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Hercules And Love Affair im Interview

"All I could do was to believe in light"


A birthday party stands or falls with his guests. FM4 didn't take any risk and invited fascinating people, as for instance Andrew Butler aka Hercules and Love Affair. We took the chance and interviewed the headliner of this evening.
von Julius Schlögl

The candle on the birthday cake can be compared with the headliner on a festival. Therefore the candle (and sugar icing as well) at the FM4 birthday party was New York based Andrew Butler's renowned project Hercules and Love Affair.
Before his stunning gig, FM5 took the chance to talk with Butler about his second album, ancient divinities and the city of Vienna. And as it is usual in storing a cake, it was really cold in the backstage area.

The most important question comes first: Do you have enough warm clothes with you?

Oh, I think I have not brought enough. I have two pairs of wool socks, I already wear gloves now, I wear a sweater and two scarves, but I need a hat to cover my ears!

The merchandise shop has got some warm FM4-branded hats; maybe they'll give you one?

I have seen them, they would be so important... Thanks for the hint!

Have you ever played an Open Air-festival in winter?

No, I think it's a weird idea. It's like going ice-skating in a hot summer outdoors. It's just weird!

That's why they do it: because it's weird!

Yeah and I love Vienna for the wintertime, I really love it here. I love the Christmas markets; I love the trams there - that are all very beautiful things. But: it's very cold.

Indeed. Your band name, some of your song titles and videos contain references to ancient Greek mythology. How comes, what's your fascination about that?

It all was born out of an interest I had as a young child. When I was about six or seven years old my teachers made me - a first-grader - read books about Greek legends. You know, normally they made you read books like Dick and Jane...

...Tom Sawyer...

...exactly. Such stuff, but not Greek myths. Anyway, I went to the library to find out more about ancient Greek mythology and I ended up studying this formally at university in respect of its representation in classical Renaissance paintings. And so I found out a lot more about these Greek myths, than I learned as a child and of course I understood it in another way, in an adult sense. And so I started to use the names and motives in lyrics and poetic devices.

So when you were a child, did you know that you would do something out of this kind of literature one day?

I didn't really. I started writing lyrics and the references just came out. When I wrote references to a god or goodness, it simply evolved out of nothing.

What's the most fascinating person in Greek mythology for you?

It would be Athene. She's a very interesting example for the evolution of relative value in different times. In modern times we don't equip women with war. But in ancient times, the goodness of war was Athene.

That's right. But she was also the goodness of wisdom.

Yeah and that's the difference between Athene and the god of war, Ares. He was the god of chaotic war and brutality, whereas Athene was the goodness of strategic and defensive war. So at least for me there was something beautiful feminist about that, there's a really awesome idea behind that and I love the power and strength that she held. That's also why I love the story of Medusa, why I love her shield and her wisdom and in particular her grey eyes. I always wished to have grey eyes. Athene is my favourite to sum it up!

Then you probably know the Viennese statue of Athene?

No? Tell me!

It's in front of the Houses of Parliament, in the middle of a water basin...

Oh, I have seen her. But I don't know if I have recognised her as Athene, it looked more like the goodness of justice. So if it's Athene for sure, then I have to look there again. I'm here for a week, so there definitely will be time!

You have recorded parts of your latest album Blue songs in Vienna. What is your connection to this city and what are your impressions?

That's right, about 40 percent of it were recorded in Vienna. I recorded a lot of music in San Francisco and then I came to Vienna to work with an amazing producer called Patrick Pulsinger, I think he's well known among you Viennese guys. And we took the songs, perfected them, transformed them using his entire equipment and also using his special sounds, so we did a lot of production, but we also mixed the album here. It was a really good experience.

So what is your impression of Vienna as a city?

I love it. I mean... I simply love it. I love being here. That's all I can say.

What are your plans for the next week you're spending here?

I will go to John Harris' fitness club and exercise, I will most likely hang out with Patrick, we will start to work on music for my own record label and I will eat at the Black Star restaurant, I will drink a lot of coffee, smoke a lot of cigarettes, I will go to the Naschmarkt, hang out with Marflow and Wolfram (editor's note: Patrick Pulsinger). I will have the wonderful time I always have in Vienna.

How would you describe your latest album in contrast to your first one?

There's a different emotional range on it. It is less based on references than the first album which was full of references to classic Disco and House music, but this record is much more about me as a songwriter. And I also think there's a different emotional slant to the album. On the self titled record there were moments of silliness, of sexiness. The new album is shaped by confusion and sadness, even anger.

Do you think that these named emotions are the characteristic emotions of today?

They were characteristic for me in a time when I was writing the album. But if they are the formative emotions of today: I don't know, I mean: perhaps!
It's hard for me to think that big. I'm a very self-centred human being.

Your music is quite complex and sometimes even challenging. What's your ambition to make music: To reach as many people as possible or to create music for eternity?

I have no idea of whether my music will exist into eternity; I don't even know what eternity is. What I can try is to write lyrics in which people can find themselves. I do not want to write for everyone. But I do not want to write for just one person either. Even I know I'm writing mostly for my personal experience, I want to give people the chance to identify with my work.

You first album was a huge success, how did you deal with all the expectations, have you felt like being under pressure?

For sure. It would be a big lie to say I didn't and I don't think that anybody who brought out a good first album would say: If I bring out a second album that is okay, it will be fine. See, on the one hand I want people to like my music, but in fact my first album was never written for a journalist, a critic or a fan. I wrote it for me.
So I had to approach my work with the same attitude this time. Whom am I writing the record for? That's me.

Why did you leave your home label DFA?

It's sort of a boring story. You know, their mother label EMI had a massive financial crisis; they had to cut 40 percent of their artists. Basically, the invited people from the financial business to lead the company and got rid from the creative and musically interested people in the management. The replaced them by people who know how to make money. And one of the steps was severing the relationship to DFA. They kind of said: "If you want to keep the relationship you either release LCD Soundsystem OR Hercules & Love Affair. You can't do both."

Why coul'nd they? Are the financial interests the only ones to decide?

For EMI - yes. So I ended up looking for a new label and found it in Moshi Moshi, a great label I would say. They did outstanding things with Florence & the Machine, whose voice I absolutely adore, and now it's my turn to continue this work. I'm very happy to be on Moshi Moshi.

Your probably most popular song "Blind" starts with the lyrics "As I child I knew..." What did you know as a child for sure?

And the sentence continues "... that the stars would get brighter." And that is in fact a reference to my childhood, when everything was darkness. I had a very hard childhood, so all I could do was to trust and believe that light would come to my life.

You worked together with quite outstanding artists like Antony or Kele. Who would you like to work together with for the perfect song?

George Michael would be fun to write for. He has such a great and sexy voice! To name others: Sinnead O'Connor, Florence, Beth Ditto.

As it will be really cold tonight, let's wish all of us a hot gig. Thank you!

It will be hot, I promise. Thanks!

Erschienen auf fm5.at.

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