To anyone who has dipped a toe into electronic music from the United Kingdom in the past ten years, JOE GODDARD is unlikely to be a stranger. Part of reknown electronic pop outfit HOT CHIP and one half of producing duo THE 2 BEARS, Goddard has made an impact in a myriad of different ways with his label Greco-Roman, which sparked the careers of artists like DISCLOSURE and ROOSEVELT, among others. After years of collaborations, remixes and one-off singles, it is only his second solo record since 2009’s Harvest Festival.
The Electric Lines of his new album not only hint at the invisible links between the different styles of electronic music Goddard is exploring, but also refer to the patch cables between the circuits of his Eurorack synthesizer. A similar kind of wire connects the transmitters that facilitate our cross-country conversation. As we talk into the speaker of a telephone in a flat in Düsseldorf, a distorted, echoing representation of our words re-emerges in the Berlin office of Domino Records, where Joe Goddard is sitting and patiently answering our questions.
Unsurprisingly, Joe Goddard’s personal connection to Berlin is musical in nature. Although he acknowledges that there is much more to the city culturally, for him ‘it’s just been the scene of some of my favourite ever nights in places like Prince Charles and Panorama Bar.’ He holds a special memory of the Stattbad in Wedding, a repurposed swimming pool knocked down in 2016, as it was host to a Greco-Roman label party :
There were so many little hidden ways, corridors, crazy industrial pipes and mad stuff that you would never be allowed to have in a club in London. You don’t have security guards every three metres – in Berlin you could just have a great time and have an awesome party at this place. I think I really associate Berlin with cultural freedom and trusting adults to act responsibly and be responsible for themselves and the night out rather than policing a club too much in the way they do often in the UK.
Although Goddard is quick to acknowledge the differences in clubbing between Berlin and his hometown of London, his explanation for the phenomenon is quite mundane. ‘In the UK, probably, the drinking culture isn’t there so some people kind of naturally go out for shorter periods. They’re really troubled by 11:30 and only stay in the club until 5 o’clock in the morning, whereas Germans, and Berliners, are much at pacing themselves and being able to be in the club for a day and a half, still having a good time without being a total mess.’ The difference in stamina also influences the nature of the party, as he explains:
Sometimes in UK clubs you can have a bit more of a musical crescendo, like 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. It’s more about a short sharp period of excitement rather than the Berlin model of having a longer period in the club but maybe a bit more measured, a bit like a marathon; in London it’s more like a sprint. But musically, you can go to clubs in the UK that have a kind of a similar policy – you used to get a lot less garage and Jamaican-influenced music in Berlin, but maybe that’s changed a little bit now.
Kindling the fire of a night out
As much as Electric Lines is shaped by Joe Goddard’s love of disparate genres and approaches to electronic music, his latest album still sounds surprisingly coherent. In fact, his choice of synthesizers, keyboards and drum machines, and the uniform type of chords he tends to use are the only things that bring the record together. ‘It is quite varied in tempo and style but I really wanted the record to be that way because when I go out to a club that’s what I like’, explains Goddard. ‘I like the music to represent that I like there to be stylistic differences from time to time.‘
What immediately springs to attention is Joe Goddard’s use of samples, which differs significantly from the way contemporary colleagues like JAMIE XX or BONOBO include them into their compositions. ‘I guess bringing in a sample brings with it a lot of a particular kind of atmosphere and I wanted some of that feeling from the original track to bring it into my production’, confesses Goddard. One of them is second single Lose Your Love, built around soul group Emotions’s 1976 single I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love. ‘The sample from that record is kind of a classical sample, it’s so beautiful, it has so much emotion and so much passion and power in it’, he says, and explains:
I wanted to create one of these nice moments in the club where it’s a slow building track that takes quite a long time to get to its crescendo, and i just wanted to revel in the sample for a little while – let the sample have time to breathe. In the original EMOTIONS track it goes very quickly back into the verse and I wanted to create a dance floor moment that was a bit more long-lasting, ecstatic and joyful for a longer period, like an extended breakdown. I really like those moments in the club where you don’t have the kick drum for a few minutes.
An even more glaring example is third single Home, which features vocals of Michigan singer Daniel Wilson. Goddard’s composition alternates with the source material instead of decontextualising it, forming an interesting sort of dialogue. As Goddard recounts, ‘Daniel came to the studio one afternoon and we made the track together very, very quickly. I just spent maybe a couple of hours with him recording words and the track came together very easily and the vocals were basically all his first or second take. It was really natural, a really lovely moment and from that day on the song was basically done.‘
Working alone is difficult
Not all songs he worked on in the past two years have had such an effortless genesis. ‘If you’re working alone without any other collaborators, sometimes you feel like you hit the creative brick wall and then you can spend months on a particular track. For instance, the track called Children Of The Sun felt like that for me. I tried lots of different versions, ideas and ways of making the track work and certainly took a long time to feel comfortable with it’, remembers Goddard.
If you’re collaborating with somebody closely then you always got someone sitting with you co-writing inspiration and reinforcing your beliefs in the track, whereas when you’re alone and making electronic music it’s really hard to know when it’s finished, when it’s sounding best or when you’re making the track worse. Or you can have moments where you run out of ideas and you need to step away from the track and come back to it later.
Without his usual collaborators like Alexis Taylor and his band mates of HOT CHIP on the sideline, Joe Goddard needed to rely on his own creative forces throughout the making of the record. But as he explains, ‘that was part of the reason why I wanted to make the record: to push myself to finish music individually and learn from that process’, and he adds:
As soon as the demo is finished and it doesn’t need any significant work, it’s such an amazing feeling when that happens. And it just happens naturally without you having to work super hard on making it happen.
Considering the extensive live history of HOT CHIP, it should be no surprise that JOE GODDARD always had hitting the road in mind when writing the tracks to Electric Lines. ‘I always wanted to do it live – it was a difficult thought process working out exactly how to do it, whether I should hire a band or actually do it all myself.’ He’s going to be joined onstage by Valentina, the singer on Human Heart and his 2011 hit Gabriel, while the music will be produced by Goddard ‘with a big variety of synths and drum machines and microphone and effects’. To put it in the words of Alexis Taylor, ‘Everyone’s updating their hardware / Plugging in their new gear’ – even pop historians when they leave their archives.
The interview was conducted by Chris Hegholtz and Igor Franjic.