Al Doyle from Hot Chip is thinking about cabling and air conditioning. It’s a sign the English synth-pop band is reaching middle age, but mainly it’s ‘cause Doyle is bunkered down in construction on a new studio with his bandmate Felix Martin.
“People don’t get super excited about those things, but they are the quiet heroes. Let’s hear it for the quality cabling solutions,” Doyle says over the phone.
Doyle is enjoying mundanity during a brief period of downtime amidst Hot Chip and his other band you might have heard of, LCD Soundsystem’s, winter (“I’m looking forward to the summer, but I’m also looking forward to not playing”). He’s been remixing Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium – just for fun – and listening to “punishing” breakbeats.
Hot Chip have also just returned from their first ever festival date in India (“There were some really big Indian bands playing that they seemed to be more stoked about”) and are about to arrive in Australia on their second festival season for 2019’s A Bath Full of Ecstasy. The record was a return and a departure for the band featuring an outside producer for the first time, the late Philippe Zdar. The result was painted on a broad technicolour canvas - mixing dance-psychedelia and bubblegum existentialism. The produced experience was one Doyle hopes to repeat in future.
“It’s nice to have an external authority figure to appeal to; to have somebody cut through the convoluted decision making that inevitably ends up happening when you have five people in the room with big ideas,” Doyle says.
Doyle doesn’t have a wishlist for collaborators but says “generally” he’d like to work with a female producer, or someone with a non-electronic background. However, the new studio wouldn’t necessarily be the recording setting for any new Hot Chip material if they bring in another outside voice.
“The producers that I particularly like working with do have a very idiosyncratic grasp of studio craft. I want them to be very picky about those places, and ideally want them to have their own studio where we can go to,” Doyle says.
Unfortunately, Hot Chip doesn’t have the chance to continue their producerial relationship with Zdar, who tragically passed away one day before the release of the record.
“That was just the start of an artistic relationship that we were all finding very fertile and productive. He was just an inspiring person to be around, so I think we would have definitely loved to have worked with him again and probably sooner rather than later, but it wasn’t to be,” Doyle says.
Doyle tells us that Hot Chip are currently trying to book studio time in Zdar’s Motorbass Studios in Montmartre, Paris with two assistant engineers from the previous record.
“It will be very very strange to go back without Phillipe in the room because that was definitely a prime example of somebody who was inseparable from his workspace. The way he used the facility was a complete extension of his creativity. We’re still going to try and do it, ‘cause I think he would have wanted that,” Doyle says.
Studios are also on Doyle’s mind because he hasn’t had a consistent workspace for two and a half years. Hot Chip often appeals to gear-obsessed listeners because, as they have noted numerous times, they are inspired more by gear than other bands. The day after our phone call, Doyle lends Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor a Yamaha CS-70 to play with – a rarer model from the same series as the more common CS-80.
“The psychology of it is weird, cause you always want to have something new and the fact of buying a new synthesiser, will inevitably, probably mean you get a new song out of it. Sitting down, with the excitement of a new tool can be very stimulating and productive. Then you get into this rich man’s game of never quite having enough. It’s a real affliction.”
Luckily, air conditioning costs are slightly easier to manage.