Joe Goddard – songwriter, producer and DJ – makes other musicians look slack. The Londoner fronts the adored indie-dance band Hot Chip alongside Alexis Taylor. He’s also one-half of The 2 Bears with Raf Daddy (Raf Rundell) – the whimsical neo-house outfit known for their charmingly tatty bear costumes and underground hit ‘Bear Hug’. And then the serial moonlighter has produced under his own name. He even co-runs the Greco-Roman label.
In 2011 Goddard aired the cult garage anthem ‘Gabriel’ with boho singer Valentina. Now he’s releasing a solo album, Electric Lines, through Greco-Roman/Domino – the lead single, ‘Lose Your Love’, surfacing in December. In fact, this isn’t Goddard’s debut – in 2009 he presented Harvest Festival with such fruit-themed numbers as ‘Apple Bobbing’, ‘Tinned Apricot’ and ‘Pear Shaped’. But Electric Lines is an ‘artist’ album to rival those Goddard’s fellow Hot Chipper Taylor has quietly issued since 2008’s Rubbed Out.
Goddard has curated credible guest vocalists. The American Daniel Wilson, that mysterious contributor to The Weeknd’s ‘Sidewalks’, sings the disco-fied current single ‘Home’ – vintage Jamiroquai-meets-Masters At Work. Jess Mills (aka SLO) – Jessie Ware’s avant ‘n’ b contemporary, cruelly sidelined by Island Records – graces two songs, including the breezy ‘Music Is The Answer’. And, proving that Hot Chip remain cosy, Taylor’s sonorous voice elevates the balladic title track.
Closer to the eclectically clubby 2 Bears than Hot Chip, Electric Lines carries a full sound – rooted in soul, disco and house. “I like records that have that kind of classiness and glossiness to them, in a certain way,” Goddard says. However, the album reveals a modish techno influence, too. While ‘Lasers’ leans towards electro, ‘Children’ could be a ravey Moby epic. Electric Lines, its title referencing the cables used for Goddard’s precious Eurorack modular synthesiser, allegorises inter-relationships.
Goddard isn’t slowing down. His remix of The Chemical Brothers’ ‘Wide Open’ (with Beck) was nominated for a Grammy – and he’s lately tweaked Goldfrapp’s ‘Anymore’. Unexpectedly, Hot Chip have broken their hiatus following 2015’s Why Make Sense? to remix Katy Perry’s ‘Chained To The Rhythm’.
Music Feeds caught up with Goddard to quiz him on Electric Lines – and glean details about his Oz tour plans and the status of The 2 Bears and, yep, Hot Chip.
Music Feeds: You had huge success a few years ago with ‘Gabriel’. It was so huge in South Africa that I believe they performed it on The X Factor there. Is that true?
Joe Goddard: Yeah, that’s totally true. You can see footage of it on YouTube still, I think. It’s a kind of weird version – it’s like an acoustic, very slow, folky version of it. I don’t know if it’s 100 percent successful, obviously. But it was really amazing for it to happen. But I think it [got] a lot of airplay in South Africa and stuff. So I actually went over there a few years ago to DJ. It seemed like, whenever I played [‘Gabriel’], people really knew it. It was incredible.
Music Feeds: ‘Gabriel’ became an instant classic. I wondered if that surprised you – the momentum it gathered?
Joe Goddard: Totally. Yeah, it really did. No one at the record label or anyone working on it really expected it. But on Radio One and stuff in the UK, it just kept growing and growing – it kept getting played and all the different DJs kept playing it. I think, when you’re making a track, you have a kind of idea that it’s a good track, but you don’t know exactly the life it’s gonna have after it’s finished – and that one was amazing. I think it got licensed to 20 different labels all around the world. It was great – it was a great moment.
Music Feeds: Electric Lines feels like a first solo album, but you had one in 2009 in Harvest Festival. But do you tend to think of Electric Lines as your first?
Joe Goddard: Yeah, I do. I see Electric Lines as the first time ever I’d really put a lot of effort into creating a complete artistic work as an album. The earlier thing, Harvest Festival, was almost like a compilation of tracks that I had on my hard drive that were good, but weren’t that creative. I wasn’t really thinking of them becoming an album when they were made. It was just a bunch of tracks that I’d made at certain different points – some of them quite old, like some of them [were] from a few years before the Harvest Festival album came out. So, yeah, it was a bit of a compilation of hard drive bits and pieces, whereas this I put a lot of time and thought into the shape of it and how exactly it was gonna come together.
Music Feeds: You’ve never shied away from your pop influences – or, at least, leftfield pop influences. It’s really clever how underground dance and pop are woven together on this record. What kinds of things were you listening to at the time? Who has brushed off on you?
Joe Goddard: Well, I think modern producers like James Holden or Caribou who use modern kind of synthesisers like Eurorack modular stuff and things like that – those kind of figures influenced me in general. I wanted the whole record to have that freedom and organic, quite creative feel that an artist like James Holden has in his music – which can be quite experimental and out-there. I wanted my record to have that feel. But I think maybe my stuff tends to be a bit more song, and pop, orientated. But those people inspire me generally in terms of the way I use keyboards and stuff.
And, then, apart from that, I think you have to listen to specific songs – and maybe specific people that influenced me for each one. The track ‘Nothing Moves’, for instance, which is like, a slow hip-hop-type thing, is very much inspired by J Dilla, or modern hip-hop producers like that, that have a very unique feel and soulfulness to them – I was trying to evoke that.
Music Feeds: I was very happy to hear Jess Mills on your record – including on the single ‘Music Is The Answer’. I was so gutted her Twist Of Fate album didn’t materialise. How did she come into your orbit?
Joe Goddard: Yeah, I think she sounds great. It was a real pleasure working with her – she’s so good as a writer and just a very nice person. I really get on with her very well. I think one of the guys that runs Greco-Roman with me, his name’s Dom [Mentsh], he just thought that it would be a good fit. He knew Jess. I only met her last year when we started working together. But he just thought that it would be a good combination – and it was. We had a few sessions together at my studio in Old Street [London] and the two tracks [‘Music…’ and ‘Ordinary Madness’] came out of that quite naturally, and quite quickly, so it was awesome. I would love to do more with her. She’s great.
Music Feeds: The fact that Alexis is on your album shows there’s no competition between you – Yeezy and Fiddy-style. You’ve had The 2 Bears before, but what are you able to do with these external projects that you can’t within Hot Chip?
Joe Goddard: Well, I mean, I don’t know if there’s anything really that is out of bounds in Hot Chip. We try to be open to whatever music we feel like making. Probably some of the tracks on this record you could fit quite naturally onto a Hot Chip record. It’s not totally dissimilar music, really. But I think that the difference – and the reason why I like doing stuff on my own – is just creatively, when you’re collaborating with another producer, whether it’s Raf or Alexis, it’s an amazing experience and it’s something that I love, but it’s always a compromise, you know? You’re always compromising to a certain extent, creatively.
So I wanted to have a go at creatively just being wholly in charge and having that pressure and that brilliant power to make all the creative decisions about each track. I found that quite challenging and quite stressful at times, because you don’t have that great feeling of having someone sitting next to you when you’re making a track that can give you a bit of self-confidence or give you a great idea for how the track should develop or how it should be finished or how to structure a track or whatever – you don’t have that nice, other perspective on a track.
Sometimes you run into roadblocks or creative impasses, but it was really rewarding. I really enjoyed getting through that and doing it. I feel like I’ve grown as a writer and a producer. It was nice to just do that for myself, really. But, having said that, I’m looking forward to now collaborating with Raf and Alexis again on new 2 Bears and new Hot Chip. In fact, I was in the studio with Raf this week doing some new 2 Bears stuff. So, for me, it’s just really nice to do one thing for a little while and then switch and do something else. That variety is what I enjoy.
Music Feeds: What are your tour plans behind Electric Lines? You’ve got a live show at Heaven in London in May – the album launch. Could you come down to Australia? Will you tour the live show – or do you prefer DJing in a solo capacity?
Joe Goddard: I will definitely come back to Australia to play live – yeah, I would really love to. It’s somewhere that we love – we love visiting and we love touring. I’ve had a great time with Hot Chip for years – and with 2 Bears. It’s an awesome place to go. So, yeah, I’ll definitely be back quite soon, hopefully. I’m happy to DJ or play live, really. I’m most excited about the live show right now because it’s quite a new thing for me. I’m still working it out and perfecting it. I’m excited about developing that and getting it as good as I possibly can. It features Valentina in the live show, which is exciting as well – she sings the tracks that Jess Mills sings on the album. She features on the track ‘Human Heart’ on the album, so she’ll sing that and ‘Gabriel’ and [she] might do a couple of other things as well. So it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to doing that and going on tour around the UK and Europe in May and June and then America. Then I guess I’ll probably come back to Australia maybe January next year, I’d say probably.
Music Feeds: I caught Hot Chip when you toured here last year – you played Sugar Mountain in Melbourne and you did your cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’.
Joe Goddard: Yeah, we really enjoyed doing that! It’s a really nice release at the end of the set. It’s basically playing disco or house for the whole set and then playing this much faster pop/rock thing. It was just really good fun. We loved it.
Music Feeds: John Legend did a piano cover and I think he was a bit hurt Bruce never got back to him over it…
Joe Goddard: Yeah, we never had any [feedback]. We were hoping that he would get in touch with us…
Music Feeds: Journalists are so naughty because, when you have one project, we ask you about another. But I guess we’re curious to know if there’s any talk of a new Hot Chip album. Are you working towards one?
Joe Goddard: Well, not really yet. We’ve got vague plans. Al [Doyle, guitarist] is off rehearsing with LCD Soundsystem at the moment and Alexis is making new solo music at the moment and I’m touring with this. So we’ve got a few other things going on. But we have vague plans to come together over the next few months when we have a chance and start to write material and demo stuff and then maybe try to make a record towards the end of the year, early next year. So, yeah, we have a kind of beginnings of a plan, but that’s as far as it’s got so far.
Music Feeds: You did mention that you’re back in the studio with Raf – so there could be another 2 Bears project?
Joe Goddard: Yeah, we’re just working on maybe an EP or a couple of singles right now. But it’s been really fun to make more music with Raf.
Music Feeds: What happened to your bear suits?
Joe Goddard: Oh, man – they were so disgusting! They were kind of fully polyester and we wore them a couple of times in clubs and they were just gross – like stinky. You got so hot in them. If you’re DJing, it’s like two in the morning, and you’re wearing this polyester thing. They were low-quality cheap bear suits from the internet somewhere. It was pretty grim. So I think maybe they had to be fumigated or burnt or something. I actually don’t know where they are right now!
Electric Lines is out this Friday, April 21st. Grab a copy here.