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Quietus Artists Of 2008

Strength Through Joy: Hercules & Love Affair Get Tough At The Top
Alex Denney , December 3rd, 2008 05:18

Andy Butler's smart, emotionally-driven take on disco made for an Olympian debut in Hercules & Love Affair - that's why we named him first in our series of artists of the year.

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Hercules & Love Affair

From notoriety on New York's underground club scene to book-ending the UK top 40 with Antony Hegarty, it’s hard to think of a more satisfying success story in 2008 than Hercules & Love affair, the Roman mythology-referencing brainchild of Denver-born DJ Andy Butler. The dance collective's exceptional, self-titled DFA debut melded disco and early house with a warmth and sophistication that conjured anything from Sylvester to Frankie Knuckles to Arthur Russell, and spawned what must surely rank as one of the finest singles of the year in ‘Blind’.

Butler waxed mythical with The Quietus about his highlights of the year MMVIII, and a few which might start cropping up in MMIX...

Andy: “The live shows were crazy, you know the project wasn’t borne out of this group of people writing music in a garage, it was just me and then at a certain point there was an opportunity to take the show on the road and it was just like, wow there’s a lot of work to do, who am I going to get. There was about a month back there which felt really scary, there was a lot of pressure ‘cos we’d had really strong responses to the record. But I think I was really blessed to have this group of very talented and easy-going people and we caught our stride a couple of months into touring…

“I haven’t really thought about [who I‘d like to collaborate with in future], I’ve just been focusing on writing music and in terms of who’s going to deliver it, maybe that’ll come a little later. I’ve been recording other material and working with other people and that might take a different shape but at the moment I’m writing more material for the Hercules project - I’ve surprised myself by writing while we’re on tour.

Watch: Hercules & Love Affair - 'Blind'

“In terms of genre I'm pitting disco and house music against effective pop structures. It’s easier on the ear than the first record, I think it’s gonna be a bit more lyrical and pretty. It seems to be less dissonant… I’ve been working on more minimalist composition, I’d say I’ve written maybe two or three which are informed by that tradition. [Like Steve Reich or John Cage] but more in the way that pop artists have worked with ideas those composers were toying with, so there’s something trance-like and soft about the music. It’s almost akin to a pop artist like Brian Eno, a kind of ambient pop thing. Some of the music is a little bit arty and some of it is more direct, more traditional disco, chorusy music. But in general it’s been quite melodic.

“It’s taken a long time for disco to become re-accepted [Read Simon Price's Quietus piece on the Rebirth Of Disco as a credible art form. It’s understandable in some ways because that music was over saturated, people were sick of it, it was overproduced… technology picked it up very quickly, you didn’t have to hire a drummer anymore, you’d have synth strings and horns. Then there was the change in the political scene, AIDS… people just didn’t want to hear about it anymore, but there’s thirty years of distance now so people feel like they can approach it again.

“When people ask me about a potential disco revival I feel a little out of touch; I don’t really see it happening - maybe on a subcultural level but I don’t see it filtering into the mainstream yet. Maybe it will but it would have to mean something different now than it did thirty years ago - disco music back then had a lot to do with creating safe spaces for people who otherwise had trouble finding them. Minorities like gays, black people and Puerto Ricans in New York were coming together and making this stuff up and it’s a very different political climate now, so inevitably that aspect would be lost."