Electric Lines, the forthcoming album from producer Joe Goddard, is all about connections. The title refers to the colourful cables that link the modules in his Eurorack synthesizer and to the invisible wires that run between all the different kinds of electronic music that he loves.
An apt title for a record which brilliantly unites the strands of his prolific career: member of Hot Chip and the 2 Bears, songwriter, producer, DJ, Grammy award nominated remixer and co-founder of the Greco-Roman label. Like Four Tet, Caribou and Jamie XX, Joe combines a thirst for experimentation, an instinctive understanding of the dancefloor and a love of left-of-centre pop music.
We sat down recently at Field Day in London with him to discuss the new album, touring and more.
So today we’re here with Joe Goddard, producing some of the best pop music going round at the moment. He’s just released ‘Electric Lines’, his 2nd solo album, out now on Domino so we decided to catch up with him at Field Day. How’s it going pal?
Good thanks. It’s a beautiful day and first festival of the season for me. I’ve been doing some club shows for my solo album Electric Lines but this will be the first time I’m doing the live show, that I’ve been developing over the last few months, at a festival. It feels like a really special day in London where everyone is out and in a good mood. It’s not that often that you get weather like this. Everyone is super happy and the vibes are good.
Absolutely. Everyone is out in force. Costumes on. Glitter ready including myself with the purple/silver sparkles in my hair haha. Fantastic day in London today. You mentioned that you’ve been doing a tour for your new solo album. Coming from a band background how does it differ?
It’s exciting. I’m used to the live show with Hot Chip where there are 7 people on stage and everyone is playing together. My job is to do the basslines on a Voyager synth and do a little bit of singing. I’m a small part of that team which is amazing. But it is exhilarating moving in to a thing where it’s pretty much all down to me. I could screw up at any moment. There’s a lot of shit that could go wrong. But conversely when it goes well you feel really chuffed. It’s a new challenge and that’s super cool. I’ve been enjoying it a lot and having fun with it. Reminds me of the old days of Hot Chip. There are more nerves, butterflies and whatever. It’s cool.
I’ve always associated your sound as being really fun, vibrant, uncomplicated. Pop music that I love. How did you come into that sound?
Since I was a kid I’ve always gravitated towards catchy, poppy music. I really love The Beach Boys, Abba quite big pop stuff. I love Motown, Phil Spector. Pretty simple stuff. I listen to deeper and techno records too but I really love moments in clubs where it’s like a big pop moment. Where the DJ has been playing deeper for a while then they play something with a big vocal. I love those moments so that’s what I’m always driven to try and make myself. I’ve been doing Hot Chip for a long time. Then I moved on to 2 Bears with Raff Rundell a couple of years ago, doing that intermittently with Hot Chip and now I’m doing this solo thing. The thread that runs through it all are simple melodies and words. I’m a fairly uncomplicated guy so that’s what I’m into naturally.
I really like the vocals on your tracks. More recently your edit of Danny Tenaglia’s Music Is The Answer with the stomping remix by Hot Since 82. A dancefloor killer and Summer anthem for sure. Also Nightcall with London Grammar. And who can forget Night Light with Jessie Ware. Just beautiful music. In terms of vocalists is there anyone that you’re going to be working with soon?
I haven’t done that much new stuff since my album. But, potentially going to be doing a track with Robyn soon which would be amazing as she writes great pop music. We did a couple of sessions with Katy Perry in December for a track on her new album which is really exciting. With the album I was working with Jess Mills who sings on the opening and closing tracks, Ordinary Madness and Music Is the Answer. Valentina, who sang on my solo record Gabriel, features in the track Human Heart. Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip sings in Electric Lines.
Lets talk a bit about your album. Do you have any personal favourites? I read somewhere that Electric Lines was a lot to do with your own relationship with Alexis Taylor?
It is to some extent. On one level the track talks about how technologically things change in music. Alexis’s lyrics talks about how everything is changing. Different synthesisers. Different soft synths. Different computers that people are using to make music. But it’s also about how we make music together. We start with a demo and then that gets produced into a finished track. And what Alexis is saying is the demo is what he loves most. Which I think happens with a lot of artists and producers. The demo has something about it that’s raw, soulful and underproduced rather than overproduced. I think he’s saying that, that is the stage he really loves. A sweet little message. So that track is a personal favourite. There’s also one called Lasers which is a more dancefloor, deeper, housey-electro track that I’m really proud of because I don’t often make minimal, dancefloor type tracks so I’m quite pleased that I’ve made a track of that nature. I got it mixed by David Kennedy also known as Ramadanman/Pearson Sound. He did it really beautifully so when I play it in a club it always goes off.
First song that really spoke to you and made you feel passionate about music?
I went to a school in Putney, South West London and remember going to Our Price, an old record shop that used to exist there, and buying the tape of Nirvana’s album Nevermind. I remember sitting in the front room of my house with the headphones on, listening to it on my walkman and just really feeling like this music was right for me and fitted me perfectly. So I guess it would be Come As You Are or one of the big hits from that album. I was pretty young. It just felt completely perfect. I’d been listening to The Beatles since I was a young kid and Nirvana were kind of like a modern and louder version of The Beatles in a way. So aesthetically it fitted with what I loved already and made a lot of sense to me.
Something that you’ve heard in the last year that you thought was a great track?
Text Message by the dancehall artist Busy Signal. It’s a slightly silly record but incredibly catchy and poppy. Busy Signal’s verses are about relationships with girls but all in the form of text message speak, whatsapp, emojis. Punctuating each verse is the sound of an iPhone notification or something. It’s probably totally illegal and he should get in a load of trouble with Apple haha. It’s a super good hook in a pop track and it’s a banging dancehall track at the same time. It’s witty, funny and the lyrics are super clever.
All time favourite track?
If I had to choose right now I’m going to go for Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing by Gloria Ann Taylor. A deep, slow-burning disco track from 1973. It’s quite dubby and psycedelic with enormous amounts of soul. It used to be a DJ Harvey mainstay at the end of his sets for a while. It recently got re-issued in a compilation of all her stuff. As a song its beautifully put together, has amazing chords and the vocal is just incredible. A great end of the night track.
A track you wish you’d written?
Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat. I remember when I was a kid Bronski Beat was considered super uncool. I grew up after all that stuff had been popular. I would never have touched it as a teenager. But listening to that track now it feels like an emotional piece of music. An incredible combination of lyrics, melody and chords. Everything fits together so perfectly. It really suggests the feeling of being that kid that doesn’t fit in, in a small town, and wanting to get away to a big city to find people that you can have a relationship with. It’s incredibly powerful in that sense. It captures that feeling really well. Amazing track and it would have been great to write it.
We’ve touched on your influences. What would you say were the breakthrough moments in your career? That one moment when you thought this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
In terms of deciding what I wanted to do we started Hot Chip when we were 16 at school together and we were super into it from that moment. We used to make our own CDs and take them to Rough Trade to sell and do gigs whenever we could, even when we went to university. In the holidays we would get together and do gigs and write new songs. From quite an early point we’ve been serious about it. In terms of our career everything changed when we wrote Over And Over and tracks like that which Hot Chip are known for today.
What have you got in store for the crowd here at Field Day today?
It’s pretty much consists of material from my new album and Gabriel. Some people know me from that record so we definitely always perform that. Sometimes we play some of the older Joe Goddard things which I’ve released over the years. It’s me starting off by playing the tracks quite similar to the album versions and then kind of remixing them live; adding a 303 or some new 808 drums or some Eurorack synths and messing about with them, looping them and taking them somewhere a bit different.
One thing I read online is that with this album you’ve really been exploring and experimenting with different synthesisers and sounds. How has that process been? What are some of the machines that you’ve really enjoyed working with and getting to know inside and out?
I’m super obsessed with gear. So I have a mix of some classic, older vintage synths like the Yamaha CS-80 which is a massive thing that Stevie Wonder used to use a lot and I absolutely love. I have an Arp 2600 which is another amazing synth in terms of the way it sounds. The sound quality and textures are beautiful. I have a Roland System 100 which is also super good like that. And the Eurorack system which is kind of like the new thing in synthesisers. Everyone is on it. People are doing amazing stuff with it particularly artists like James Holden. I used it all through the album.
We’ll end with one silly question. You’ve toured all round the world, been in a band, and produced endless hits. Are there any funny stories from the studio or on tour at gigs which stand out in your mind?
I had a funny show in Lisbon, Portugal with Hot Chip years ago maybe around 2006. We were playing in this tiny little bar and it was really late at night. One of those classic sweat everywhere, dripping off the ceiling type gigs. The sweat started to fall into our keyboards. My synth which does the basslines started to make what can only be described as Chaffinch bird noises. It must have affected the pitch or whatever so it went from doing these big electro basslines to these little chirps and weird kinds of sounds. Not sure how we got through that. I think maybe the gig had to end at that point but yeah it was crazy that, that is what the synth decided to do. Maybe that’s the sound it always wanted to make haha.