Joe Goddard is an artist who has been with me since the very beginning of my adult life. When I first moved from New Orleans to Los Angeles, I fell deeply in love with his band Hot Chip , specifically their song "Playboy" off their 2005 album Coming on Strong. Over the years, I followed Hot Chip with a close eye and ear to their various side projects and solo works from New Build to Alexis Taylor, and the subject of this feature - Joe Goddard.
He is a man who approaches making pop music with "a dance music producers perspective." He breathes vivid life into his music and the end result is art that is full of emotion, character, and groove. It can be fun, it can be soft, and it can all get a warm reaction from a full spectrum of listeners. He's truly a pop music maker of the highest order, mainstream notoriety be damned.
Now, if he hasn't made you move with a "Bear Hug" from his The 2 Bears project or gotten you "Ready for the Floor" with Hot Chip, then he's certainly going to get you going with his latest solo album Electric Lines. He's made sure this album is as raw and real as it can be, not all dolled up and fixed like some of the other contemporary pop music that is blaring at you day in and out.
So, you clicked here for an interview with the unassuming legend that is Joe Goddard, and it is with great honor to share the conversation I had with one of my favorite musicians of all time.
Electric Lines is another great solo work. It seems to have a different sound than your previous solo albums, where does this album sit contextually in regards to your other solo albums?
This album has some similarities to "Gabriel" or some of the stuff that I've released in the past. It's not wildly different, it's slightly song based, like house music. In terms of the way that this record sounds and the instruments I used and everything, I was really trying to like stretch myself and really explore the synthesizers and the equipment and stuff that I have available to me now in my studio that I've started renting in London.
So it was me trying to push myself to just make stuff with all of that new gear and just try to make the best possible thing that I could with that. But I mean in terms of the make-up of the music, I feel like my entire career has really been trying to be as good as I can at making this kind of electric pop, which is still what I really like to do. It's still the music that I gravitate towards so, you know, in terms of the basic like genre, it's never really changed.
Then the only thing that's changed is the time and you've only become more skilled and wiser.
Well hopefully. I've definitely got older.
Is there a core musical philosophy that focuses you when you go into a studio to record a Joe Goddard album?
There are things that I like to try include in all of my music. I've spoken about it in the past, and hopefully, it comes through when you listen to the music, but I like to leave the music feeling vibrant and alive.
I try to avoid ironing out all of the imperfections in the sound. I try not to like quantize drums or auto tune all the vocals and leave mistakes in the music. I try to do performances of all the synthesizer parts from start to finish of the track so that the tracks feel dynamic and the changes in the textures make the track feel like it's constantly evolving and there is always something new to listen to.
I try to give people an exciting mix of something always going on rhythmically, melodically and vocally. Probably like a lot of people, I really like to sit down with headphones on, maybe get stoned, maybe just been drinking or whatever, and immerse myself in music and feel like I've been transported by it to somewhere. So the music I make, I try to make it an experience like that, which is like hopefully an awesome experience for the listener if they're really listening.
There is a lot in there, there's a lot of little textures and bits going on so, I mean that stuff I always try to include in any work that I do. It doesn't really add up to much of a philosophy, really it's not like a coherent philosophy, but I guess the idea of retaining humanity in the music, that's somewhere towards the philosophy in some ways.
Your voice. It can be so gentle and it's so distinctive. Where do you find this voice and has it always been with you?
I've always been singing. I used to sing in primary school, I remember singing a song on my own in a Christmas concert when I was like eight or nine. I honestly I don't really class myself as a singer as such. As you say, my voice is super gentle, like to the point of hard to even hear at times.
It's pretty soft and very quiet, particularly compared to Alexis Taylor (of Hot Chip). Alexis has a very loud voice and so I always consider myself in Hot Chip as a backing singer essentially, but I have moments where I really enjoy singing.
When I feel like I have something to say, I really enjoy stepping up and actually taking center stage. It's never something that I've worked at, at all, you know I've never had singing lessons. I think of myself first and foremost as a producer but it's very kind of you to say that you like my voice. I'm fairly kind of unconfident about my singing abilities so I can do with the occasional ego boost.
Now with your approach to songwriting, it seems it comes from a very personal place, but it comes from an organic, a unique place. Would you care to share how you approach songwriting?
It varies from song to song. You can begin a song in a lot of different ways. For me, often I will come into my studio where I am right now, and sit in front of the computer and start to write chords just improvising. On my computer I start to write in notes and looping a little section of music and just experimenting, seeing what sounds good, seeing if I come up with any chords that I really like and building up loops of longer and longer sections of four bars, eight bars, sixteen bars. When I feel like I have something that I'm pleased with, if any lyrical ideas are coming to mind, then I try to record them super quickly before I forget them and get them in there while you're still in that phase of really being inspired by the new track that you're working on.
Other times, if I'm at home, I have a church organ-y type thing in my front room that I'll sit at that and try and work out some chords or a melody. But other times, you know, I think you can have a lyrical idea anywhere. I often find if I'm flying, flying somewhere hundreds of miles away, I'm thinking in an emotional way about where I'm going, who I'm going to see when I get back or something, so I often find that I have lyrical ideas in those situations and so I will record those little things into my phone.
Or sometimes that it will be that I just turn on a synthesizer and mess around with that and the beginning of a song will come from that. But with me generally, it's not like I sit down with a guitar and I write out a full song with words to begin with. It's more experimenting with a little bit of music or a loop of drums. I kind of build it up more from like a dance music producers perspective.
So you have mentioned Alexis Taylor is such a huge part of your musical experience and the song you guys did together, "Electric Lines", really is something special. Would you be able to share a bit about that song and how it relates to your very close relationship with Alexis?
I think it's quite a personal track. There are things that Alexis touches on in the lyrics like if things are going to be replaced, like old things are replace, like old technology is replaced with new, and I think in some ways that relates to the aging process. I think that's on your mind essentially when making pop music, that you're getting older.
We have a thing within Hot Chip where Alexis and I make the demos together and they sound a certain way, they generally sound pretty rough and ready and it's just my production and my mixing from my small studio so it will be raw, fairly unfinished. And I think Alexis has a fondness for those demos of songs and the lyrics refer to that. So it's really nice, it's like him saying he likes that raw early state when I send him ideas or when we work together in the studio. So that's a really nice thing.
And maybe it's also making the point that you don't sometimes need to like change that demo too much. Sometimes that demo is the truest and best version of that song. You're not going to improve it by making it more like glossy and more powerful and more crazy in the studio. I think he's kind of speaking on that subject. It was very poignant and I really love that song as well.
Now, get yourself to the closest venue and catch Joe Goddard on his North American tour!
- 5/10/17 - Vancouver, BC - Fortune Sound Club
- 5/11/17 - San Francisco, CA - Public Works
- 5/14/17 - Seattle, WA - Nectar Lounge
- 5/15/17 - San Diego, CA - Casbah
- 5/17/17 - Denver, CO - Bar Standard (DJ Set)
- 5/18/17 - Dallas, TX - Trees
- 5/19/17 - Brooklyn, NY - House of Yes
- 5/26/17 - Chicago, IL - Smart Bar (DJ Set)
- 5/27/17 - Miami, FL - Electric Pickle (DJ Set)