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Four Tet - Interview

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 13 / 10 / 2003

Four Tet - Interview


Four Tet's third album 'Rounds' was released to enormous acclaim earlier this year. Main man Kieran Hebden speaks to Anthony Dhanendran about the incredible reaction to it, and how he has been touring with it ever since

Kieran Hebden is a busy man. Not one to shirk responsibility, he is doing what needs to be done. Right now, what needs to be done is his washing. "I'm going on tour on Monday – I'm just busy getting my stuff together at the moment." He has been touring an awful lot recently. Since the release of 'Rounds', his third album as Four Tet, he has been living on the road – or as much on the road as a modern "act" gets. The Four Tet spectacular has been all over the world, taking in Europe, America and Japan, where the local enthusiasm for British hip-hop and dance music is bewildering. "The years when you release a record are always like that," he says matter-of-factly. "You get used to it after you've put out a lot of records. You kind of get to know what to expect." Apart from the promotion for 'Rounds', Hebden has been concentrating on working on other people's music rather than his own: "I've done a few remixes this year, but I haven't been doing much of my own stuff. It's like doing it one year on, one year off. It's good to have a break from it." Living in London, he has been taking full advantage of not having to deliver any new music anytime soon. "I get up kind of late, do some e-mailing, go out and meet people, meet up with friends. It's nice, it's kind of like being self-employed." The break from recording original material has also given him time to regroup, and work out where his music is heading next. "It's really important that I'm always moving on, to be doing something new and different." The last London date for Four Tet was the blinding set he played at the Scala in Kings Cross, back in March. The crowd, once they got over the idea that the bloke on the stage with a couple of laptops was all they were getting, responded by throwing themselves into the beats with wild abandon. Hebden seemed a little taken aback by the adulation. "Yeah, the whole night was overwhelming. I was really nervous, because a lot of my friends and family were going to be there. To be honest, I can't remember that much of the whole evening. But it was really amazing to play to a crowd that big, and to get that kind of reception." "It's bizarre, really. I admit that my show has very little in the way of visual content, but the crowds don't seem to mind. I'm not hugely interested in multimedia shows." His name has been linked (musically speaking, that is) over the summer to Beth Orton, with whom he "did a couple of remixes". "We started working on some rough ideas – nothing came of those, but there's a chance that we might be working together in the future." He says he's not really thinking about making new music this year, while he's concentrating on touring and promoting 'Rounds', but he's not ruling out any future collaborations. "The right thing will come along at some point. Something will come up and it will feel like the obvious thing to do." 'Rounds' was released to enormous critical acclaim, and, as the industry buzz-words have it, is "selling solidly". As with the public reaction at his gigs, Hebden seems mildly taken aback by it, while at the same time seeming to have expected it all along. "There was an incredible reaction to 'Rounds', it was amazingly positive." And does that mean that he feels under pressure now to live up to all that acclaim? "Of course there's pressure. More people will be watching and listening, now and when the next one comes out. But I'm not going to complain. People care about what I'm doing." It's not just at home that the Four Tet bandwagon is gathering pace, either. "It's sold a lot more everywhere, than I've sold before. It's been an amazing response everywhere. But I don't think that it's hugely more important than the last album. I don't think it's a sudden explosion." His audience has been growing steadily since the first Four Tet album 'Dialogue' in 1999, and gathering new members with each release. But it's fair to say that the growth is something approaching exponential – 'Rounds' has added many more believers than its predecessor, 2001's 'Pause'. In fact, his audience was there even before the first Four Tet release, having been carried over from Hebden's other project, post-rock trio Fridge. At the moment, he says, Fridge are on hold as a band. "We've been doing it since we were 15. I've got my solo stuff, and one of the other guys has a solo record coming out. We've all got other things to do, so there's no rush to go back to it." In between the washing and packing, Hebden still finds time for something else he enjoys – seeking out new music. He can’t possibly narrow down his listening choices to a select few, but of the most recent records to fall on to his doormat: "At the moment I'm listening to [lo-fi psychedelics] Hot Chip, and Jaylib [the collaboration between hip-hoppers Jay Dee and Madlib]. I've just heard the new Missy single, which is mindblowing, amazing. She always comes back with something amazing." He still listens to "tons" of records, he says. "I consume an enormous amount of music. Sometimes it can be a hindrance – it makes it hard for there to be any kind of naivety in your music." That's not a sentiment most of his fans would apply to Four Tet. Hebden's ability to instil that naivety, that sense of discovery in his music, is what keeps his records sounding fresh. It's something that he's had a long time to work on, having been a professional musician since he left college. "I finished college, once I'd been offered enough money to make music for a living, and ever since then I've been making music full-time. I've never had another job."

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Four Tet - Interview

Four Tet - Interview

Four Tet - Interview

Four Tet - Interview

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live reviews

Scala, London, 15/5/2003
Four Tet - Scala, London, 15/5/2003
Despite appearing solo with just two laptops for company, Kieran Hebden, aka Four tet, proves himself capable of making quite a noise on stage. Anthony Dhanendran watches him play a raucous set at the London Scala


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