Weekly updates:

Posted by

Weekly updates

London’s Hot Chip are one of those rare groups who emerged just about fully-formed. With the release of second album The Warning in 2006 they solidified their position as club fixtures wrapped in op-shop knits, vintage sportswear and maths teacher spectacles. Their trademark: fusing a mountain of electronic equipment with (often) introspective lyrics and a tender, soulful vocal delivery. Alexis Taylor is one half of the groups’s two-pronged vocal attack, and he is on the verge of releasing his second LP Await Barbarians. His next stop after that is a pair of Australian dates behind the decks as part of Hot Chip DJs, for the HOLEANDCORNER gig series. But, for now, Taylor is in London.

Hot Chip DJs are playing HOLEANDCORNER in Melbourne (June 7) and Sydney (June 8). Alexis Taylor’s Await Barbarians is out on June 6. 

Where are you right now? 

I’m just in my house. I’m about to go to the studio with Hot Chip after this interview. Currently I’m just lying on my bed doing interviews.

So, you’re second solo album is coming out soon right? What does a solo album allow you to do that you can’t do otherwise?

Well, it’s a good question. I mean you’re allowed to do anything you want to do, so there’s nothing that you’re not allowed to do in any band.

I suppose if you’re making music with other people then you have to agree on its merit. Maybe you have to agree on the direction it’s going in. If you’re making a solo record you have to please yourself primarily, in terms of it standing up to a standard that you’re happy with.

So, for me, there isn’t a type of music that I want to make always. The last solo music I put out was an EP on Domino called Nayim from Halfway Line. It had drum machines and synth basslines and tone was a disco-y tempo. And then it would be slightly slower and kind of strange, then ominous on one song and then there’d be improvised electronic piano.

I’m interested in creating a mood that is varied enough across the record and still consistent enough that it feels like something you’d want to listen to, perhaps at home on headphones. [I want to create work where] you can hear someone speaking directly to you and being, hopefully, soulful in their performance and there being some detail and interest in the production and that keeps your attention.

But that’s just the way the record feels to me, and that’s something I like out of listening to records. I’m probably slightly out of place now, in that most people – particularly younger people – don’t really listen to records in that way. They listen to them in their car, or Spotify, or you now, whilst working with Spotify on in the background.

The order in sequencing records is less significant with younger generations; the quality of the sound is less significant even if people don’t realise it. Maybe I’m making it slightly antiquated by making records that I assume people will listen to from start to finish. But, at the same time, it doesn’t really matter. You don’t have to listen to it like that – you can do what you want with it.

Well I personally appreciate the attention to detail. Maybe that just makes me old. Are you comfortable with being ‘Closer to the Elderly’?

Yeah, I’m pretty happy. Not always – I mean, you know when people that you know start to get ill, or when your parents are ill – mortality is more of a real issue. Which is a pretty grand statement to make but it can definitely feel quite painful at times the older you’re getting – the kind of harshness of reality.

But, no, I don’t feel uncomfortable being closer to the elderly. A great Harry Nilsson song that I like is about really, really looking forward to that period of being old and I like the sentiment in that. It’s called ‘Old Bones’ and he’s talking about how he just can’t wait to get to the days of moans and groans and old bones.

And maybe I don’t feel entirely like Harry – he is being quite flippant – but I like listening to that song. It makes me feel young and alive listening to a song about getting old, looking forward to getting old.

It looks like you were very hands-on with this record. Did you have any collaborators along the way, or is it all you? 

Well, I sent two songs to my friends in the group Geese – Emma and Ben – but they’ve been on almost every Hot Chip record in some way or another. So I know them and I trust them to do good things with viola and violin so I sent them two songs and played some strings parts and they did amazing – really brilliant – parts, which are very, very small moments in the tracks. They kind of really last between eight seconds and 30 seconds in total on the songs and they’re quite unobtrusive, but I really like what I bring.

But, beyond that, I did everything else on my own and I kind of enjoyed working in that way. I mean, right this second, I feel a little bit more interested in making another solo record but making it with other people. But for the previous records I was into doing it myself.

There are a lot of records with other people that I like which are self-made, you know from Todd Rundgren through to Prince – Stevie Wonder to Paul McCartney. You know there’s something, a sort of feeling about the odd decisions people make when they work on their own.

Having no sounding board is kind of a recipe for total success or total disaster.

True. It can be self-indulgent but all kinds of music are self-indulgent up to a point, because you indulge in your own ideas, interests.

Moving forward a little bit, you guys are coming out to Australia for a DJ tour. Do you have keep tracks in your repertoire a sure-fire party starters? 

Well, yeah there’s plenty that feel like that, but you never really know. Sometimes the sure-fire party one fails so you don’t want to kind of bank on them.

There’s one that I really like by Joe called ‘Claptrap’. An artist called Joe who, I believe is based in London, I don’t now much about him. He’s a great producer. That one always seems to go down well. It’s pretty modern and minimal, and a kind of bizarre-sounding record.

Then there’s the most recent couple of Moodymann album releases – they’ve have had some great things on them that I always play in-depth. And there’s newer things that I’m discovering all the time. So yeah, there’s plenty. And there’s three of us as well so the others have got their own things in their bag of sure-fire hits.

Hot Chip seem to have this tension arising from sounding like club music but having introspective lyrics, rather than lots of brash sloganeering. Do you think that translates into the DJ sets?

I don’t think we play that many songs that fit that description. I mean I don’t really have a problem with music sounding like a kind of simple chorus. I don’t have a problem with great dance music not having introspective lyrics. I guess I like things that sound soulful and exciting and have great production and points of interest.

There’s one that I really like which, I guess is a kind of Chicago-y, house-y version of ‘A Love Bizarre’ by Sheila E, written by Prince, and that’s one that I really like. The first few minutes of that are instrumental, fairly minimal and it still features the verses and choruses of the Sheila E–Prince song. So that’s a good example of something somewhere between introspection and club music perhaps. You know, a sort of pop songs that’s been boiled down to its most important element.

What’s next for Alexis Taylor?

Well, we’re making a new Hot Chip record at the moment. So that will come out at some point next year. Next for me is solo touring for this new record of mine which is out next month and still some more DJing as well through the rest of the year.