Heatsick’s version of dance music may sound unrefined, but it’s actually intentional. Armed with just a Casio keyboard and an effect pedal, Berlin-based artist and musician Steven Warwick (Birds of Delay, Birds of Prey, Hungover Breakfast) purposefully foregrounds the sort of technically naive, charmingly rudimentary aspects of early electronic pop, proto-industrial, and Chicago deep house. By virtue of this raw, draft-like approach, Heatsick’s music evinces a narrative continuity to house and disco while also shifting laterally toward the dance scenes of the 100% silky under-underground.
It is in this sense that the music on Déviation enacts both its release’s title and the title of Heatsick’s debut album from last year, Intersex: his music occupies a liminal space in which the mind-numbing, linear qualities of dance music meet the perpetually in-flux characteristics of the so-called experimental communities. Listening to Deviation, then, assists not only in blurring reified categories — in the musical, social, and psychological senses — but also in creating movements both horizontal (via loops) and vertical (via layering) that pierce through the mind-body construction so often associated with dance music.
Heatsick generously created this mix for TMT, the first in a new series of guest mixes from artists we love. Check out a short interview with Heatsick, followed by his mix below. And be sure to pick up Déviation, out this week on the amazing PAN label.
Your early recordings were pretty noisy. What led you to the aesthetic shift in Dubbed Sunshine? What is it about beats and loops that attracts you to dance music?
I have always had liked dance music, and have listened to it when I was making my earlier recordings. I just made it more explicit on Dubbed Sunshine and thereon. I was thinking about how a record such as E2-E4 came out on an ambient/experimental background yet became one of the blueprints for Balearic, and how the music of, say, Richard Maxfield from the 50s could still sound so contemporary and have quite some similarities with electronic dance music. Also, since I moved to Berlin, I would go out to more club nights. The atmosphere was very nice; friends would be DJing, and I was interested in how people are willing to dance to ambient music very late in the night, and also the focus is away from watching someone perform. I liked how the music would change very slightly over a period of time, which you wouldn’t notice at first, a bit like like minimal classical music. Also, I really enjoy dancing to music and hearing it in a loud environment. I started to try and imitate musically the sound most DJ’s mix tracks.
I have drum pads on a keyboard and thought that I could loop them, as I liked the sound of them. They reminded me of some of the early house mixes that I would listen to. I would literally walk around the street thinking of dance tracks that I would make, and then one day I just decided to actually do it. I felt encouraged by the ramshackle nature of these early tracks, that I could also try that.
What are your thoughts on the general embrace of dance music in the so-called experimental communities?
I guess I have partly answered this in the previous question. For me, I don’t think it’s that radical a leap. Both musics are concerned with textures and repetition and can be both long form. I certainly know some dance people who listen to a lot of dance music, so I don’t see why that shouldn’t be the other way round. I have several influences in my music such as Latin and dancehall, as well as non-musical sources from what I am reading or watching also.
Fidelity seems to be a major component in these worlds. What is the role of fidelity in your music?
I record in a professional studio and like to sound as clear as I can with what I have. Obviously using a Casio has some semiotic, but it’s what I had and I think the drums sound really good. I have friends with 808s who were really impressed with how it sounds. I also use acoustic percussion, bass, guitar, horns, and recently a drum machine to get the sound a bit fuller. It is a project in flux, and it is getting slowly more expansive.
What’s the meaning behind the title Déviation?
It comes from when I was in Paris and in a van, just going round and around in a loop trying to find a parking space. I thought it was funny afterwards, as I make loop-based music and was looking at the relationship of circulation in the city. Paris is obviously also a city heavily redeveloped in the 19th century by Haussmann, and I was thinking about structured experience in the city, from its architecture when traveling through. With Hausmann, it was to show off the glory of the Empire and also to prevent something like the Paris Commune from happening again with the wide boulevards. I liked also the similarity to the English word “deviation,” making it playful, a temporary detour.
Does “C’était Un Rendez-vous” have anything to do with Claude Lelouch?
Yes, it is a direct reference. I love that film. I wanted to make it sound like I was driving around the city commenting on what I saw, projecting onto a cityscape, via a film.
How important is it to you for the audience to understand the concepts behind your music?
It’s nice when people pick up on them, but it’s also fine if they also like it on a musical level or something to have on in their spare time. I was dancing to “Dance Dance Dance” by Chic for a long time before thinking about what they were singing about. It functions fine without having to “get” something.
Can you tell us about your mix?
It’s a mix of music that I am currently listening to. The kind of mix that I would DJ out and also some stuff that I would listen to at home. Guess the end is quite self-explanatory.
[00:00] Iueke - “Tape 1” (Antinote)
[01:44] Jam City - “How We Relate to the Body” (Nightslugs)
[05:44] Simoncino - “Dreams” (L.I.E.S)
[13:00] Heatsick - “Convergence” (Rush Hour)
[16:45] Jah Shaka Bongo Dub (Jah Shaka Music)
[19:35] D.I.E - “R U Married” (M.A.P)
[22:36] The Other People Place - “Let Me Be” (Warp)
[26:37] Sensate Focus - “X1” (Sensate Focus)
[29:47] Yello - “Of Course I’m Lying” (Mercury)
[32:30] Malcolm Mclaren - “Madame Butterfly” (Virgin)
[38:34] Projekt:PM - “When the Voices Come” (Guidance)
[41:58] Willie Burns - “Key Horizon” (L.I.E.S)
[46:03] Heatsick - “No Fixed Address” (PAN)
[49:06] Walter Wanderley - “Capoeira” (A&M)
[52:08] Julius Eastman - “Gay Guerilla” (New World)
[52:52] Bill Kouligas - “Alternate Change 1” (EN/OF)
[54:08] David Behrman - “Leapday Night- Scene 2” (Lovely Music)
[55:44] Ben Vida - “zizzlerz” (PAN)
[57:42] Amyl Nitrate - “Rule Britannia” (Jubilee)