It’s an antiquated attitude, but there are some avid music listeners who believe electronic music is incapable of having an affecting emotional quality. Hot Chip multi-instrumentalist and producer Joe Goddard is sitting on the cusp of his debut solo album, Electric Lines, which sees him merging his great passion for electronic music with his life long love of soul music.
Hot Chip, and contemporaries such as Four Tet, are long time proponents of soulful electronic music. However, that doesn’t mean Goddard is immune to the previously cited opposition, and there are even times when he can sympathise.
“I think your run-of-the-mill tech house record is lacking in soul,” Goddard says. “You could level that claim at quite a lot of dance music. It feels very quantised and computerised and lacking [in soul]. You can characterise soul as humanity and human emotion in the music, and that can be lacking in a lot of computer music. So I can understand that opinion.”
A core component of Electric Lines’ human feel are the vocals that feature on the majority of tracks. Goddard sings a few songs himself alongside tracks featuring UK singer Jess Mills (‘Ordinary Madness’ and ‘Music Is the Answer’), American musician Daniel Wilson (‘Home’) and Hot Chip vocalist Alexis Taylor (‘Electric Lines’). From the outset, Goddard was eager to work with outside vocalists.
“A few friends of mine have said to me recently that I should have sung more,” he says. “They were surprised that I’m not on it that much, but for me, I don’t really think of myself as a singer as such. I don’t feel like that’s my forte. I have a very, very quiet, gentle voice that is sometimes not all that in tune. I’m not really a lead singer. So I sing on tracks when I get a good idea and when I feel like there’s something I want to say, but I’m quite happy to collaborate with a singer.
“I didn’t want to enlist tonnes of big name artists on this record,” he adds. “I didn’t want it to feel like a list of collaborators – to try and sell the record by hiring in famous people.”
Working with Taylor seems like a quite an obvious move for Goddard; they’re long time band mates who are attuned to each other’s creative sensibilities. But there’d also have been the risk of creating something overly similar to their main band’s catalogue.
“In terms of the way we worked on that song, there’s really no difference to a lot of Hot Chip tracks,” Goddard says. “I made the music and then sent it to Alexis and he amazingly wrote all the words and recorded them in one night and sent it back to me. It was a brilliant moment to get it back and I really, really loved it from the start and it came together really easily. And that’s how a lot of Hot Chip music comes together, so yeah, we could’ve kept it for the next Hot Chip record. I guess it was just a matter of, at that time I was putting together this album and so it formed a piece of that.”
Generally speaking, Goddard’s a liberal leader when working with vocalists on his productions. He welcomes creative suggestions and adjustments that will introduce the guest’s identity into the tracks.
“The vocals are mostly the work of the singer. For ‘Music Is the Answer’, Jess Mills wrote the verses and then we collaborated on the bridge and the chorus. On ‘Home’, Daniel Wilson came to my studio and we talked through the meaning of the song and wrote the words together a bit, but there was a lot of creativity from him. In Hot Chip, I don’t often tell Alexis what to do in any way. It’s really up to him what he sings and the words. He’s a brilliant lyricist, so I don’t get involved that much when he’s writing the words.
“If I’m collaborating with someone, I like to not tell them what to do too much. I want to see what naturally comes from them and allow that to happen, but I’ll give guidance and instruction if the singer wants and needs that. You just have to try and get the best out of the person you’re working with in whatever way you can.”
Electric Lines is out now through Domino Records.