London producer Kieran Hebden has made some of the most accessible electronica this side of Moby. As Four Tet, he has softened the instrumental dance music on records like 2003’s Rounds and 2005’s Everything Ecstatic with organic textures and samples. The hypnotic new There Is Love in You could surely sell a whole lot of cell phones or Volkswagens if he were inclined to sell it to ad makers. As it is, you’ll have to buy the album. We spoke to Hebden about his foray into D.J.-ing, mixing rock and electronic sounds, and not being the type of musician to wear jewelry.
A striking tribute on the album is “Pablo’s Heart,” which is literally based on a recording of your godson’s heartbeat.
This unborn baby’s heartbeat had been sent to my mobile phone, and I played it on this big sound system in a club and it sounded like this crazy, mad, weird electronic sound. I remember thinking that it was so bizarre that a small little heart that was probably only the size of a pea was making such a big sound, and it was kind of like a gift to this little baby/ I put it on the album and named the track after him.
Many rock bands have moved toward incorporating electronic sounds over the past decade or so. Do you think that has left listeners more open to your music?
Yeah, definitely. When I started out ten years ago, people thought about electronic music and they instantly thought about quite extreme ends of it. Synthesizers and drum machines, lots of digital processing. Nowadays, everything is mixed together a lot more, and people don’t even know what they’re listening to.
How exactly did you end up scoring the final scene in the last Bond movie?
They contacted me and I went and met David Arnold, and he played me the all the multitracks from the sessions, and I just took away whatever sounds I wanted. I think I had, like, a day to make this piece of music — the deadline was really tight. A week later it was on at the premiere. It was a little bit weird for me because the kind of melodies and riffs they use in the James Bond music is so different from what I’d normally use. You just couldn’t get away from the James Bond–ness of it. It was just, like, there, in every little string sound I was given. But I guess that’s the point in some ways.
Has that led to more commercial work?
A lot of stuff that I turn down, people like Hummer and oil companies. It just doesn’t sit very well. I’m not living in poverty or anything, so if I don’t have some big project that I need to fund at the time, I don’t really want to work with these guys who are ruining the planet. Fortunately, I sell enough records that it keeps me afloat and alive. I’m not like an extravagant pop-star guy or anything; I don’t drive fast cars or live in a crazy mansion and wear jewelry. I don’t think I bought any new clothes last year.