DiS's 2010 preview week rolls on apace as we check in with Joe Goddard, the electronic half of the Hot Chip writing axis. He reveals all (well, quite a lot) about the electro-poppers' impending fourth album, One Life Stand, due February.
DiS: Okay, Hot Chip have a new record – when did you write and record it? Would I be right in saying that some of the songs were in the set on the Made in the Dark tour?
Joe Goddard: We played one last year when we were touring, ‘Alley Cats’, that’s the oldest one, we wrote that a couple of years ago. But we started recording properly for this one pretty much straight after we finished touring at the start of this year. We recorded it in a studio that’s owned by Al [Doyle] and Felix [Martin] out of the group at the end of Brick Lane. Alexis [Taylor] brought an upright Steinway piano and we used that a lot; we were in there for quite a while, like a few months, writing, and then I started mixing stuff in there. Yeah, I’ve kind of been working on it solidly for most of the year, so I’m quite tired of it right now [laughs].
DiS: Has the piano made a big difference to your sound? Is it a less synthy-sounding record?
JG: Yeah... the piano appears on a lot of tracks, and one of the big ideas was to try and tie the album together with things like live piano, live bass guitar, and a few of the synths in the studio, to have a palette of sounds that kind of ties the tracks together. With the piano, there are some references to older house music, and little bits of soul music and gospel come into this record. So to me it does seem more organic than the last album, more like a band record, something a less synthesizer-heavy band would make.
DiS: Do you talk through the ‘feel’ of a record beforehand? Your three previous records are all very individually distinct within themselves.
JG: There wasn’t any massive grand plan, and there never is really, but we’d all decided that we wanted to make a shorter and a slightly more focussed album. But the way the songs sound, it’s always unspoken between Alexis and myself in terms of writing. I think we’re both simultaneously influenced by similar records, at the moment both of us are influenced by deeper techno, things like Theo Parrish and Ron Hardy. Old house music too - Alexis has been playing that Joe Smooth ‘Promised Land’ in his DJ sets, kind of gospelly, housey piano stuff, and I think those things have really filtered through. There’s a track really inspired by Sparks on the record, the first one [presumably that’s ‘Thieves In The Night’], but Alexis and I never formally discuss these things. I think luckily as the band has developed, our taste in music that we have has developed along the same kind of lines, so it tends to fit when we’re writing together.
DiS: I suppose it’s be a bit awkward if one of you wanted to make an Eighties house record and the other was like ‘no, we should definitely go grime’.
JG: [chuckles] Yeah, but some of the tracks are actually interesting for that reason! Alexis is thinking of one thing and I’m thinking of something else, and the collision there is interesting. But even if there are different ideas going on, we try to sonically make it seem like it works. I think in a way this album, the songs are a little bit ‘straighter’ than Made in the Dark, there’s less craziness to it, the lyrics are a lot more honest and emotional and the production is a little bit straighter, it’s less all over the place and a bit more traditional, I suppose you could say.
DiS: Are you still fairly happy with Made in the Dark? You and Alexis often used to be pretty robust in its defence, like I think you said you were proud it confused the Pitchfork reviewer and I remember Alexis said that he was proud he was of the lyrics to ‘Wrestlers’, which I suppose was one of the more contentious songs...
JG: Yeah, well I haven’t listened to that record in a while, to be honest. I like the stuff on it, but it’s confusing, the way it jumps between different moods so violently, it’s difficult for someone to follow. You can do that as a DJ as well, you might want to play grime and then an r&b tune and then a Prince tune and then a gospel tune, and sonically maybe you can make it work, but in terms of mood and emotion - after a while it’s just too jarring and I think maybe moments on that record are jarring. But yeah, I like it still and I’m proud of it, but maybe we just wanted to make something more coherent.
DiS: When you wrote ‘Ready for the Floor’, did you have a feeling that all being well it was liable to be a success? If so do you think you’ve got more potential hits here?
JG: ‘Ready for the Floor’: when we wrote it, I wrote the music and when I played it to Alexis he almost immediately wrote the words and it was clear it was catchy from the very beginning. You never really know if people are going to go for it, but it seemed like an obvious single, and there are tracks like that on the record. But yeah, the first single from this record is a catchy one [NB the nice folks at EMI have asked us not to name the single before it gets announced next week]. I don’t think it’s as immediate as ‘Ready for the Floor’, it doesn’t have someone just shouting ”do it, do it, do it”, it’s a little bit more... well I’ve said this before in interviews, but it’s a little bit Womack & Womack. But there’s another one that might be the second single, it’s a departure for us, it’s kind of like a big kind of Euro house tune, I think when writing we were all influenced by that Romanian house song, the one that goes ”lay-o-lay hee, lay-o-lay haa” [O-Zone’s ‘Dragostea Din Tei’]...
Yeah, you remember that? Well we all really liked it, and thought ‘okay, let’s write a really blatant pop song’, and that might be the single afterwards. And I’m excited to see if people really like that, it’s quite epic sounding, I think it could be a really good fun single. I think in general actually this album is romantic and epic in a way that we haven’t done that much before.
DiS: Yeah, I notice the word ‘love’ is in two or three of the track names...
JG: Yeah, yeah, yeah, love features really heavily, and I guess that’s because a lot of us are in love at the moment, you know? It’s quite a kind of calm and loving time in our lives, we have our partners and we’re very happy, and I think that’s reflected in some of the music.
DiS: Were you ever tempted to actually write the ‘industrial and clanging’ track with ‘farmyard animal noises on it’ that you claimed Kylie had written for you around the release of Made in the Dark? At the time you joked that it might end up on your next record...
JG: [laughs] We It was amazing that some people actually believed that; I actually kind of thought that we should make up some more rumours for this record, as it actually seemed to help us, we followed the progress of this story and there were, like, newspaper reports of Kylie doing this industrial tune and us singing on it, it just made me laugh so much. Nah, we make a lot of weird music to entertain ourselves, but this album was a little more serious.
DiS: How important are the band’s side projects – particularly yours and Alexis’s – to the band?
JG: I think it’s very important, having now come a little bit out of myself to make a record [the recently released Harvest Festival], it’s an outlet for stuff that doesn’t exist within Hot Chip. That feels really good, because that pressure builds up within the group to do a certain kind of music, it becomes difficult to take a massive left turn with the band when a lot of people are into the band, you know? I mean, it’s great when bands occasionally do that, really make an exciting change late into their career, but it’s very brave and difficult because people expect something from you and you don’t really want to disappoint people, and putting a different type of music into the live show is also difficult. And we’re happy doing what we do - I love pop music and I love making pop music with Hot Chip - but it was just really nice to be able to make some music that could be instrumental and ten minutes long and not worry about that.
DiS: Yeah, both your and Alexis’s solo stuff would seem to be intentionally low-key...
JG: Yeah, absolutely. It’s just really nice to put out a different kind of music and not really have the kind of pressure attached to it that there is to Hot Chip, so I think that we’re both quite happy with how that goes. There’s no danger of it being a problem within Hot Chip or anything. But it does suggest the way our interests are different, like Alexis’s record [last year’s Rubbed Out] is very stripped down and folky, while mine is pretty much house music, and to a certain extent that is the dynamic within the group, I’m always pushing us to make dance music and Alexis is pushing us to make the more gentle things. But that combination works, and we really like what each other does.
DiS: ...and I guess a lot of your best music is when you hit that kind of good balance between the two.
JG: Yeah yeah, totally, I’m proud of that.
DiS: Did you have a good summer? I’m amazed you found time to work on the new record, Greco-Roman Soundsystem seemed to be at every festival going...
JG: Yeah! We had a good time, that family of artists is really developing, which was really good, I’ve enjoyed it, particularly Glastonbury. I enjoyed going to festival as a punter rather than playing 30 with the band and getting sick of it, you know?
DiS: You’ve got all that ahead next year!
JG: Yeah, but I’m ready for that, you know? Playing this album live is going to be so much fun, I can’t wait to turn some of these three minute songs into eight minute monsters. A couple of new songs we wrote after the album was finished we’re hopefully going to start playing live too. We’re going to start rehearsing in a few weeks and I’m looking forward to that a lot – I feel like I’ve spent enough time sitting by my computer making music: now I want to play it again.
DiS: Good stuff. Finally, as it’s the end of ’09, might you have some records or tunes of the year you’d care to share with us?
JG: Well, my favourite stuff has just been the craziness of UK dance music this year, I think it’s really overshadowed everything else in terms of creativity, it’s just been fantastic. I’m talking about funky, bit sand pieces by people like Roska, the kind of strange offshoots of garage by people like Floating Points and Joy Orbison; I think it’s just a very, very fertile time at the moment. I feel like if you don’t get to the record shops every couple of weeks to get hold of some of this stuff then you are missing out on good records that are changing people’s ideas about what you can do with dance music. And it’s great for me, because I’ve always been a fan of old garage music and it’s kind of coming back stylistically, and you can mix all these records together in interesting ways. Also I’d say the Joker stuff, Zomby – that ‘Digital Fauna’ is one of my favourites at the moment – and the more commercial funky stuff as well like ‘Party Hard’ by Donaeo, ‘Frontline’ by Princess Nyah, all sorts, really.
DiS: Yeah, things definitely feel palpable more exciting than they did two or three years ago...
JG: Yeah, yeah, I do think so. It makes me feel really old, I dunno if I can keep up with these youngsters with their new techniques and ideas, and that’s good. There’s a lot of good people out there right now making good stuff, and that kind of drive and invention moves everybody forward a bit.