Interview: Hot Hot Heat
Thu, 20 Sep 2007 11:42:50
After the supremely catchy album Make Up the Breakdown (2002) garnered an enthusiastic response, the tastemaking public's interest in Hot Hot Heat's follow-up, Elevator (2005), felt lukewarm by comparison. At the time, insiders speculated that perhaps some resentment lingered in the air, caused by the post-punk-pop band's mainstream ambitions, first signaled by a Make Up the Breakdown mid-promotion jump from indie label Sub Pop to major Warner Brothers.
But, as bassist Dustin Hawthorne asserted to us over the phone, it's "the jackass at the record store" who can't deal with evolution, who misses the spastic, jerky production of their break-out album, which has been replaced by a polished sheen on the band's new release, Happiness Ltd..
Incorporating elements of Elvis Costello and XTC, the band experiments with an even bigger sound on Happiness and defiantly reprimands reluctant listeners on the first track to move on because, as singer Steve Bays shouts in his signature yelp, "happiness is limited."
It would appear bandmate Hawthorne agrees, as he talked to ARTISTdirect about the new record seemingly under duress. Yet, in spite of the unforthcoming nature of the chat, a few insightful gems are still offered up...
What are you up to?
I was just listening to The Misfits. I haven't listened to them in awhile. I saw them in 1996 with only one original member. It was pretty lame but I love their music.
Are you still based in Vancouver?
Yes, absolutely. We're quite happy living there.
Your second record was released on Sub Pop but then mid-promotion it was re-released by Warner Brothers? What happened there?
Warner's picked up certain components of the record, it was a collaboration between the two labels. Before we put out Make Up the Breakup, there were major labels sniffing around already so it wasn't surprising when they signed us. It was a good career move.
Was there a different reaction fan-wise when you left a reputable indie for a major?
It didn't seem like it. I mean, someone was always going to be upset by that sort of move. But there's always a backlash, there's always someone who will be upset at you for doing better than they are. The jackass at the record store will talk shit regardless, so whatever.
Is there a supportive Vancouver scene? I'm aware of the large film industry up there but music…?
A lot of bands come up from Seattle to play. Black Mountain and that scene is from up here and that band is stoner-licious. I did see Renee Zellweger up there and she totally checked me out. She must like rocker guys.
Vancouver is probably pretty stoner-jam-esque, I'd imagine. Are there any bands doing what you guys do, the new-wave sound?
Yeah, there are a few. There's this Black Flag-meets-Interpol band called Elizabeth. It's pretty rad. Pretty intense. Living up here is great. Vancouver has this shitty, punk underbelly where bands are playing all the time in an undisclosed location. It's got these great pockets, you just need to know someone in the know.
You recorded the new record in both Vancouver and Los Angeles. Needed a change of scenery?
Yeah, we recorded a lot of songs in Vancouver but it needed more. So we went to Los Angeles and we jammed. Those songs sounded so much better in a new location so we were really happy with the results.
That big medallion thing on the album cover is Photoshop, correct?
[laughs] I wish we had that massive medallion to bring to shows but yeah, it's Photoshop.
Too bad. Having one of those would've been so badass. Coming off of the lukewarm response to Elevator, what was your recording strategy?
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