Catching Up With Andy Butler and Kim Ann Foxman
By Dan Martin
Where the gayness is undeniable is in the DNA of their music, a live-band strain of classic house and nu-disco. Their 2008 eponymous debut transformed them into the darlings of the cooler-than-thou DFA Records scene in New York City and was pivotal in ushering in a new wave of disco. But on Hercules' follow-up, the more somber Blue Songs (out on Moshi Moshi), Butler pushes his songwriting front and center. 'There was a conscious decision on my part to make less of a referential record,' he says. 'I was producing those songs from the first album over a period of seven years. I was driven by my passion for disco and house, going through phases of collecting records, and then writing my own music, but doing those things exclusively. We got compared to Giorgio Moroder and Inner City and Arthur Russell, blah, blah, blah. Great, but what's my voice?'
One of Blue Songs' emotional highlights is 'Boy Blue,' built around a guitar riff Butler first wrote at the age of 17. Back then, he wrote with heroes in mind (he says he still does) and imagined his songs being performed by Sin'ad O'Connor. Witnessing her aggressive The Lion and the Cobra period was a seminal moment in Butler's life. 'The song was based on being thankful I ever got to see that,' he says, 'because it provided me strength to come out at the age I did: 15. It was just because I saw a woman rebelling against her gender and saying 'Fuck you' to a lot of people.'
That rebellious spirit stuck, and Butler remains active on the vanguard of gay politics. But of the music of a certain other gay rights advocate, he says: 'What is the first thing to come out of a baby's mouth? 'Gaga.' And what is it but children's music? It's middle-aged gay men dancing around to music for 11-year-old girls.' Madonna, he says, had more about her, but he thinks she's lost touch a bit herself. His advice? 'She needs to make an age-appropriate record that still appeals to young people. There should be no rapping on it. She should acknowledge the people that grew up with her, but she needs to hook them back in. Deep house is having a revival. Why doesn't she do a deep-house track? But a sophisticated, subtle deep-house track. I could help her with that.'
For the record, Butler is entirely serious in his offer of services. But with his thriving dance label (Mr. INTL), an international DJ career, Blue Songs now out in the U.S., and the next Hercules record already being 'conceptualized,' Madonna may find herself at the end of a very long waiting list.