Producer/DJ Heatsick on Spoken-Word Dance Music and His Casio Keyboard
With releases exploring themes such as dystopia, ecology, and cybernetics, British-born and Berlin-dwelling producer and DJ Steven Warwick, aka Heatsick, has been creating experimental sounds ever since he was a teenager. His live sets seek to appeal to all senses by including everything from light grids to live readings. This inventiveness is apparent in one of his latest exhibitions, a three-hour Casio keyboard improvisation called "Extended Play." We spoke with Heatsick about his newest album Re-Engineering, poetry, and his latest book Interiors. He performs Thursday, Feb. 6, at RS94019 for a DJ set/live Q&A and Friday, Feb. 7, at Slate at for a live set.
When did you become attracted to making experimental music?
I was 16 and a friend had a friend who needed a place to stay -- he was really into modern classical. Up until then I'd associated classical with being completely dull. He played me Messiaen, Steve Reich, and John Cage. Also in the U.K., it was really common to hear really odd music on Radio 1 after a certain hour.
When did you first get the idea of using a Casio keyboard?
It found me, at a car boot sale, sometime in my mid-teens.
Your newest album is described as a "cybernetic poem." Can you explain that concept?
Cybernetics has transformed our postwar environment, and I am interested in looking at how that has affected how we interpret and respond to information and stimuli. The first track is a text/poem that I wrote which serves as a menu or introduction to the album, read by Hanne Lippard, an artist from Berlin.
That track, "Re-Engineering," features spoken word poetry with a lot of buzzwords. Tell us a little behind the structure of making tracks with spoken word.
The track is heavily referential, and I am looking at how we process those references and how they reform themselves when colliding against each other and feed[ing] back off each other. I asked Hanne, an artist who works with text and has a vocal register which sounds like an automated/received pronunciation tone. I wanted to pick phrases and words that are omnipresent in our everyday environment, yet their ubiquity somehow camouflages them, a bit like the assemblage I chose when designing the front cover.
This album is a lot more danceable in comparison to your previous albums. What made you want to go in this direction?
It's always been informed by dance music, I just made it more explicit; there's always been something people can dance to on all my records.
Which track was the most meaningful to make?
Maybe "Dial Again," as the singer passed away shortly after.
You've said that the album is quite political and comments on social movement. What inspired this?
Living in an age of austerity and seeing the hard con that it is. The record is an assemblage of sounds influenced by different ecologies.
You've also recently published a book, Interiors. Which one is more taxing, a book or record?
The book was way more relaxing to make. Once you've done it you don't really need to perform it, it's just there on its own.
Lastly, are there any places in San Francisco we can catch you hanging out at?
I'll do an in-store DJ set at RS94109, and probably check out some used book stores and pick up the Patrick Cowley LP on Dark Entries.