Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden is all for Tenori-on
Another ground-breaking artist adopts Yamaha’s most forward-thinking product…
The list of high profile artists queuing up to get their hands on Yamaha’s Tenori-on is staggering. Many, in fact, have been left disappointed due to short supplies of the innovative light and sound sequencing tone module. So far Björk has been spotted on tour with one in South America (watch video) and Peter Gabriel is known to be experimenting with one at Real World, but another cutting edge artist lucky enough to get his hands on an early unit was Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet.
From the very beginning of his career Kieran Hebden has never played by the conventional rulebook. As one of the founder members of critically acclaimed band Fridge his musical output has always defied categorisation, but this hasn’t stopped his music from appearing in many high profile commercial projects. Hebden has also been pressed into service supporting some of the greatest artists of the modern age, such as Radiohead, while his remixing skills have been sought by the likes of Aphex Twin, Badly Drawn Boy and Steve Reich.
With his unconventional background it’s perhaps unsurprising to find that Kieran was one of the world’s first adopters of Yamaha’s Tenori-on – the instrument that has set the music world ablaze with its fusion of sound and light. Tenori-on is a truly original instrument for the 21st century and a portable device that itself – much like Kieran – defies convention and description.
“I was talking to a music journalist,” Kieran tells us, “and they mentioned Tenori-on to me, so I went and checked the few clips that were on YouTube before its release. I'm interested in anything that's about finding new ways to trigger and use samples and sounds, and I also love using step sequencers, so this was just the sort of thing I'd be interested in.”
Kieran has adopted Tenori-on for his live work and is currently playing with the legendary American Jazz drummer Steve Reid. “It's really good for live improvisation,” he says. “I use it to play rhythmically along with the drums just using the Push function, and I also use it to make dense washes of sound with the Bounce function. I also run it through effects and can get some crazy noise out of it – it just works really well at the shows because it's so visual.”
In the future Kieran also hopes to make more music on his Tenori-on… “I use it on top of my main [studio] set-up at the moment, but I could make whole tracks on it if I tried. It's just something new that I can reach for on top of everything else.”
So what is it that Kieran likes best about the unit?
“I like that it's so portable,” he says. “I use it on train journeys and stuff just to mess around with ideas. And it's so quick to work on – you can get a lot of sound working together very quickly.”
Kieran is keeping busy in 2008 with another album with Steve Reid, which he is currently finishing in New York, “and there will be plenty of touring next year, as usual.” But after achieving so much at such a young age – he started out in his teens – what else is there left to achieve for Hebden and what are his remaining ambitions?
“I'm just trying to do my own thing, something a bit different,” comes the somewhat unsurprising answer!