Name: Hot Chip
Members: Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard, Al Doyle, Owen Clarke, Felix Martin
Interviewee: Felix Martin
Occupation: Multi-instrumentalists, songwriters, producers
Current Release: Hot Chip's new album Freakout/Release is out via Domino.
If you enjoyed this interview with Hot Chip and would like to keep up to date with the band's work, visit their official website. They are also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
From a wide range of things - dreams, conversations, people, relationships, phrases or words that resonate (often the starting point for lyrics), movies.
(“Ready for the Floor” heavily references the Michael Keaton / Jack Nicholson Batman movie for example.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
Heavy reliance on chance for a lot of Hot Chip songs - starting with something experimental made on a synth or drum machine, and the song just develops and builds from that.
Alexis is more likely to bring whole pieces of songs or whole songs that he has already visualised and that the rest of us then help flesh out.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
On a personal level I do, yeah. I like my work space / studio to be pretty organised and tidy before I can concentrate on working and being creative.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I like working in the morning before doing pretty much anything else. I get into a bit of a spiral of feeling useless if I don’t have anything done by midday!
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Always just experimenting - usually using a new or unfamiliar piece of equipment or technology, or a familiar thing but used in a new way.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Very different for different songs – sometimes quickly and easily (“Not alone” is an example from the new album), sometimes it's rather a long and painful process.
“Broken” from the new album is a good example of that. It went through multiple versions before we arrived at the album version.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
We work as a five piece so I think we’ve all learnt to let go a fairly large amount of control from an early stage.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
Try to go with it - especially when making an album. New songs and ideas can arrive late in the process and it’s good to make room for them.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Not for me really.
It’s a good feeling when you’re in the “flow” of a creative moment. But a lot of it is grind and just making time to put yourself in a position to work.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
Hot Chip have always had a fast turnover of songs and new material so I guess we’re always keen to say that an album is finished so we can move onto the next one!
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
That’s never really an option with making an album on my experience. We always work right up to the deadline that the label gives us, which is dictated by how long it takes to manufacture vinyl records and to market an album.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
We’ve always been either 100% or something close to it involved in the production of our albums. The exception was Bath Full of Ecstasy which was co-produced by the late great Phillips Zdar.
Sadly we’ll never get to repeat that experience but it was a revelation.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Not for us! We’re straight out on tour and working hard to promote the albums right up until it’s time to make another one
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
No I don’t - I see it as mundane in its own way. The idea of musicians as vessels for extraordinary or superhuman ideas is over rated in my experience.
Yes of course you get the occasional Prince or Mozart! But by and large it’s people putting the hours in and finding magic the hard way.