Classic interview: Four Tet In The Studio With Future Music 2010

FM chatted to Kieran Hebden about DJing, live shows and collaborating with Burial

Check out the video above to see Four Tet break down Sing from his album, There Is Love In You and explain how he created the key elements and edited all the audio in Pro Tools. Kieran also shows you how he edits beats in Pro Tools, taking you through his track,Love Cry.

Below are some snippets from the Future Music Magazine interview with Four Tet in 2010 that accompanied the In The Studio video above.

How did your collaboration with Burial come about?
"Burial and I actually went to school together so we've been friends a long time. When his first record came out, he got back in touch with me and we talked about doing something together at some point. It took us a long time to get it done but we finally got it out last year. That was mixed here [Miloco's The Square, London] actually.

"One of the things I love about Four Tet is that it's almost humanly impossible."

"We did everything in Pro Tools in the end, but he would work on his own stuff, rendering it down and giving it to me to put into Pro Tools. We'd sit there, each with a computer, trying out ideas. He works entirely in [Sony] Sound Forge, with nothing else. We'd get some ideas or a loop going and he'd just be pressing play in Sound Forge to see what worked."

Did you take any inspiration away from that way of working?
"He was a very inspiring person to work with, the fact that he's put out those records and he's never used a quantiser, or he's never put anything on a grid. People flip out about the sound of the Burial records and it's because he's not using things that everybody relies on."

And your collaboration with Steve Reid. How did that come about?
"After Everything Ecstatic, I was feeling like it was time to do something a bit different. I'd been to this night of free Jazz saxophone and drum duos in Norway and I'd seen Hamid Drake and Fred Anderson as a duo and Paal Nilssen-Love and Mats Gustafsson as a duo and then all four of them played together. It's kind of a tradition to have this saxophone and drummer duo and I thought I should do something like that, a kind of Jazz duo only it's me playing samplers and electronics along with a drummer. I mentioned this to a friend of mine in France and he called me saying 'you won't believe who I've tracked down', and told me Steve Reid was living in Europe and he was doing a show in London. So I went to meet him and we talked and arranged to do a concert in Paris and it was kind of an epiphany, we both loved it so much.

"One of the things that makes the Four Tet records what they are is that there's no room for traditional live performance in any way."

"So we've done four albums now and it's been the main focus of what I've been doing musically for the last three or four years. I laid off making solo music for a while as I wanted a break from it. But it was no surprise to me that when I did get around to starting new solo material, that it was going to be influenced quite a lot by what I'd been doing with Steve."

Did it ever make you consider taking Four Tet to the stage in a live band format?
"No not at all. One of the things I love about Four Tet is that it's almost humanly impossible. It's about total electronic control. Every sound you hear has been carefully constructed on a computer for a reason whereas the stuff with Steve was all about improvisation. One of the things that makes the Four Tet records what they are is that there's no room for traditional live performance in any way. It's all about sequenced Electronic music."

Tell us about your live setup...
"I have a kind of weird live setup. I've got a Pioneer DJM-800 mixer and two laptops, one running Ableton Live. Ableton plays all the main rhythmic loops, things that need to be in time, etc. The other laptop runs like five or six instances of Cool Edit Pro and that has all the melodies and glitchy parts. They're not synced, I just trigger Cool Edit with the mouse. One instance of Cool Edit could be playing a guitar line, then another instance could have the same guitar line and I'll be freestyling with the mouse and then a third guitar line will be playing in another instance, pitched up.

"I also have the output from the headphone slot on the Pioneer going to a little loop station [Red Sound Cycloops] and it works out the BPM. I grab loops of what's going on and extend parts of songs and things. Plus, because the timing isn't perfect – if I bring in the same loop playing in Ableton, it starts to phase and do all kinds of crazy stuff. I also have a Boss Dr Sample [SP-303] with lots of sounds like drum hits, 808 kicks. The Cool Edit laptop is also passing through the 303 so I can use the effects.

"There's also a Korg Electribe that I've only started using recently because it's got really great white noise and analogue drum machine sounds. I'm hoping to also use the iPhone using [Intua] Beatmaker, which has some really cool things. The live stuff needs to seem a bit on edge for me. If everything goes out of time during a show, it's almost a relief – the audience knows that something is actually going on. I never plan a setlist – about half an hour before I start I'll walk into the venue and try and get the vibes of the room and decide what my first few tracks will be and go from there."

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