“The importance of keeping music human, hard work and Rush.”
“If you want to do something, you just need to keep doing it until you get better at it.”
I first listened to “Why Make Sense?” months before its release after a sweaty night at Panorama Bar in an apartment Joe Goddard rented on Berlin’s Karl-Marx Allee. In all honesty, it was a blur but I left thinking that what I heard that morning (or was it afternoon?) was Hot Chip at its best.
I met with Joe again after the album came out, which gave me plenty of time to sober up. We talked about the importance of keeping music human, hard work and Rush.
One of the first thing that struck me when I heard the album is how you were going back to a more stripped down, minimal approach reminiscent of your early days – was that your intention when you started to write?
Yes, it was definitely the intention; we didn’t want to have the music full up with layers and layers of synths. We tried to channel the way hiphop records are created. There are very few elements, so it means that each of them can be very powerful, loud and clear which I feel makes for good club music or actually, music in general.
I read somewhere that you changed the way you’re recording for this album. What was so different?
One the big difference is that we went to a residential recording studio this time. That allowed us to play together in the same room. Like on the track « White Wine & Fried Chicken », lots of the instruments were recorded together and that’s not something we have down so much in the past. We wanted to have performances of the whole songs so it feels more human, as opposed to taking tiny bits and looping it like a lot of the modern music nowadays. We were interested in retaining a lot of soul and hopefully humanity by having those performances.
Do you consider it’s a reaction to the current wave of EDM and computer music that has been flooding the market lately?
Yeah, I think so. The influence of computers on music is becoming more and more powerful and prevalent. They are incredible tools, I’ve been using my computer to make music for the past 20 years and I love it. But I think it’s important to think about what you’re doing with it and not let the computer take over. It’s so easy to hit the auto tune for vocal and hit quantize for drums. Those tools should be used subtlety to not squeeze the life out of the music. Most of the music people really love comes from an earlier period and I think they are loveable because they have all those imperfections.
You’re bringing that idea of imperfection and uniqueness even further with a cover that has over 500 different colors and subtle design variants…
Initially it was simply an esthetic idea, our designer Nick Relph came up with the process after he read about it and for him it was exciting to be able to print individual sleeves for each record. It just seemed to really fit with a lot of the ideas of the record. Calling it “Why Make Sense?” … It just seems to be nonsensical and chaotic to have all those different colors. Then for us it was also a good opportunity to place value on the physical object and hopefully our fans and public also perceive this value. I mean, nowadays, music is everywhere, constantly on tap and free. It generates the idea in people’s mind that there’s no need to value music. That is a dangerous thing, because music is such an important part of people’s life and culture.
Hot Chip has always been a nice melting pot of influences and you have always been quite vocal about it, what were the prominent influences on this record?
As a general influence, modern soul and r’n’b… We were still finishing the song “Started Right” when the D’Angelo record came out and that is obviously an amazing record and fed in the sound of song a little bit. We tried get the funk and the feel of the record. There are specific references for a lot of the songs, for “Dark Night” I was listening to a lot of DJ Harvey’s sarcastic dj mixes from the early 90s and one has Claudja Barry’s “Love For The Sake Of Love” on it and that was an influence on that track. I wanted that slow, driving, kinda epic disco sensation. Usher’s song “Caught Up” is a big influence on the groove and drum of “Love Is The Future”. Those are the most obvious ones that I can think of. In the case “Why Make Sense?” we just wanted to do something a bit crazy and unusual, we had no obvious musical references…
In a strange way, “Why Make Sense?” reminded me of Rush…
(Laughs) I know about Rush and have a lot of respect for them but I don’t know their records that much. I think Alexis kinda know some of their records. I can see how this could have been an influence on that track since it has all the rock drums, but that was definitely not our intention.
To finish, you’re also quite active outside of Hot Chip with your label Greco-Roman, your duo with Raf Rundel “The 2 Bears” and your dj career. How does it influence you’re work within the band?
With The 2 Bears, working with Raf means I learn a lot about house music since he’s a real expert in that field. It’s great to have this outlet to write more tracky / dancefloor music as opposed to Hot Chip where we write proper songs together But more importantly, I think all this extra work makes you a better producer, engineer and songwriter. It’s all about learning how to use studios and equipment… All of the outside influence from The 2 Bears and my solo stuff just means I am practicing what I do. I really believe in that Malcolm Gladwell thing: 10,000 hours of practice. If you want to do something you just need to keep doing it until you get better at it. In its simplest form, that’s what all those projects bring to Hot Chip, I am just making music and getting better at that.