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Hercules and Love Affair’s Andy Butler on the new album, Vienna and his latest collaborations

For most artists it doesn’t matter where they come from, but where they want to go… And that’s almost always either the Big Apple or Big Ben. For Andy Butler, nevertheless, it has been the other way round. Originally from NY, where he recorded his first self-titled album Hercules and Love Affair, he moved to Vienna a few years ago. To the surprise of all, he decided to stay.


David Bogner caught up with Andy Butler in Vienna ahead of his Hercules and Love Affair Soundsystem gig in Warsaw this Saturday to talk about the new album, the latest members of the extended Hercules and Love Affair family and how he finds Vienna, the city he currently calls home. Tickets are still available for Warsaw and Zagreb by clicking here. Those who can’t make the Zagreb leg of the tour.

Andy Butler: People always ask me, “Why are you living in Vienna?” and one answer could be because it’s beautiful and a great city to live in, but for me the answer is something different: it’s the fact that there are really creative, relevant people living here. There is Patrick Pulsinger, who was the reason why I came to Vienna in the first place, and of course Wolfram, who has a thing completely of his own going on. You go up to the top of a pretty, old building and there in the attic there is this crazy studio with tons of weird old gear, stuff that I had never seen in person before. And five minutes from here there is another old and funny building with a little apartment and a super duper recording studio. But that’s not the whole story.

I met Philipp—half of the formidable producer duo Microthol who I’m currently working with on my new album—during a photo shoot for my last record on top of Patrick Pulsinger’s studio without knowing who he was. It was only when Wolfram brought me over to the studio a few weeks later that I finally put two and two together. Wolfi had just done a track with Constantin, the other half of Microthol, which I had put out digitally on Mr. International. It was a very KLF-sounding acid song and even though it’s a great track that I still like to play, I think it was a bit too pedestrian and easy for them. They are more interested in intellectual pieces and like to let the technology speak for itself instead of getting in the way too much. I, on the other hand, work differently, being more the traditional pop structure guy. So when I started working with them I was a bit hesitant at first, even though I had fallen in love with the studio right away. The early digital samplers here especially worked to inform the sound of the record a great deal. I had worked with Mark Pistel in San Francisco before, and he had been operating with E-mu Emax., using Akai and early samplers like that for a long time—then I came to Vienna and there were these two dudes who had the same obsession, even though the two studios were almost 10,000 km apart. This is the reason for the consistency of the album, if you happen to wonder upon listening to the album later.

Electronic Beats presents Hercules And Love Affair in Warsaw

And even though the Microthol guys and I have two completely different approaches, aesthetically we are very much in tune. We just like to listen to the same dance music. It’s the thing you find out when you are sitting in front of a record collection with someone and start playing tunes for each other. Of course there was a fair amount of crossover in our collections, but far more important was the stuff they introduced me to and that I didn’t know, and the other way around. It’s a regional thing: them coming from the Austrian techno scene and therefore having been heavily influenced by Detroit techno, even more so than me, as I’m coming from a Chicago/New York background. So when I’m dropping a reference, thanks to their vast knowledge they know exactly what to do. I can even go out, fall away for a minute or have a coffee, and when I come back they have created something that essentially evokes just the sound I was looking for.

The other thing is that they are passionate and true artists who love what they are doing. They aren’t trying to sell, they aren’t showing off. The most important thing for them is the sound and the music. Exactly like it is with John Grant and Crystal Warren who I’ve been working with on this album.

Collaboration is always a fine line, it’s a good challenge. It makes you learn how to talk to people. And you have to acknowledge when you make a mistake and step back and apologize for being an asshole. But during the whole process you learn who you are and become more whole.

For this record, apart from Philipp and Constantin, I’ve been working with four vocalists thus far. One is John, who is actually here right now. He produced his last record in Iceland with the GusGus people and has been in the music industry for a long time. His lyrics are very intelligent and witty and his voice is just tremendous and full of emotion, and, let’s not forget: he is a really great pianist.

Then there is Crystal Warren, who also has a phenomenal voice on the one hand and is a gifted songwriter on the other. What is really interesting about her is her presentation of gender identity and her vocals. Her voice has an unusual range for a female and it extends almost to a baritone area but her picture presents something completely different and you ask yourself: how is that coming out of that person? She is one of the best voices on the planet right now. The thing is, she usually sings in a traditional acoustic folk and rock setting and we put her into a house music track and it worked super well.

The third guy is Rouge, who used to sing and perform in churches with gospel quires. And again, he sounds right on house tracks the same way Crystal does.

Gustaph is the fourth singer and he has already been putting out music on labels like We Play House and had releases on Eskimo. I met him at a soundsystem show that he was doing with the We Play House crew and they were doing covers of classic house songs, which I hadn’t known they were planning to do. So when I was walking out of the room to get a drink and heard a version of E.S.P.’s “It’s you” coming through, I was blown away because I didn’t know there was a version with a female and a male. I walked back in, and of course there wasn’t another version, it was live, done by him and someone else. And it was better than the recording. I stayed for about an hour and took his information afterwards and now he has part of the touring band and has recorded a couple of songs with us. One of the tracks, a song called “Be With You”, has recently been selected as the closer for the Chanel runway show, despite the fact that it hasn’t even been mastered yet. Karl walked out to this track!

The last person I hope to work with on this album is a guy who is currently on tour with Azealia Banks whose name is Zebra Katz, and I’m pretty sure you know who that is. ~

Published December 04, 2012. Words by David Bogner.