What happens when a group has to choose a DJ set? That was the dilemma facing the five-strong Hot Chip, flushed with the success of last year’s Mercury Prize nominated The Warning, they were asked to compile a selection of their favourites for the DJ Kicks series.
So did the five of them really manage to agree on all the tunes? musicOMH spoke to a freshly showered keyboardist Joe Goddard, who was happy to enthuse on their finished mix.
“It wasn’t easy!” says Joe. “I guess there’s not that much music that all of us as a band really like, so we were all really fighting for things. One thing we were agreed on was that we didn’t want to make a straight house/techno set; we wanted to make it more like a mixtape. That meant it was difficult to think about putting things together, without thinking how they would go, but we think we’ve managed it somehow!”
From that admission, it seems everyone had a case to make for their favourites. In Joe’s case that was pretty straightforward. “I love Etta James (In The Basement, Part One). Originally I wanted to put a Theo Parrish re-edit in, which is about ten minutes long, but he never got the copyright so we weren’t allowed. The Ray Charles (Mess Around) is a favourite of everyone in the band though, and for some reason we’ve heard it whenever we’re on tour. We knew it initially from Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but it’s become something of meaning for all of us.
On the other selections, Goddard talks of the opening track, Grosvenor’s Nitemoves, as having “such a beautiful beginning”. Rather less likely is the lively Short Road from Wax Stag, who turns out to be ‘just a mate of Alexis’ (Taylor).
“As well as playing some of our favourite music we used this as a chance to showcase some of our friends. We did that with Pete Um as well, hes a mate who releases his own music on CD-Rs. It’s nice to be able to do that, introduce people to stuff they haven’t heard before. Obviously it would be terrible if we just put all our mates’ music on there just because we could, we’ve included them because we love the music. It’s good to bring these two forward.”
“As well as playing some of our favourite music we used this as a chance to showcase some of our friends”
– Joe Goddard takes the chance to push Hot Chip’s mates into the limelight
As with all the DJ Kicks compilations to date, the mixing act include a new track of their own. In Hot Chip’s case this was the hypnotic My Piano. Joe talks affectionately about it. “It’s a bit like the stuff off the last album I guess, although we want our next to be something of a departure. It’s based on an old Diana Ross tune called My Old Piano, which has a really excellent breakdown from Nile Rodgers, and although it’s not a blatant copy there’s definitely a strong influence.”
Outside of a busy live summer programme, the focus for the band is clearly on the new album – and plans are afoot, indeed at an advanced stage. Previously the band had recorded exclusively in Joe’s bedroom, but for the new record he states that “a lot of it” will be live rather than studio based.
“We’ve been into the studio and recorded five, six songs. It’s gonna be less intricate this time, the five of us playing live. We didn’t want to repeat the formula we used on The Warning, as we’ve got a bit tired of it. Quite a few tracks have still been started in the bedroom but have ended up more live. We were actually thinking of doing half a song in the bedroom and half live, so that you would be able to see the transformation from one to the other.”
This summer sees the band’s first headlining festival gig, at Renaissance’s Wild In The Country late in June. “It’s the first time we’ve had a slot at a proper dance festival and it should work out, as most of our set is at a house/techno tempo. It could be quite strange, we’ve been dropping some folk and stuff in our sets of late, so I don’t know if people will be into it when they’ve taken three pills by midnight and stuff! But we’ll be looking to put on a good show.”
“We didn’t want to repeat the formula we used on The Warning, as we’ve got a bit tired of it.”
– Joe Goddard outlines the approach for the new Hot Chip album
It seems Hot Chip are one of the bands that stand at a convenient cross point between dance and more guitar-based music, without consciously trying to appeal to both. Joe agrees. “I hope we do appeal to both. It’s quite a weird one when we come to do DJ Kicks and stuff. Some people come along thinking we’ll play techno and house, others think we’ll play indie hits. The DJ Kicks album suggests this is what you’ll hear if you come to hear us play.”
Another lucrative line for the band, both critically and no doubt financially, has been the art of remixing, in which Joe is heavily involved. He describes the process as “taking a song apart, adding bits and playing around, seeing if it works”.
“Increasingly I’ve been trying not to tamper with the song, and I find that the classic remixes like Tom Moulton‘s don’t fuck around with the music too much, they just extend it and make it work perhaps a little better for the style they’re trying to achieve.”
Of his recent work, he says, “I’ve just finished one for Tracey Thorn, which was very simple and easy to remix for a song – 120 beats per minute, a typical house speed which you can easily record to a click track. I listen to the song a few times and see what it suggests to me, whether there’s a part that lends itself to being brought out or whether there’s an underlying rhythm that can be brought forward, and that was easy to find on this one.”
Of far greater worry is Goddard’s admission late in the day that he’s obsessed with the Chicago record If You Leave Me Now. “A lot of people don’t understand me on this one but I have a terrible obsession with the track – I have about four or five copies of it, and whenever I find it in a record shop, I can’t seem to leave without buying another copy!” In that case we’ll leave him to the musical therapy he so clearly needs, safe in the knowledge that 2007 is shaping to be a year of progression for Joe and his band.