Interview and photography by
Danny Calvi


Steven Warwick grew up in the idyllic English countryside about an hour north of London. As a kid, he played in guitar bands, finding it easy picking up all the parts by rote. Besides his busted and trusted Casiotone keyboard, Steven also plays drums, guitar and bass. As Heatsick, he's been bringing a refreshing kind of nonchalance and sense of humor — which are, for the most part, in short supply in the electronic music scene — to the table since 2007. I caught up with him at my local pub, The Nelson's Head, on the eve of his up-coming show with BUTT here in London.

Danny: You’re living in Berlin these days, but you were born in the UK, no?
Steven: Yeah, I grew up in Lincolnshire, in the middle of nowhere, like Kate Bush or something. My family’s from London, I’m the only one not born here.
They escaped to the country…
Kind of. My dad had a bike shop and where it was, they were going to build some flats there, so they offered him some money to leave. He could continue renting in London, or move to the countryside and buy a new shop.
That’s the dream of every British person, no?
Well, he was removed forcibly… By expulsion. Outside of the rent, London’s not too bad. I could live in London. The supermarkets here are quite cheap. Supermarkets in Germany are quite expensive.
You’ve go to write a hit or something to afford to live here though. When we met a couple years ago in Berlin, you were doing this more experimental outfit called Birds of Delay.
Yeah, Birds of Delay is still happening.
Heatsick started out very experimental as well, but has slowly become a bit more dance floor friendly…
Well, Heatsick was always influenced by dance music, I just made it more explicit. A big turning point was when I went to see some of the Chain Reaction artists live. I thought they would maybe make it more beat-based, but actually, they kept it completely ambient. I always felt just because it didn’t have beats, I couldn’t label it as dance music, but the Chain Reaction night made me feel a lot more confident to go in that direction. Equally, a lot of the people I know who play dance music at some place like Berghain, I’ll be talking about noise music with them or Afrobeat. It’s not such a radical step…
So are BUTT fans going to be treated to a drone concert on Saturday?
No, there’ll be some aspects of that backed-up with plenty of drum-pad friendly action.
What I like about your music is that it’s a bit amateur sounding… Can I say that?
Sure, it’s a bit rough around the edges.
Could you ever see yourself doing something more slick. Like if you got invited to the Rihanna writers camp, would you consider it?
I never say never, Danny. My new record is quite pop sounding. In Berlin, I play for a lot of gays and they love it, so why not? I mean, gays like dancing and you can dance to my music.
What role can humor play in dance music?
It’s actually always there, but people forget that it’s there.
The Resident Advisor crowd take themselves quite seriously, don’t they?
Yeah, it can get a bit po-faced. That’s why I like to throw a banana skin out there every now and then.
You’re first recording came out on cassette…
Why cassette?
It felt immediate.
Didn’t it ever occur to you that nobody would be able to play it?
Well, I sold all the copies, so someone could play it. Or maybe they just hollowed it out and made it into an iPhone case.
Are you going to make more cassettes?
I primarily do vinyl records now, but I’m not against the idea of cassettes. You could say they’re an obsolete technology, but it’s a lot cheaper to buy a used Walkman from a junk shop than it is to, you know, buy a thousand pound laptop.
There’s like a — what is it? A phaser or a flanger coming up again and again on your record…
That’s a phaser.
It’s like your favorite effect.
That’s a good analysis, Danny.
What do you like about it?
I like how you can just start morphing that sound. I used this really cheap one when I was playing in Boston, and it sounded really good, like Giorgio Moroder or Afrika Bambaataa or something. And it’s just a twenty pound guitar pedal. I like a piece of gear which is a bit serendipitous, but can end up sounding really amazing.
And do you still use this cheapo Casiotone MT-520 keyboard?
Yeah, he was just lying around…
Oh, it was… Or she was lying around. She was bit battered after the tour.
You sing a little bit on this record. Did you ever take singing lessons?
No, I’m not trained. I sang in a choir, though.
Were you like a tenor?
Well, I started as a treble, then went into alto, and then bass very quickly. The choir is a bit like the pop industry… As soon as your voice is broken, it’s over.
Are you into karaoke?
Yeah, sure… There’s a karaoke track on the new record.
What’s your favorite karaoke track to sing?
‘Waiting for Tonight’ is a good one.
By J-Lo?
I think so. You can Shazam that.

Let’s decode the cover of your new LP ‘Re-Engineering’.
There’s the Heatsick logo in a kind of YSL configuration. And then there are the twelve EU stars in lavender, super-imposed on the diamond plate metal surface. It’s like an assemblage, a bit like the record. I wanted to have elements which are ubiquitous, but ones you don’t always notice.
It’s the same pattern on the cover of ‘Fear of Music’ by Talking Heads. I noticed it this week where it was used as wall panelling in the clinic where I was getting vaccinated. Also when you’re exiting an airplane…
Yeah, yeah, it’s on a lot of staircases, like in the Berghain. It’s like this industrial public surface which is everywhere and yet feels quite anonymous.
It’s also kind of macho. Do you have a working class fetish?
I am working class! I like cab drivers… They’re somehow charming, and yet also unassuming.
Every time I return to the Berghain, it seems more and more gentrified. It was a Sunday morning last time, and there was a heterosexual couple there with their baby in the pram.
Really? No, come on!
Yeah, in the beer garden, where the kantine is…
Still though…
Is that unusual?
I’ve never seen that.
That outdoor area used to be quite stripped down, and, little by little, there are like potted plants and trellises popping up everywhere. It’s becoming like, your parents’ bourgeois patio or something.
Well, that’s a bit the crisis of post-war Berlin. They’re getting a bit older. They want their trellises and their dirty techno as well. Berlin just needs to like wake up.
Do you think it’s going to?
People like getting up late, though, don’t they?
Do you think, as a city, it lacks ambition?
Yes, yes…
Have you ever met the mayor?
I have not met Klaus Wowereit, no.
The rumor is that he’s the reason for the photography ban in the Lab.Oratory.
Unless Lady Gaga wants to play a show…
Did you go to her show?
No, it was hard to get in, even if I wanted to. I know some people who went to the after-party a few years ago in the Lab where she was deejaying. A lot of press came, photographing everything, and putting it in the national papers. The Berghain people were very angry…
But she got invited back recently, no? I guess if you can pay, you can take all the photos you want.
I hear that Klaus Wowereit has a taste for leather.
I bet.
Well, you know, when you’re the mayor, you have to have some control.
Or want to lose control.
Yes. True, true…

Lose control with Heatsick when he plays BUTT’s live extravaganza, BUTT Plugged, with Poisonous Relationship and deejay Dave Kendrick. That’s tonight, Saturday, 14 December from 10 P.M. to 3 A.M. at 100 Shoreditch High Street, EC1 6JQ in London in the small but perfectly formed Downstairs club at Ace Hotel London Shoreditch. Entry is just £10 on the door. His new record, ‘Re-Engineering’ is out now on PAN.

Published on 14 December 2013