Interview: Four Tet

It’s all about family and fans when Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet puts down the baby and gets on the phone.

four tet

I’m talking to Kieran Hebden (also known as Four Tet) from London, and it’s a little difficult to understand what he’s saying over the sounds of a baby that seems to be very close to the phone. A couple of minutes into the conversation (during which I’ve been politely ignoring the assorted gurgles and cries) Hebden interjects; “Sorry, I’ve got a baby strapped to me here, she’s just getting a little bit grumpy.” The phone is put down, shuffling, and then he’s back, sans toddler. “I have a little 8 month old daughter and she just got up and is totally confused that I’ve been talking on the phone all morning.”

It seems last year was a game-changer for Hebden personally and professionally, especially considering his record There Is Love In You lifted him into the upper echelons of electronic music, his and Dan Snaith (Caribou/Manitoba) names upon all lips when talking dance music. Ask Hebden if he thinks his career has hit a new peak and he’s humble to say the least.

“I’ve put out so many records now, I don’t really think about it in those kind of terms, like peaks of career,” he admits. “I think it just feels nice to have been putting out records for so long and people to still be interested in things. But the nicest thing is the sense of freedom, the sense that things have built up to the point now where I can make any kind of music I want and people would give it a listen – they’ve got some respect for what I’m doing and that feels very nice and flattering.”

“It feels good to see people I know reference the music a lot… that definitely feels very, very nice, to be considered some sort of pioneer in any way or anything like that. You couldn’t hope for more than to put forward ideas and people see those as important ideas.”

Four Tet fans will understand the intricacy in Hebden’s ideas; endless layers of samples, beats, sound and noise experimentation culminate in seamlessly constructed pieces of music. One has to wonder from where the inspiration appears.

“Sometimes I’m making a track because I can really imagine it in my mind and I’m trying to realise it, sometimes it can be messing around with a couple of sounds or something that form into a little small idea, and I sort of build on that,” explains Hebden. “Sometimes it’s a trick of my imagination that I think ‘Oh, that’s really good’ or ‘I can take that further.’”

Hebden works from home, meaning inspiration struck at home can instantly be realised with his simple set up of PC and digital software. It is a factor that he attributes as having an obvious and important impact on why his music is what it is.

“Music just sort of ties in with my everyday life. I like that I can get up and brush my teeth then work on the music for a little bit, have some lunch and see a friend and then work on the music for a little bit,” he muses. “It just becomes part of my life, always happening around everything else.”

“I think that way the music becomes a lot more tangled up with me and what’s actually happening with me, rather than it being, I go to the studio for very focused kind of work bursts all of the time. I think for me it’s a different thing.”

Not that Hebden slacks off; between touring his live show and DJ-ing, along with his prolific work with electronic artists like Burial, its unsurprising that he decided to take the pressure off when creating 2010’s There Is Love In You.

“I’m quite a workaholic in lots of ways, I’m always at it without having to think, I just naturally want to do stuff all the time,” he says. “One of the things with the last album was I didn’t want to have any kind of deadlines or goals or anything set, so that I could just naturally keep working on it until I had a feeling that it was done and right and ready.”

“I didn’t even play anything to any record company or anything til it was totally, utterly finished. I don’t think I even told many people I was working on it, just to get away from any pressure like that.”

Of course the record has seen him become a popular gentleman on the live circuit, having been performing steadily throughout last year in both DJ and live guises. Hebden draws a clear line between the two:

“The DJ thing, you play longer and more relaxed, a little more spontaneous and varies depending on the environment,” he says. “Whereas the live stuff I do is all my own music and I usually only play for an hour or so, much more intense and a bit more experimental. I’ll spend a lot of time taking elements of my music and trying to deconstruct them and make something new all on the spot, I think maybe half the crowd is there because they want to have a party and there’ll be half the crowd there who wants to hear my new music or ideas.”

So critically acclaimed and much loved electronic artist who straddles both sides of DJ and live performer with finesse, what could possibly erk Hebden before going on stage?

“I get very nervous if my family are there, they are the one exception,” he laughs. “I do shows in London and all my aunts and uncles and cousins and my parents turn out in force, and then for some reason I’m terrified. It puts this weird kind of pressure when you know all the people in the audience.”

But if not anyone else, surely you needn’t worry about the people who’ll definitely applaud at the end?

“Oh yeah, it’s ridiculous, of all the people there, they more than anybody are going to tell you how brilliant they think it is at the end of the show,” he concurs. “For some reason it’s more nervewracking! Even though you’re going to get this incredibly biased praise at the end of it.”

“They see me do everything, you just want them to think it’s cool.”

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