Joe Goddard: Mix it up, daddy cool
He's the busiest man in dancemusic –and now a family man to boot. Holly Williams talks work-life balance with the Hot Chip man
Joe Goddard is a busy man. One half of the main writing duo in the band Hot Chip, he's on the road touring their latest album, the gloriously upbeat electro-pop confection In Our Heads. He also DJs by himself, as well as with The 2 Bears, a collaboration with Raf Rundell that's more rooted in house music; their debut album, Be Strong, was also released earlier this year. And, after collaborating with vocalist Valentina to create one of last year's best singles, the sparklingly infectious "Gabriel", this autumn Goddard is working with another strong female singer, the freshly Mercury prize-nominated and much-hyped Jessie Ware. The two got together in the studio in August as part of a Bacardi-funded mentoring project. He remixed her next single, "Night Light", out next month. And he had a second child this year. How does he manage it all?
You could call him the Woody Allen of intelligent dance pop. "I really love working, and I realise you don't have for ever to keep working," Goddard muses. "I was watching this documentary about Woody Allen, and how he doesn't really take time off. He just starts the next film. Not every film is going to be amazing – he just likes the process. I just like the process." He is lucky, then, that the product of those processes is so darn danceable. In Our Heads has been hailed as Hot Chip's best album yet, while Be Strong, more clubby in sound, was also well received. And if there's one thing that comes through in all his various musical outings, it's a sense of joy.
Is this good-time music for hard times? "I can't read too much into that," he says. "It wasn't really trying to lift spirits in economic crisis or anything – but, at the same time, I guess … I started a family with my wife. I've got now two children, and that has made me quite grounded and positive about what is going on, so maybe that comes through."
Goddard, an understated, thick-set, slightly shy figure, who you sense is happier looking down at his decks than engaging with the press, certainly seems a grounded family man. But that packed schedule of live tours, muddy music festivals and late-night DJ sessions must sit uneasily with starting a family; if he's up at 5am, it's as likely to be because he's igniting a dancefloor with his choice of tune as because he's taking his turn doing the night feed.
"It's hard," he begins, before correcting himself. "Well, it's basically hard for my wife. But she's incredibly giving and she really has things sorted. She loves looking after them, and our new baby is actually quite chilled. I miss them a lot after just a couple of days away. But it's what I do and she understands that." And, although he loves both playing live and DJing, getting older also means reining it in. "I don't have so many big nights out where I get really drunk. I try to be a bit more sensible, come home fresh so I can help at home."
At two years old, Goddard's first child is still a bit young to tag along on tour, but he'll make a mini-raver of her before long: "She hasn't been to that many gigs yet; I guess I'll take her around soon." And Hot Chip's music does attract some very young fans, it seems. "There were some videos on YouTube of babies dancing to 'Ready for the Floor'. Apparently, it's a big hit with babies. I just wish they bought records," he jokes. Hot Chip's frontman and co-writer, Alexis Taylor, has also had a child recently, and they've joked about a next generation of the band, called – wait for it – Micro Chip.
Goddard and Taylor may not have known each other in the cradle, but the pair go a long way back. They met when they were 11, in their first year at Elliott School in south-west London. (The comprehensive is something of a hotbed for musical talent, a sort of accidental indie Brit school: Goddard was pals with Kieran Hebden of Four Tet, while other alumni include The xx, members of The Maccabees and Burial.) A friendship that began over lunchboxes in a Putney playground flourished as they both became "obsessed with music".
"We were going to tons of gigs together and really were very serious about music," he recalls. "It was a fantastic time. It was when people still bought records. There's a great musical education you get from being in London."
They both went on to university – Goddard to Oxford, Taylor to Cambridge – but continued to meet up in the holidays, making music in their bedrooms, the name Hot Chip already in place. They applied an undergraduate earnestness to it, burning CDs and hawking them round record shops, before eventually pressing a seven-inch which won them some industry attention. In 2004, with Owen Clarke (also a schoolmate), plus new additions to the band Felix Martin and Al Doyle, Hot Chip released their record-label debut, Coming On Strong, on Moshi Moshi Records.
Such long-standing friendship might turn the writing partnership into the aural equivalent of a favourite old jumper – warm, cosy, and a tad overfamiliar. But Goddard says it frees them up to try new things. "A large part of it is trust. I don't ask him what the words to [his songs] mean, I don't question him or tell him to rewrite. We have respect for each other. And the songs end up being slightly more unusual, sometimes, but much better for that."
They do, however, have a shared language of musical references. Hot Chip have long been known for their magpie approach, with any given song potentially tipping its hat to disco, funk, synth-pop, R&B, hip hop and house. "There's nothing methodical about it at all. I guess it comes down to a mix of things we're listening to currently that are inspiring, and things that, because myself and Alexis and Owen have known each other since we were really young, went in during those years and are still bubbling around," explains Goddard. "There's always Prince references, and that's a very early thing for Alexis. There's a real love of R Kelly, which comes through on 'Look at Where We Are' on this album. And for me, it's Nile Rodgers [of Chic]: I just find him really inspiring as a songwriter, producer and guitarist."
Such pick '*' mixing has led to people thinking of Hot Chip as arch humorists, nodding knowingly to uncool genres. But these choices comes from a real place. "We never really felt we were too tongue in cheek. People just took it that way. Sometimes, it's that we genuinely like stuff which other people call cheesy. Alexis is into Phil Collins. People will think a reference is, like, 'you must be joking' and it's not.
"But that's interesting: whether things are cheesy or plain trendy and cool, those lines are constantly changing. Everything's in flux," says Goddard. Perhaps. But it seems, almost in spite of himself, that Joe Goddard's musical output has wound up in the (daddy) cool camp, his DJ skills ever in demand for dedicated clubbers, while Hot Chip play ever larger venues, finding fans from hipster teens to broadsheet journalists and fellow muso dads – and their smiling, dancing babies, of course.
Joe Goddard is in the studio with Jessie Ware at bacardi.com/beginnings. The 2 Bears DJ from 27 Sep. Hot Chip tour the UK from 8 Oct
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