Hot Chip’s USP has always been their distinguished marriage of far-flung influences. While vocalists Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard are the songwriting lynchpins of the five-piece, Al Doyle’s disco-derived guitar work is one of the few consistents in an ever-mutating sound, an important identifier for a sound in constant flux. Having contributed to LCD Soundsystem for albums 2 and 3 and put out an album arguably more compelling than Chip’s recent In Our Heads with his sideproject New Build (which also comprises day-job bandmate Felix Martin)
Disco guitar, Doyle seemed like the perfect candidate for scalping some genetic data from.
The Disco Influence
My guitar style is something I’ve developed over the years, a vague copy of Nile Rodgers, but in a much more abrasive, punky way. When I started playing with LCD, their original guitarist Phil Mossman had left the band, and the new album was a lot more rhythmic. My whole career with Hot Chip was playing 16s to a drum machine, so that was good preparation. The physicality of playing with that band, playing something with your right hand for twenty minutes makes things go to shit very quickly. So a lot of bananas, a lot of potassium was involved. Once I got that endurance level up, I started to bring it to Hot Chip. So Sound of Silver really is the record that shaped the way I played. I don’t try so much to copy a guitar style, but an arpeggiated synth. Trying to play those riffs on a guitar, riffs that Joe [Goddard] has written on a grid editor on a computer that aren’t supposed to be played by a human, means sitting down and trying, painstakingly, to copy it, which is a challenge.
There’s a humanity to it. You could just program it in, but it’s more entertaining seeing somebody try to do it on stage.
The New Build cover was a sculpture made by Felix’s brother, who lives in France. It’s a moon with a compelling little face. It has the least you could have to suggest a face, I like that subtlety. We saw that image and thought it would fit with the music straight away – there’s a lot of moroseness at the centre of these quite happy-sounding songs. Felix’s dad actually did the artwork for the 12”s, so it made sense to keep it in the family. Circles look great on album sleeves. With the square composition of a sleeve it’s difficult to get something looking good, and and a circle is also suggestive of the record inside. Maybe it’s a slight homage to the Made In The Dark sleeve, although Hot Chip records have a distinctive style of their own.
The Hype Song
We all like to play the League Unlimited Orchestra version of Things That Dreams Are Made Of before going on stage, that’s a big one. It’s an instrumental version that was done at the same time Dare! came out, it’s super dubbed out and really powerful sounding, rougher sounding and extended.
There’s a weird record we used to use to get pumped up, from this Mexican act called Nortec. We played with them a few times. You can’t help but get moved by the techno-oompah thing they do. We all have little dances for it. They’re still going, but I haven’t heard anything from them in a while. We’re going back to Mexico City this year, so we’ll see what the vibe’s like.
I like the Art Department record, and I like the Grimes record a lot. We did SXSW with New Build, and she was there. I felt sorry for her, there was so much hype around her. Everything goes wrong all the time at SXSW, and after we finished she came on and ended up standing on stage for about 25 minutes with no sound coming out, trying and trying, and just not happening. When you’re trying to do something like that without a band behind you, it’s soul-destroying. Her first record came out on Low Recordings, which is right beside the studio Felix and I run. And yes. New Build. Joe’s solo stuff and remixes have been incredible. A friend of ours, James Zabiela. He’s a house DJ who plays in Ibiza and stuff, I think he’s trying to convert some work we did into an album this year. He’s doing some singing on it, which is totally out of his comfort zone. I really appreciate that level of effort.
The Studio As Instrument
We just watched Alexis do Big Star’s Third. The studio sound for that record is cracked out, really atmospheric. I like the really coked-out era Giorgio Moroder stuff, Knights in White Satin, that really super-trebly, thin-sounding stuff. Now you spend a lot of time working on having a really well-rounded sound, because if it’s playing in a club the bass needs to be big and warm, and the top-end crisp, which means there’s interesting production techniques which makes different elements more thin and weedy, which you can see in earlier productions like that.
Hot Chip play this year’s Electric Picnic, between the 31st August and 2nd September. Hot Chip’s In Our Heads, and New Build’s Yesterday Was Lived and Lost are available now.