Hot Chip front man Alexis Taylor pares everything back to just piano and voice for an intimate record of new songs, reinterpretations of his own writing, and a selection of favorites both well known and unheard before by other artists. Recorded at Hackney Road Studios by Shuta Shinoda, Piano invites the listener to be privy to a very private recital, with Alexis’ vocal and piano captured live and up-close, preserving each beautiful moment.
“I had always wanted to make a loose and to some extent unplanned piano record – partly inspired by an un-made but suggested Alex Chilton solo piano LP that a friend of mine told me about 15 years ago or so. I began one a few years back which then morphed into the second About Group LP – but the idea stayed in the back of my mind all the while.
See the full exclusive interview below.
Punchland: How do your UK/European vs. US audience compare and contrast? How do playing shows in Europe differ from playing shows in the US?
Alexis Taylor: I don’t really know much about how the UK audience and European audiences differ from the US ones. In the US people were very receptive to both a quiet piano set I did and a slightly more ramshackle and loose set I played with Money Mark, a drummer who had never played with us before (Doug Armour), Al from Hot Chip and pedal steel player Jonny Lam. We had a great time. I have done very few solo shows in the US so far, but the crowds seem great to me.
In the UK London and Fife are where most of my solo shows have happened – for one reason or another. And now that I think about it one of those in London was supporting King Creosote, who is from Fife. So maybe that is my spiritual home.
The very first solo show I ever did in London when I was at school age nearly broke out into a fight. And when I played The Man On The Moon in Cambridge in about 2000 someone tried to throw a monitor at the audience.
It seems that the UK is more ‘aggro’ on aggregate.
P: The press release for Piano states that you’re reinterpreting your old writing- how so? Why did you do this?
AT: I was writing a new set of songs but also wanted to show the songwriting behind some of my previously released tracks – away from the various styles of production. So Much Further To Go had only just come out in the Hot Chip version, but it had been written as a solo piano piece. I was revisiting I Never Lock That Door and a couple of other solo written songs as I felt they worked well like this as much as in a group improvised arrangement within About Group. I really just sat down and played through whatever came to mind – of my own or cover versions. They are all very personal to me as pieces, whether or not they have appeared elsewhere or are brand new.
P: How do you think your audience of EDM listeners will receive this concept (i.e. the more acoustic side)?
AT: I have never thought about EDM or EDM listeners and am not totally sure what they are. I don’t really know about that world or how they would respond to this but this music, and its arrangement comes as naturally to me as any Hot Chip recordings.
P: You mentioned that you understood what the album meant by the passing of a friend- how are art and emotion related?
AT: Yes the album had some very specific meanings to me and was written over time so some of those meanings slowly fade and new ones appear as events in your life change around you. I’m glad the writing is open enough to take on new meanings for me and presumably others too. It has helped me to come to terms with my friend’s death – in a very strange way – as there is no reason for it to be linked to him beyond my thinking about him during its making and my desire to ask him to work on some strings for it.
P: Who’s been your favorite band/musician to collaborate with so far?
AT: I loved working with Wiley (very briefly) – he just wanted to know when we should do the “Ollies” – shouting out “Ollie ollie ollie” to the crowd in the middle of our Glastonbury set. His approach was pretty different to our more earnest and studious one!
Robert Wyatt was a very generous person to work with – he put in loads of time and his own fresh ideas when we collaborated.
Green Gartside is always good to collaborate with as he pushes me in songwriting directions that I would not think to go in usually.
About Group as a whole was probably the most rewarding collaborative experience as everything was different from the ground up – and each member is very inspiring.
P: You’ve covered Prince in the past- how do you feel about his passing? What legacy did he leave behind for you?
AT: Prince meant everything to me. I have been in a daze since he died and really also since I first ever heard his music.
P: You’ve also covered LCD Soundsystem, in other words, electronic legends. What do you like about them?
AT: I like LCD’s ability to combine the brutalism of Suicide’s incessant beat and the slippery groove of a disco track.
P: Your previous solo album, Await Barbarians (2014) is a softer Bob Dylan meets a synth and other industrial elements. How do you change sounds? It seemed as if Hot Chip Alexis and stripped down Alexis are two different people.
AT: I change sounds by feeling the need to try something new to me. The studio is a place to experiment, and I wouldn’t feel happy making something that I have explored before in terms of sound and texture – but at the same time, it’s all part of one continuum I guess…
P: What is your favorite song off Piano and why?
AT: I like “So Much Further To Go” the most. It’s my favourite thing I have written. I don’t really know precisely what I was writing about when I began – I think just the process of beginning anew and aiming to make a new type of song, something more oblique and less transparent, but which reveals more in time than something more straightforward.
P: One fun question- what’s your favorite cocktail to consume?
AT: Grapefruit juice and vodka on ice. Sometimes without the vodka is better.