For The Chemical Brothers, joy can be a tricky emotion to get right - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
The Chemical Brothers on World Cafe
Chemical Brothers
Studio Sessions
  • "Skipping Like A Stone"
  • "No Reason"
  • "Goodbye"
  • "The Darkness That You Fear (Harvest Mix)"
  • "Song To The Siren"
  • "Where Do I Begin"

For over 30 years, The Chemical Brothers have been pushing the boundaries of dance music with their fusion of break beat, hip-hop, psychedelia and rock. Their music has infused dance floors everywhere with equal parts euphoria and solace, and For That Beautiful Feeling, their 10th studio album,is no exception.

The duo of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons wanted to capture a specific feeling on their newest record.

“For us, one of those emotions that’s really hard to get is joy,” Rowlands told World Cafe in a solo Zoom interview. “That’s a hard emotion to hit.”

The Chemical Brothers - Skipping Like A Stone ft. Beck

In this session, Rowlands talks about how The Chemical Brothers are always experimenting with sounds to capture all those beautiful feelings. Plus, he talks about the group’s new retrospective book, Paused in Cosmic Reflection, which looks back on the duo’s longtime friendship and creative partnership.

You can read some of the highlights from the conversation below, or listen to the whole session in the audio player above.

On starting work on a new album

“Our place we start with making a record is always from the same position of wanting to get something that’s inside of you, out of you. Making music is just the thing I like to do every day.

“I always like to come to the studio — it’s like it’s a place where you get to play around, have fun, make magic, make something happen. I know it’s a corny thing to say, but I still see the studio as this place where you can walk in with nothing and come out transformed. I suppose that transformative thing of music — the creation of music and listening to music, and how it moves you and what it does to you — is the reason we keep coming back to it.”

On capturing “joy”

“This record went through different stages … I think there was a real impetus to make something really direct. A lot of music, especially dance and electronic music, cloaks itself in … I don’t know what the word is, like, it’s a lot easier to be cooler and not [be direct.] And for us, one of those emotions that’s really hard to get is joy.

“That’s a hard emotion to hit. Like, depth of sadness is a quicker emotion, or there’s more signifiers that are accepted by cool musicians. Whereas joy is hard to do without it being too sentimental or too saccharine.

“We wanted it to feel light. I don’t want people to see the work in it. I want it to just feel like it’s just tumbled out.”

Ed Simons (left) and Tom Rowlands of The Chemical Brothers Hamish Brown/Courtesy of the artist

Ed Simons (left) and Tom Rowlands of The Chemical Brothers
Hamish Brown/Courtesy of the artist

On their book, Paused In Cosmic Reflection

“It’s mainly due to good friend of ours, Robin Turner, who was one of the first people who ever came to one of our early DJ gigs in London in, like, the basement of a pub.

“He would go around telling anyone that would listen that you should hear these DJs, so he has been with us from the start. He was always, like, ‘You gotta do a book.’ There’s so many different angles of the band. We have this whole visual world and all the people we’ve worked with and all the amazing collaborators and the history. [Robin] was, like, ‘It’s never been all collated into one place.’

“Part of me has always been, like, ‘I don’t want to look back at any point. I just want to keep it moving forward.’ But it was quite interesting and it was quite emotional, really, to go back and look at all these sort of experiences that Ed and I have had and all the things we’ve done and all the music we’ve made and all the people we’ve worked with and all the friends that we have made through music and through our live shows and celebrating that.”

On the duo’s enduring partnership

“It wasn’t like a ‘bassist seeks drummer’ kind of thing. We liked hanging out with each other. We’re happy in each other’s company. But it’s amazing, really, that we’re this long into it.

“There have been lots of points of disagreement along the way, and to be able to sort of negotiate that and still call ourselves good friends this far in? We still feel connected to each other when we step on stage. This weekend, we were playing live, and on Sunday, we were DJing in Ibiza at, like, four o’clock in the morning. It’s quite surreal and it’s fun. We entertain each other when we’re DJing. It’s nice having your friend next to you when you’re in those weird environments. It’s incredible, really, that we’re still together.”

Episode Playlist

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