Trent Wolbe: It sounds like you have about 25 interviews to do over the next couple of days. You looking forward to that or is that something youíre not into too much?
Kieran Hebden: I dunno. Itís one of those weird things, itís been happening for a number of years now. You sort of get used to it.
TW: I feel like Iíve never seen the same photo of you twice, or the same interview more than once. Do you enjoy the business end of doing things at all?
KH: No, I donít necessarily particularly enjoy it. I donít wanna be one of those stuffed up guys thatís like, you know oh you know Iím only gonna talk to you know, this massive magazine or whatever and everybody else can go away or blah blah blah. I canít haveÖ itís one of those things, once you start you kind of have to see it though almost I think.
TW: Speaking of being stuck up, I read an interview with you about your reaction to the whole downloading thing, which is kind of kind of tired to talk about now but you said ďthe fact that I can reach a kid in Venezuela is probably a hell of a lot more important than people absorbing the music in your stuck yup way. We should be happy people are listening to this stuff all over the world.Ē [Stylus magazine, 3/17/06, www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/interview/four-tet.htm] It seems to me that people forget that people with limited means are gonna get their hands on new music or food or clothes or whatever the cheapest way possible no matter what the ethics of it are. Do you think that people would do better for themselves and their music if they just kinda let go of the exclusivity of buying stuff in its original form, when people canít get it any other way like the kid in Venezuela, or do you think itís important to keep some sort of level of integrity in the physical copy of it?
KH: I donít know if itís important. I think it kind of depends on what youíre trying to do. I do believe in the kind of musicians or whatever having an outlet to like put forward what theyíre doing in the context that they think it makes sense in and for them to in a way they want to, you know? Iím not gonna just like shut down my music and let any old person design the sleeve or let any old person master it or decide the track order or all these types of things. You do want to try and keep some sort of element of control over the whole thing so that you feel as though youíre presenting what you do in the way that you thinkís right. You make the music and if you make the decision to release it youíre kind of communicating it to people and thereíll be a certain way you wanna do that. I can totally understand the idea of caring about what Iím doing and think about it. At the same time, you know, I think that thereís a balance. If itís completely losing your mind, desperately fighting to stop anybody being able to do anything, I think a lot of the time itís just people making sure theyíre getting money for everything.
TW: I guess youíre playing in hongkong soon right?
TW: In a place like that, thereís really no telling how your music couldíve gotten there without this kind of stuff.
KH: Different art, different culture. Whatís happened there over the years economically and politically is completely different to what weíre experiencing in England or other places I guess. You canít really just apply blanket kind of rules on everybody and be like, this is the way people all over the world are in quite different situations to each other.
TW: Do you expect to feel a different reaction there than youíve had in other places?
KH: People always ask me if itís different country to country. But itís not, itís kind of different night to night. It totally depends on the mood in the room that night, the people, and my mood, and the venue and the sound and all those sorts of things. Last time I played in China it was fantastic and it wasnít vastly different from me going and playing in, you know, France or Belgium or Manchester or Portland or something. Kids show up and you know listen to loud music and hopefully smile and have a good time.
TW: I came to your work through the Apehx Twin remix for the Warp [10+1 Influences] compilation in 1999. That and Pause were kind of big parts of me growing up with this kind of music. When I come in today and listen to your work with Steve Reid or to Everything Ecstatic, you seem to have broken down and gotten less interested in details and more interested in jamming, whatever that means, for how you produce. Do you feel the same way or do you still feel like thereís a tremendous amount of detail as there was in something like Pause?
KH: Yeah, I feel there is the same amount of detail, maybe even more detail in some ways. A musician like Steve playing half an hour being the sort of drummer he is, and the way he plays, you know Iím used to kind of drum loops where every time it happens itís the same, whereas every single hit Steve makes on the snare thereís a different idea behind it and he has so much control over what heís doing. I think on one level thereís really really kind of intense detail in there. At the same time, the recordings I make with Steve are about capturing a moment between the two of us whereas the music I made on a record like Pause is very very composed, created over a long period of time. Every second of itís kind of considered. Theyíre just very different ways of working. I donít think I was doing that in the past and now Iím doing something different. If you listen to, Iím in this band called Fridge. If you listen to the stuff I did with them beforeÖ.thatís kind of more kind of like live instrumentation and improvisation. Thatís most of what Iím doing with Steve now, so I think theyíre just you know theyíre different ways that I work and different things that I do.
TW: I was listening to [Fridgeís 1997 debut] Ceefax a couple of days ago and kind of going over how that sounded to me after hearing the second exchange session [recorded with Steve Reid] and thereís so much similarity between the electronics that go over the stuff with Fridge and what youíre doing with Steve Reid. Has that live side of things always been important to you? I read an interview with you sometime between Pause and Rounds that said you just got software you got for free from the internet to produce all your songs [The Milk Factory, 6/2001, www.themilkfactory.co.uk/interviews/fourtetiw.htm]. And it feels like itís changed with the Exchange Sessions, but at the same time you were doing a long time ago with Fridge right?
KH: I think I came out of that as sort of first a musician doing live music and stuff and thatís where I started out. Guitar and things like that. I think thereís always been partly in my way of thinking and I never imagined Iíd get kind of so heavily involved in sort of programmed and sequenced electronic music, but I started doing it and it just seemed to be a really great way to really get ideas out and I had a kind of flair for it and it was all going really well. Iíve never been just becoming completely obsessed with one method of doing something and then aggressively pursuing it forever after that. I like the idea of what Iím doing comes from evolving and changing.
TW: For your recordings with Steve Reid, youíre using your birth name. It doesnít feel like Four Tet.
KH: Yeah, thatís why it wasnít called a Four Tet record. Itís definitely a different thing. Itís not my project, itís our project, itís me and Steve. Weíre kind of both playing very much an equal kind of percentage of ideas and methods and stuff into the whole kind of process and music and everything. Itís not supposed to be a side project to the Fout Tet thing or a continuation of it necessarily. Itís just supposed to be something different and new. This is just something new I do right now. And you know, who knows whatíll become of it or how far itíll go? Itís already turned into a much bigger thing than I anticipated in the start. Itís been a lot more rewarding for Steve and I than I think we ever couldíve imagined. Touring all over the place, very excited about the music weíre making. Itís never been my intention to kind of intrinsically link it to the Four Tet stuff. I also want people to enjoy the Four Tet records. To at least be curious enough to check it out. Itís made by me as well and I think my sound and styleís in there.
TW: I thought one of the nicest part of the packaging for the exchange sessions Steve Reid thanking you for kind of being his musical soulmate. And that struck me as really a deep thing for him especially to say after heís played with all these people. When you were first playing with him did you have meaningful dialogue from the get-go or did you need to kind of spend a lot of time working out chemistry?
KH: Well that was the thing, we didnít need any dialogue. It was already there. We just started playing and after five minutes we were like whoa, weíre totally on the same wavelength. Totally understand what each othersí trying to do. We could instantly see what it could become as well. Itís just really really kind of an exciting time for us. And it still is now. Weíre headed on tour, weíve probably done about 20 shows over the past few months. To hear what the musicís become now itís just really really exciting for me. Itís just really consolidating the sort of natural musical connection I think we have, and the musicís just getting where itís like more and more exciting. I feel like weíre able to achieve more and more as we get better and better at what weíre trying to do.
TW: are you both able to speak to each other about your individual Do you feel comfortable enough working with him to say, maybe you should go in this direction with your drumming now, or is he comfortable enough to talk to you about how your electronics are going or do you kind of leave each other be?
KH: We kind of leave each other be. Thereís never been a moment where I thought, I want Steve to do something more like this. He really seems to get it. Iím much more excited to see what he comes up with rather than me kind of suggest. Heís a kind of master of the drums and the stuff he does, itís best when itís beyond what I could imagine and beyondÖI mean weíll discuss the dynamic a little bit sometimes, whether weíre gonna play something mellow or fierce. But intrinsically, we never go into any detail about what weíre gonna do.
TW: When you were touring with him, you played with a whole lot of different people, everyone from Ty Braxton to Carl Craig. How did the audience go throughout the night? Did they seem equally interested in everything that was going on or did the people who came to see you not wanna stick around for Arab Strap or whoever, like Carl Craig?
KH: Yeah, this tour is completely different night by night. The night we played with Carl Craig it was a Friday night, kind of a club thing. People that kind of danced and stuff and weíre playing to a crowd, like jumping around and cheering and really kind of drunk and quite raucous and we did our thing at like midnight and then Carl Craig goes on afterwards and people are kind of dance into the night and stuff. And I think thereís a lot of audience thatís out for a good time at a show like that, it isnít just specifically completely geeked out on what the music is. They just wanna kinda enjoy themselves. The night after, we played with Battles and the Sun Ra Arkestra. And that was a much more kind of clued-up audience in terms of what theyíd come to see and they were very serious about music theyíd come to watch. They were like 1100 people or something like that. I think the people were pretty serious about what they were going to see, it was a very different atmosphere than playing a really dark all night rave situation with Carl Craig the night before. I wouldnít say oneís better than the other, theyíre just kind of different experiences. One of the things Steve and I are interested in doing is really doing something thatís kind of open to all different types of people, music fans and things. I really didnít wanna push this down the kind of experimental music group where weíre only going to get booked in kind of secret gigs in a large hurry, and itís gonna get treated as a highbrow thing. Iím quite happy to do a show where everybodyís jumping around on ecstacy and thereís a strobe light going in the hallway.
TW: Throughout the years reading interviews with you, every single one has mentioned and made quite a big deal out of you having diverse tastes and churning out music that seems diverse and eclectic. It seems funny to me that people still view this as something kind of new and different. So rather than ask you about your influences, I just want to ask you if you and the people around you and younger than you grew up in a time when it didnít really matter what you were listening to? I feel like itís kind of a shock to rock journalism or whatever you wanna call it, and to be honest it annoys me a little bit.
KH: It annoys me even more!
TW: I would imagine. Do you even see your taste as that diverse? I canít imagine you thinking about it actively all the time.
KH: I would never think about it except for the fact that itís something that people always go on about to me. Itís something I always have to explain. And itís not something I have to explain to my friends. All the people around me listen to a very diverse range of music. I think there is that thing where Iíve definitely taken the time to really learn about a wider range of music than most people bother to spend the time because itís totally my life and my passion and the thing Iíve really kind of pursued. I have wanted to make it interesting and I wanna really understand them and know what was going on with all these certain musical kinds of things and Iíve listened to thousands of records, read about them and all this stuff. There is that level where maybe I confuse lots of types of music. But I donít think itís a hugely surprising thing given my age and the culture Iíve grown up in.
TW: And youíre a musician. Youíd think people would get it by now. The shock to me is that itís still so shocking. Itís not just you, itís everyone.
KH: A lot of time itís the easiest way that magazines and journalists and stuff feel that they can build up some sort of story or try and explain in words what they think Iím doing in 200 words that sound slightly like theyíve got a clue.
TW: Iím gonna once again read you back something you said to Stylus magazine a while ago: ďWhere are the young kids coming out and being like, I wanna be onstage with my fucking computer and make noise?Ē And then you go on and say, ďIím quite militant about not having any visuals at the show, no projections. Everybody went off on this multimedia fuckfest and just took all of the weight out of it.Ē The few times that Iíve seen you, 3 or 4 times I guess, you stayed completely within the laptop. Is that still the way that your Four Tet shows are going?
KH: Yeah, definitely. Iíve been doing so many Four Tet shows over the last year, a hundred shows or something. At the moment Iím just doing this stuff with Steve and just taking a break from that. Nothingís particularly changed. The thing that has changed is how weíre doing shows last year and the show was the same as ever but I felt like people that had seen me quite a few times and I think my ability was a lot to do with the equipment, kind of got further in the last year and playing to an audience thatís really understanding what Iím trying to do. There are people who have listened to recordings of live sets and listened to the albums and seen the live shows, totally kind of getting their head around what I was kind of interested in doing. I think that the last tour, during last year, it had hit that point where I hadnít compromised what I was trying to do at all with kind of live things but I felt like it had been kind of totally successful. Like packing out venues and people really really going for it, having a good time, and really seemed kind of entertained. That was kind of as good as I could hope for really, I was like yeah, Iím doing what I want to do and people are coming and having a good time.
TW: The last time I saw you was in Brooklyn with the Caribou tour. I feel like Dan [Snaith, a.k.a. Caribou] and his band got the idea of the album, The Milk of Human Kindness out a lot better than you did with your Rounds material. Your live material was very different than the album whereas Dan with the whole band and projections got a much different feeling out. Do you make a big deal out of trying to replicate, or at least represent your album material when youíre playing as Four Tet?
KH: No, not at all. Thatís the thing. I just really didnít care about that and it was almost really important to me that the live show really didnít reflect, or have much to do with the album at all. That became even more extreme last year. Because I canít say thatÖthereís a frustration with modern live music, an obsession about people wanting to go to shows where they experience some sort of recreation of the album. And I think especially if you look back in live music in the 60s and 70s, Iíve been watching this Led Zeppelin DVD, theyíre playing all these massive songs, the crowdís going wild, but they donít sound anything like the versions on the record. Theyíre like 20 minutes long, different tempos, loads of different ideas in there. They wouldíve played that stuff different every night. It just made me think massive rock bands, now you go see Coldplay or something and you know if anything sounds slightly different form the CD everybodyís kinda, uhhÖ doesnít sound as good as their album.
TW: I donít wanna say that itís not as good as the album. I have the feeling itís completely different.
KH: Itís become quite a standard thing for people to go to concerts and generally expect to hear people recreating their album. Thereís a thing going on in London at the moment that happens every 6 months where they have a band come through and supposedly perform their classic album in its entirety in a very kind of popular live show happening in London at the moment. Everyone from the Lemonheads to Violent Femmes have been doing it. I just find the whole concept weird as hell. I wanna go and see like a live show and I wanna see a slice of where that musician is now, today, at that moment. Where their thinking is right now, what kind of excites them musically at that moment. And thatís what I decided to form my whole live show around. I guess the influence Iíve gotten from jazz music and things is really coming a lot from that as well. Thereís guys who, theyíd record something on an album, and then the live show will be about taking that piece and exploring it, letting it kind of evolve and change, doing different versions of ďMy Favorite ThingsĒ that Coltrane did over the years, itís a constantly changing evolving piece of music and recordings were capturing a moment of where it was at the time. You know, you go to a live show and see where itís gone to next. Iím trying to do that with my music as well.
TW: Do you listen to your old material very much?
KH: I listen to stuff for reference sometimes, to kind of remind myself where Iím going and what Iím doing. Not very interested in repeating myself. I listen to old recordings of live shows and things, Iíll go back and check out bits and pieces. Iíve released a lot of music and made an enormous amount of music now. I need to remind myself here and there, and just check with things. I canít say I listen to itÖI might enjoy it when I listen to it, but I never put it on with the idea of just enjoying it and having some kind of pleasure. Itís either some kind of technical issue I wanna check out, and there is steeped in memory some things as well, Iíll listen to something old and especially if I listen to an old Fridge record, that will totally bring back a thousand memories of things that were happening to me at the time.
TW: How is the new Fridge record coming along?
KH: Weíve been writing it, and weíre actually going to the studio in June to record the album. We havenít done anything together in like 3 or 4 years. Itís definitely exciting and fun. It feels like having a big break like that seems to have been a good thing, revitalized us. I think weíve all done a lot since then. Weíll be able to make a record thatís definitely got all sorts of new areas with different influences and sounds. Iím quite excited to see whatíll happen. Iím not quite saying to anybody when a recordís going to exist. Because until itís recorded and done I donít know whatís gonna happen, but weíre definitely trying to make one.
By Trent Wolbe