Earlier this year we met up with Tim Hecker in Hackney, London to discuss the makings of his new album “Love Streams” released 8th April 2016 via 4AD. The ambient mastermind sheds light on his teen days’ favourite record labels, PhD, philosophical beliefs and the ravages of click-bait journalism. If you haven’t read our review of his new album, we strongly suggest you do.
Interview + Photogrpahy by Tom Durston
"My way of working has changed a bit and every project is different. This was a different set of challenges; I went through a bit more of an elaborate process with how these pieces manifested."
When did you start working on Love Streams?
It started over a year ago; I’ve been working on it in small chunks, little blast here and there over the period of about a year and a half.
Two-week clusters and then periods when I’m forgetting. That’s by design, so you don’t overload yourself with what you’ve been working on, so that it becomes natural and that you cant questions yourself.
Is this the same method you’ve always employed?
I think the constant is insanity – a state of despair – feeling like you’ve made the shittiest thing you’ve ever made. That’s the constant threat of despair and pain, but that leads to intensity in questioning and not thinking that what you make is instantly gold.
My way of working has changed a bit and every project is different. This was a different set of challenges; I went through a bit more of an elaborate process with how these pieces manifested.
"I enjoy making music and I enjoy being creative, I need that element of working and creating something different."
According to your Discogs page this is your 13th album you’ve released.
Hmm it depends how you count…I did a couple of techno records under the name Jetone for Mille Plateaux and Force Inc, so I’d say that I’ve done around nine albums.
The discography is a burden; I don’t like to think about it, because what is it? It literally makes you paralysed with a bunch of questions; what you’ve done, what you’re doing, are you repeating yourself, who are you making this for, some fan in your mind? Little things don’t help you, so you just try to foster an open and playful way to work.
Do you feel pressure to release new music?
No that’s a stupid and pointless trap door to get into. I definitely release a record every 1 to 3 years but it’s not some pressure I have on myself.
I enjoy making music and I enjoy being creative, I need that element of working and creating something different. Some kind of object of weird sound that I made over a period of time or I feel that I am not fulfilling myself as a sentient human being.
It’s not pressured, it’s a need to exist and to express myself and make something original. This is something that I have been given, this is my format.
"An expression is hopefully Meta and I try to enjoy a multi faceted approach to things."
Have you explored other art forms and expressions?
Yeah I wrote a PHD dissertation, I have published articles and I write quite often and I take photos. Most of my album covers are my own photography with the exception of this new album, which I worked with graphic designer Angela Bollinger. An expression is hopefully Meta and I try to enjoy a multi faceted approach to things.
What were you focusing on after you finished your PHD?
It was just things that I enjoyed, writing about things that were interesting to me. I wasn’t much of a professional or academic. It ended up being historical studies, some philosophical questions.
Which philosophers did you study?
I wasn’t much of a Grecian but definitely Nietzsche, Heidegger and onwards was definitely pending touchstones. Heidegger I wasn’t into so much. I’m more of a Nietzcharian defiantly.
"Our society, musical culture and media are fixated on propping up things quickly and then kicking it to the curb even quicker."
Did you take on board much from their writings?
Someone once said something about Nietzsche that it infects you. It’s something that you carry around till the last day of your breathing life. It’s true to a certain extent, the powerful conceptions of existence, being a human being on earth and a pupil, society a consensus, a soul craft, transcendence and long lasting. There is also a lot of bogus, hero and macho nihilism.
What about after your PHD? What was happening then?
Nothing. I did it whilst I was doing music, it wasn’t something that I was doing and then stopped, it was something that I carried on whilst I was doing serious albums.
Is music for life?
No it’s not for life…definitely not, it’s just for now. This is how I am expressing myself right now. I don’t know if I would ever call myself a careerist. I kind of stumbled into this.
I am really fortunate to be able to do this, in this way, in this outlet with this type of dissemination. I’m really fortunate; most people don’t have the ability to talk about their ninth album.
Our society, musical culture and media are fixated on propping up things quickly and then kicking it to the curb even quicker. It’s a blessing to be able to be doing this right now in 2016. It’s very rare and who knows if it will last?
"You spend all your time making an album, or you’re fully devoted to a composition, it’s a craft."
Things are changing even more rapidly these days aren’t they?
Yes and no, I’m not sure. I feel like that maybe there is still a possibility to endure and do things that have some ongoing significance but it feels like the turnover is quite ruthless and unforgiving. That makes music as a vocation. It’s like criticism and writing, journalism even more so.
Don’t complain about being a musician, look how many really good 23 year old journalist there are who want to write about music professionally as a critic because the whole infrastructure has imploded in the same way as the musical infrastructure has been questioned and that is sad because you don’t have your counter part in the critical side that spends as much time focusing on aesthetic or music to engage on a different level. You spend all your time making an album, or you’re fully devoted to a composition, it’s a craft.
It seems that music journalism today is very much an echo chamber.
Totally, people paying interns $10,000 per year just to rehash shit. I made a blurb in my press sheet about this record and made a joke about a reference.
That reference got blown out and became more and more lazily associated that this album was influenced by another artist and it became so ridiculous that you have to be so controlling over the way it is presented because of that chain reaction of click bait journalistic copy and paste shit.
It’s fun because it gives you an opportunity to see how absurd things can go out of reality but it’s also problematic if you’re interested in presenting something with a focused message.
"There should be more people that loose their mind, versus cold professionalism."
Did you intentionally set out to provoke?
I made a joke that this music is choral– it has a voice in it – I made a joke to a friend that this is kind of like how you make church music, if it were to exist in the age of auto-tune, so how do you make church music after Yeezus?
Something that’s industrial formations of the voice that is just eviscerated in auto-tune, destroyed and imploded. It became inspired by Kanye West and then inspired by Yeezus and it just slowly conflates and becomes so ridiculous, fat fingered to the point where it is hilarious.
There should be more people that loose their mind, versus cold professionalism, Kanye owns his desire and there is definitely an aspect of mental well being that’s being owned in a public sphere. I’m still glad that he exists and is making work.
Where did you work on the album?
I’ve always had a studio at my house and I usually work on it there, then at a certain point I have these pieces that started off on a rift from 15th Century choral music I did a session in Iceland and worked on it a bit, came back, worked on it more, then I sent it to Johan Johansen who wrote some choral arrangements – very small, tight motifs and we took that back to Iceland and recorded it there – then I went back with a lot of that material and hammered it, finished the record and added more, worked on it in a Picasso collage disfigured face way. It involved about two or three external studio sessions that were in Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik, where I’ve worked at before.
"There is no description with how it should be digested. Each moment, track or sub section satisfies me in some level."
Do you listen to the album as a selection of individual tracks or as one body of music?
Both – I hope they function as 3 minutes excerpts, that might have some internal world that is interesting in itself – but it is also stacked to function as a 40-minute roller. It doesn’t mean that you have to sit down for 40 minutes. I don’t think of it in that way.
I think about it like making an object that is like a video art installation, sometimes it’s a 20 minute piece and people will sit down in a gallery for 6 minutes and they don’t see the narrative as it is meant to be constructed, but it doesn’t matter, there is no description with how it should be digested. Each moment, track or sub section satisfies me in some level.
Have you started to think about your forthcoming performance at St Johns Session in Hackney with Rezzett?
We’ll see how it pans out but it will probably be three separate performances on the night. I have some ideas with how my pieces will work out live. It’s going to be a mix but we shall see.
I’ve probably listened to Rezzett the most out of anyone over the past year. I put on their tapes, driving around LA and it works so well. It’s always good, so I thought it would be a great combo. Personally I’ve always wanted to see them play. I got into Rezzett through their Live In Japan mix tape.
"What you create into the world is different to what you consume, they satisfy different needs. It could be Gucci Mane one day and Rezzett the other."
Who else are you listening to?
I have weird tastes, there’s this rapper from LA called Bones who I listen to quite a bit. What you create into the world is different to what you consume, they satisfy different needs. It could be Gucci Mane one day and Rezzett the other.
I grew up with a steady diet of British inspired music, a lot of the Factory Records discography. Early Warp stuff was huge for me and a lot of rock. I grew up in Vancouver around the time when Nirvana was just cusping formative shows, things like Sonic Youth with Nirvana opening and the Bleach album era.
I also had a really beloved European import record store that would bring in weird Ride 12” from 1991 that I would have it, listen to it and felt that it was some other world. It just meant a lot when you get something through the post and I had two copies, you bought it and literally none else in your city had ever heard it. There was no way to disseminate it and it was just on 12”, cassette and it was disparate.
Do you consider yourself as an obsessive collector?
No – less and less I’m more ephemeral, less material based. I went through a purge of my whole CD collection, which maybe I regret…plus all my dance 12”s went out – I go through purges where I become almost Buddhist – I don’t want anything. I dump them at a huge record store and just walk away. Maybe that’s not wise but I don’t want to be that crazy collector. I understand mania and obsession, it’s really great but for me I just don’t want to be burdened by it.
Love Streams is out now on 4AD, order a copy from Boomkat.
- Read our review of ‘Love Streams’ on Inverted Audio.
- Tim Hecker performs at St John Sessions on 5th May 2016 alongside Rezzett and Kara-Lis Coverdale. More info here.
1. Obsidian Counterpoint
2. Music of the Air
3. Bijie Dream
4. Live Leak Instrument
5. Violet Monumental I
6. Violet Monumental II
7. Up Red Bull Creek
8. Castrati Stack
9. Voice Crack
10. Collapse Sonata
11. Black Phase
Artwork by Angela Lafont Bollinger.Tim Hecker4AD8 April 2016AmbientElectronicExperimental