Interview: The Hot Rats
What do you get when you put Gaz Coombs and Danny Goffey, formerly of 90s mock-Brit pop trio Supergrass, and superproducer Nigel Godrich (commonly described as “the sixth member of Radiohead”) together?Â How about aÂ covers band, who have recorded their ownÂ take on genre-definingÂ songs by Velvet Underground, Gang of Four, Michael Jackson and The Beatles, among others.
Ladies and gents, meet The Hot Rats.
“I’m the voice,” Danny Goffey proudly announces, with Gaz chipping in: “I’m the body!” The duo snigger, watching Nigel expectantly. “Yeah, well I’m the… face.” He pauses.Â ”That’s not really true.”
The men are sitting on the modest patio of Nigel’s not-at-all-modest recording studio in Soho. They’ve ordered wine (it’s midday) and Danny is wearing sunglasses (it’s not bright).Â 14 years ago, Danny and GazÂ released their famous hit ‘Alright’, underÂ the name of Supergrass and with bassistÂ Mick Quinn, and the boys still look like they’ve just walked off the video shoot for it.
“Supergrass hasn’t left the building yet”, says Goffey, but that’s a separate interview altogether. We’re genuinely more excited to hear about The Hot Rats – having listened to an album sampler, which sees the boys cover ‘Damaged Goods’ by Gang of Four and ‘Big Sky’ by The Kinks, among others, approaching the songs in a way really unique to their individual style and character, we can attest to this being a very exciting project. And with Nigel Godrich (emphasis on the ‘God’ bit), producing, can it really go wrong?
“This is low-key, it’s natural,” says Godrich. The group aren’t even looking for a record label, they’re hoping to get a licensing deal which will enable them to approach distributors themselves, cutting out the middle man. “Record labels have disappeared anyway,” he explains. “This isnâ€™t a normal project, we just do it because we want to, thereâ€™s no money out there. We put our time into it because weâ€™re enthusiastic and up for it.”
Godrich met the Supergrass fellas back in the 90s as they were under the same management as Radiohead, who Nigel has produced nearly all the records of. They met frequently through the industry ‘circuit’ and became friends, so Danny says. “We met up at a show and were saying how much fun it would be to record â€˜Beat Itâ€™ by Michael Jackson and Nigel was like yeah, Iâ€™ve got a studio, itâ€™ll be a laugh. So then we started talking about other songs we wanted to work on…”
Hot Rats – ‘Damaged Goods’ (Gang of Four cover)
Gaz interrupts: “Danny and I had done some DJing and a few of the tracks we chose were from there. It had this mixtape mentality to it, these are songs you put on in the car, just different versions of them, of great songs. It happened so naturally, when we got into Nigel’s studio it was easy because of the vastness of it – and Nigel’s experience – I would start drumming a song and have the finished recording in ten minutes.”
And so came the songs, thick and fast. Their ‘Beat It’ cover didn’t make it onto the album, even though they love it, because they felt the recorded version just wasn’t up to standard. But tracks from The Doors, Beastie Boys and, of course, The Kinks did.
Danny: “It’s weird howÂ every track felt like a new beginning but when you listen to the album all the way through it does have this kind of, consistency, maybe the atmospheric elements or the expansiveness of it, there’s something that connects the songs even though they’re originally by different bands and from different eras.”
Nigel: “If you just get on with it things develop their own style and itâ€™s fun seeing what it turns out being, you donâ€™t design that, it turns out itself. It’s a beautiful thing how well this turned out.
“The important point to make about how sounds of records emerge is that if it is happening every fast you donâ€™t know itâ€™s happening. Itâ€™s very easy for me to work here [in my studio[, I know everything in the room, but also these guys are great musicians so itâ€™s just a lot faster,” he explains.
“When you have that velocity everyone involved just gets stuck in with their arms raised, itâ€™s just so exciting and you end up sort of… dizzy.”
Danny pauses, before adding: “yeah, so one thing led to another, as all great love affairs do, and before we knew it we were lying there hugging naked on the floor.”
The three steal a sideways glance at one another and laugh. It’s so very clear that they are on the same wavelength, relaxed, nothing to prove; just some dudes making some pretty great music, no expectation, no dishonesty. And, as Danny says, that’s how the best great love affairs begin.
You can hear some Hot Rats tracks at their myspace, www.myspace.com/thehotrats. Hot Rats play Reading and Leeds festival this weekend, and Bestival on the Isle of Wight on 12th September