Sandman’s classified ad section seems to be going well. It might be a good way of finding the people you want to make music with. Alternatively you could save yourself a fiver and let the gods dictate like Hiem (formerly Oberhiem) did.
It was the summer of 1999 and Bozz got offstage at the Reading Festival to find Nico scarfing his rider.
“I’d blagged my way in with a couple of geezers and was having a glass of vodka and a scotch egg when Bozz walked in.” Nico explains. “So he confronted me and gave me a bit of a pasting.”
“It was,” points out Bozz, “MY scotch egg.”
Since then Bozz has found his way clear to removing his fingers from around Nico’s throat long enough for them to collaborate on some seriously fine pop-glazed electronica. Their first full EP will be out in the shops before too long, which is a good thing because it is a very good thing indeed.
Sheffield is iceberg-like musically, so little of it is necessarily visible at any one time. Every other stone seems to to hide something brilliant fermenting away in private. Hiem’s own sanctuary is a rather spartan and chilly studio tucked away somewhere near the Blade’s ground. Somewhere, on the ground floor, men are making spoons.
When sandman arrives Nick is bouncing around the room on kangaroo boots while Bozz is rolling fags and ending every third sentence with a big blue-eyed stare and a ‘do you know what I mean, though?’
They’re a contrast visually. Bozz is a bear of a man with a beard and a halo of frizzy fair hair while Nick is slight with a feather cut and the kind of neat moustache which leads the unwary to suspect that he will try and sell you blackmarket nylons and tights.
Settle them down for a chat and they talk to, at, round and over each other. It’s easy to see how they work together.
Judging by the diversity of their music the pair seem to have the concentration level of ribena intoxicated toddlers. Virtually every track sandman has heard sounds completely different from its siblings. Chelsea, the first track on the EP and probably the one you’re going to hear a lot of, is a blinder, like overhearing a conversation in a Hillsborough stripjoint. Dark, sleazy electro bass overlaid with Nico’s Sheffield tones recalling a childhood incident packed with the sort of details that locate both a time and a place exactly. Japanese Motorcar #1, which saw the light of day on a Flexipop compilation last year alongside contemporaries Add N to X and Princess Superstar, is a lovely, empty thing that sounds like cars driving round cities in the early hours of the morning. Tweak, another EP track makes as if glam rock was a recent invention. and currently they’re fizzing like magnesium over new track Ice and Snow which sort of sounds like its title.
Two things link Hiem’s music; an inate sense of pop which loves the glitter but also demands some musical substance and a distinctly human presence which makes sure the machines have a little soul.
“Me and Nico are coming from a musical background, we’re always trying to write songs. Sometimes we’ll just try and bang out some loops and go for that type of sound but it always ends up sounding shit so we go back to it.” Bozz reckons.
“It’s like Chelsea,” Nico adds, “I write short stories and that. Bozz had this track and just got me do something over the top of it. It’s a true story. I got beaten up by a couple of girls.” A far cry from the make-up bag which passes for music of ‘Electroclash’ leaders Fischerspooner. It’s a nice irony that while now,now,now, clubs like ElectricStew in London are going mad for Hiem the duo are more likely to be found chatting about wifeswapping carparks and playing FIFA ‘98 on the playstation. Not that Bozz minds getting lumped in with latest electronic trend.
“It's brought a bit of glamour back to dance music. It's made it more accessible to people because most house music or dance music is very monotonous and doesn't work unless you're dancing to it. You wouldn't listen to it at home. I think there are house producers getting bored and trying to write songs. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. We need a bit of glamour back in our lives.”
He’s had some experience at the smarter end of the dance / pop world. As an ex-All-Seeing-I he knows a bit about making records which are fun without being dumb and don’t sacrifice wit for drooling subserviance to market forces and marketing.
Nico’s been round the block as well, first as promoter (the much missed Citrus) then as bassman with Russell Senior’s band Venini.
They’ve had the opportunity to have a look at the pop beast from the sharp end and while enjoying the glamour recognise the need for muscle behind the gauze. Nico interjects, “We’re not into this botox rock thing though. We’re live performers, we can't wait to get on the road.”
These two are pop stars but aren’t fey old new romantics trying to throw as many shapes as possible before the fame timer runs out of sand. They’ve been round the block, been battered and feted in equal measure and still bash away despite knowing the score.
We leave them bickering over whether girls in cages wouldn’t be a bit passe for the perfect Hiem club night and sweating class pop from every pore.
words: Jack Tractor