What else has DJing helped you understand?
Al: That DJs are full of shit and just get paid money for not doing very much.

Has it influenced the way you approach these songs?
Joe: It totally does. For me the whole idea of DJing is to play a song and see how people react. The whole thing a DJ is doing is responding to how people react to the music that he plays. So watching that reaction from a crowd is very insightful. It gives you ideas for how dance music can affect people and what things affect people in what ways. That definitely goes into our live shows and structuring songs. Then the kind of rhythms we use, like a track like “Hold On,” I see it taking this minimal techno rhythm and put these disco elements into it. So that’s informed by the minimal techno records that we might be playing when we DJ mixed with the disco records some of us have been playing as well.
Owen: It’s like tesco music. A mix between techno and disco. We make tesco.

Humor has always been an important element of your music. Do you feel the tendency to get more serious now that more people are listening?
Joe: I think there is a tendency to do that. We felt it when we released Coming on Strong and people talked a lot about the humor. It made us feel like we didn’t want to be seen as just a novelty act. We want people to realize that we like to write serious songs sometimes. And that we cry as well [laughs]. If you cut us, we will bleed. So The Warning was a little more serious as well. And this record is kind of serious. A song like “Wrestlers” is obviously not. It wasn’t a conscious decision. We didn’t feel like we should put something funny in here. It was a kind of natural song that came about. But I’m glad that there are lighter-hearted moments because, the same as The Warning and Coming on Strong, we didn’t want to leave that part of our personalities out of the music.

Did you get the impression that you weren’t being taken seriously?
Al: Well we weren’t being taken seriously.

How did you notice?
Joe: Just in reviews.
Al: People getting us dressed up as clowns or being introduced as “comedy/novelty act Hot Chip.” That’ll give you a good clue.

Al: Well, you sorta see those words in reviews. But this was a long time ago. But that’s something, like Joe was saying with the previous album, The Warning, we kind of addressed that so people sort of forgot about it. Also, we just got older.

How do you approach it differently now so that people can take it seriously and still understand that it’s supposed to be funny?
Joe: It’s just become obvious. For instance, the song “One Pure Thought,” there’s nothing comic about most of it. It’s fun. It’s not silly. But it’s like this epic pop song. But there are parts of my words that are pretty stupid. I reference the “Macarena” because I thought it would be funny to make this cool dance record and reference that within it because it’s such a stupid hit, you know, number one in the UK for ages.
Owen: All over the world. It’s a worldwide smash.
Al: Yeah, and we just copied the rhythm.
Joe: So we like to throw small things in like that. But it’s obvious that is not a stupid song.
Al: “The Macarena.” That’s what he’s talking about.
Joe: Hopefully “Wrestlers” does it as well. There are completely silly moments where Alexis talks about hitting someone in the balls with a roll of coins. But toward the end of the song, he’s kind of making a serious point in some ways. The music becomes a little more somber. We’ve kind of tempered it a little bit so that it’s not the obvious jokes like, “I’m like Stevie Wonder, but I can see things” on the first record. It’s more subtle. But I like the fact that it’s still there.

Was “Wrestlers” intended to be an R. Kelly parody?
Part of it is inspired by R. Kelly. In his songs, he can have just a stream of amazing vocal hooks, like ten vocal melodies that just get stuck in your head so easily. That’s such a genius ability, to write vocal hooks. And the sound of his voice is so great.

Is it pointing out his absurdity?
The absurdity of it is a fantastic thing as well. The song comes from the fact that Alexis and myself used to really enjoy WWF wrestling when we were at school. We used to have a dinner lady that looked like Superfly Jimmy Snuka. A couple of days ago Alexis almost bought an action figure of the Iron Sheik. There was a genuine love for that stuff when we were kids. Kids love WWF, but also there’s a story behind the lyrics because Al’s been playing with LCD [Soundsystem] a lot of the time this year. Alexis received a text message from James Murphy saying, “You can’t have him back. I’ll wrestle you for him. And I’m bigger and trained.”

He is trained.
So Alexis had that in his mind when he was writing the lyrics to that song.

Have you seen him fight?
He hasn’t fought anybody. He’s supposed to next year.

He spars with people though, doesn’t he?
Oh, yeah. I’ve seen him do his jujitsu class. When he speaks about it to people, there’s always a moment when people just laugh. And then he’s like, “No, it’s actually true.”

He was having to get his weight down too, right?
Yeah, yeah. He thinks he’s gonna do it next year. I’ve seen the people that are fighting in his weight class, and it looks like he’s got quite a bit of work to do. But that’s literally all he needs to do, get his weight down and get his jujitsu skills a little better.

I get the sense that you guys tend to hide musical references within your songs. Are there any moments you’d care to reveal?
There aren’t any references to any particular hip-hop songs.
Al: Well, you were saying that that moment in “Shake a Fist,” when it changes…
Joe: Oh, yeah, that’s actually true. There’s that moment in “Shake a Fist” where there’s that vocal sample, and then the beat changes. Part of the reason I did that was I was thinking about how halfway through “Get Your Freak On” Missy Elliott is like, “Quiet! Hush your mouth!” And then there’s that big bass line that hasn’t been there that just comes in halfway through the song. It’s such a fantastic pop music moment. I remember hearing that on a tiny little clock radio speaker when I was at university and just thinking it was the most amazing thing. Timbaland is one of the only hip-hop producers who would ever do that–a hip-hop track that changes halfway through. They’re always good. Like I’ve got an old MF Doom one called “Change the Beat.” He raps on like five different beats. Whenever someone does that in hip-hop it sounds wicked. That’s a kind of reference to that sort of thing. But it’s something that’s rarely done in hip-hop music. There’s a good one on Da Real World, that Missy Elliott one, where the beat changes and Eminem does a verse. So yeah, I guess there are a couple examples. It’s not something that people do very much in hip-hop, but it’s fantastic when they do do it.
“Bendable Poseable” has references from hip-hop music. Again, it owes a lot to the rhythmical brilliance of Timbaland. I do a kind of rappy bit in the middle of that. The main influence on that was more from new house music and trying to play with the swing of the beat and play with the groove, before the beat or after the beat, to make it kind of wobbly sounding. That partly comes from producers like Jay Dee, the way there’s a kind of wonkiness to the beat, which is a brilliant thing. Actually the drum programming on “Made in the Dark” is really a direct reference to Jay Dee, old Slum Village, the kind of snare and kick drum and hi-hat sounds he would have used.

Is everyone bringing in a hip-hop influence?
For some people, it’s much less.
Al: I think it’s mostly Joe. It’s something that I like, but I’m not as well versed as him.

Is there anything new you guys were listening to that influenced the sounds on the album?
It’s hard to find things that we all listen to because we have quite separate listening experiences often, quite diverse. But we went through a period of driving up to festivals in our van with the door open blazing out old Black Sabbath. Those big riffs are something we’ve put into this album like we’ve never done before.
Al: You can hear it very overtly on “Bendable Poseable.” It is a Sabbath cord.

Is that something you’ve done live also?
Yeah. I forgot we used to play “Bendable Poseable” live. Yeah, you notice the crowd getting into it, even if it’s only for a second.

Like older heavy metal though, right?
Yeah, like heavy rock. One of the only other things we all agree on is this Parisian group Noze, who make techno pretty much but with a strong sense of humor and strong songs. That’s something we all love, and we’ve had experiences seeing them all together at festivals around the world and being really into that.

What song on the new record was the most difficult to complete?
“One Pure Thought” was quite difficult because it’s made up of all these different parts that really worked out well together in some ways. We had a lot of thinking about the structure, restructuring things. It started out as a long live recording, and we kind of edited parts out, overdubbed small bits, moved things, took the middle part and put a bit of it at the beginning.
Owen: I think that was the problem. There were so many good bits. It was tough to make some sort of conglomerate thing.
Joe: That song was written by all of us, so it has parts that were written by everyone, and sometimes that makes it less easy to put it together.

Did you find that writing as a full group is something you’d like to pursue more?
Yeah. I think so. It has more vitality, which I think is the main thing for me.
Al: You spend a lot of time playing in a group and shaping something. I think we will probably end up having more songs like “One Pure Thought.” Not that that’s a bad thing at all.
Owen: I suppose if it’s just a few people writing, it can be very quick, or if you rely on the tension it could be very focused. But with a group, it might be more difficult, but there’s also the sense of knowing that it’s right as well.

What song was the biggest creative leap for the group?
I suppose “Ready for the Floor.” We’ve done all these interviews in the past few days, and I don’t find myself talking about that one. It’s something that I would have wanted to talk about. It’s probably the most overtly pop song that’s come out of the machine for a while.
Joe: It came about as a drum loop. I made some drums, made a bass line, started playing with this main synth sound and just tried to make something quite sparse, with less layers than we had had previously. The pattern and the synths are references to techno records, things like Audion, Matthew Dear. So it started off as these kind of loops, and I wrote the chords to the verse and the chorus. Once we had that much, I played that to Alexis, and he just wrote words for it pretty quickly. There were contributions from everyone in the group on that song. It was actually finished quite simply and quite painlessly.

Are you pushing that as a single?
First single, yeah.

How does “Shake a Fist” work into that?
Kind of a teaser.

It would have been hard to work as a single.
Yeah, it’s a crazy tune. It was an exciting thing to give to people as the first taste, whet the appetite.
Owen: An appetizer. Cleanse the palate.
Al: Sometimes the appetizers are the best part of the meal, though.

I read you’ve also done a remix for Alicia Keys. What’s up with that?
We’ve done one. I don’t know if the record company liked it. It’s the single “No One.”

What’s the track like?
I wanted to take the Alicia Keys song and make the chords underneath her voice slightly more unusual, more interesting.
Al: Those are the chords from “No Woman, No Cry.” Is that the same one?
Joe: Yeah, yeah. I’ve started to think it’s best not to over-remix things. I didn’t want to turn it into something totally crazy. I wanted to make it a bit more like the Ashanti song, “Only You,” a big R&B tune that had this big, wicked, doom-laden, echo-y, distorted bass line, really a kind of epic thing. We put a big chord sequence like that behind Alicia Keys’s voice. I think it works. We just sort of reset the song. It’s still an R&B tune, but it’s something that’s more interesting to us.

Why Alicia Keys?
She asked us.

Oh, she actually requested it?
Yeah. It probably wasn’t her. But her A&R guy or something.

Did you find out how they heard of you guys?
I didn’t find out, but I’d like to find out how they knew about us.
Owen: Probably heard about us from Bob Dylan.
Joe: Yeah, Bob suggested us.

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