All Gauguin: Interview with Hot Chip
Everyone wants to be unique. Is it really everyone? Hot Chip, who wanted to spit on individualization in this trend, nevertheless released an album with a dozen different covers – in protest, as they say.
Mark Heyvinkel talked with frontman Alexis Taylor about trying to bring absurdity to a craving to be different from others.
Currently, the attention of art lovers from all over the world is attracted to a certain painting, which is in the collection of the Beyeler Art Museum in Basel: it is called “Nafea Faa Ipoioo”, in Russian, “When is the wedding?” In the spring, the gallery sold a painting for about $ 300 million, which made the work the most expensive painting in the world. Why so expensive? Because the 2 women depicted in the idyllic landscape is it beautiful? Because the painting came out from under the brush of the famous French artist Paul Gauguin? Of course. But above all, because it is unique. Anyone who owns the painting, boasts a treasure in front of those who would gladly possess it.
There is no person who is not dependent on the desire to be unique. To be a little different, we develop our own design of sneakers at Adidas, make our own fruit mixes with MyMüsli, buy bottled Coca-Cola on our name. Although comparing Adidas, Coca-Cola, and Paul Gauguin is a bit inaccurate, it’s based on a common desire to be an individual.
Alexis Taylor can only shake his head disapprovingly that companies use this craving to their advantage.
“When Coca-Cola started this personalization campaign, I stopped drinking Coke,” says London founder and vocalist Hot Chip. “Everything comes from the desire to commercialize our desire for uniqueness. It is as if everyone bought a unique picture of Gauguin. But this is impossible.”
Strong words. However, releasing a new disc, “Why Make Sense?” Taylor has a similar strategy: the sixth studio electro-pop quintet album comes in 501 color variations. Even the pattern on the cover comes in dozens of options, so we can assume that the music store has more than a thousand versions of the cover. Is this not an attempt to compare with Gauguin?
“Of course, we are trying to do something unique by creating a cover for the album,” Taylor admits in a conversation in a Berlin cafe. “But in our case, the idea of playing with technology and expressing oneself more creatively is being used.”
To implement the design idea helped the artist Nick Relf. Together with Wendy Yao, the owner of the Los Angeles fashion art and music store Ooga Booga, Relf discussed in detail the possibility of using the Coca-Cola idea for his own purposes. This ultimately grew in collaboration with Hot Chip.
In addition to playing with modern printing technology, an individualization strategy carries a protest.
“To notice the uniqueness of each album, which is often practically invisible, you need to collect many copies and compare each,” Alexis states with a smile, knowing full well that no one will do this. “Music stores will definitely not put up many covers side by side. On the Internet, you will also see only one cover. Thus, various pieces reflect a romantic but unrealistic desire for originality. This is almost a joke.”
Although the Hot Chip is so ironic about the human desire to be special, “Why Make Sense?” – this is by no means a funny record. On the contrary, for the first time in the 15-year history of its existence, the group shifted its attention from club sound to the depth of the lyrics. It is about fear of loss, dark dreams and disturbing news about terrorist attacks.
“Music is something with which I can say more than if I would use regular speech,” Taylor explains. “Therefore, we shifted our focus from instrumental club tracks to songs with a classical structure: a couplet, a loss, a refrain. We created a record that is best heard carefully at home.”
The days when DJs could spin mixes on the Hot Chip for 3 hours to fuel the crowd were a thing of the past with the release of Why Make Sense?
“We recorded a record for warming up,” says Taylor.
But Hot Chip did not completely abandon the dance sound. Here and there flashing r’n’b-inserts. Songs like “Started Right”, “Love Is The Future” or “Easy To Get” refer to both the r’n’b of the 70s and Timbaland’s zero-production.
“R’n’B has always played an important role in our lives, but this genre has never been so clearly visible in our albums as it is now,” says Taylor.
Thus, the protest was successful, the group experimented in the studio with a lot of new instruments and old synthesizers.
“Many years ago we had the idea of recording albums exclusively in exotic places,” Taylor recalls, “For example, in the Bahamas. Then, unfortunately, we did not have money for this.