Four Tet Interview

Set the controls for the sun of your heart!

Neo house, dubstep, funky or perhaps good old folktronica… We are dancing around Four Tet’s least favourite journalistic staple: The Music Genre.

“It’s all a bit silly to me,” frowns the thirty-two-year-old, “the speed in which everybody’s trying to bring out new genres. Sometimes I think it’s a bit disrespectful to what’s come before it.”

Kieran Hebden is all about noting progression. His sixth LP for Domino, ‘There Is Love On You’, is all about stretching his own horizons and those of the UK’s amorphous dance scene. It’s as much about the magical moments found within the elastic tempo of a drum beat as it is those emotions that swell upside you that make life habitable.

– – –

This is an excerpt from an article that appears in the February issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from January 11th. You can read the full issue online HERE and subscribe to Clash Magazine HERE.

– – –

On just one listen you can see his angle. It’s cerebral, euphoric, melodic and cleaner than an MP’s moat. ‘There Is Love In You’ urges its listener to dwell on that white light moment of perfect happiness occasionally wrought when listening to music. Having found fame in his band Fridge, remixed Aphex Twin, Radiohead and Black Sabbath and released around eleven albums, he’s a man that is in complete control of his sonic visions and every detail within them.

“This album’s more about bliss,” the producer vigorously declares. “It’s about being completely lost in music in some ways. To me, music’s like this sacred thing; it’s like my escape, the thing that helps me through life. When I started making this album, I wanted to make music that touched on those moments that make me feel on fire inside, make me feel sublime. I think that ties in the DJing a lot.”

It seems incongruous to be pairing something as addictively fleeting as bliss with something as wanky as Djing, but Hebden’s new album is very much focused on feeling, flow, timing and moments. And it’s informed by the dancefloor. He’s spent most of the last two years immersed in club culture over three distinct London residencies. The first two were at legendary club The End alongside Timo Maas and James Holden, whilst the last was at Plastic People. This latter is regarded as the altar of the dubstep scene beatified via events such as FWD>> and the club’s incredible sound system that crowds the dance floor on every side.

“When I started DJing at The End it was like being thrown in the deep end. I was scared again. It was new to me. And also around that time dance music was so uncool, this was in 2007: Justice or whatever was around but in general it was like the Kings Of Leon or something; rock bands were getting all the press. It felt like there was no one there because they’d read about it in ID Magazine.” These three DJ-based clubs melded this record more than you’d imagine for a man often spoken in the same breath as improvised jazz musicians.

– – –

– – –

Hebden not only went to school though with Burial (Elliot School, which also boasts The xx and Hot Chip as GCSE graduates) but also produced the UK’s highest selling 12” vinyl in 2009 with a collaboration with Burial that came out on Hebden’s part time Text Records. This was a lovely split A-side record recorded with Britain’s recently unmasked man of bass. Burial’s anonymous stance had created so much hype around his music and his identity that forum theories ricocheted around speculating that it was everyone from Fatboy Slim to Hyperdub label boss Kode9. Fire in a Mercury nomination and the question mark just got bigger.

Hebden, however, was unmoved, focusing purely on the job in hand: “When I’d see him we’d just be working on the music, he wouldn’t even talk about anything like that. When he put that post up on his MySpace about his reasons for coming out of anonymity, it’s just true. He was really being honest, he is like that, he’s just a mellow guy who’s into the music he’s making. People couldn’t cope with the idea that there wasn’t more to him, that there wasn’t some mad scam involved or some hocus-pocus. They couldn’t cope with the simplicity of the fact that someone wanted to play their music in a quiet kind of way. His album, especially ‘Untrue’, and the James Holden album (‘The Idiots Are Winning’) are like the two pinnacles in British music that we’ve experienced in the last few years. I think ‘Untrue’ is magical; it’s got an amazing quality that you can’t put your finger on, that pure art. That’s because it’s made by someone who’s truly dedicated and I don’t understand why anyone would be annoyed almost that he’s so dedicated.”

– – –

Four Tet and Burial – MOTH

– – –

After Four Tet’s third album ‘Rounds’ came out, Hebden had not only generated a massive fan base but also conjured a new genre and therefore a stigma he was hounded with. So, has the heavy and distorted sea change of ‘Everything Ecstatic’ finally shaken off the typecast of being the creator of folktronica? “No! The term took on way more than you’d anticipate. People have been talking to me about the effects of the Internet, and the way things are archived now. It means that whole folktronica thing is there to stay. When NME put ‘Ro-Mo’ on the cover in the late-Nineties, the revival of the romantic movement, they tried to start this new movement and no one noticed that at all. But if something like that had happened in recent times, it’s all archived, you could find it all on Wikipedia. Things stick around in new ways at the moment. The fact that it probably says folktronica on my Wikipedia page, means that it’s around to stay. It’s become a story in itself.”

Whatever the next narrative is to be spun rests firmly on the listener. He in fact begs us to be introspective as he sets the controls for the sun in our hearts: “I love the idea of people dancing on the beach to a sunset on Ibiza or whatever. I think people have that moment of blissfulness when they’re really enjoying a piece of music. I think it’s those moments that remind you of the love inside you and how much you can actually enjoy something.”

Words by Matthew Bennett
Photos by Steve Double

Read ClashMusic’s review of Four Tet’s ‘There Is Love In You’ album HERE and hear it on HERE.

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.