Andy Butler is the virtuoso behind the disco-house revival band Hercules & Love Affair. Featuring an ever-changing lineup, male falsetto and a box full of analogue synths, Hercules are a distinct voice in a club landscape that threatens to become homogenous. Now entering their tenth year as a project, Hercules have released their third studio album, The Feast Of The Broken Heart, and Butler says the creative process was as energetic as ever.
“I started the same way I always do, experimentation and exploration with the gear in front of me,” he says. “I was working with this Austrian co-producer who had this really beautiful private studio; so private that the only thing this place had been used for before was their own stuff.”
The Feast Of The Broken Heart is a dark, tumultuous house experience – a direction that wasn’t initially clear to Butler. “I toyed with all these modular analogue synths, making these arty ambient soundscapes for three months and then went the other way and made this very direct track, ‘That’s Not Me’. So we got a local vocalist [Gustaph] in. Her sound just set us on a really different course again. It clicked that we could craft these very poppy, structured songs but with a tough, gritty house backing.
“It sounds like I’m very self-aware about my process,” Butler continues, “but really I’m not removed enough to say, ‘I’m going to do a new spin on this famous house track or copycat this.’ It all starts with a simple chord progression and flows on, and it taps into a personal memory bank, which is where a lot of the sounds come from. I started writing and playing music from a very young age, and having left the world of learning the piano and ‘higher art’, I wanted to prove that electronic music – particularly house music – was worthwhile.”
Listening to Hercules, it’s clear more is going on than simple homage to the heyday of disco.
“It’s been something of an agenda for me,” says Butler, “because disco and house are almost treated like throwaway music, something for a very specific time and place, but I think it stretches far beyond that and has a real lifestyle and is legitimate.”
At the festivals they’re invited to, Hercules tend to get shoved in with more mainstream club producers – their last Australian tour was for Future Music Festival in 2012. When it comes to the EDM craze, Butler has some strong words to offer.
“The nicest way to put it is, I’m not a fan. I think the best composers know how to challenge themselves, and while we all have a toolbox to draw on now and then, this is just the same cheap tricks repeated – all about the drop, the over-compression and the peaking. I’ve got nothing against aggressive music but it makes me feel like I’m insane, listening to it.
“As much as Skrillex might be a nice person, I don’t understand his musical mission.”
The Feast Of The Broken Heart is out now through Moshi Moshi/[PIAS].