This is a continuing series of interviews in which musicians talk about food, and chefs talk about music. London-based electronic act Hot Chip have previously sung about crap Kraft dinners and other foods. Even though it features no gastronomic references whatsoever, their new album, The Warning, is Hot Chip’s tastiest yet. Frequently shirtless member Al Doyle was kind enough to let me grill him briefly.
SoundBites: Are you into food, apart from sustenance?
Al Doyle: Sure. I like eating as much as the next man, and the next man is Joe [Goddard, Hot Chip’s co-leader].
SB: Did any particular food fuel the making of The Warning?
Al: There aren’t any songs that directly reference food on the new album, like there were on Coming on Strong or the singles. Joe and Alexis have differing tastes. Alexis is definitely on the dirtier, fast food side of the equation. What he likes better than anything is KFC, so he’ll always be ducking out for that. Joe, however, is much more of a foodie. When he was living at his dad’s place, he had a very well equipped kitchen with a lovely smoothie maker, a nice set of really sharp chef’s knives, and a chart on the wall with every chili pepper in the world and their varying strengths. We all enjoyed going there to record because he’d whip up a nice dish for us to snack on late in the day.
SB: What about you?
Al: I tend to eat a lot of vegetarian food because my girlfriend is a vegetarian, and a lot of my friends are but I do go for some meat now and again. One of the revelations when we went to America was discovering Whole Foods. That was such a good thing for us. We went to the flagship store in Austin during SXSW. It’s mind-blowing. So huge, with all these little micro-restaurants within it. It’s at least twice the size of the one in Union Square. There’s bbq, a fish restaurant where they cook the fish right in front of you, and all the standard stuff like sushi, and soups. I think I walked around in there for 20 minutes before I even bought anything. That was real Extreme America for us.
SB: When you were in Austin for SXSW did you also indulge in BBQ?
Al: Oh yeah, absolutely. I had my ribs and brisket. This was fine by me but Owen (Clarke) and Felix (Martin) are staunch vegetarians and they had to subsist on potato salad and cold beans. It’s the only thing you can get at those barbeque places. It is quite strange doing SXSW because you get a lot of people from the cities coming in expecting their nice vegetarian food. So the few places that do serve something besides Mexican or barbeque are so swamped with people it’s nearly impossible to get a table.
SB: Is there a food that you all agree on?
Al: We’re all big fans of Japanese food and sushi. That’s one of the easy things you can get on tour that’s fairly healthy. Some nice miso soup and some sushi is really great for us, as a band. Otherwise it’s cold salads — anything that doesn’t make you feel bad or robs you of the will to live before you have to go onstage and play.
SB: Is there a city you look forward to playing — for the food?
Al: We had some really good seafood in Seattle when we were there. The biggest scallops I’ve ever seen — the size of your fist. They were all there in these little aquariums. You could go there and not eat anything, just look at the fish. France is also great. Good bread and cheese. I’m a big pastry aficionado.
There’s a very nice regional pastry that they do in Brittany called Kouign-Aman. It’s a wonderous, doughy thing that has this amazing caramelized coating. You can tap in on the table and it seems hard, but as soon as you bite into it, it gives way to a light, doughy inside. There’s also a faint apple-y taste to it. It’s amazing and you can really only get it there. When I found that out I was just eating as many as possible. We’re still waiting to go to Japan and really pig out. I think it will happen this year.
SB: Are there any foods that you won’t eat?
Al: Not really. I went to a city farm the other day and I saw some baby lambs. They had been bottle-fed so they come up to you and eat out of your hand. Very cuddly. So I promised myself — really, sincerely — that I wouldn’t eat lamb after that. But just today (laughs) we went to a Turkish restaurant and they had these really nice lamb kebabs with yogurt and tahini sauce. I gave in pretty much straight away. Other than that, I personally don’t like sweet corn that much. I also don’t care for Licorice flavors, so no fennel for me, though absinthe is another story.
SB: If you were performing on a breakfast chat show and the producers asked you to change the lyrics of "The Warning" from "Hot Chip will break your legs" to "Hot Chip will make some eggs" would you do it?
Al: (Laughs) Yes. We’re willing to do it — but keep it under your hat.
Look for The Warning in store May 22 in the UK and June 13 in America. Please buy it.