Decibel Festival 2015: Tim Hecker Interview

tim hecker

Tim Hecker really needs no introduction, but I’m going to do it anyway. Originally from Montreal, now based out of LA, Hecker started making techno music about 15 years ago as Jetone, evolving into the genre-defying electronic beauty that we know and love today. His work only receives more and more accolades as time goes on, his sound and approach always changing while only amassing additional fans as he evolves. Late Saturday afternoon, ears still ringing from three nights of non-stop music accosting my ear drums from the five-day Decibel Festival, I had a chance to hear Tim Hecker’s sound check down at the Triple Door, and he had a few spare moments (about 10 minutes) afterward to chat a little about his music, and what we can expect from his Decibel performance Saturday evening.

On the way over here I was trying to think back to when I first heard your music, and it occurred to me that it was your “Ultramarin” album as Jetone on Force Inc..

(Laughs) That was definitely a product of what was influencing me at the time. I made some quasi-IDM with more linear beats, and I was listening to a lot of Berlin techno at that time as well as whatever else I was into, so I just put it together in a really haphazard way. Even on that record, though, there were about three or four segue-way pieces that represented more of what I was into opposed to the more straight-up techno ones. That was the beginning of me wanting to do work under my own name, so I just let go of that sound and have wanted to dedicate more time to have one single object under one name instead of having all of these multiple projects — I want to bare it all under my own name.

I love the album you did for Mille Plateaux back in 2003 — I’ve always felt like it was a great pre-cursor to what your sound is today.

There weren’t a lot of people working for that label in North America back then apart from a few people in San Francisco. I felt that record had a very raw and rugged feel, and the label really liked it. I also wasn’t committed to the digital rigor opposed to some of the other people that were involved with the label, as well as the ideology of the label founder which I was in opposition with. I ended up just doing my own take which was a dirtier version of digital aesthetics, like with analog for instance, or running computers through tube amps, granulating a guitar — it just felt more fertile for me at the time.

It’s interesting to read what reviewers have to say about your newer stuff, particularly your last few albums. A lot of people seem to be pre-occupied with trying to compartmentalize your sound into a neat and tidy genre, and they aren’t having much success. Do you pay much attention to this?

Yeah, you can’t help but think about it a little bit, but it’s also asphyxiating and a chokehold on the potential of becoming something else and just growing. That’s the fundamental need to survive in which to be able to do something for over ten years. You can’t be happy just feeding people the same easy, minor key drift that you’ve been doing forever. For me, I’m more interested in schizophrenic ways of doing what I’ve already been doing. I mean, there is certainly a continuity to what I do — I’ve been using the same tools forever. I just can’t do it in the same way. I’m definitely not as radical as some people who reinvent their sound with every album. For me it’s a journey and needs to change up on each record a bit.

The obsession people have to categorize your music seems to have started with the Ravedeath album with people arguing whether it’s ambient or noise or whatever.

To me, that’s success. I want to skate on the periphery of all these well-established zones. Otherwise you’re just guarding some “noble” form. I do think of genre to some degree, but if it’s too easy and satisfies those who want to compartmentalize music then it’s got to be fixed somehow.

So genre pigeon-holing from others does cross your mind to a certain extent?

Yes. It’s not about some proverbial listener who’s worried about record store bins, it’s just about finding your own path in the world, and that’s through rejecting those types of zones.

Sometimes understanding music is better interpreted through non-musical influences. Can you share what a few of those might be?

Yeah, definitely. Mostly life influences me in ways that are unclear, and you can’t really quickly put your finger on it. It’s interesting to think back, and consider how stuff leads you to put emphasis on certain things. When I’m making a track with 15 different elements, I’ll think about what should be the most prominent, you know? It might be because of your day, the sun vs. the rain, who knows?

What can we expect from your performance this evening? Do you DJ or is it mainly live?

It’s live. I do use a lot of sculpting tools and computer audio. I’ll be playing portions of unreleased tracks as well.

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