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Q&A: The Chemical Brothers

Twenty years on from the release of their debut album, The Chemical Brothers are back and as vital as ever. But just where the hell is Ed?

  • Dave Jenkins
  • 14 July 2015
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Vintage synths are going for a lot of money these days… do you worry you'll batter them on tour?

These are all the ones we have two of! We bought these machines when no one really wanted them. Everyone was like 'Eugh, what do you want that for? You want to get a nice workstation!' But we've got a great back line who makes sure they're looked after.

It's been far too long since your last album. The longest we've had to wait…

We needed our spark. We have to have a reason to make music. We make records that we love, and every time we make a new one we have to love it as much as the others. It takes a lot of experimenting to find that sound or that idea or theme.

'Further' had a very distinct theme, didn't it?

Yeah, it was a very singular theme with no vocalists. It was always meant to be played live from start to finish and we had films for each song. It was very specific. Like all records we've done, this one is a reaction to the last one. 'Further' was complicated, synth-heavy and with lots of layers. This one is rawer and more instinctive with more funk to it. We got inspired by writing [the first single from the new album] 'Sometimes I Feel So Deserted'; we'd played it in a few DJ sets in the middle of a lot of techno. It worked in context, but it sounded like nothing else. It hasn't got that booming kick-drum or really sharp hats. It's got an almost live, broken techno feel to it.

'Just Bang' is like that, too. It sounds like an old LFO record.

Thank you! Sometimes you want to make an amazing massive piece of music that tells the world everything you love about music. And other days you just write a song that bangs, right? We love those rough, raw records
that are just a really solid groove that makes everyone go crazy. We're just as excited about making a record like that as we are working with Beck on a really considered piece of music.

You've got a great balance of both raw and considered on the new album…

All our records move around a lot. Even going way back to 'Exit', you've got 'Chemical Beats' which is an acid breakbeat monster then you've got 'Alive Alone' with Beth Orton which is the polar opposite. We love albums that take you all around the place. That's something we're really excited by; we want to take you somewhere and do something to you.

That sums up every album you've made! There's not one reader who won't have specific memories attached to your albums. So what memories do each album give you? What springs to mind?

Wow… OK, well 'Exit Planet Dust' makes me think of The Heavenly Social and all the inspiring musical things that were happening at the time. 'Dig Your Own Hole' came after touring a lot and finding mad records at little record shops in the middle of, say, Kansas City or somewhere.

How about 'Surrender'?

The first thing that springs to mind is the first time we played it and people were like 'Eurgh! This is 4/4 charty stuff!' We were like 'Really?' It was influenced by playing live and the endless tours after the last two albums, I guess.

'Come With Us'…

Working with Richard Ashcroft: the first time he opened his mouth and sang in the studio. These primal noises came out and it was like 'Woah!' that was a definite studio moment!

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