Interview: Hot Chip Know A Lot About Notts

Words: Eileen Pegg
Wednesday 16 October 2019
reading time: min, words

We chat with the British musical gems before they return to Rock City this October...


Is it just us, or is there a bit of a nostalgic feel to this city’s lineups right now? With much-loved, established bands including Slipknot, Bombay Bicycle Club, Metronomy and more all gigging in Nottingham soon, hundreds of long-term fans and new listeners alike are screaming with excitement as they purchase a ticket

One of these bands is Hot Chip; stalwart indie/dance/synth/pop heroes whose recogniseable tracks can simultaneously grace late night dancefloors while fitting perfectly into the live band gigging circuit too. After firmly making themselves known with the confusingly brilliant Over and Over, during their almost 20 years in the industry they’ve been responsible for a number of anthems, ranging from balearic lo-fi classic Boy From School, to glitch-pop banger, Ready For The Floor.

They’ve recently released their seventh studio album A Bath Full Of Ecstasy and are coming to Rock City on 22 October to bring these new tracks to life. Ahead of the show, we had the pleasure of speaking with Owen Clarke - Hot Chip’s multi-instrumentalist and, as it turns out, very funny fella with an impressive cultural knowledge of Notts:

You've been in the industry for over almost two decades, and are currently embarking on a huge tour. What are your tips for staying sane throughout the hefty schedules and demanding industry?
Being in a group has its advantages as you are travelling with others in the same boat as you, but still have the opportunity to slip away and do your own thing. So you could break up a maelstrom of group fatigue by stepping out solo and taking in the bauhaus exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary gallery for example. 

It’s always good to get out into nature so maybe a couple of us might go for a stroll on the banks of the River Trent. Perhaps a full band outing to one of Notts’ many nature reserves might freshen us up. 

Or we might stay in the dressing room and stare silently at our screens. Whatever it takes really.

We will most likely strike up a barbershop version of at least two tracks from the Disney Robin Hood soundtrack on the drive there.

Have you ever been to Rock City before? 
We have visited this site many times. There is a door in Rock City that has pull handles on the push side and push panels on the pull side that we like to check hasn’t been fixed. 

We are pretty much guaranteed to say ‘Rawk Siddy!’ in a poodle-rock radio-voice at slightly too loud volume. We have spent a many a night playing curious games in an old cave pub in Nottingham, and bought a suspect level of 42 maxi singles during the day at one of the many record shops. We will most likely strike up a barbershop version of at least two tracks from the Disney Robin Hood soundtrack on the drive there.

When you think back to the early days of Coming on Strong and compare it to Bath Full of Ecstasy now - how has your sound changed over time?
It’s the Beach boys, Prince, Will Oldham, Al Green, Timbaland, Can. Every. Single. Time. 

We got the modular synthesizers and mushrooms out this time though. 

Your tracks cleverly strike a nerve with both band lovers and dancefloor addicts alike. Is this intentional?
It’s pretty straight forward. Don’t go full Berghain ‘doof doof kick drum’ and on the flip side, don’t play the extended theme from the TV show Taxi on the Fender Rhodes and we should be all right. Actually those are both amazing. I want to do both right now. At the same time. In Nottingham. At Rock City. 

You had some external producers collaborating one some of the tracks on your new album - was it hard not to be a 'backseat driver'? 
It was less backseat driving and more like one of those pumpy hand powered train wagons from the silent films. You might at times be moving in contrary directions but when you find your rhythm you get where you’re going. Towards the man with a moustache tying a damsel to the tracks? Yeah, that’s the metaphor. 

One of these was, of course, Philippe Zdar. How did the collaboration with such a master of the scene come about?
He almost talked us out of it on day one! With typical Parisian flourish (and with mutual respect) he said we could just make another wonderful Hot Chip record ourselves. Thankfully he backtracked and he impressed upon us that for us to work together it would have to be for something special, out of a want to do something more than just another Hot Chip record, plus he knew we had a soft spot for pastry. I really miss him. He was a great guy.

Why do you think it's taken up to album no. 7 to invite in some other people to the mix?
Call it seventh album itch? Time to throw a bunch of champagne and potato chips in the mix. Truth is, the Hot Chip guys are pretty deece at producing records. And very good at producing Hot Chip records. So it felt like a good time to get other people involved otherwise it might go a bit ‘Kitchen Nightmares’.

You've also had some established names helping with other parts of the record, with Jeremy Deller and Fraser Muggeridge doing the artwork. How did that collab come about?
We met Jeremy Deller round the back of Morrisons getting egg cartons. We let him store them in our lock up so we kind of had him in a bind. So he repaid the favour by letting us mess up his massive roller doing big prints for the art work (On the promise he could choose the best one). 

Fraser has a machine from the 1850’s that forges molten typefaces out of pennies so we used that for the font. He even got his Gran to make us some stage shirts! They're good lads.

Your track 'Boy from School' featured on an episode of The Simpsons once. Have you had any other career bucket list moments like that you can share?
Playing Rock City! Actually, we did see a seven foot guy lift a whole piano vertically by himself at Rock city. Unbelievable. Unwise.

Other non-Nottingham highlights include Being Chaka Khan’s backing band and Joe accidentally stealing Karl Largerfelds chair. Tia Carrerra saw me eat a burger off a road case and shot me a wink in LA one time...

What can we expect from the Notts show? Will it be all of the new album, or will you be playing some earlier stuff too? Any visuals in store?
32% all new songs.
46% Vintage.
5% Chat. 

Strobes and white noise from doors till close.

Tourist shop bow and arrows. Poodle hair. Four Dave Smiths, one tiny cymbal and the world’s worst solo. Me and Rob have been doing dance offs and we’ll keep doing it until one of our backs goes. It’s basically seven wiggly dudes, enough gear for eight bands, a shit-tonne of lights and Tangerine Dreams midi rig. Be there or be elsewhere. Rock city!

Hot Chip play at Rock City on Tuesday 22 October.
Info and tickets.

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