What better way to end an Electronic Beats Presents tour than with numeorus guests dancing on stage alongside Andy Butler? Last night, a good chunk of Zagreb’s music fans learned that here is none.
After sucessful gigs in Amsterdam and Warsaw, Electronic Beats Presents tour ended the exact same way we wanted it to end – inside the packed and jolly venue Tvornica Kulture, with charismatic Butler behind the decks and his energetic vocalists Rouge and Gustaph in front of them. The whole two-hour show was audio-streamed by internet Radio808, whose DJs also supported the show via warmup and closing performances.
It was wonderful seeing so many fans of Hercules and Love Affair (and of EB) gathering again. Maybe we all got a bit emotional because it went down at the same venue where the first-ever Croatian EB festival was held, remembered by many because of a stunning lineup of Roisin Murphy, Digitalism, TEED and other artists at the same stage two seasons ago. Maybe it was because the show last night closed a successful festival-and-music-filled 2012 for us and our crew. Maybe we were just in the mood for some seriously danceable disco—or maybe it was a combination of all three. Whatever the case, it was a love affair Zagreb won’t soon forget. ~
Photos: Matej Grgić
What’s that thing about good things coming in threes? That. The third and final stop-off for Hercules and Love Affair Soundsystem’s European jaunt—presented by Electronic Beats—is scheduled to touch down this Saturday 15 December in Zagreb, Croatia. After the Vogue warfare of Amsterdam and the impromptu onstage football of Warsaw, heaven knows what Andy Butler and his gang of disco renegades have in store this time. Best take your vitamins beforehand.
You can still get tickets by visiting the link on our frontpage or by clicking here, but you’d be wise to hurry because they’re selling fast. If you don’t manage to land tickets (we said hurry!) or just can’t make it to Zagreb we’re happy to stump up the next best thing. The event will be streamed live via Radio 808 from 9 p.m onwards, with Butler et al taking to the stage at 11 p.m. Radio 808 will also be providing support on the night courtesy of two Radio 808 Soundsystem DJ sets. Be there, or tune in, just don’t miss. Christmas will be ruined.
21:00-23:00 Radio808 Soundsystem
23:00-01:00 Hercules And Love Affair Soundsystem
01:00-03:00 Radio808 Soundsystem
It was a long, cold, December night in Warsaw, Poland. Well, actually, it was not cold at all. At least nowhere near the Basen venue where this Electronic Beats Presents party took place. The show was sold out and no surprise at all—it was the grand finale of the wonderful season. Exactly year ago Electronic Beats’ program finally reached Poland, starting with a blast: The Electronic Beats Festival in Warsaw, starring Groove Armada and Wiley. Then we had another festival, in April, in the beautiful city of Gdańsk, with James Blake, Squarepusher and Digitalism headlining, and afterwards Electronic Beats reached Katowice, with the memorable OFF Festival before party, including Chew Lips. There’s no doubt EB already belongs in Poland and both the artists and the audience proved it once again last night.
The doors opened at 9.30 p.m. and half an hour later the party really started. First up were Polish duo Last Robots—a poetic name for a first act. A huge picture of moon was displayed behind the backs of Igor and Bert, too focused on their job to even notice, and we sensed it was going to be long and adventurous trip. However, it had to begin somehow (props go to the guy with red baseball cap who entered the dancefloor immediately) and Last Robots set a pitch perfect mood; massaging mild electro waves into irresistible house. Once they achieved momentum, it wasn’t easy for dancing crowd to stop.
But hey, it was midnight already, Moonlight Matters time! And he certainly wouldn’t want to prevent anyone from having a good time. Sebastian Vandevoorde brought his a-game with an eye to making it be bigger and better than everything else that night. He served more catchy choruses than everyone else, more vocal hooks, more of, well, everything actually. Did the walls tremble because of the bass tornado coming out of the speakers or was it because of hundreds of dancers shaking their bums to the sexy, fat funk tunes? The answer will never be known with certainty. Moonlight Matters is known for his own productions released under the Kitsune label as well as remixes for pop giants like Adele or Moby and certainly knows how to grab your attention, drawing you irresistably from the bar to the middle of the ‘floor. And it’s really impossible to resist when you hear hits like New Order’s “Blue Monday” or even ABBA’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” included in the frenetic house and disco set.
By the time that Hercules And Love Affair Soundsystem got onstage, straight off a plane from Moscow, the crowd was sweating. They looked a little tired when we met them at the backstage a couple of minutes before, but once they started the show we understood why… They were coming to the end of exhausting European tour that encapsulates barely controlled big room madness. During the soundcheck Andy Butler said that a venue like Basen, with its huge walls of concrete and steel, demands some really massive sound and he kept his promise! Hercules and Love Affair Soundsystem sounded like the disco/house golden era was right here, right now—and we believed Warsaw actually was the capital of dance music last night, indeed, we dare everyone to say it wasn’t! Winter? Forget it. At this stage it was so hot in a fully packed Basen that Andy got rid of his shirt after fifteen minutes and Gustaph, one of the vocalists, was running around in his short pants. Speaking of vocalists—they were not there just for singing, they also vogued like crazy, proving Amsterdam wasn’t a one off. If anyone came packing the party vibes, they did, alongside with a distinct whiff of chaos: football onstage, anyone? Well, it gives a new spin to the whole “DJ Kicks” series, doesn’t it? ~
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Text: Jarek Szubrycht | Photos: Adam Burakowski / T-Mobile Music
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.
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. ~
Few developments in history can top the moment when humans stopped using music to exalt god and started to use it to exalt the body. Disco and house was, of course, built upon soul music’s divergence into the secular—and few contemporary acts manage to preserve this message in a way that still feels vital. Hercules and Love Affair have consistently been one of them. Ever since 2008’s self-titled debut, they have consistently proved fluent the language of yearning, heartache and release; reverent purists worshipful at the altar of dance music history, who, unlike the 2012 crop of DIY house outsiders, don’t feel the need to piss in the holy water just yet. A band whose Otherness is worn like a birthright. That the post-industrial setting for tonight’s stripped back Hercules and Love Affair Soundsystem (note: Soundsystem) gig in Amsterdam is called Trouw—Dutch for “faithfulness”—seems strangely apt because, if anything, they seem more protective of their roots than ever.
Opening their set with the baggy shirted strut of “My House” ensures the attending crowd’s blood is pumping to all the right places. The musky baritone of Rouge—one of two vocalists cum hype-people charged with leading the congregation for tonight’s stripped back affair—does a fine job of keeping it there. When the second guest vocalist, Gustaph, dressed in a monochrome Prada-style trackie, begins recanting “I Feel Love” over an undulating, disarmingly bodily arpeggio the crowd offers up vocal exhortation in concert and, for a moment, we all wish we could pull off knee-length shorts and a gold bootlace tie. Edging into a reinforced reworking of Tiga’s “You Gonna Want Me” sees the crowd lose their voice: “SING!” screams Rouge, and still the crowd’s in-depth knowledge of 2006 falls short. Awk. After an unexpected tract of heads down, eyes-up techno, a window is cracked and “You Belong” offers all the primal comfort of flesh upon flesh, the insinuatingly visceral synth vamps setting the stage for a scene stealing turn by Andy Butler. Hitherto remaining wizard-like in the shadows, he relishes his time in the spotlight with an impeccably executed duckwalk. This is the second gig in so two months which has descended into a vogue down (the last being Zebra Katz in Berlin), and the granite-flecked, Masters at Work timbres that Butler frequently recourses to tonight feel both timely and timeless. When a member of the crowd clambers onstage to do battle it’s hardly surprising. Vogue, after all, was one of the things EB and Andy Butler discussed at length in our interview this Autumn. A fine development, we say, even if the outbreak of vogue limbs in the audience leaves something to be desired.
If, after two hours, the throng of sweat-slicked and loyal struggle to keep their energy up it perhaps isn’t all that surprising. This is tough, muscular, music that demands a purely corporeal response. The heartsick torch songs that Hercules and Love Affair did and still do so well are banished in this functional Soundsystem setup, or else reworked into unholy basement club bangers that taste of sweat and metal. Still, Rouge and Gustaph are hard taskmasters who have little truck with tired Friday night legs: we’re kept on our feet until the bitter end where we’re invited onstage to wring out the last of our adrenaline in the company of Rouge and a now shirtless Butler. Just when we feel our bodies crashing— for bed, for respite, for the love of god, Rouge poses the one question that surely echoes through the ages: “Come on, people! Are you tired? Don’t you want to come to the after party?” Remember to say a prayer for us. ~
Photos: Jos Kottmann