blind” when you were first getting started?
Butler: It was a surreal experience to wake up that morning and getting the news [of his passing], as this person had a very intense personal impact on my career as well as an impact on me as a fan. Growing up, I listened to songs like “Your Love,” “Baby Wants To Ride,” and “The Whistle Song” knowing that those songs brought me into the world of house music. To think that years later he would be remixing one of our songs! He’s had an impersonal impact—on a fan level—and a direct impact on my career. It was such a strange feeling to hear that news because of what I owe him. It’s an honor to have these artists participate—repeatedly—in my career. This year, David Morales participated on a remix [of "My Offence”], and Todd Terry will be doing a remix soon. They’re legends so it’s exciting, but at the moment it feels so surreal.

The band’s tour dates are below. For more information, go to HerculesAndLoveAffair.net.

Tour Dates
10 Oct
III Points Festival, Miami, United States
11 Oct
Corona Capital, Mexico City, Mexico
12 Oct
UItra, Santiago, Chile
16 Oct
Babylon, Istanbul, Turkey
17 Oct
Defected – ADE Party @ ADE, Amsterdam, Netherlands
31 Oct
Teatro Royal Center, Bogota, Colombia
01 Nov
Halloween Party @ A Secret Location, Medellin, Colombia
08 Nov
Creamfields Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
13 Nov
Oval Space, London, United Kingdom