DJ Andy Butler's project, Hercules and Love Affair, leaps from the turntable to tour around the world. The new album The Feast of the Broken Heart has a revolving line up of vocalists as does the live show.
This songwriter tackled growing up gay in the song "Blind," and the songs "Liberty" and "I Try To Talk To You" deal with HIV-positive issues. We discuss his stance on "My Offence" with the C-word while using the New York gay-scene staples like Honey Dijon, and Contessa Stuto.
Windy City Times spoke via phone to Butler on his day off to talk about his striking live show, among other topics.
Windy City Times: Hi, Andy. Where in the world are you calling me from?
Andy Butler: I'm in Brussels at the moment. It's nice here. I have a day of relaxation before I head to Moscow tomorrow.
WCT: Is this tour the first time you have been to Chicago?
Andy Butler: No, we have played a couple of times actually. We played at the Metro, which is connected to Smart Bar, where I did a DJ set a couple of times. I used to go to Chicago quite a bit as a younger fellow. I was running around with Derrick Carter so I would come visit him.
WCT: He's a nice guy. You are a New Yorker, right?
Andy Butler: I spent most of my life in New York for 13 years. Of all of the places that I lived that was the longest stretch. For some reason I don't say I am a New Yorker though.
WCT: Where are you originally from, then?
Andy Butler: I grew up in Denver, Colorado, but was born in Washington, D.C.
WCT: Where did the band name originate?
Andy Butler: That came from a really long interest in mythology. I was looking for inspiration in terms of lyrical content. That first album was being made properly so I had to put a name for the band. I looked at the material and realized I was referencing quite a bit of mythology. I dug up on myth about Hercules that held some significance. I thought it would be a good image and evoke something nice.
It eluded to a myth about the strongest man on earth and his vulnerability.
WCT: You have a theme song using the name.
Andy Butler: Yeah, I have done two of them. The other thing was there was a disco reference to it with dance music, disco and house music. Those all reference the classics of Greek mythology quite a bit. "Love Affair" has a disco ring to it and Hercules is in the tradition of Chicago house music, with Adonis or Marshall Jefferson [being] called Hercules at one point.
It is very disco-y to give your band a theme song.
WCT: What is the current line-up for the tour?
Andy Butler: It's exciting because we are going to tour the U.S. with Nomi Ruiz, who was on my first record. It is a reunion of sorts. I have a very raw talent that I have been in the studio with called Richard Kennedy, so these two vocalists.
Mark Pistel from San Francisco, who who has been with me since Blue Songs, will be there with myself.
WCT: Black Madonna is opening up for you?
Andy Butler: Yes; I have only encountered her once or twice. I think it's hip-hop but I am not sure.
WCT: I heard you went to World Pride in Toronto, like I did. What did you think of that?
Andy Butler: At moments it was a total blast and a bit overwhelming to be playing for over one million gay people in Toronto. Since you were there you would know how it was. Getting around was overwhelming but pretty exciting. There were events everywhere.
The stage that we played live at was quite chaotic and wild. We had Peaches playing there and drag performances. My favorite thing was the closing night DJ set that I did with Bruce LaBruce. Across the road some New York kids called House of Ladosha were performing. That was really fun because it was like a bunch of New York kids came up and had a really fun closing party for the whole thing.
WCT: Let's talk about the song "My Offence." It is controversial to use the [C-word] in the song. Is the word used differently in New York?
Andy Butler: It is a protest word reclaimed by the underground African-American gay club community and the trans community. I wrote the song because of a sometimes problematic relationship with the word. It is a word that is in my life constantly. I am appealing to the community and will be happy to sit down, talk about the word and the relationship to taboo words with gender.
I don't think it is a New York specific thing. It is more an underground queer community nightlife thing, specifically within the African-American and Latino ballroom scene.
It is about taking a word that reduces the female body part to its most vulgar and flipping it on its head and speaking of the feminine in the highest regard. It is simple subversion.
WCT: What was it like working with Antony and the Johnsons this time out?
Andy Butler: It was a really tremendous experience. He, of course, opened so many doors. I learned so much from that whole experience. His instrument was the best one could work with. His creative input was also tremendous. It was a beautiful experience but also like working with one of my best friends. At that moment we were extremely close.
WCT: Talk a bit about your live show. I'm hearing that it is a show to be experienced live.
Andy Butler: It is about creating a space for acceptance. Feeling free enough to shake off all of your reservations and enjoy yourself. It is the idea of feeling free and having fun. The party starts onstage in this show. I tell all of the participants that the mantra is to enjoy yourself, be yourself, and create a party onstage that will be transmitted into the audience. It all has to start there.
It is very uptempo and focused on dancing. It is not so much about standing and staring. We have great performers onstage so that is part of the whole thing.
It's a dance party with us playing some of the old stuff, a lot of the new stuff, and some jam oriented improv numbers.
WCT: I have to figure out what to wear.
Andy Butler: It can be nothing, if you would so choose!
Hercules hits Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., on Friday, Oct. 3, at 10 p.m. Visit www.metrochicago.com for tickets and details. For more on Butler's band, visit herculesandloveaffair.net .