Tim Hecker: “There’s never been one record I’ve been happy with.” Interview by David Sullivan


Tim Hecker is a Canadian artist who has been releasing music under his own name for nigh on 15 years now. Bordering somewhere between ambient and noise, his music can be pensive, exciting, spiritual and always progressive. To the listener his concepts appear fully realised but Hecker comes across as a perpetually unsatisfied perfectionist, never completely happy with his output.

“There’s never been one record I’ve been happy with. I mean in the sense, I feel like it’s finished, but happy…. There’s moments that feel really great and I enjoy it partly, but I always feel like it’s something different than I thought it would be. I stand behind all the work I’ve put out but happiness isn’t the right word: I’d say peace, you know.”

His latest album Love Streams a slightly more discordant affair than his previous Virgins; the distorted drones occasionally bowing out to crisp, pointed synths, native instruments and, with the help of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, some divine choral moments. Iceland is a lightning rod at the moment for epic, brooding music.

“It’s just a place I’ve gone, it’s a place where my friends live that’s great to go. It’s a place where I have a great studio with an affordable rate. It’s a bunch of things, there’s an assortment of really great musicians who are available, it’s somewhere I’ve had a great fertile space of expression.”

The album title itself, a simple mellifluous phrase, can also be read into as a sardonic take on the current technologic environment. Streaming programs and providers are now edified over the artists they represent: Netflix recommendations and Spotify playlists are comfort to the masses. Hecker is aware of the insatiable appetite of the consumer in a world overrun by the constant flow of content but appears not as much cynical, but accepting of this new weltanschauung.

“The people that know the internet also know real space – whatever you wanna consider to be the inverse of digital space. So it’s problematic. It’s just generational triumphalism always, always and forever has felt that the new generation is more progressive, more closely attainable to some state of utopia and transcendence, and that the past was backwards. And in so many ways it’s true. But in so many ways it’s not true, or it’s not as clear cut as that type of suggestion.”

“The problem I have with that digital essentialism is that that’s like effectively fuelled by dot com. They suggest it’s inevitable, suggest that’s an end point, and I don’t know… I don’t know. It’s not easy for me.”

While possessing a discerning intellect and being a fastidious artist, Hecker’s output generally maintains a playful, irreverent thread. His work is at once deeply serious and darkly humorous: a fine line to negotiate.This finesse has gained him reverence and respect from music lovers across all genres. One of his press release statements for the album described one of his influences as “liturgical aesthetics after Yeezus.”

“It’s half a joke, half a troll, half just thinking ‘how would one make religious music after auto tune.’ How does one approach devotional aesthetics, or ways of making music in the age of plastic music and digital sound. It was just a playful kind of thing that got a meal made out of it.”

While his track names ‘Live Leak Instrumental’ and ‘Up Red Bull Creek’ may elicit a sick chuckle, ‘Bijie Dream’ and the appearance of Xi Jinping in the ‘Castrati Stack’ film clip suggest a certain Chinese influence.

“It’s not a Chinese record but I was obsessed with these choir stages that kept collapsing, there was three or four that happened in one year, all choirs assembled to celebrate the Chinese Dream all collapsing.It was just on my mind a lot while I was making the music. That was kind of a metaphor that went for a while and that was the basis of the album cover.”

Hecker parted ways with his long time label Kranky and released Love Streams with the British label 4AD.

“It just happened naturally, I put out seven albums with Kranky or something and I just thought about trying a different element. I’m still friends with them and I’ll still probably do some reissues with them, probably continue working with them. I’ve been a fan of 4AD for a long time and it’s a different entity. I’m a huge fan of the back catalogue.”

The switch to 4AD is an interesting move for him, one that could raise his profile and gain him much deserved support in the indie pop scene. Although the concept of ‘going pop’ is somewhat ludicrous when suggested to an artist like Tim Hecker, I thought I’d tease it with him anyway.

“That’s your job. You’re a journalist right. Criticism is on your shoulders, I’ll leave that for you to say if I’m going pop, you decide.”

Love Streams is out now on 4AD. More info here.
Tim Hecker is playing Dark Mofo in Tasmania
Wed 15th of June 6PM & 8PM
RBMA Presents:
Ephemera (Live)
Tim Hecker
+ Marcel Weber (MFO)
More info here


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