HigherFrequency


Kieran Hebden Interview (Jun 2006)
May 7, 2007, 9:21 am
Filed under: Interview

Despite being around 50 years younger, Kieran Hebden better known as Four Tet, has a lot in common with James Brown, Fats Domino and Miles Davis. That’s because he has recently released two albums and is currently on tour with legendary jazz drummer Steve Reid who in the past has worked with the three prominent 20th century artists. The duo are pushing their experimental future jazz style something that, according to Kieran himself, may’ve been much harder to get started without his previous successes as Four Tet.

“Rounds” and “Everything Ecstatic” were especially big hits for the London based producer that saw him touring the globe relentlessly, last year putting on around one hundred shows. And it wasn’t just his original productions as Four Tet that appeased audiences worldwide, his remixes of Sia, Radiohead and Kings of Convenience put smiles on many a face.

So it was with new doors opened from Four Tet’s critical acclaim that Kieran Hebden brought his collaboration with Steve Reid to the first ever Taico Club event. We caught up with the fatigued but pleasantly verbose Kieran after a tough weekend of shows.

Interview & Introducion by Nick Lawrence (HigherFrequency)

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HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : You must be pretty tired, you played at Taico Club on the weekend and in Tokyo last night.

Kieran Hebden : Yeah I know. Osaka on Friday as well, I was DJing. Yeah, it was a heavy weekend but I had some sleep last night so it’s all good.

HRFQ : One thing we wanted to talk to you about actually is your DJing. You’ve played at the End and DC-10, how is this different from producing and playing live?

Kieran Hebden : It’s really different. The DJing was just something I started doing for fun. It’s something I’ve always done in London. I think if you are producing music it is a good thing to do, just to keep reminding you of the effect music can have. Hearing it loud and seeing people react to it in a very instant physical way, is another side of music other than just listening to it at home. When you go out and buy a new hip hop record or techno record or whatever listening to it at home is one thing but hearing it in a club is a completely different experience. Recently I started getting asked to do things that were more serious, I don’t know why. Like when I met Timo Maas and he got me to play at DC-10 then after that we got a residency together in London. That was a really new thing to me, playing to a hardcore clubbing crowd but I just loved it. I went along and did an 8 hour set which I had never done before. I play more minimal and experimental things and some old Detroit things as well.

HRFQ : If we can talk about your background a little bit, you’ve played guitar in a band, produced music as Four Tet, now your moving into the jazz area and you’ve also played in a backup band for Badly Drawn Boy. How would you explain your music?

Kieran Hebden : It’s kind of generalcI’ve been influenced by a lot of things. If you look at my age, my generation and where I’ve grown up in London it’s not hugely surprising. I was in bands since I was thirteen or fourteen. I was in rock bands and stuff at the same time drum n bass was happening, I was hearing that at school everyday. Everything was just around me and it didn’t seem weird to be into all these things. With something like that as a starting point combined with the fact that my father’s a really big music fan, so at home I was listening to music from the past like soul, jazz and funk. I think my musical upbringing was incredibly rounded, so it’s always made sense to me and that’s the way I’ve always done things.

HRFQ : So you are just into everything?

Kieran Hebden : Yeah, well it’s just more interesting to me to one week be playing guitar and then the next week be DJing in Ibiza and then the next week playing experimental electronic music in Japan.

HRFQ : Does it ever get to you that some people might not really know who Four Tet is, that it’s Kieran Hebden?

Kieran Hebden : No, not particularly. I like those things where there is music and you might be quite into and know a bit about it but when you explore it a little further you find there is a whole world of things going on. People can involved as little or as much as they want and it doesn’t matter neither here nor there.

HRFQ : Can you tell us a little bit about Four Tet?

Kieran Hebden : I think that specific project was me discovering that I was into electronic music, and that I had finally found a medium where I felt I was able to really do something that broke down some boundaries and do something quite different. Playing in bands and stuff you pick up a guitar and what are you going to do on a guitar that hasn’t been done before? Once I started making music on computer I found that there were all sorts of possibilities there and it was much easier for me to do something with a more original sound. Because it was quite successful that motivated me as well, suddenly everyone was into it and that gave me opportunities to do all sorts of stuff. So I ended up focusing all my energy towards that over the past few years and touring it a lot. Last year I probably did 100 shows. So, it was quite a conscious decision to try out some other things and take advantage of some of the options like the possibilities of collaborations and compilations that I’d been offered but hadn’t really had time to do.

HRFQ : You had some very successful albums, especially “Rounds” can you tell us what went into these?

Kieran Hebden : “Dialogue” was very jazz influenced and “Pause” had this folk influence going on. If I had any criticism of those two albums it was that they were too much products of their own influences. By the time I got to “Rounds” I found my own sound a lot more and managed to get a lot more of my own personality into it.

HRFQ : Is it different producing an album rather than singles?

Kieran Hebden : That album, I kind of wrote everything in a fairly small timescale, in the space of a few months really. It took a while to sort of nail it but all the songs were initially written during the same time. I guess because of that they have a kind of thread running through them. I guess an album could be just a collection of singles you’ve written over the years but it wouldn’t really feel like a whole album, it’d be more like a compilation. So yeah, the way I saw it was work on the whole thing as a project in itself.

HRFQ : So those albums have definitely helped?

Kieran Hebden : Oh yeah, the success of “Rounds” had a huge effect on everything I’m doing. You have a record that sells a lot and all the people that work around you are more willing to do what you want to do. It means that everyone from concert promoters to record companies don’t have that sort of fear that each thing you decide to do is either make or break. I think that a project like the thing I’m doing with Steve Reid had come before the Four Tet albums it would be much more of a struggle to get people to work on it. I’m lucky to be in a situation where the public have really only known about it since last year but it’s been easy to set up tours and things like that. We could get some momentum on it very quickly.

HRFQ : How did you and Steve originally meet?

Kieran Hebden : I had an idea that I was looking for a drummer to play with because I was really into free jazz duos of like drums and saxophones. I was at a jazz festival and I went to a night of duos, at the time I was touring as Four Tet and the music was becoming more and more improvised. So I thought that I could do that sort of thing with a drummer. I mentioned it to a friend of mine in France and he managed to find out that Steve was living in Europe. He had a show in London with his Jazz ensemble so we met up and said, “Yeah let’s do it.” Just a month later we did a show together in Paris, which was just over a year ago I think.

HRFQ : Where do you guys find the energy because we saw you on the weekend at Taico Club and it is just so full on?

Kieran Hebden : We definitely both get into it. I think some people are seeing this as an experimental free jazz kind of thing but I don’t think we see it like that at all. We both come from backgrounds of essentially dance music. He played with James Brown, Wilson Pickett and all the Motown guys. He says in those days he used to play at these dances that would always have a band playing. He says he always plays with a kind of pulse behind what he is doing. I think people are expecting us to start playing seated jazz and stuff like that but at things like the Taico Club festival that’s way more our kind of speed. We’ve been touring around with hip hop acts and all sorts. I wanted the music to be accessible to a younger audience and for it to be a twist on contemporary electronic music, to see that music to be brought into this improvisational context.

HRFQ : So far you and Steve have had two albums, is there anything else in the works or is it just touring now?

Kieran Hebden : We are doing mainly touring at the moment but we have been working on a new record which wouldn’t come out until next year. Volume 1&2 is our very very first recording session. The reason that there are two volumes is that we went into the recording studio and we didn’t know what would happen essentially. The first time you ever record or play with someone in that way there is a kind of naivety and certain sort of magic that you never ever get back, there’s a sort of innocence there. I decided that this first release, rather than worrying about the concept of the album or whatever I wanted to think of it more in terms of a document of this first kind of meeting together. It is every single thing that happened during that day. I think it years to come it is important that that sort of pristine document of the very first session. Now that we have been playing together for a year and the music is evolving and for example the show the other night sounded very different to what was on the albums. Now we are working on a new record that is a completely different vibe from the first two. I think the rate of change with Steve and I is very rapid.

HRFQ : So you are finding your musical minds are working really well together?

Kieran Hebden : Yeah, it’s one of the most natural musical connections I’ve ever had with another musician. We don’t even have to talk about the music really, we just play. Everything that I wish, everyway I wish it is going to change and develop it just does. I can play Steve a bassline and he’ll just play the dream beat over it. He is just above and beyond anybody I’ve ever played with. To be able to work at that speed and we have just done shows and recording sessions with only one take. That’s the way it happens and that’s the way it is and that’s the way it’s always going to be.

HRFQ : Well that’s about all the questions we’ve got time for so thank you for talking to us.

Kieran Hebden : No problem.

End of the interview

Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid Official Site
Four Tet Official Site

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