Interview: Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor
May 23rd 2014
“Don’t deny your heart,” Hot Chip chant to us through their infectious dance beats. Heed their advice, and open your heart to the electro-pop groove.
Sydneysiders will have the chance to wave their hips from side to side when the UK band flies down under to spin a few tracks at HOLEANDCORNER. Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard and Al Doyle will take you on a wild ride through a diverse record collection.
Hot Chip may have mastered the DJ set, but their five studio albums reveal a mix of slow burning ballads with subtle beats and a whole lot of emotional feeling. The band members have an interest in a range of musical genres that they bring to the table. They are known to delve in many interesting side projects.
Front man Alexis Taylor goes from singing in Hot Chip to playing improv jazz in About Group to working alongside steel pan player Fimber Bravo. This year, Taylor is releasing his new solo album in June. The multi-tasking, multi-talented musician will be revealing his melancholic and reflective side in Await Barbarians. The follow-up to his 2008 debut album, Rubbed Out, has Taylor playing and recording all the instruments, aside for the strings.
FBi’s Gemma Piali spoke to Alexis Taylor about his juggling act.
GP: For your solo LP Await Barbarians, you performed and recorded all the instruments yourself, save the strings. How was the experience of recording the LP compared to a Hot Chip album with the full band?
AT: We recorded Await Barbarians at a home studio so I had time to work on my own. I could think about what I wanted it to be like without any voices and without any collaboration of any kind. It is a good and bad thing working on your own but it is what I wanted to do. It was completely different and at times I found it hard to know when things were finished. I was so busy with Hot Chip, Fimber Bravo, and About Group, that I didn’t have time to think about whether things were finished or loads of time to consider it. I just made what I wanted to make and moved on. I was glad to make the record at all in that space of time. It was a really nice record to make at home when I had time to do it.
Sounds like you are doing a lot of juggling! Await Barbarians is your first solo LP in six years. Was it harder to make decisions on your own without the whole band to chip in?
It was easy. I knew what I wanted to do with each song on the album. I enjoy making music on my own as well as with other people. I don’t find different ways of working confusing. The only difference is when you are trying to work with someone else and the collaboration is not working. With Hot Chip it’s a team that works well together. The songwriting partnership with Joe is a starting point for every song. It is something we were doing since school. Collaborating with just any old person is not easy, but with Hot Chip it is easy. It’s rare when it works like that. Both are easy and enjoyable. This album gave me the opportunity do something more personal. I like tracking things myself and putting down instruments like drums and bass. It was quick and enjoyable.
With your solo record, do you ever accidentally write a song that sounds too similar to Hot Chip?
That never happens really. The best thing about Hot Chip is that it is collaborative and a lot of musical ideas start from something Joe is writing himself. He then brings it to me. I don’t start off making anything particularly like a Hot Chip record because Hot Chip is quite often dance music and I’m not good at making dance music. The stuff I make sounds closer to the ballads, rather than the famous up beat Hot Chip songs. My default setting is slow, sad music so not like a Hot Chip record. They both have me singing on it though.
After many years of making music does working on so many projects keep it fresh and challenging?
Yes. I’d say the one that has strangely become the biggest part of my life is with Fimber Bravo. I enjoy working with that group and playing live shows. Just being an instrumentalist rather than a founding member or songwriter has been a refreshing musical side project. There are a lot of things going on but I enjoy playing music as well as constructing records. I am enjoying being in someone else’s band.
As well as playing live in a bunch of bands, you are also DJing! What will you be bringing to the table for your DJ performance at HOLEANDCORNER?
I will be bringing a 32GB USB, some headphones and some instruments. On the USB is a very broad range of different kinds of music from dance to disco to house to bass to hip-hop to RnB to funk. Mostly we play some sort of modern house music. We sometimes ask for a microphone if we want to say something or sing. Sometimes we play new material.
When you sing during your sets does it become more or a solo set than a DJ set?
It becomes an embarrassing karaoke set depending on how drunk you are. People seem to like it. I like singing. It is not just me doing it but of all of us. It also depends on the club and situation. Sometimes you think it is right to play a new Hot Chip song, and occasionally people don’t even notice you are singing. They can’t tell it is live vocal.
Are the lyrics, “I don’t got no Abba, I don’t play no Gabba, I like Zapp not Zappa” a reference to your DJing experiences?
ABBA is what people usually request at certain places and when people think they can just request whatever they want. I don’t mind ABBA. It was more just a moment in time where I thought it would be funny to reference the experience of being hassled when DJing. Most of the requests are things you have never heard of or just a massive hit you are completely oblivious to. Sometimes requests are for Hot Chip songs you don’t have with you. Ones you don’t expect people would want to play. They expect you have every Hot Chip song but usually I only have one, so quite often there are a lot of requests for things we fail to have.
This one time we were playing a live gig at a fashion party in Milan. Someone asked the sound engineer to play different music because they thought he was the DJ and didn’t notice we were on stage playing music.
Does DJing influence the music you’re creating and vice versa?
All of the music I DJ is much more upbeat and dance. There isn’t any of that in the album. The small way that my music is influence by DJing is the way I perform the music live from the EP. I use the equipment that I DJ with to play drum machine elements live or loop them or pause them in the middle of the performance. I incorporate machinery in a way that it is not designed to be used. The influences for Await Barbarians are personal. Things going on in head and in my life, and records I listen to like Prince and Neil Young.
Alexis Taylor’s first single ‘Elvis Has Left the Building’ from Await Barbarians due out June 13.
WHAT: FBi Presents: HOLEANDCORNER
WHO: Hot Chip DJs, Matthew Dear, Henry Saiz, Guy J, Cosmin TRG, Xosar + load of local acts
WHERE: HOME Nightclub
WHEN: Queen’s Birthday Eve – Sunday 8 June, 6pm – 3am
HOW MUCH: $65 +bf – FBi supporters can win tix here